Welcome to the tenth entry into our Finding Who We Are Series. I’m so excited to introduce one of my closest friends to you. Matt Bell and I have known each other for a year now and he has been a great encouragement in my life. I hope that you find hope through his story…
I was born on July 27th, 1996. My life is full of ups and downs, not being good enough, and failing at almost everything, but God is faithful.
I was born into the family of Bell’s, Tony, my father and Melanie, my mother. They were married on May 16th, 1992, four years before I was born. My father was twenty-nine and my mother was twenty when they got married. I have two sisters and a brother. My sister’s names are Mallory and Morgan and my brother’s name is Mitchell – my parents adopted him from Latvia several years ago. My childhood years were incredible, full of fun and laughter.
With dad working a lot it gave my mom the opportunity to raise my siblings and me well. As a stay at home mom, she homeschooled us, taught us about the Bible, and fed us. Being diagnosed with ADHD at a young age, I was a bit of a handful.
Anytime the church doors were open, my family and I were there; Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, Wednesday nights. I don’t regret that, but as you will see later in my story, it causes troubles.
Being diagnosed with ADHD really set my life up for hardships. When I was in preschool, my mom signed me up for school. I was pretty excited because I love people and social interaction. But one day my teacher approached my mom and said that I was a bad kid who didn’t pay attention, was loud and caused distractions in class. My mom knew it wasn’t because I was bad, it was just that I was hyper and wanted to have fun.
The teacher suggested that I be put on medicine, which my mom was not happy about. She didn’t want to drug her kid. She took me out of school and began to homeschool me. She homeschooled me until 6th grade. I begged her to let me go to school because I wanted friends and to be social. Being homeschooled in the middle of nowhere with your sisters left for a lot of loneliness in the friend’s department.
She finally said okay and I went to a private school. My 6th-grade year started and I was excited! I was going to make friends, be cool, fit in, and learn.
Well, things didn’t quite go the way I had hoped.
I began to meet people and sit with them at lunch. After some time, I began to realize that I didn’t really fit in. I was in love with music and movies but all of the guys wanted to talk about sports.
A little worried, I began to research things about sports so I would fit in, be accepted, and have something to talk about with them. To make a long story short, that wasn’t good enough for them. I would hear about how they would all have a sleep over and hang out over the weekend. I was never invited. It made me question who I was and why I didn’t fit in. Other than church this was the first time I had tried to mingle with people. Regardless, no matter what I tried or who I became, I wasn’t good enough.
At the time I had one true friend, his name was Jon. Jon went to church with me and would hang out a lot and talk on the phone. He was my best friend, my brother. Being the people lover that I am, however, I wanted more than just one friend.
I wanted hundreds.
While trying to fit in with the kids at school, I started to develop anxiety and depression problems. Unknown to everyone, I would cry at night asking God “why am I not good enough? What’s wrong with me?”
I later dropped out of school and asked mom to homeschool me again. Things were fine. I had Jon, my family, and everything was good again; or so I thought. Over the next couple of years, the thoughts of not being good enough kept flooding my head.
*Fast forward to my later teen years.*
Remember I grew up in a Christian home, always at church, my best friend was a Christian, so there was no way of life being bad…WRONG. About the age of fourteen, I started going to a home-school co-op. I believed this was my chance to meet friends and fit in somewhere.
The co-op was okay. I ran into the same problem I had to begin with: sports.
I met a friend there who also loved music. We started a band and would hang out so I thought I had made it. To make another long story short, that didn’t last long and we began to drift apart.
A year later, at the age of fifteen, my family left the church we had been going to for years to help out a new church plant. The friends I had made at my old church followed me to this church, which made me feel good, and we started another youth group.
At this point, I had developed some amazing friendships with other guys in the youth group. There was Jon (mentioned earlier) Will, Austin, and Andrew. At this youth group, I started to lead worship.
