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The 3 Stages of Dustin Dills

Where are you on life’s path? Do you know who you are and what your purpose is? Are you free? Dustin Mick (“Dusty”) Dills is a good example of someone who wasn’t free and didn’t know his purpose, but who went on a journey to finding the answers. I share his story because in many ways, it is al…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

Where are you on life’s path? Do you know who you are and what your purpose is? Are you free?

Dustin Mick (“Dusty”) Dills is a good example of someone who wasn’t free and didn’t know his purpose, but who went on a journey to finding the answers. I share his story because in many ways, it is all of our story.

I have known Dustin for five years. During that time, I’ve seen him go through a transformation. 

Growing up in Franklin, NC, Dustin was a victim. He was abused and that abuse defined him. But he was made for more than that. Freedom didn’t come quickly, but it came – here’s his story in his own words.

Stage 1: Dusty as victim

I blamed myself for my parents divorce when I was a child, I blamed myself for my Mama getting sick a few years back with anxiety and depression and rheumatoid arthritis.

I blamed myself for my Mom and Stepdad’s divorce, and even for mine and my Dads relationship being distant growing up as a child.

There were sexual things that happened to me as a child from kids in our neighborhood, that I had no control over.

I even blamed myself for my Mamaw passing away when I was little… On and on it went.  

Stage 2: Dusty set free

One thing led to another, and before I knew it, all this stuff I’d never even thought about, started to surface. It hurt really, really bad, but as I poured out my heart, I could feel the weight getting lighter. 

I talked to my friend about it. And every time I would think about something else I blamed myself for, and speak it out, my buddy would ask me a simple question…

“Dusty, when that was happening and those things were taking place… Where was Jesus?” 

The words penetrated to my heart and each time I would answer, “He was right there. Right there holding me each and every time.”

He NEVER left me or forsook me. He was protecting me through it all.  

This went on for sometime and eventually my buddy said, “Dusty, you’ve gotta stop blaming yourself for these things. It isn’t your burden to carry. You may have felt alone during those times, but I’m telling you, Jesus NEVER left your side. He loves you.” 

He was so right. Through good and bad, thick and thin, beautiful and ugly. Jesus was holding me tightly. He NEVER let me go.

On the World Race, I was super depressed and down on myself because of my past. Why was I bringing the past up? Because, it’s true, we really are our on worst critics. I was once again allowing my identity to be found in my past.

When God told me to share my testimony with the entire squad, I was like, “Really, God? Really? You know my story and how bad it hurts. I don’t want to talk about it.”

For the longest time I wouldn’t share it with anybody at all. It was something that hurt too bad. I realized how selfish I was at times to not reach out to others with it. Now, don’t get me wrong, I feel like there is a time and a place, but I was TOTALLY against sharing it.

Stage 3: Dustin Mick as liberator

For two years I’ve continued to be discipled and have grown. It hasn’t been easy going through my stuff, but now God is using me to set others free in the same way I was set free.

Recently I led a World Race squad. We were in an earthquake in Nepal. When the ground was shaking and the rest of the squad was panicking, it was natural for me to care for them first. 

We were on a mountainside. Houses were collapsing around us. I yelled, “Get down!” And they did. The squad stayed safe through the earthquake. And God is using me to help them get to emotional safety as well. It is a privilege to help set them free as I’ve been set free.

For years now most of you know I’ve gone by, “Dusty.” However, this actually didn’t start until around 2006. Prior to that, I always went by “Dustin.” Unfortunately, around the time I had my name change, I wasn’t exactly living for the Lord 100%.

It didn’t hit me till recently, ever since I started living as “Dusty”, I struggled a lot with sin, identity, and insecurities.

Our first week on the field here in Ecuador, the Lord gave me a dream…I was standing in a shower and I was covered in dust. Head to toe, you could hardly even tell who I was.

The next thing I know, God dumps a huge bucket of water over me and completely washes every-bit of dust off of me. As soon as this happens, the Lord spoke to me and said, “You’re not ‘Dusty’ anymore.”

I immediately woke up, grabbed my journal and began to write. I knew what this dream meant.

He was calling me into my true name. The identity given to me by Dad and Mom on Sunday, September 27th, 1987 when I first entered this world.

Here is the true meaning – Dustin: BRAVE WARRIOR Mick: WHO IS LIKE GOD

Down with the old man, up with the new!



Does that mean that Dustin has arrived – that he can rest in his newfound popularity? 

No, Dustin Mick has not arrived. He still struggles as do we all. Today he starts his new job working at REI in Buford, GA. I checked his Facebook page – 350 people “liked” his status report.

What this tells me is that he has moved from a life struggling to get free to a life spent pouring himself out for others. He has spent his last few years investing in discipling others into freedom.

All of us start out in life with pain – that is normal. But, as Dustin discovered, we aren’t victims, we are more than conquerors!

Here is Dustin’s challenge to us all:

So I ask you… What are you carrying around that isn’t yours to carry? A death, divorce, sickness, breakup, etc…

Are you allowing the things of your past to determine your future? Don’t do like I did and find security in those things. It’ll wear on you and eventually bring you to death.

And yes, as crazy as it sounds… Your testimony is your testimony, no doubt, but DON’T allow the things that are in your past that God has brought you through to define your here and now or your future. 

