A Fiery Refinement - Ben Ortiz
My name is Ben Ortiz and this is my story:
I remember learning early on, if you did what people asked, you would be rewarded. Being a good person was a core belief that fueled the foundation of a people-pleasing theology. My unbelieving parents lived lives of common grace and I am thankful for the love they modeled. Amid an incredible childhood, still, our lives were centered around being "good people" and living out the American dream.
Our family worshiped sports. My parents juggled athletic schedules for four children; my earliest memories are on a ballfield. I became a star student and model athlete; the first years of my life were driven on my performance and accomplishments. When I tore my ACL in high school, I was devasted. The injury cut short the promise of baseball scholarships. I questioned the direction and purpose of my life. My hopes of playing in college had been dashed, it was an incident I scrutinized for years.
In adulthood, I would try to find life in everything popular culture defines as manhood: materialism, objectifying women, experiences, and a thriving career. The constant struggle to be fulfilled by these things left me empty, guilty, and ashamed. I worried about what people thought of me, and creating the perfect image was a constant burden. Finding my identity in my performance and appearance; only fueled escapism, disappointment, and insecurity.
During the 2008 recession, my entire company was laid off, leading to strained finances, friendships, and the end of a serious relationship with a shallow foundation. Seeing me reeling in despair, a friend challenged me to turn my eyes towards something different. They invited me to come and see what I didn't even know my heart longed for. All the idols I had built over 33 years were torn down.
Since then, it has been a fiery refinement. The strongholds the Lord has taken down were deep-rooted. The Master Gardener has been at work pulling up the weeds of my life and planting His Word in its place. My life is in Him; my identity is no longer based on my performance or outward success. There have been great seasons where I can see growth and feel His presence, but there have also been dry or difficult seasons to draw me to Himself.
My relationship with Christ is richer than ever, but I know He still has so much work to do. I still struggle with image, lack of humility, and want to believe the lie from Satan, that life shouldn't be this hard. I often don't want to deal with the truth of my own selfishness when faced with the reality of serving my disabled wife or demands of my young children. I am thankful God's Word reminds me of His truth as I wrestle through these realities and grateful for a community of faithful believers who bravely speak into the areas I struggle to surrender.
I now rest in the peace of who my Father is and the life of freedom He gives us when we are in Him, remembering "there is no condemnation for those who belong in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8:1) As a person who tried so hard to be good enough, it is a relief to know, I don't have to earn God's love. He loves me in my brokenness, and gave His life for me, a sinner in need of a Savior. I rest in understanding the beauty of my new identity in Christ: "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." (1 Peter 2:9)