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Apr 16, 2009

A Love Story

I once told my ten-year-old nephew that when he turned eleven, we had to take him to the doctor to have his balls clipped off. I explained that it's a bit painful, but once the doctor clips them off with a pair of sterilized wire cutters, his "adult balls" could come in and he would be ready to enter the next phase of life. I'll never forget the look on his face, especially since his 11th birthday was only a few weeks away. It pretty much threw all the excitement about his upcoming pool party out the window.

I'm not proud of telling him that, but to this day, it continues to provide a chuckle. He's 20 now and has a kid of his own. We still laugh about my misinformation.

He had the same nervous look on his face when he was ten that I had when someone informed me that, as a new Christian, I had to be in Church every Sunday or I wouldn't make it as a Christian. I put it off for as long as I could. It became one of those things that I knew I had to do, but dreaded. Monday through Saturday was great because it was just God and me. We ran around town together like newlyweds. Everything we did, we did together. We were inseparable. When Sunday came around and I had to get in my car and go Church-hunting, I felt like I was going to the doctor for the dreadful procedure I told my nephew about.

Looking back on that time, I shake my head in embarrassment. I knew even then that something was messed up about that process. It was a dirty trick played on me and I should have known better. The truth I preach today was alive in my heart from day one. It's not something I learned through prayer and study of the Word. It was in me the moment I met Him, and quite possibly even earlier than that. That desire for freedom and realness between God and me had been burning in my soul before I was born.

DArin HuffordIt was "clipped off," however, about six months after I finally submitted to "the way things had to be."

From as early as I can remember in my Christian walk, I can recall thinking how unfortunate it was that all those "other things" existed that I had to do above and beyond my exciting love affair with the Father. Every time someone would mention another practice or tradition I had to acknowledge and practice, it was like an annoying fly buzzing around my face. I remember secretly wishing I could be the different one who walked his own path with God and didn't follow all the rules and practices. Why couldn't I be the guy at the skating rink who was allowed to skate in the middle or sit on the wall? These rules seemed so boring and life-sucking to me. Just thinking about them made me feel like I was being strangled. 

My love for Him was preyed upon. It was used against me to get me to enlist in the Christian-military. I finally did it because I lost confidence in myself and what I had with Him. Rather than "go with" and trust the freedom I knew in my heart, I trusted people older and more educated than I. I trusted in what the majority of people were saying. "They must know more about what I'm supposed to do as a Christian," I thought to myself. Even though every fiber of my being was screaming not to go, I did it for Him. I didn't have the inner confidence at that time to make a stand for what I truly felt in my heart. 

It was confusing to me because almost immediately, I felt a sense of separation in my heart when I walked through the doors and submitted to their system. I felt like I had broken up with my first love and I was now living a responsible life in an adult world. I knew He was there inside of me, but something caused my spiritual senses to become numb to His presence because my head was counting and recounting all the steps they gave me for fear that I might miss one or do something rebellious or against God's will. I blamed myself and figured it was because I wasn't being totally obedient to what God wanted for me. Though my body was dressed up in my Sunday best, my heart was back at home reliving the uncomplicated closeness of puppy love.

I knew that if I was going to become a "mature" Christian someday, I had to do all these "other things" they told me about. I was truly a Christian with Attention Deficit Disorder. I hated the responsibility stuff that the "adult Christians" kept telling me about. I wasn't Darin Huffordinterested in tithing, volunteering, submitting to authority, group prayer, corporate worship, Bible studies, missions or even winning souls. I was told that my lack of interest in these things was evidence of immaturity and rebelliousness. Regardless of the level of electrical guilt and condemnation I used on myself in an effort to jump-start my passion for those things; I still came up empty.

I wasn't comfortable putting my hands in the air, screaming aloud or weeping in front of everyone else during worship. It just seemed a little over the top to me. Those things really felt inappropriate, almost like pulling my pants down and sitting on the toilet in front of five-hundred observers. They told me that I wasn't willing to confess my association with Christ to the world because I felt this way. I secretly wondered if my feeling this way was evidence that I was embarrassed of Him. If I really loved God the way I claimed, I wouldn't hesitate to let it all go during a worship service. My "holding back" was proof of my lack of love for Him. If I truly cared for God like I previously thought, I would surely not be so inhibited. I started an excruciating habit of second guessing and self-bashing that would become a part of my inner existence for the next ten years. It was comparable to the first few throw-up sessions that kicked off a life long eating disorder. 