You are worth so much more. You are worth being loved. Find freedom in Christ and allow His sacrifice to be all sufficient and enough!

Comments (20)

  • I Love you Dustin! I thank God for you and your continued work through the Holy Spirit. You are most definitely a WARRIOR and making a huge difference in this world. I am most inspired by you. Love your Z-sister!!! xox

  • I got to meet Dustin Mick earlier this year when we were assigned to coach the squad he was leading. It has been such a blessing watching him grow and at the same time pouring out into the squad – sucha good reminder that you don’t have to be perfect for God to use you! I am proud to call Dustin Mick my brother in Christ, but even more than that, my friend.

  • Excellent. Have. Used the ? Where was Jesus ? To help others it was used in mighty way ovrer 30 years ago in my life

  • Can’t wait until Dustin sees himself fully as the rest of us do – such grace and strength and Life. Hurrah! Thanks, Seth.

    • As you know, Allie, that particular project is one that takes years – long years. And who among us are patient with the process? But, I’m w/ you on that hope!

  • He was someone I saw and talked to at training camp that I immediately knew had his life completely changed by the world race. Someone who found purpose and overcame the weight of the world. Every room he left or conversation had, someone was inspired. And I can say I aspire to find greater purpose and understanding after doing the race next!

  • Dustin Mick! Yes, his story is worthy of this blog! No longer calling you Dusty. Love you, Dustin! You shine!

  • Just, wow. Goosebumps from head to toe. What an encouragement you are, Dustin Mick. I’m so proud of you and the places you have come to. But even more so, the places you are going! Your vulnerability about your own struggles is helping others overcome theirs, and especially me to overcome mine. Thank you, both Dustin and Seth, for sharing! I needed this today.

  • My dear Dustin, you are a light in any day I have the privilege of talking to you. I wish I had known this about your name! Now, I’m thinking back to our phone conversations! I wouldn’t have guessed you felt this way on our Race because, even heavy laden, you are such an encouragement to those around you. I’ll never forget being sick and miserable on the floor in Mozambique and hearing your angelic voice singing country in the kitchen. You probably didn’t even know you were soothing my spirit. You and Kathryn were just having fun, ha!

  • Thank you Seth for sharing the heartfelt testimony of Dustin and some lessons we can all ponder wherever we may be in life’s journey. One of the things I deeply value about a Franciscan Catholic faith is that there is actually a well articulated and Biblically supported “theology of suffering.” Western culture and perhaps America in particular is crippled by the conjoined twins of the Protestant work ethic (“Just work harder and everything will turn out OK!”) and the hack self help mantras (“Here are the seven ways to be happier, healthier and more successful”) which both seek to circumvent pain. We are called to be joined with the suffering of our Savior but that isn’t a path anyone buys a ticket to walk. The linear process of “Things were hurtful”…”I came to be spiritually enlightened”…”Now I am living a peaceful and balanced life”…just isn’t normative for many people. Some German theologians wrote of “perpetual martyrdom” for some and certainly the Jewish faith is steeped in a rich a deep tradition of suffering as a place to embrace truth not a wasteland without it. Speaking personally the metaphor that makes most sense is that of standing at the ocean’s edge looking out at the horizon of possibility with feet feeling the ground up silica sliding up between calloused and sometimes blistered toes. The waves crash and one may stumble. But we rise again. Sometimes a tsunami thunders and the reality of painful unforeseen or incessant circumstances deposit you on some distant shore. But there is always the coming back to the place you were planted. And there is a growing sense that a cosmic spiritual order actually exists even in the midst of the fray with consternation playing the flute in some sordid discordant symphony. Life is more about managing tensions with truth than solving problems. Grey is the color more than black and white. That must be the reason that as a nine year old AWANA kid in the stuffy basement of a conservative Southern Baptist church when asked what my favorite Bible verse was I said to a portly middle aged group leader. “Hebrews 11:13!” Testing my character he said…”Well why don’t you recite it for everyone.” So I did. “These all died in the faith not having received the promise but confessing they were strangers and aliens on the earth looking forward to a heavenly country.” I didn’t quote it verbatim in front of my peers that night. And the AWANA leader had a look on his face like “What a bummer of a verse!” But it grabbed my heart as a young follower of Jesus. And its still my favorite verse today. Love to the Barnes. Pax Christi.

    • This is so good, Butch! A lot of great nuggets here. What a great verse to live our lives by. Thanks for sharing.

  • Seth, your blog precipitates (for me) a great deal of heart inspection. Jeremiah 17:9 says as you know–“The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked…who can know it?” But often things you pen are like a scalpel which lifts cancerous and blistered tissue away from the healthy parts of my own heart. You have a gift. I’m thankful you use it friend. Pax Christi.

  • Really a great read. It is amazing how when we become vulnerable and share our hurts/sins with others, there is healing. Thing there is a scripture about that. And testifying about God’s goodness and acknowledging that Christ was there in every bad circumstance, really ministered to me this morning. He always was. My upbringing made me hungry for love and at 14 I found it in Christ. It’s been an imperfect dance but He has been patient with me and I believe the best days are ahead. Thanks again Dustin! I love it.

  • I’ll never forget the first time I met Dustin. He went out of his way to show me and some friends Gods love and he went beyond anything I would ever expect from anyone to help us out. That’s just who he is in Christ and he lives it out in ways that influence others to go do the same. Love this guy!

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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