Come and hear, all ye that fear God,
and I will declare what he hath done for my soul. -Psalm 66:16
This is Part 2 and the final segment of a series of blog entries. To start at the beginning please check out Pt 1 of My Testimony here.
This is Where it Starts to Get Dark:
Here is the point where it starts to get personal. For all you Star Wars fans, this part of my testimony would be the Empire Strikes Back of the series. This is not easy to write, but I realize in deciding to undertake the endeavor of sharing one’s testimony a certain level of transparency and brutal honesty is required.
Don’t Give into Hate, That Leads to the Dark Side!:
I had spent just about my entire life being a student in school. I had always had a structured existence. When school was done I was totally lost and certainly not ready to “adult” on my own.
After doing a required internship at the end of my studies, I discovered I did not have the desire or drive for what was intended to be done with my degree. Months to years passed without me doing anything all that constructive, at least not by my definition of constructive.
My life became a lonely, standing puddle of water. It stopped flowing and things began to become stagnant. I also began to feel a pervasive resentment and envy that consumed my entire being…
Stuck in the Pit:
I watched as my peers settled in homes of their own, started families, and acquired fantastic career positions. Soon it wasn’t just people my age doing these things but people younger than myself. I felt like my growth was suddenly stunted and I longed for my productive years in college. The demon of envy began to grow stronger and stronger in my heart as I observed others progressing.
I fell into a series of jobs that were comfortable at best, but certainly did not stir any type of passion within me. Not one of them was something I could see myself doing the rest of my life. Towards my lowest point, I landed a bar-tending job in my small town and I stayed at this job for quite awhile.
I am grateful for my experiences there and for the people I have met, but I became a complacent sponge. I allowed myself to absorb all the gossip and drama that came through the door. I also watched as people destroyed their lives with addiction. Not only did I watch, I participated by regularly serving them. Need I mention that I myself began to drink heavily as well? I was drinking six out of seven days a week, and not just socially. I wasn’t taking care of my health or my spirit.
By no means am I blaming this unhealthy part of my life on my job as a bartender. Bar tending can be a noble career if done correctly, but in retrospect I realize that for the state of mind I was in, this job was not good for me nor was it what God wanted for me. I was falling deeper and deeper into the pit.
All Ya Need is Love! But What if it Ends up Being a Lie?:
I discovered shortly before graduating that the man I believed I had loved and wanted to marry was more or less a pathological liar. Nearly everything he had ever told me was a complete lie. Everything that I believed I loved about him was a lie. Whatever he had said about loving me I came to believe was also a lie. He had been doing nothing but lying, cheating, and doing a lot of unspeakable things behind my back (things I will never repeat).
As a young, inexperienced person, his betrayal is something that took a huge emotional toll on me. Later, I would become so jaded with love that his actions would almost become the expected norm, but back then, the first cut was the deepest.. I had no idea people were capable of being so deceptive. I was that naïve.
Now, I will not put the blame for my downward spiral on another person or be a victim. We are all lost in some way. We have our own battles and struggles. After many years I forgave him.
This event however sparked something in my mind that caused me to self destruct. After this, there would be a sequence of awful relationship choices for years to come. I don’t want to get too far into the department of my failed romances and painfully rehash every detail, but lets just say it is filled with bad decision after bad decision. Looking back, I can honestly say that there is not one person I gave a part of myself away to that I do not deeply and painfully regret.
Facing my Demons:
I’d say the majority of the men I was drawn to all had similar traits as the first. The relationships had a common vein running through them. All the guys ended up treating me sub-par, sometimes using me, most the time hiding things from me, and/or eventually cheating on me. In addition, they brought out the worst in me.
After multiple failures at painfully trying to salvage these relationships I had to begin to face my demons.
My perception of my own self worth was based on how these people treated me (in case you’re wondering, they did not treat me well). I also liked the feeling of being needed and since I was lacking direction in other areas of life I felt that by helping another broken person I was some how succeeding.
Something else that was plaguing me was extreme trust issues. With each relationship I was enslaved by jealousy and suspicion.
I was selling myself short and accepting crummy, half-hearted efforts. I was afraid to be alone. I was letting others determine my worth. I was allowing jealousy destroy every good thing I had done for these people. In the process I was sinning against myself, and continuing my steady descent into the pit.
