I have been attending Grace Community Church my entire life, was born into a Christian home, and for most of my childhood (like many raised in the church) I believed that because my parents were Christians that meant I was Christian too. I am the middle son of six kids, and the third son to become Eagle Scout.

Growing up through middle school and high school I struggled a lot with anxiety and not really having my own sense of self-confidence. I would always put on a smile and tell myself that maybe if I looked happy I’d feel happy. I would go on every church retreat, having the momentary feeling of fullness and excitement for God, but it would only last the weekend, and I’d be back to feeling the emptiness until the next retreat.

My only life aspiration was to reach the status of Eagle Scout, as I had let myself believe that if I was to achieve the rank then maybe I’d be worthy of the approval of my parents and others around me that I believed I lacked. Once I finally achieved the rank of Eagle Scout, I was proud of myself but still felt an emptiness that I didn’t expect. I had been living my life in the mindset that if I worked hard for things I thought would please my parents, maybe I’d feel whole.

I started working a retail job in high school, giving up a lot of time to just work, thinking I’d find fullness in that. I focused solely on my own life and how I thought I had to live it. Somewhere along the way, a former D-team leader stopped me on a Sunday and asked if I wanted to get lunch. After meeting with him a few times, I started opening up about what I was struggling with at the time, and that’s when God really started to speak to me through him, building me up and reminding me that I was a sinner, and no matter how hard I worked, I’d never feel that fullness I longed for without God.

I finally started to really feel like I was worthy of the love of my parents and those around me – at least until God really started to show me how fickle my faith was. I started to fall back into bad habits and the same sins that caused my anxiety to control my life. I had been trying to go through life on my own again, thinking it was in my hands and no one else’s. I felt unwanted and alone. Friends at church whom I had grown up with would always ask how I was doing, but my anxiety told me that if I opened up then maybe I’d be judged. God was putting people in my life to build me up, but I only ever tore myself down. I was longing for community that I’d feel really accepted in, not realizing I’d been in one the entire time.

One evening after coming home from work, my mom asked me how my day was. After telling her of the bad day, she then told me that a job had opened up at Grace. My oldest brother had worked at Grace when he was about my age, and it was something I had wanted to do for some time, especially after completing my Eagle project for the camp. So the first chance I was given I applied, hoping that maybe this would make a difference in my life. I was interviewed, and after having a few conversations with my soon-to-be supervisor, I got the call that I was given the job.

I finally felt God working on me again and was ready, until one day my whole world was totally flipped. For my entire life my grandma had been one of my best friends – she was the coolest grandma I or any of my friends had ever met. She had been bedridden for months, but that day before my first day at Grace, she went back to grandpa’s side, and it must’ve been one of the longest and most emotional days of my life. I went into work the next day overwhelmed with grief, but I realized that morning that it was no chance that my first day at Grace would be the day after my grandmother’s passing. For the first time, I recognized that God had his hands on my life, and instead of backing out like I had in the past, I put my life in the hands of God. He has reminded me of his presence and blessed me every day since. That’s why I am being baptized and declaring Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.

— Nathan Hammond, Getting Baptized July 2018
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