The Awakening of I
I went to a Catholic grade school, and I was pretty sheltered from the outside world. My entire world consisted of about eight blocks and back home. When I graduated grade school, my parents asked me if I wanted to go to a Catholic high school or a public high school. I wanted to go to a public high school; after all, that was where all my friends were going. At the very least I would know someone at this new school. Little did I know that I would consider this new school a new universe. I was definitely out of my element. I didn’t fit in anywhere, and my old friends moved on to new friends. I definitely had low self-esteem, and finding new friends did not come easy. It was so easy to smoke pot or drink to be accepted in this new world. I did make one new friend, but looking back now, my new friend had no idea what friendship was. I’m sure he was happy to have a tag-along buddy. This guy was so much more worldly intelligent than I was, and I was so naïve about the world, I would follow him anywhere. My parents tried to warn me about my new friend, but come on, what did my parents know? Not much that I could see at sixteen.
I remember when I was sixteen years old my mother wanted me to watch this show that came out called “Scared Straight.” It was about these young teenagers like myself who happened to be on the road to destruction; my friends were questionable too. It was obvious that my parents could sense that I was one of those who needed to see the show. On the show, these young teenagers were brought to prison and the inmates did their absolute best to scare these teenagers so they would re-evaluate their lives and friends and straighten out. I watched that show, but it was too late; the show didn’t affect me at all. I was above all that, and I certainly wouldn’t get caught doing anything wrong.
At fifteen I was introduced to drugs. At sixteen I figured out that my parents didn’t know anything and my friends knew a whole lot more. It was just so much easier to smoke pot and drink or do harder drugs then to do the things my parents wanted me to do. Like working and going to church and helping out around the house. What teenager wants to do that when we can go out and have fun, meet girls, hang out with friends and get high? After all, we only have one life, so why waste it doing boring things? I often wonder if teenagers or young people in general are like me and have this mental block that disables them from listening to anybody except their friends. At the age I am now, I’m all for listening to people and the advice they have for me. I can accept or reject what they are saying; at least I realize I am not the all-knowing young man I once was and what they have to say could be important to me. I have become smart enough to know that I don’t have to live through every situation to learn from it. I can learn from others and what they have gone through. This has saved me a lot of heartache.
The road that everybody travels down is different than the one that I’ve traveled down then and now. What is important to know is that ONE MISTAKE IN YOUR LIFE CAN AFFECT YOU FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE, AND IT USUALLY DOES. I can easily say the life that teenagers and people in general live now is drastically different than the life that I lived as a teenager in the 1970s.
It just seems to me that the life we now live is spinning out of control. What we thought was important then has been replaced with what is important now. Rightfully so; each generation changes, and what worked then may not work now, but one thing that has never changed is the way that God loves me and the way that God loves you. I know what you’re thinking: Here’s another God saved me story. Sure enough, but give me a chance – better yet, give God the chance to open your eyes because I know a secret.
It’s not time for the secret now because you have to know a few things about me. Once all the drugs and alcohol left my system, my conscience was bothering me, and I was angry. I knew better; at least I was supposed to know better. It seemed to me that when I didn’t do drugs, I could easily say no to anything that was wrong and I had a higher resistance to people who wanted me to do anything wrong. When I was high I couldn’t say no. I needed the approval of my peers or my so-called friends. I was miserable because I thought I was supposed to be miserable and I was going to stay that way forever. I hated myself. I tried to kill myself numerous times because that was the only way to make up for my past.
I have since figured out that THERE IS NO WAY POSSIBLE TO MAKE UP FOR YOUR PAST. If there was, I would have found it by now. If you do something wrong to someone, no matter how sorry you are, it doesn’t take away the wrong that you did. The wrong does not go away. Even if you are forgiven for the wrong that you did, it still doesn’t go away. Since there is no way to make up for your past, you have to find a way to let it go or believe that there is a higher power or the universe itself that can help you live peacefully with this baggage that we all insist on carrying around with us.
