Rocky entered the world with the theme song of Rocky playing in the background. His name at birth, Rockford, was quickly shortened to Rocky by his movie aficionado father, and when Rocky’s younger brother was born, he was given the name Maverick, after the lead in another well-known film. Movie nights with the family characterized Rocky’s earliest memories with his father before his parents’ divorce when he was five. After his father left, a year passed before Rocky heard from him, with only sporadic phone calls after that.
As a child grieving and trying to make sense of his father’s absence, Rocky would pray every night that his father would return. The days would turn into weeks, the weeks into months, and the months into years. Rocky grew angry at God for not answering his prayers, and his heart began to harden as he decided that being sad was no longer acceptable. Rocky began to withdraw and shut everyone out except Maverick, who was his best friend and confidante.
Rocky and Maverick had grown up going to church, and they continued to attend youth group on the weekends, though they mostly kept to themselves. Rocky found an escape through writing and found that he immensely enjoyed art. He would often retreat into fantasy and science fiction novels or films that he had seen with his father as a child.
When Rocky entered high school, he joined the track and field team and participated in backpacking trips with the Boy Scouts, but he continued to struggle to establish relationships because of his learned mistrust of others. Rocky and Maverick only trusted one another and excluded all outside relationships, including their mother.
Rocky’s mother heard about CEM through a co-worker, who was the father of a former intern, and before long, Rocky interviewed with CEM and was on a plane to California. When Rocky arrived, he plugged into the program without protest, though he didn’t think he needed to be here. As Rocky settled in and began to feel safe within the structure of the program, emotions that he had buried years ago began to rise to the surface.
As he learned that the staff and interns were people he could trust, Rocky began to build relationships with his mentors. “It’s good to have a strong Christian person that can give me a good block to stand on in life.”
When Rocky was at home, there would be times when he would just sit in his room, stuck, without a way or the will to move forward. “Here I can’t lock myself in my room. I have to work on relationships with people here…” The structure of the program has given Rocky consistency and a constant source of fellowship. “I was always too busy for God; I never listened in church. I never thanked God for anything. When I got here, I began to see Him more...His presence feels a lot more vibrant here.”
In July at CEM’s Agony Ride, Rocky realized that the Ranch was a bigger operation than its 86-acre property with staff and interns - it included a community of individuals that cared deeply for CEM’s mission - and for him. And again at Christmas, Rocky was astounded by the generosity that was bestowed on him in an abundance of gifts. “It’s impactful to see people care about you. It’s impactful to see the community cares about you. I didn’t think I would get anything at Christmas…”
As Rocky continues in the program at CEM, he is working towards receiving his high school diploma in June and is learning to trust his Heavenly Father for the near and distant future. “I always thought God was a genie when I was little. I realized later that He wasn’t just going to do what I want. He does what’s best.”