For both Erik and Colleen Wachob, faith was woven into the fabric of their growing-up years. With supportive families and strong role models to guide them, walking with Christ came relatively easily. But easy faith sometimes stumbles into ditches of legalism: man-fearing, self-sufficiency, pride, and perfectionism. For Colleen, a crippling fear of failure and an inordinate dependence on man’s approval led to sinful self-focus and destructive behavior, while Erik faced a crisis of identity when a family move caused him to question who – and whose – he really was. Read their story to find out how the Lord is now teaching them to run by faith, rather than out of fear.
Erik & Colleen Wachob
Colleen: I remember raising my hand and praying to receive Christ’s forgiveness when I was just a little girl in Sunday School. I had an innate desire to be good – and to be approved of because of my goodness. As a little girl, I sometimes got up in the middle of the night to make my bed and brush my teeth. As a teen, I put immense pressure on myself to succeed academically. I was a man-fearing mess. I wanted to be God’s girl, but I lived like I believed in a works-based gospel.
When Erik was young, his family moved frequently. Starting over in each new town meant that Erik often felt like an outsider. As he sought acceptance from new peers, he learned to define himself by external things – namely his academic and athletic achievements. While he had a genuine faith in Christ, his faith was secondary to those other identities. Erik’s junior year of high school was marked by yet another move, this time to Jackson, Wyoming (the town where he would meet his future wife).
Erik: Once I again, I was the new kid. No one knew anything about me. Starting over again felt harder this time, and, facing a true loss of identity, I decided to test whether God meant it when He said, “My grace is sufficient for you.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) For the first time, I chose to follow Christ whole-heartedly – to put my relationship with Jesus ahead of running, skiing, and schoolwork. I learned to find my identity in Jesus Christ, and I stopped scrambling for successes in order to define myself.
Colleen and Erik became friends during high school, but went separate ways for college. After a year at a Christian university, Colleen decided to take time off from pursuing her nursing degree to attend Bible college.
C: I spent a semester at an English-speaking Bible school in Austria. I thought I would gain knowledge. Instead, I learned that Jesus wanted my surrendered heart more than He wanted my head-knowledge. In Austria, I learned to devote daily. I learned to pour out my heart to God in prayer as I ran miles and miles along village roads.
Running became a passion for Colleen during her time in Austria, and, when she returned to college, she asked the distance coach if he would let her walk-on to the cross-country team. He agreed, and competitive running soon became another area where man-fearing reared its irrepressible head.
C: Even though I had grown spiritually, I still struggled with wanting to be good enough on my own. Somewhere during that season of cross-country running, I started to think that it wasn’t enough to be a fast runner; I thought I needed to be a skinny runner, too. So, I began to starve myself. I counted every single calorie I ingested, and I ran extra miles to burn off the little food I did eat. By the time I went home for the summer, I had lost over thirty pounds and I was experiencing some of the unsettling medical symptoms that go hand-in-hand with severe anorexia.
Colleen began to realize that anorexia had hijacked her heart. She felt far from Christ; her eating disorder had become a false god that stole her affection, her focus, and her energy.
Colleen began to realize that anorexia had hijacked her heart. She felt far from Christ; her eating disorder had become a false god that stole her affection, her focus, and her energy. Recognizing that she needed help, she reached out to her parents and entered an intensive counseling program for eating disorder recovery.
C: Counseling was helpful. But what truly propelled me towards recovery was realizing that my eating disorder was a sin. I had taken my eyes off of Christ, and I was completely consumed by my twisted thoughts about my body. When I named that behavior as sin, and I asked for mercy and help, God answered.
About a year later, Erik was joining a team of missionaries to spend a year in New Zealand. Colleen was working as a camp nurse in California for the summer, and she heard about his plans through her family. She sent him an encouraging note and a small support check, and the two began corresponding.
E: She sent me my smallest support check and I wrote her my longest thank you note. We spent a year just writing back and forth and getting to know each other on a much deeper level than we had in high school.
C: God was so gracious to allow us to fall in love the way we did. I love our story. When we got married two years later, we had been dating long-distance for so long that it felt so amazing and blissful to just be together.
Our issues – my issues – didn’t disappear because we had a happy marriage, though. I still struggled. As the Lord added five amazing and beautiful girls to our family, I became a mom who avoided playdates out of fear, and who constantly felt like a failure because I couldn’t seem to parent by the books. In my insecurity, I would go tentatively to a women’s event, and then come home and stay awake all night, numbering all the ways I fell short. I lost my wonderful dad when I was 27, and, even in my shock and sorrow, I felt somehow that grieving was something I had to do the “right” way. Man-fearing stayed with me.
Twenty-three years after Erik’s life-defining family move, the Lord led the Wachobs to move again – this time to Park County. For all seven of them, the move was challenging – and often heart-aching. For Erik in particular, the transition provided an opportunity for God to do the heart-work of rooting out continuing weeds of pride and self-sufficiency.
E: Taken away from my long-time network of godly men, I lacked motivation to pursue Christ on my own. Removed from my home church where I felt comfortable serving, I stepped back from leading. Pride says I’m good enough on my own merits, that I can “do” life on my own. But I can’t. On my own, I come up short. I coast instead of following God fervently. I am impatient when others don’t meet my standards. I am a man in desperate need of a Savior, and the daily guidance of the Holy Spirit. My problem is pride, and the solution is to look to Christ – the One who was without sin and gave Himself up for me, who emptied Himself and took on the humblest form. Moving to Cody has reminded me to fix my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith, instead of trusting in my own abilities.
C: Shortly before our move, I was feeling overwhelmed by a sense of failure. I just didn’t think I could measure up. It was January, and when I asked God for a banner word over the coming year, He whispered “enough” to my weary heart. Jesus was telling me that I could never be “enough” by myself, but that He was more than enough. His perfect record became mine at the cross, and I don’t have to muster goodness on my own. I am a slow learner, but God is teaching me to rely on Him, to quit striving in my own strength, and to walk in grace. I am learning to run by faith, and not out of fear.
After living in Cody for eighteen months, the Wachobs found Outpost. They are grateful for the opportunities to know and be known, to grow spiritually as they invest in community, to be equipped for ministry, and to serve. It has taken stops and starts and mess-ups for the Wachobs to discern that the Christian life can’t be lived by formula or driven by fear. It has to be lived in trust, dependence, and openhandedness before the Lord.
E: As we fix our eyes on Jesus, together, we can run with endurance the race He has set before us – both physically and spiritually.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Hebrews 12:1