For twenty-five years, I was miserable. I would not allow myself to feel happiness, I would not even watch a comedy show on television. I wanted to be miserable. I made my own conscious choice to be miserable, and no one was going to change my mind. Fast forward: After twenty-five years of misery, I called my parents and said I can’t do this anymore. I can’t be miserable any longer. Twenty-five years is enough! There has got to be some reason to be happy, to find a way to live with this past of mine. Hence the first step on my road to recovery. My misery was not over yet; it was true that I had trained my sub-conscious brain to always see the negative. I convinced myself that in every situation I had to figure out all the bad things that could happen, and then what did happen was usually not as bad as what I was thinking. I felt like I was living multiple lives; first with all the bad things that could happen, and secondly what really did happen. This was truly miserable, but it was the process that I lived by. It was the only thing that would work so life would not be so bad. In all actuality, it was worse. I was living a hundred different negative lives to my one real life. I had just moments of happiness here and there. For example, there might be something funny on television, or you might lift more weights at one time than you ever have before, and you feel a level of accomplishment.
I was so miserable that I truly believed that there was a battle going on in the world between good and evil and for sure evil had won. I was in the deepest hole of despair, and I couldn’t dig my way out. I couldn’t believe why, if there was a God, why was I still alive? It would have been more merciful for me to die. I had no will to live, so I definitely was the perfect candidate for the graveyard. I refused to have hope. Hope was just another way to hurt yourself. Who made hope anyway? Why is it there? I cannot tell you the amount of times that I gave hope a chance and ended up regretting that decision. I can easily give you a hundred reasons why not to hope, and I can give you only one reason to hope: because God loves you. As negative as hope can be, on the other end of the spectrum, hope can be equally positive. Where there is hope, there is a chance for a positive life. There is power in hope, and hope leads to belief.
Still, there was no end in sight for my misery, and what made matters worse was I kept seeing on the television all these ministers who were happy. It was a slap in the face to me. I’d prayed my brains out, and I was still miserable. What did they have and what was I lacking?
I decided right there that I was going to give God one hundred percent; then when I was still miserable I knew it wasn’t my fault. It was God’s fault, and he was just a mean old God who didn’t care or didn’t exist. I dove right into reading and studying the Bible. None of it made sense, but still I read it. Then sure enough, I got knocked down. I knew I was right. I’d given God one hundred percent and still I was down here in the hole of despair… I started thinking that maybe it wasn’t exactly one hundred percent. I had to admit that maybe it was eighty percent. So I would give God another chance to get right with me. Hey, I’m doing the best I can, so now I can show God how to be merciful.
What was happening was that God was rescuing me from being in this unhealthy situation. I was going to church, reading my Bible, and doing whatever I could to give God my one hundred percent. I even started a Bible course in the mail. Now I know I’m on the right track – what more can I do? I went to college, and I got a degree and diplomas in horticulture and custodial maintenance. Then whack, I got knocked down again. What the heck? I’m in trouble again. Now I knew I’d given God one hundred percent. I don’t understand, I’m getting in trouble and it’s not even my fault… Well, was I really giving God a hundred percent? Maybe it was ninety percent? Not only that; I had the opinion that if I gave God one hundred percent, then nothing bad would happen to me, and I could breeze through life with no problems. Now I know that bad things in life happen to everybody, regardless of your beliefs.
I decided right then that the hair-like thread that was connecting me to God would not be broken. I knew inside that if I believed my life would work out, then I could be happy. Then all of a sudden, because of the Bible course, I started to understand what I was reading. I ran across a verse in the Bible that states, “My brethren, count it all a joy when you fall into various trials.” (James 1:2) Well, that’s just crazy. Count it all a joy? Who does that? Maybe I didn’t understand anything. Someone who has had nothing but trials their whole life is not going to count any trial a joy! Okay, I’ll give it a shot. When I fell into any trial, I started saying Thank you, God, for taking me though this hardship. I don’t want to go through this hardship, but I know something good will come out of this. Funny thing is the trials started not to last as long, and I felt a peace while going through them. When I didn’t thank God, the hardship lasted forever, or until I finally remembered to thank God for it. This concept of thanking God for the trials I was going through is definitely beyond my comprehension, yet it worked.