I read the Bible so much that I honestly became bored. I began to fall asleep every time I sat down to read. When I listened to preachers' instructions to read the bible every morning until we burn inside, I secretly wondered if I hadn't closed my heart to the Spirit of God. I questioned whether or not I was really interested in Him because His book seemed so monumentally boring, and I was unable to drum up any excitement about a story or verse I'd read 20 times before. Reading the Bible became a task I had to endure or a quota I needed to fill in order to feel okay about myself.

I honestly didn't want to give ten percent of my paycheck in the offering plate. Faith or no faith, I was living paycheck-to-paycheck and ten percent was devastating. I tried it a fewtimes, but then the bills began to pile up and I started getting behind in my car payment. I found myself purposefully not thinking about it because the whole topic of tithing created such turmoil in my spirit. Therefore, my unwillingness to "trust God" in that area must be conclusive evidence of faithlessness. I didn't trust Him enough. That knowledge broke my heart and caused me to turn inward in self-loathing. What good is a newlywed love affair if I wasn't willing to be faithful with merely ten percent of my income? I learned that I was a fraud, and when my so-called "love for God" was weighed, it proved to be weightless.

Prayer circles turned me off big time! I wasn't comfortable holding hands with people I didn't know and I hated praying aloud in front of them. When I prayed, it sounded weird. It didn't sound like me. It was similar to the first time you hear yourself on a tape recorder. It doesn't sound like you thought you sounded; it sounds worse. That's how I was with prayer circles. My aversion to "group prayer" served as further confirmation that I was both ashamed of Him and unloving towards His people. At least that's what I told myself. These discoveries were heartbreaking.

Hating group prayer as a Christian was like being a boy and not liking girls. It was something that I knew I had to keep to myself. What made it worse was the fact that most of the time when people were praying for me, I didn't believe what they were praying for would ever come into existence. No matter how much I tried, I couldn't muster up the faith to be healed from things as simple as a headache or a hangnail.Darin Hufford

I wasn't genuinely interested in getting healed from stuff. I wasn't interested in miracles and big moves of God. I didn't care about things like receiving a word from God or being prophesied over by the Pastor. I could care less about getting a financial blessing or having the fruits of the Spirit. Even the gifts of the Spirit didn't interest me. None of those things that were talked about all the time at Church made any difference to me. I watched how everyone else seemed so excited about these things and I beat myself up because of my genuine disinterest. 

I would have been perfectly happy keeping things the way they were when I first met God. I hated this new adult-christian world. Sadly, because of my lack of fascination with these Christian practices, I began to tell myself that I was shallow and uninterested in the deeper things of God. I began to feel that I was lagging behind the pack in just about every spiritual area. Eventually, I gave up because I was too far behind to ever catch up. I wasn't even sure I wanted to catch up.

A heart to win lost souls to Christ was something I also secretly struggled with. I just didn't care -- at least, not as much as the preacher seemed to. It didn't burn within me to save the world from the devil. There was no passion to see people get saved, and because of that, I realized the ugliest truth about me that I could ever have imagined: I didn't love people. I was heartless. That revelation alone was enough to convict me of the worst guilt of all. It was indisputable evidence that my soul was dark and selfish and every part of my past "puppy love" relationship encounter with God was nothing more than self-centered fantasy.

DArin HuffordAfter about 12 years of this on-going agony, I began to wonder if what I had experienced alone with God in my spiritual youth had ever really taken place. Was it only a figment of my imagination? Perhaps I was fooling myself and creating my own invisible friend with special experiences because that's what I needed at that point in my life. I felt like the tiger that had been in the cage for so long, he actually forgot there ever was a wild. The very experiences of intimacy to which I had anchored myself were slowly becoming faded pictures in my mind.

I went to Bible College, hoping to birth a passion for those things in my wicked and dark heart. In three years, my knowledge of scripture more than quadrupled. They taught me how to pray, how to worship, how to give, how to convert people and how to preach the Gospel. I left knowing more about God than ninety percent of the people I knew.

When I left college, I was commissioned to go and bear fruit. Multiply. Win others to the Lord and make them just like me. The only problem was that I had been castrated. I could no longer procreate. Winning souls was like getting my friends involved in this great multilevel marketing business called Christianity that I had personally not made so much as a buck from. The formula was identical to AMWAY and HERBALIFE. Sell, sell, sell, and get people to commit and stay involved. Motivate them every Sunday by filling their heads with a thousand embellished success stories and encourage them to come faithfully or they'll surely fall away. Encourage them to hit all their friends and family up with this "great opportunity" and discourage them from relationship with anyone who rejected it.

