5th January 2019
Yesterday was my fourth birthday. So I thought I would take some time to reflect on these last four years.
They have been far beyond anything I could ever have imagined. In four years I have faced some of the toughest hardships and challenges, yet I am still standing.
In 2015, on the third of January, a young, naïve Michael was submerged in water by his Grandad in acceptance of the Lord Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour. It felt amazing! Nothing else could ever compare to the feeling of rebirth, but his journey had only just begun...
2015 saw a disappointing end to my AS levels, and inspired me to work for what I thought was 'The Plan' - get your A*s, fulfil your potential and get to Cardiff University. Instead I designed a stadium and, in 2016, said goodbye to the school that housed me for seven years before receiving below-par A-Level results... I thought that was it. I kissed goodbye to 'The Plan', but received a lifeline in the form of an Engineering foundation year at Cardiff University. I jumped at it; surely this is 'The Plan' working out?
Now, as I lie here in 2019, I believe I was misguided. I was never meant to go to university for the engineering - I went because I was called to help people. In my own misguidance, I was very clearly steered into what turned into the most incredible direction.
I battled through 2017, a year of struggles against mental health, but a year in which I actively sought God for the first time. I flew to Marseille and learned to trust Him as we connected students with churches (watch the video), I met someone who showed me what it meant to love again, and as I sat upon the hill in front of the Notre-Dame de la Garde basilica in Marseille, I penned what would be the first Route 66 Movement song - Live In You.
As 2018 approached, I became increasingly aware that I had not recorded any songs - I questioned things, is this meant to happen? Is this what I'm meant to be doing? Why can't I write? I felt I had let down the people who had shown me support and belief, my dream was fading fast... until summer approached following a disastrous exam season, and a good man reminded me of what it meant to trust God and listen to Him.
"I turned my back on the One who had always been there for me, who never left my side and had guided me for 21 years - and for what?"
The music flowed from my soul, my prayers were answered in the form of an EP - We Are Followers - and in partnership with Meal-a-Day, Route 66 began to thrive and my patience was rewarded. The best summer of my life.
September came around and I came to terms with loss for the first time in a long time. I languished in my head, berated myself for not being good enough, and I stopped listening. I turned my back on the One who had always been there for me, who never left my side and had guided me for 21 years - and for what? For me to turn away at the first sign of hardship.
I lost my heart, I lost my head, and I lost myself. I hurt people, people I care for deeply. I threw everything I had been given so generously back in His face...
When suddenly a light shone on my life, it exposed my weaknesses and flaws, my broken mind, enough for someone to come along and fix me up. Time stood still with them, and I could finally breathe. I broke through the surface of the worry, the fear, the self-loathing and selfishness, to gasp at the lessons I had been taught, to blink, unbelieving, at the clarity I now had.
For the first time in months I had faith. I had faith in their faith, in your faith, in His faith in me. And like a phoenix from the ashes, songs wrote themselves, they flew out onto the page fully fledged and beautiful.
In this time, I learned that the community I serve would gain nothing from my being conservative, from my shying away from the truth... and so the songs I penned were honest. The only way we can learn the Truth and improve ourselves is by being honest. By me being honest with you, you being honest with us, our being honest with Him, and His honesty in His guidance of us, in The Plan.
"I realised I had gained everything from a year of tragedy, and I once more knew love."
Before the year was out, I would know loss one more time, in the form of my paternal grandfather's passing, and although I knew that was the end, and cried and cried, I realised I had gained everything from a year of tragedy, and I once more knew love.
Route 66 is all about honesty. God is honest with us, it's all there written in every tongue, it's up to us to decide what to do with those words, how we interpret them. So as I write this now-rather-longer-than-intended post, I pray that my journey may serve as a marker for those who are lost, and that I may continue to serve my community and help those in need.
In these four years I have loved and lost, but He has never left my side, even when I turned my back.
If you've read this far, congratulations! You've made it to the end of the marathon... I thank you very much for reading my story, and whether you believe in God, Allah, Yahweh, Jesus, a higher power or not, my hope is that you at least have faith.
Faith is what saves you - it's not religion. Religion is outdated, an excuse to confuse and control; a misinterpretation of a simple request: LOVE.