Romans 8:28 states that “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Was I called according to God’s purpose? Search me, but I felt comfort believing that someone like me can be called according to His purpose. How could anybody like me be called according to His purpose? Like magic, God started revealing things to me. One of the heroes of the Bible is a man called Moses.
We all know the story: Moses started off his life pretty roughly. He was born into a death sentence just for being born a boy (Exodus 1:16). His mother had to give him up to save his life by floating him down a river in the hopes that the pharaoh’s daughter would have mercy and save him. Thankfully, their plan worked, and Moses was saved. When Moses was grown, he came across an Egyptian beating one of his fellow Hebrews. “So he looked this way and when he saw no one was looking, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.” (Exodus 2:12) Moses committed a murder and buried the body.
It is hard for me to imagine that this man was chosen to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt and slavery, yet Moses became a fugitive instead. The king was out to kill him now, and Moses had to run, so he ran for forty years. Here we have a murderer who is a fugitive who is called one of the heroes of the Bible. Well, there might be hope for me after all. Moses went on to lead the Hebrew slaves out of Egypt. My point is that if God can use Moses to fulfill His purpose to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt regardless of the mistakes that he made, then I am sure God can use me with all the mistakes that I made. I needed to figure this out. I was a follower, and now no one was going to lead me where I didn’t want to go. How could I let God lead me? Could I put so much trust into anybody or anything that my whole life would depend on it?
When God wants a hundred percent, He is not joking, but there are promises that go along with giving Jesus one hundred percent. Hebrews 13:5 states “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’” Hey, that sounds like a promise to me.
What about those times when I feel like God has forsaken me after all I’ve been through? There have been an awful lot of times where I felt like God had forsaken me. I suppose I can think of those times as a reminder of how good it is when I’m doing what it takes to keep myself humbly grounded in God’s love and how bad it feels like when I am out of God’s good graces. By the way, did I thank God for taking me through this hardship?
I received a lot of flak for trying to turn my life around. People don’t want you to better yourself. Some people assume that you think you are better than them just because you are trying to better yourself. I understand now that the way people respond to your success will tell you how they are dealing with their own life. I refuse to let that affect me. I now understand that it is the same all over the world: People don’t want you to better yourself. The truth is that you haven’t changed; you are still you, and it is their jealousy or their lack of courage to become a better person that has changed their point of view of you. Besides that, everyone has a right to have an opinion, just like you have the right to accept or reject that opinion. You have to be true to who you really are and stop trying to be who your friends want you to be. If you are worried about what your friends think of you, then you are in a prison of your own making. I am not saying to be a selfish, conceited It’s all about me kind of person. Friend or not, all people need to be treated with dignity, honor, and respect. I am saying that I have come to learn that when someone in our lives wants us to go in a certain direction, and we know deep down inside that we shouldn’t, this is a test and you have to want God’s approval more than that person’s. I realized that if I have to change who I really was to be accepted by the people around me, then I wasn’t being true to myself. At this point I was just starting to feel good about myself, although I knew I still had a long way to go.
Another thing that really stood out to me is that what God wants for my life is a whole lot better than what I want for my life. At this point I just wanted to get by without being in a physical or mental anguish prison, but my friends just wanted me to stay in the same rut that they were in. It’s a no-brainer: I’ll go with God’s plan for my life. After all, being in the same rut as my friends is not going anywhere and hasn’t worked out for me so well. Plus, I am not responsible for making my friends happy, and my friends are not responsible for making me happy. If it works out that way, then great. God gave all people a free will. Just as I made a conscious choice to be miserable, I can make a conscious choice to be happy. Everybody knows the saying You can’t please everybody. The reason this is so true is because it’s not your responsibility to make everybody happy. It is your responsibility to treat all people with dignity, honor and respect. You don’t have to agree with their lifestyle or the color of their hair or how they choose to live their life. It is not our place to judge; it’s our place to love all people. I am not saying to trust everyone you meet, because you will get hurt. People are human. It is easier to do the wrong thing, but it takes guts to do the right thing, and that is why more wrong things are being done.
