I continue my journey of learning to discover how I can use my story to bring glory to God—the one who gave it to me.
All of us tell stories about ourselves. Stories define us. If you want to know someone well, know their story—those experiences that have shaped them, the trials and turning points that have made them who they are today. When we want someone to know us, we share stories of our childhoods, our families, our first loves, and so on.
I was born in 1970 in the small town of Sterling, Ill. Sterling is a city in Whiteside County with a population around 15,000. Formerly nicknamed “The Hardware Capital of the World”, Sterling has long been associated with manufacturing and the steel industry.
Dad worked at Northwestern Steel & Wire and spent 30 years pushing brooms and driving trucks full of hot steel in order to provide for our family. I am grateful for my father’s sacrifice and understand why he retired on the very first day it was an option to do so. Mom spent her time as a loan officer at a local bank. We were middle class and had a great life.
Along with my older siblings, I was raised in a Christian home and we were all very active in the local Nazarene church. Dad was an usher, mom sang in the choir, and we kids were all leaders in various capacities. The Sharp family was at church whenever the doors were open—even on Super Bowl Sunday. Seems crazy, right?
So, you might not be surprised to learn that I gave my life to Christ at an early age and felt called to the ministry when I was 13. I am thankful for my parent’s commitment to raising us with a strong biblical foundation as it’s made me who I am today.
But nothing is perfect.
In the years that have followed, our family has struggled with alcohol abuse and drug abuse and has experienced failed relationships, divorce, debt, unemployment, bankruptcy, heath issues, and cancer scares.
It’s quite a story.
Dr. Wess Stafford is the former President and CEO of Compassion International and is an internationally recognized advocate for children in poverty. Wess has degrees from Moody Bible Institute, Biola University and Wheaton College, and a Ph.D. from Michigan State, but he often says, “Everything I really needed to know to lead a multinational organization I learned from the poor, growing up in an African village.”
I’m thankful Dr. Stafford did something with his story.
Bono has become one of the world’s best-known philanthropic performers and was named the most politically effective celebrity of all time by the National Journal. In a 1986 interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Bono explained that he was motivated to become involved in social and political causes by seeing one of the Secret Policeman’s Ball benefit shows, staged by John Cleese for the human-rights organization Amnesty International in 1979. Bono was shocked and he did something with it.
What has rocked you to the core?
Bethany Hamilton was born to surf. A natural talent who took to the waves at a young age, she was leading what we Minnesotans would consider the “perfect sun-drenched life” on the Kauai coast. Bethany was competing in national surf competitions when everything changed in a heartbeat. You might know the story.
On Halloween morning, she was on a typical surf outing when a 14-foot tiger shark came out of nowhere and seemed to shatter all her dreams. In the wake of this life-changing event that took her arm and nearly her life, Bethany’s steadfast faith helped her stage a feisty comeback from shark attack victim to inspirational role model.
It doesn’t have to be catastrophic, but what has shaped your story and how can you use it to bring glory to God, the one who gave it to you?
“I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.” Psalm 86:12
— by Jason Sharp
Sharp serves as Station Manager of 98.5 KTIS in the Twin Cities. Follow him on Twitter @KTISjason.