Tag Archives: testimony

“Back then, my RIGHT NOW seemed impossible!” – My Testimony at Urban Village Church

This morning I had the privilege of sharing a tiny bit of my testimony at Urban Village Church.   Check it out!

Here’s what I originally wrote:

I’m Darren, born and raised here in Chicago on the South side and I currently live in East Garfield Park on the West side. I was raised as an only child but have a TON of cousins that were like siblings… Siblings that could go away after they broke my toys. 

Growing up, one of my cousins – Mike – was ALWAYS getting in trouble.  It wasn’t that Mike was necessarily up to no good. In fact, Mike was usually somewhere being quiet while his younger brothers and the rest of the cousins were wreaking havoc. But Mike’s father (big Mike) had this idea that because Mike was the oldest of his kids, he was always to be “responsible” for everything that went on.  Therefore, anytime anything happened, Mike was the one getting yelled at first.  It became a running gag for us.  To this day we look at Mike ask why he let the most unrelated thing happens.  
 
That’s a humorous way of thinking about how sometimes things that happen to us, aren’t always our fault or even about us. In my own life, I’ve seen this in in a few ways. While my parents weren’t like Mike’s Dad, I did learn early on that stuff happens — these things, for better or worse, impact me and others. 
 
About 16 years ago, In the church I attended during and after college, I had some of the best and worst experiences of my life.  In college I co-founded a campus ministry and would be ordained only 8 months after it’s launch.  This ministry had a profound impact on the university campus but it would be years before we began to realize how toxic that church was.  One day when I have more time I can tell you about how during this season I struggled to sort out my sexual orientation and my faith; How I was taught to be ashamed of my own testimony. How at one point I was living in the basement of a church at the direction of it’s  leadership and cut off from my school, my business, friends, and even family for the sake of “getting delivered” from homosexuality. All of that is the back story to what God would one day do to transform my experiences into something that would help countless others. 
 
You see, that experience set me up for a few things. Here’s three of them:
 
1) I learned that my experiences matter.  The things that happened to me aren’t isolated or even rare.  Lots of people have been wounded in church and something needs to change.  
 
2) I developed an amazing amount of compassion and patience for people who use religion or their power to control and manipulate others. I think fear and ignorance drive people to do terrible things to others.  However, Love Wins over fear. 
 
3) I realized that I could affect change.  Equipped with nothing more than my story and my faith, I help leaders, parents, and friends of LGBTQ+ people understand the negative ways they may have impacted people like me. Now, because of my willingness to be vulnerable with my experiences, churches and institutions are changing their policies, families are reconciling with estranged loved ones, and communities are becoming safer places for everyone. 
 
I think there’s something powerful about the way that our stories can work together for the greater good.  The trauma that at one point made me despair life is now the fuel for my ongoing work for justice, inclusion, and reconciliation.  It’s not easy and most of the time there are road blocks. I have countless frustrating and triggering conversations – sometimes with people who totally ignore or disregard me.  There even are times where it feels like things simply won’t get better. But that’s when I have to pause and take a long view of what’s happened up until now.  I’m reminded of how back then, my RIGHT NOW seemed impossible!  
 
I don’t believe that God necessarily sets us up for bad experiences, but I’m confident that God eventually makes something beautiful out of them.  I’m hopeful that when I go through hard times that something in that experience will be useful for someone else along the way.  I believe that like the song we sang earlier, when I give myself away, that God would use my giving for something awesome. 

My Story – shared at Willow Chicago this morning.

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I’m Darren. Darren Khalil Calhoun to be exact. Most people call me Darren, but my mom calls me Calhoun and sometime we call each other Franky. I’ve been called a number of names… most of them Good and kind like “Dare Bear” but some others that I… wouldn’t ever repeat in church. I’ve also been known for what I do. I work as a freelance photographer so sometimes I’m known as “photo guy” or “picture man”. In college, I helped to launch a campus ministry and during this same time I was ordained as a minister. Suddenly my name became “Minister Darren”.

We attach a lot of importance to names and God even uses multiple names for himself to help us understand who he is. While it’s easy to look up the names of God and find out more of who he is, it’s not always so easy to find out who WE are. I use words like Christian, Black, and Male to describe me, but those don’t capture all of who I am. In 12-step I’m taught to identify myself as an addict but that doesn’t tell the full story either. In school I was called a failure. At times, I’ve sought validation to be called funny or cool or handsome. In some of the most difficult times of my life, because of my personal struggles, I’ve even been called Damned.

But ALL of that changes when I turn to God to tell me who I am. He simply calls me beloved. He calls me his own. God says that I’m someone he’ll rejoice over with singing (Zephaniah 3:17). And if I’m willing to be used, he’ll call me his ambassador. Names and labels come and go – they have varying degrees of truth but there is ONE who IS TRUTH and who has the final say. God says that I’m created in his image and likeness. He says that who I really am is just like him.

So, when I’m burdened with the expectations of others, when I’m unfairly judged, when I’m just lost, or when I don’t know what to think there is an answer. I can surrender myself to God and what he says about me through his Word and there I’ll be restored and become Just Like Him.

God is God

This has been a trying week… but in that a time to trust Him. Today as I was on my way to have my health checked, I was listening to this song.  In particular this line jumped out at me and brought light to my week: “…the questions without answers/ Come and paralyze the dancer …”

At the moment that I write this blog, there are many unanswered questions that challenge me greatly!  However, as I saught God in service today, he showed up and put everything in perspective– just as this song had been reminding me earlier today.  Check out the lyrics below.

“God Is God”
by Steven Curtis Chapman

And the pain falls like a curtain
On the things I once called certain
And I have to say the words I fear the most
I just don’t know

And the questions without answers
Come and paralyze the dancer
So I stand here on the stage afraid to move
Afraid to fall, oh, but fall I must
On this truth that my life has been formed from the dust

God is God and I am not
I can only see a part of the picture He’s painting
God is God and I am man
So I’ll never understand it all
For only God is God

And the sky begins to thunder
And I’m filled with awe and wonder
‘Til the only burning question that remains
Is who am I

Can I form a single mountain
Take the stars in hand and count them
Can I even take a breath without God giving it to me
He is first and last before all that has been
Beyond all that will pass

Oh, how great are the riches of His wisdom and knowledge
How unsearchable for to Him and through Him and from Him are all things

So let us worship before the throne
Of the One who is worthy of worship alone

God is God and I am not
I can only see a part of the picture He’s painting
God is God and I am man
So I’ll never understand it all
For only God is God

And that’s just it… IT’S TIME TO WORSHIP GOD!  I can only look at my situations and do so much about them, but God is God in everything and he is my everything.  So what worries could I have.

My health screening came back NEGATIVE!  I can rejoice in that!  God has sustained me this far… I can rejoice again in that!  I’ve been in worse situations than this… and have seen him deliver me out of them all… so I can keep on rejoicing in that!

I just began to worship and praise him in the service.  The whole congregation was overwhelmed in the Spirit of God.  lol… we tore up the church y’all!

So REJOICE in the Lord… and AGAIN I SAY REJOICE because GOD IS GOD!

the comment section is now open for testimonies and praise reports!

Sunday March 5, 2006 – 08:31pm (CST)