To the people who rejected my going in a forward progressive motion, I can only hope that one day you figure out the secret. Oh yeah, the secret; I forgot about that. Well, we are well on our way to the secret. What the secret isn’t is that if you have to see it to believe it, you’re missing the point. There are going to be times in your life when you will have to believe it without seeing it. You can visualize it in your mind and believe it. The person who has cancer doesn’t see the medication or the chemotherapy working; they just have to believe that it is working. They can visualize the medication working, which is better than believing it is not working. The Bible says that “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) When you have faith in God, that does not mean you get everything you want in life. If we got everything we wanted immediately, we would probably be in big trouble, because most of the time we don’t know what is good for us and what isn’t. There are just too many things going on at every second of the day. There is never nothing going on. Thankfully, there is always a delay in answered prayers. That way we can re-evaluate what is best for us or rely on the fact that God knows what is good for us and what isn’t.
Even now, things don’t always go right for me – go figure – but I did read where it says, “That you may be sons of your father in heaven; for He (God) makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust.”(Matthew 5:45) Clearly, God plays no favoritism, and not many people go through life without anything bad happening to them, although some people get more bad than good. I wonder if it is because they are focusing on all the bad and forgetting all the good. If I had a choice, I would rather tap into this unlimited power source, this positive energy that teaches me that to be positive and hopeful is better than being miserable. Later on we are told, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him (God), for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6) Hey, that sounds like another promise.
I’ll take that promise. I like being rewarded, and one thing that I can humbly say is that my life sure is going a lot better now that I am giving God that one hundred percent because of my belief. Am I giving God one hundred percent now? On most days, I would have to say no; there are far too many problems that affect me and I haven’t been able to get ahold of yet. One thing is for sure: I cannot rid myself of this feeling that some of my problems are too big for me, and I have to rely on my higher power to solve them.
I think it is pretty fair to say that the hardest thing in life we will ever have to do is believe that all things are possible when there are nothing but negative things around you. It is hard to be thankful for the good and positive when we can’t even remember what the good and positive is. It is almost as if we need to train ourselves to remember there are still good and positive things in our lives no matter what is going on. I’m pretty human, and I’m prone to make mistakes, so I’ll have to keep on guard to keep giving God the Glory He deserves. Thankfully God knows I’m not perfect, and sure enough, I’ll slip up somewhere along the line. Luckily for me, God is all merciful, so all I have to do is recognize where I slip up, make amends, and thank God for His forgiveness.
Used to be I would slip up and go through weeks of guilt asking God to forgive me multiple times, which was a waste of time! I learned the hard way that if I am sincere, God will forgive me the first time, so why trouble God with the guilt I am feeling for weeks after? That also means that I am denying myself the positive energy that God has for me. Essentially, I am punishing myself. If I do wrong and I am forgiven, why am I punishing myself? Wouldn’t it be better to move forward and let my actions show that I regret my actions and I am not going to make that mistake again? I have come to realize that carrying around a mountain of guilt for something you have been forgiven for stops you from going forward, and the best way to show how sorry you are is to live your life in a positive way.
I was told that I need to live a good life. Well, a lot of good that does to the people in my life that were hurt by my actions. It doesn’t seem fair. I get to live this good life while everybody else is miserable because of my actions. I humbly say that I am sorry I couldn’t find a way to make up for my past. Please put your faith in the power of God and know that it is time for you to be released from your misery prison. All things work for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.