Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Encounters With God: Mark Ashby

Today' guest post comes from Mark Ashby.  Be sure to leave comments and let Mark know how much you appreciate him sharing his heart.  You can also check out his blot at www.markashbyblog.com or follow him on Twitter @markashby11.  I know you will all be blessed by his words.

Failing Forward
God has shown up MANY times in my life. Throughout my life, I have been back and forth with sin and God. It has been a daily battle with me, sometimes hourly. I want to share an experience that God revealed himself to me the most during a few months of my life. Let me preface this story that I had already given my life to Christ, I was in the ministry at a great church, and I fell harder than I ever have before in my entire life. Sin had such a strong hold on my life that I failed, but through God's grace, I was able to fail forward.

I was brought up in a middle class suburban home. I had a father who was a lawyer, a mother who was a nurse, two older brothers and me. We were the perfect family unit from the outsiders perspective. We loved each other, fought with each other, went to church together...we lived next door to the Cleavers. Then one day in October of 2009, I got a random phone call from my father. At this point, I had been at this church for just about 8 months and things were going really well. It was a church that made me think to myself, "I finally hit the big time. People are going to know who MARK ASHBY is." I was arrogant. God found a way to humble me that I never thought would be possible.

My father called me and told me that he was in the area and wanted to drop by. I said sure! It would be great to see my dad, show him my church, meet with my senior pastor. This was a great opportunity to show off to my dad and say look what you raised. I am doing SO WELL! My father showed up about 15 minutes later and I usher him up to my office. He said he wanted to tell me something important (this is when I started thinking that someone in my family passed away). My father sat down silent, about to cry, and I am sitting at my desk looking at him. I have only seen my father cry one other time in my 24 years of existence at this point. He looked me dead in the eye and told me that my mother and him were getting a divorce. My world came crashing down. I told him to quit joking and he sat there with a stone cold look on his face. Tears streaming down my face, I yelled at him. I asked him questions that he would not answer. I called him a quitter. I told him I am more of a man than he will ever be. After 33 years, my world came crashing down. My father, who was my hero, fell from grace. I begged my father to reconsider. I told him I could help him fix it. This was the worst news I have ever heard in my life.

I cried and cried. I cursed at God for letting this happen. I prayed an ANGRY prayer to Him, telling Him how my distaste for Him was growing. How could God, lover of all, let this happen to MY family? Sure other families, but mine? The next few months, my life went into a downward spiral. I tried to sweep my emotions under the rug and go on with life as if nothing happened. God was breaking my shell. I was depressed. I did not want to go to work. Soon after, in March of 2010, I left my church (not on my own accord, of course) and I was certain that my life in ministry was over.

After reading through my Bible, I saw that God truly was guarding me and my family from even more devastation. My father came clean and told everyone that he was unfaithful to my mother for 29 years of their marriage. His whole life was a sham. I now hated my father. How could he treat my mom and HIS family this way? I turned to God and God revealed himself to me in ways that I never thought were possible. It was of Biblical proportions. I was out of ministry, but I started to go back into the church (a different one from the one I "resigned" from). More and more I felt Christ calling me back to youth ministry. After several interviews, many trips, disappointments and much more, I suddenly found God in everything I was doing. Beth Moore is quoted as saying, "It is not a daily battle with Christ and sin. For me and for many, it is a minute by minute, second by second battle to keep Christ alive in your life." 

Satan attacked me at my core. I was arrogant and thought I was the next Big Room Speaker at NYWC. I was off to bigger and greater things. I suddenly started to build my ministry around myself. I was like the Israelite's, I was building a golden statue of me because of how good I was at what I did. God then spoke to me one day, during a meditation time and He said, (not audibly of course) "Mark, you are here to do MY work. You are here to further MY Kingdom. You are here to teach youth about Christ. Remember your day you came into fellowship with Me. "

Suddenly it clicked. I became a believer when I was 17 through a Chrysalis retreat. After that retreat, I was more on fire for Christ than I ever was before. In fact, I remember telling everyone at a night meeting that I was going to "spread a wildfire of Christ to all those who will hear it!" That fire that was inside me never died, I just couldn't see it because I was on my own path.

So many times in our lives, we have everything planned out. We have everything laid out. We want our lives to fit the "american dream". We want to have the perfect family. We want to be the best at what we do. Then I realized something. I am working for an audience of one. Soon after I was hit in the head and heart with this knowledge (AGAIN) I began to seek a new church. I got married. Before my wife and I were married, I told her I feel that God will bless our union first, get me a job second, and provide every step of the way. In September of 2010, I was married. In November of 2010, I was offered a job at a church that follows Christ. It is now, after failing so much in ministry and life, that Christ has shown me the true way. My youth ministry is a branch of our church. We are not our own church and I strive to preach that. We follow the vision handed down by the senior pastor. We pray for our church and our ministry. We really focus on Christ and not so much on me.

After having my hero fall down from grace. After having my idea of a perfect family shattered to pieces. After removing myself off of the Cross and placing Christ there, is when I truly encountered Christ again. I was 17 the first time. The wildfire never died, I just couldn't see it from the path I chose to walk. It is NOW that I follow Christ first. I am in a fellowship with Christ first, a Husband to my bride second, and a youth minister third. However, ask anyone who knows me, I am not shy about telling ANYONE about what Christ has done in my life and what He can do in theirs. Christ is real to me by the experiences I have with Him daily. No one can tell me different. I thank God for tearing down the walls of what I thought was the right way.

If you get anything from this post, get this:  Christ's plan for us is not always our plan for Christ. My God is too big to fit in my calendar on my iPad and iPod Calendar. Christ fits everywhere in our lives and is everywhere in my life. I hope, that through the darkest time in my life, you can see how real God is and how He shows up when you LEAST expect it.

Mark Ashby
Youth Minister
FUMC Americus


  1. Mark, thank you for sharing such a deeply personal story. Good to see God's activity through you.

  2. To paraphrase the great Louie Giglio, so much of faith is about remembering that I am not- but because of Jesus, I KNOW the Great I AM. Thanks again, Mark, for your story. And Brandon, cannnot wait to see what you have in store for us on Friday!

  3. Mark, I know that took a lot for you to share so much. So glad that God put you in my life as my student almost 10 years ago...its been so cool to be part of your journey since then. Great post brother!


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