The years flew by and so did the styles. Do you remember the 80’s, that decade from Hades? HAHAHA. I do too. White jackets, pastel shirts, pleated pants and loafers were the rage. And then the 90’s with its rolled cuff jeans and horrible hair styles. The year was 1993. My new focus had become sports and school.
I had worked my way up into the top ten percent of the class, joined as many clubs as possible including: Latin, Science, Mu Alpha Theta, Beta Club, Quiz Bowl, and more, and lettered in more varsity sports than any person in my high-school previously; Cross-Country, Football, Track, Wrestling, Sports Management and Soccer, also playing a couple of other sports I did not letter in. I was Captain of the Team, All-Conference, MVP, Most-Improved, Scholar Athlete, Coca-Cola Athlete, and had won awards for everything from Editorial Cartooning and Art to Mathematics.
I was recruited to kick football by the University of Redlands, to play soccer at UNC Chapel Hill and had been recruited for Chemistry & soccer by NC State University.
I was one of the leaders of my drama team at my church and toured to about 80 venues over my three year tenure with the team at South River Baptist Church. From the outside in, it seemed that Dustin Hedrick had everything going for him, yet, though no one around me knew it, this was not the case.
We were on the road at one of those many churches where the South River Baptist Church drama team ministered. We would travel every weekend to some church around the Southeast doing various revivals and events. Generally after we performed, Tim, our youth pastor would step up and share a brief testimony or closing and there would be a time of invitation. GOD always seemed faithful to move. There were so many churches where the effect was lasting or more far reaching than we knew.
Yet, it’s funny. Do you know how sometimes you can be doing something for so long that you begin to think that you are doing something so great for the LORD that HE should be happy to have you around? Have you ever felt like you’ve worked so hard and paid so many prices that the GOD should reward you accordingly? Has the ministry ever become who you are rather than what you do? Ever forgotten whose ministry it really is? I did. It happens subtly. Often it starts with just one thought, “…I have done this, I have done that. I am glad that I am at least not that sinning tax collector on the back row…” It’s so easy to lose sight of reality and so easy to marry yourself to your works rather than your first love.
It had been so many years since I even felt near GOD let alone connected to HIM or actually talking to HIM personally. He was just the guy who made sure that I tied conference record for number of kicks in the football game. It wasn’t that I didn’t pray. It was that I didn’t know the person I was praying to. I wonder if during those years whether HE even really knew me.
Well, back to the story… So, here I am serving a GOD I have lost touch with yet doing it with all my ability and time. In the bathroom before this event, I am talking with one of my friends. We were talking about what we were going to do over the next weekend and what our plans were. It was nothing out of sorts, but as I was talking, I said a curse word, nothing horrific, just a simple four-letter word. The funny thing is that I never really cursed. I never found a use for saying those words, yet at that exact moment, the true inside Dustin was coming out and he wanted to show off to his friends. Again, it wasn’t WHAT I said that was the real issue; it’s where it came from inside my heart. Whether I said one or one hundred different curse words didn’t matter at this point, because right at that exact moment, Tim had walked into the bathroom. And unbeknownst to me, heard the entire thing. He was shocked and broken!
My heart had become this interesting house built for many different people. I had a front room that was for GOD, a back room that was for my sports, another couple of rooms for various girlfriends and friends, one more room for my awards and achievements and then in the very back, there was a closet. That closet was hidden around a corner, almost totally unlit and secluded. No one would have ever found it, had I not been in that little church, where the Presence of GOD constructed one opportunity, a window of time where everything would align for the real Dustin to be seen by someone that would call him to accountability.
It started with…”I had no idea. You seem like you have everything together, looking great on the outside, yet inwardly, really hiding another person.”
I had gotten the letter in the mail and my mom had put it in my room. No one had opened it, however when I opened it, I knew exactly what was coming. Tim had heard me and there was heck to pay! I was so enraged that immediately before reading the letter, I wadded it up and threw it into the trash. Then I became so paranoid that someone would open the letter and know the truth that I pulled it out, still without reading it, and placed it in my top awards drawer. (I had so many awards that they took up two drawers, so I knew that no one would look through all of them and find the letter). A day went past and my curiosity got the best of me, so I had to open it and read more.
It went on to say, “You had me convinced that you were someone else than you really are. I mean, really Dustin, I thought that you were the leader of the group. I was convinced that you were the most Godly person in the youth ministry, yet the truth is that you have hidden behind a mask. So, do me a favor, do yourself a favor. Do this not for me, not for your parents, not for anyone else than yourself. Look deep inside yourself and be really honest and ask yourself, ‘Who am I?’”
Dustin Hedrick is:
1. A Soccer Player?
2. A Top Ten Percent Student?
3. A Musician?
4. A Drama Guy?
5. A Chemist?
Who or what had I become? Within moments I began to realize that I had become something or someone I didn’t know. It had all happened so fast. When had I made these decisions? Where did it all start? What were the points that I had changed? Who am I?
Decisions Determine Your Destiny
Every small decision we make actually adds to the sum of who we are. Where we think that the smallest things do not matter, we might be surprised to find, that they do. Each thing, added to your character is simply setting you up for success or failure.
Early on, I had learned that the people with the most success in High School were the ones who had the most fun and did the most stuff. So, being an introvert, I knew there was no chance for success unless I learned how to develop relationships. I started by writing a new concept on my hand every day. The first days I wrote, “talk less, listen more.” Then I went on to write, “Ask more questions about other people.” Every time I thought about it, I would look at the palm of my hand and read what I had written for the day. At each point during the day, I would then practice the concept. This made me a very popular conversationalist and general person in school. However, I never thought that the same concept was true for my Christian walk. It was something that had to be practiced, something that had to be learned. It was something that I had to take time and think about and should write not only on my hand, but my mind and heart as well.
Never saying anything to Tim, I changed. I underwent major spiritual surgery and my spirit softened. That same year as I was playing soccer, I did my 7th or 8th slide tackle on the same guy and he illegally cleated my thigh. It left a charley-horse which when I jumped up triumphant to kick the ball, ended both my soccer, wrestling, and football kicking career with one kick down field. That next kick I made tore my quadricep, hyper-extended my knee and gave me tendonitis that still bothers me today. Later I would be told by the physical therapist at UNC that there is no way I could play. I could sit the bench.
That brings me to England.