During this whole process, I remember occasionally recalling my first love. I would be driving down the road on my way to a Church service and the memory of how it used to be would pop up in my mind. I'd be knocking on doors and handing out flyers advertising our next big service and suddenly my mind would return to my apartment in Hollywood where I used to sit in bed and talk to God so simply, clearly, directly, plainly and soberly. It was like I had a soul tie with a high school sweetheart who was seductive and luring me back.

I began by flirting with the idea of me and Him back together like we used to be. It became a secret fantasy that I entertained in my thoughts from time to time. "I wouldn't even know how to find Him after all this time," I'd think to myself. "Where would I even begin to look? For all I know, He's married and changed His name by now. Would He even be interested in me again? Would He find me attractive after all these years?"

I eventually got myself to the point where I had to at least attempt to contact Him. I was sure He'd rem ember me. What we had was way more than "puppy love." It was real! After meditating, fantasizing and wondering for several more years, I finally approached my Church and asked for a divorce. She was understandably devastated. She went through all the classic emotions, but eventually let me go. I left behind almost 16 years of marriage to return to my first love, not even knowing if He would take me back.

I know this:

There was music playing somewhere in heaven when we came together again for the first time in years. It was better than any movie I have ever seen or any romance novel written. The embrace has lasted until today, and the simple sweetness that once was, has been restored a hundredfold.

And we lived happily ever after.

Darin Hufford

 


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Comments

  1. Gravatar
    Rachel Liegghio

    It feels a bit like commenting on someone's diary page to comment on this. Thank you for opening the pages of your experience. I can so relate to your heart journey in this. It feels like a page from my own diary. I love the line "they preyed upon my love for Him" That is exactly how I felt. It's like if you come in with any kind of intimacy or fire with Him, you must be destined for Bible college and Youth group ministry and worship leading.......

  2. Gravatar
    Martha

    Oh yes, I was seduced for 40 years by those other lovers! What insanity. They don't love you, they don't see your heart, they have no desire to become intimately acquainted with you. They make you feel cheap as they use you over and over. Then one day you see it, you run to divorce court, and then run back to your first love, hoping he will take you back. Then you find he has been waiting, patiently with open arms.Yes, what a love story!

  3. Gravatar
    Silas

    HOW DARE YOU BE SO STRAIGHT FORWARD AND TOTALLY HONEST WITH US!!! It looks like your juevos are SO BIG you can't even lift them! Some others may not agree, but this is what I call "witnessing."
    No spiritual hoo-haa, no phoney reverance, no pretend nicey-nicey... Just the honest to God TRUTH! Thank you my beloved brother for sharing your journey with us without dressing anything up with sugar and cream. This is exactly what our Lord did with folks when He walked the earth. Those wonderful, quiet moments when you know His arms are around you in spite of your raggedy self...He never really leaves us, does He...?

  4. Gravatar
    Stephanie

    The beauty of this story and all of us who have like stories is the "prodigal does return home." We fed the pigs long enough during our famine. We squandered our inheritance and tried it the "worlds" way." I cannot be more grateful for a Father that would wait for me with such patience until I came to my senses. The honesty, love and commitment to God is in a place it may never have been had I not known what I had until it was replaced with a cheap imitation called "church." Thank you for sharing the truth with us because it helps touch those who are "on the way home to Daddy's house.."

  5. Gravatar
    Sue

    Gee, Hufford, it got all mushy towards the end. I thought you were gonna break out in a Jesus Is My Boyfriend song from days gone by for a second there ;)

    HAR. Except for the fact that those songs, and the song you sing to God here, are about as different from each other as fairy floss versus a roast dinner with sour cream in the potatoes and chocolate mousse to finish :)

  6. Gravatar
    gettingbetter

    Gee whiz Darin, did you have to start me crying first thing in the morning? Seriously though... again Father speaks to me when I need it. I'm not giving up!!! thanks again...

  7. Gravatar
    Joe Believer

    Hmmm. I get it, but did you forget about Hebrews 12 and the way our Loving Father introduces us to that which is not only uncomfortable, but PAINFUL, in order to produce a harvest of peace and righteousness in us, if we are trained by His discipline? Yes, keep your first love, but also allow Him to move you beyond this self-focused immaturity. He has a HUGE journey for you to go on, throughout eternity, with a constant discovery of Who He Is. Don't miss out on all that just because you were uncomfortable for awhile. Those difficulties in relating to one another, learning to gently overcome the traditions of men, while continueing to glow in your love of others, are necessary to OVERCOME in order to be in His Bride. You all by yourself are not the Bride. We TOGETHER are the Bride.

  8. Gravatar
    Darin Hufford

    Do I strike you as the kind of person who is living life by myself, secluded away from others Joe?