I led worship, I went to church, my friends were Christians, I thought I was doing okay in the “Christian department.” But as the months of me leading worship went on, I started feeling weird, I didn’t feel good enough to lead worship because I didn’t feel “spiritual” enough to lead youth into worship. But I ignored this and kept going.
I started going to a new homeschool co-op during this time in High Point, North Carolina. I met some friends there, but it wasn’t really healthy for me. I would do whatever and be whatever I needed to be in order to fit in with this group, and it worked.
I still felt hollow, though.
In this group, I met a girl, whom I grew quite fond of. Her name was Florentina, and she was beautiful. I can’t stress that enough.
I was so nervous to talk to her, I couldn’t find words. I would do stupid things to make the group we hung out with laugh and would turn to her to see if she was laughing. I wanted her to be my girlfriend, but we were young. I was about sixteen and she was fourteen. Over time, we started to develop a good friendship.
Well, all of the beans spilled and we told each other that we liked each other.
YAY! SHE LIKES ME!!
I was overjoyed! We talked flirtatiously for two years, but after one summer she stopped talking to me. I sunk into a depression. I didn’t know why she stopped talking to me. Was I not good enough for her? Was it me? What did I do? I was messed up for a while. But after that, I couldn’t figure out why I struggled to keep friends and keep relationships with people.
I remember one night vividly. I began to question God, “Why did you make me if I can’t even fit it?”
I couldn’t understand anything.
That night, after facing months of depression, I finally heard from God. And when I say finally, I mean that I gave up begging and just listened to Him. His timing is perfect.
He said, “ Matt, look at your bedside table.”
So I did and on it, I didn’t see anything but my phone and my Bible.
“What? I don’t see anything.”
Then I heard Him say, “your phone is on top of your bible. Your seeking acceptance all wrong. Maybe instead of finding yourself in others, find yourself in Me.”
I broke down.
I had been going about my life all wrong. I wasn’t a strong Christian. I had just been going through the motions and not seeking him.
I picked up my bible and I opened randomly to Isaiah 40:29 which talks about God giving strength to the weak. I lost it. I opened my Spotify and began to listen to Christian music.
The first song that was playing, and is still my favorite song today, was Beloved by Tenth Avenue North. This song talks about us being the bride of Christ and it is a love song from God to us as believers. One line that will always stick with me from that songs is,
“You’ve been a mistress, my wife,
chasing lovers that won’t satisfy
Won’t you let me make you my bride…
and you will taste new life.”
It was at that moment that I began to seek God more for my life.
I became, in my opinion, a better worship leader because it wasn’t just me on stage playing music, I was onstage playing music for my King, worshiping Him and leading others into that worship.
After that, I began going to a new church. A few Sunday’s after attending, I was asked to be the youth worship leader. It’s funny how God works. I said yes and now I work there as the Youth Worship leader at Reynolda Church.
If I had not been through all of this crap, I would not have had my eyes opened to God and what He had for my life. I started leading worship better, was able to connect with kids who go through the same issues I went through and still continue to go through.
God is good and has a sense of humor.
Months after I started leading worship at Reynolda, I ran into Florentina at a basketball game which I was not supposed to go to. She didn’t seem interested in talking to me but I kept being persistent. We started texting and now we have been dating for a little over a year. I couldn’t be happier. I love her to death!
In Romans 3:23 it talks about how we all as humans fall short of God’s glory, but He is never far away. He’s always there to give us strength. I still face a lot of depression and anxiety about fitting in, and being good enough for people. But, in every trial I face, God is faithful to bring me joy and to see that everything is okay.
God will never leave you nor forsake you, He is there just waiting for you to listen and let Him be Lord of your life. It took me a while to see that, but even in my wondering, He still guided my life and helped me when I couldn’t see it. I thank Him every day for the blessings He has given me. Without Him, I would not be where I am today.
Thank you, Matt, for sharing your heart and encouraging us with your story!
You are loved.
You are valued.
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