Sometimes God’s movements in someone are so evident they dare you to move. Their words, their actions, and their relationships so display a life led by Jesus that you find yourself asking, “God, how do I find that? Please take me there.”
That’s the life led by James Clark. However, like any story about the abundant life found in Jesus, it starts in death. James grew up in Arlington - what he describes as Washington’s own little slice of the South - and where he knew lots of Christians who left their beliefs in the pews on Sunday.
“I thought church was a place for people who needed it and I didn’t need it. I just kind of made fun of Christians, and I was apathetic toward religion in general.”
He grew up in a home distant from Christ, and that distance created a void James taught himself to fill with works and status.
“I was brought up to believe a man had to make his own way in the world by trying hard and he had to do everything he could to be not just a good man but a successful man… You had to work your way to the top.”
James demanded excellence from himself in everything that he did. Working tirelessly, if he couldn’t become the best it would eat away at him. It would literally bring him to fist-clenching anger. Either he would be the best or he would quit. A regular Ricky Bobby.
“I was James Clark, pursuer of fame and popularity by any means necessary… I was also a depressed man with no direction in life and no reason to exist other than self-gratification. I understood the emptiness that I lived in, I just didn’t have anything to fill it with.”
This trend continued right into his enrollment at WSU and a first semester that would change the direction of his life forever. Party culture became his social norm, as it so often does for freshmen at WSU. Pursuing social acceptance literally almost killed him.
When James went out with some friends to the Snake River, he was encouraged to have more than a couple drinks. Not knowing his limit, James continued to take triple shots until he endangered himself on the Granite Point cliffs and had alcohol poisoning. It took him over thirty-six hours to recover, and James knew he couldn’t continue down this path much longer.
“Things started to change when a girl from my high school, Laurel Graves, invited me to something called Village. She was cute, so I went. We talked about Jesus all night; I had never done that before but I loved it.”
Now here is the moment when God displays his power and his majesty. The moment in every Christian’s life when God starts to whisper gently to your soul, calling you to Him. James had never gone to church. He had never heard and understood the Gospel. Yet here we find a strange connection to these people in the room talking about some guy named Jesus and it doesn’t stop there.
“I didn’t know who Jesus was, but the second I showed up to Village I felt His spirit in the room. I felt the Holy Spirit and I felt that power… I didn’t know what it was but I came back because I felt love.”
James drank the night before his first church service and guilt riddled his conscience. But guess what topic Keith addressed that Sunday: repentance.
“I felt God calling me in that moment very tangibly, like, 'Here you go - you messed up and the first sermon you ever go to: this is what you do afterwards and this is the Gospel. I forgive you and I love you.' I was overcome, I wept like a little baby, it was terrible but it was great.”
James heard and understood the Gospel for the first time in the CUB talking with Drew Worsham. Jesus consumed his life, his works, and his brokenness. The fire he had to be the best was replaced with Christ-like humility. The passion he had for his own success he has now placed in others as a Freshman Village leader, a position of service which he took just six months after accepting Christ.
This isn’t a testament to how awesome James is. It’s a testament to how awesome Jesus is. How He took someone broken, empty, and yearning and made him fulfilled and called according to a righteous purpose. Who is James now in Jesus?
“I am James Clark, son of God, warrior in the family of Christ, forever for His service and joyful for it. I have been called to live righteously and to abide in Christ, not called to live perfectly. I am forgiven, covered by amazing grace and I am part of the greatest family I have ever known. I have fathers and brothers and sisters and mothers who are Godly. My church family and my Father in heaven are more than I could ever ask for. I was a dead boy, and now I am a man who is alive in Christ.“