  9. Gravatar
    looknup

    at one of the last ICs i had to eventually RUN from, i told the pastor i needed a "time out." i told him that i had lost my "joy" in the lord. in his attempt to keep me "on track," he told me what it was that i needed to do....he went to the scripture about "returning to your first love." it's funny that he chose that passage because i ran out the door of that place and never returned. it wasn't the outcome he had in mind but it was exactly what i needed. it didn't take long for the "joy" to return in my life when it became only about me and God minus a huge weight that lifted off me!

  10. Gravatar
    D

    I find the similarities in the church and a multi-level marketing scheme hilarious. I remember walking into a MLM meeting years ago (at the beckoning of a "friend") and feeling a strange familiar energy from which I had long ago separated myself: from the upbeat music that riled up the crowd, to the energetic spokesperson spouting great stories of personal wealth and happiness to the slowing of the tempo & solemn seriousness to get you to really "think and reflect" and see if you were ready for a better life... all you had to do was choose...
    I also remember being hurt that a "friend" who I though wanted to spend time with me merely wanted to make something off of me. They didn't care about me, only about their numbers... and supporting the "cause" with blindness to the heart.

  11. Gravatar
    Ian

    Joe,

    your comment was so inane I can only believe you are someone who is spamming. Before you put pinky to keyboard, at least do some due diligence and investigate Darin's background. All of the information can be found on this site and you will discover that Darin is well versed with the painful.

    Mate, my face is red with embarrassment for you at your naivete. So in honour of your crass remarks I confer on you the "Dag of the Month" award.

    Cheers from a frustrated Australian,
    Ian

  12. Gravatar
    Technicolor

    Darin, I could have written this story about my experience. What an insidious case of eternal guilt, guilt, guilt the IC can become. I am eternally greatful to Father for setting me free. Darin, you are God sent! Thanks for all you do for so many of us!

  13. Gravatar
    Shannon Brown

    Oh my...Darin what you felt and experienced in your Christian walk is so similiar to mine. To have someone write about what I so closely lived for 20 yrs makes my heart sing!! The darkness of living in constant shame and guilt of never being good enough overtook me. I always wondered what was wrong with me and felt I couldn't even be called a Christian. But the sweet whisperings of my Rescuer kept calling me away from the rules and expectations of religion...I knew deep within there had to be something MORE! Oh the freedom in simplicity and knowing that He loves me - nothing compares!!!!! THANK YOU for writing this!

  14. Gravatar
    Adam Dodklis

    I hear people all over the place say "God is my best friend" "I love Jesus with all my heart". Sadly, I don't resonate with either of those. I wish I did! I feel distanced from the church and attend for the sake of my marriage, but don't feel close to God outside of the gathering on Sundays.

  15. Gravatar
    Darin Hufford

    Adam do you think that your lack of "feeling close to God" could be more a lack of feeling what people have told you you're supposed to feel? I have always found that when a person is introduced to the truth about God they suddenly discover that they've known Him all along. All the religious descriptions that people use to describe what a relationship with Him looks like are all empty embellished lies.

  16. Gravatar
    lindsay

    Darin
    This piece of writing is so like my own thoughts and feelings I'm stunned.I dont know how you survived 16 years apart. I have been missing Him for a mere 18 months, and have only been a christian for 2.5 years. However, the pain of thinking I might have blown it somehow,fills me with shame and grief. I met God 2.5 years ago and was sent spinning into a passionate,aching state of love, and I was overwhelmed that God Almighty felt the same way about me-the intimacy was shocking. His need for me was so raw that to this day I am embarrassed to tell people of it. Now its all but gone.I somtimes wonder if it was some sad delusion, but I want it back so badly I have been 'churching'and studying in the hope of getting closer to him,but it seems to have just faded Him further. I keep being repeatedly told that God steps away for longer and longer periods aschristians mature, but I think thats bullshit. If that's maturity they can have it. Im heartbroken and I want Him back.

    Linz

  17. Gravatar
    Mieke

    Wow, this is so amazing...indeed like reading a pace of my own diary. The first 6 months after i became a christian i had the most wonderful time with Him but than i came to an evangelic church and thought afcourse all the big guys knew so much better than i...after all...they studied theologica. It took me 12years also. In the meantime my oldest son died of cancer and some years later i got devorced. All on my own than without a husband and without a church. Now it' s between you and me He sad..it took me still some time but now finaly i start to become a free believer and live from my heart. He took me on this path after i asked Him to give me love for people. Fear has gone and i am waiting to see what more will come. So glad that i found this path at the Siloam in Holland with you Darin!!!

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