I truly felt like a mess in most aspects of my life. I was disillusioned by love and life in every way.
I’m no Psychiatrist But…
What did I discover through all this? Well, I had to come to terms with the fact that I had a serious issue. For a long time I thought it was a disorder in my mind. For a long time I blamed the men I let into my life. For a long time I blamed my job. But when it was all said and done, there was no one left to blame but myself.
The problem wasn’t everything else, the problem was a soul issue. When you have a broken soul, you exhibit physical and emotional symptoms.
Symptoms of a Broken Soul:
- Inability to cope with reality
- Repeating the same mistakes over and over
- Lack of growth and direction
- Abandonment issues
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Constant sense of something missing.
- Feelings of emptiness despite having everything
- Always lonely, even when with others
- Unquenchable dissatisfaction
- Easily let down by others
- Extreme trust issues
- Anxiety and depression
- Deep need for validation from others
- Lack of identity and low self esteem
- Reoccurring nightmares
- Feelings of total despair
Based on my experience, a broken soul is brutal. That kind of issue doesn’t go away. That issue follows you no matter what job you have, how much money you make, how talented you are, how successful you are, what meds you take, where your move to, or who you are with. Some things may be able to distract you from it for a time, but eventually it will manifest itself.
I didn’t really understand what was happening when it manifested itself in my life. All I knew is that there was a strange unhappiness that became a constant fixture in me. I felt a formless, inexpressible weight that I could not explain to others. This weight could never be set down no matter where I was or what I was doing. All I could do was carry it.
This was my struggle. I needed help that nothing in this world could give me…
From Lukewarm to a Rolling Boil
Christianity is not like a pill that makes everything in the temporal plane instantly perfect, at least that isn’t how it worked for me.
Many people have miraculous testimonies where they overcame a difficult struggle, or had a huge change of life that brought them to God. Some have had a “BOOM” moment when it suddenly hit them, and they were instantaneously flooded with the Holy Spirit.
So sometimes it is like a sudden boil over; God abruptly ignites a huge flame that engulfs the once lukewarm pot of a person’s faith. For me it was more gradual, as though He slowly turned up the burner.
There was no sudden moment that I decided to become a true, practicing Christian. It was more like a gentle shaping of my inner being, or a calm pull in my soul that eventually brought me face down at the feet of Jesus Christ.
Seek and You will Find
All my life, I looked for wholeness in people, romance, philosophies, sciences, classes, jobs, travels, accomplishments, and there was no change. For years I felt so fed up with the inconsistency and flimsiness of everything about human existence.
Through all this seeking and also through the process of aging, I simply started changing; Slowly but surely there was a shift in my point of views and things that I once valued.
Goals I initially considered so significant eventually became petty and selfish. Ideas I once upheld and blended into my worldview became ridiculous. People I once idolized turned out to not be as great as I once had thought.
Things I read in the Bible slowly began to fit together. I remember picking the Bible up one day just to see if I could get some answers from it. It was like a fog began dissipating and suddenly the things I was reading made sense and not only that but also offered hope.
One of my favorite verses is John 16:33, “…In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (KJV). I read this and I was touched by an overwhelming sense of hope.
He Has Begun a Good Work in Me
“Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ,” (Phil 1:6, KJV).
I have attributed the gradual change in my heart to God. Like a sculptor, he has always been working on me and slowly chiseling away; He used my experiences, my emotions, my decisions, and my mistakes to shape who I am today and to draw me near to Him.
Looking back on life, I recognize His presence even though I was constantly distracted. Not only that, I recognize His sovereignty and how He works all things together for our good. Even before I acknowledged Him, I now recognize that he was protecting me in ways I can not explain. Some of my decisions were so reckless, so crummy…I can’t even understand how I am still alive sometimes.
I’ve learned to not live from product to product (or accomplishment to accomplishment) but rather to enjoy the process by which God leads me to certain milestones in life. I have found my identity as a child of God. I also realize the importance of gauging my worth based on God’s love for me instead of how the world around me treats me.
My dependency on God is so great now, that if tomorrow He suddenly turned His back on me it would be the end for me. But thankfully he promises me that he will never leave or forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:6). Unlike so many things I have placed on the throne of my life in the past, God is the only thing that will never let me down.
I began to genuinely pray, not just to ask God to help me, but to express my gratitude for all he has done for me. I got re-baptized after consciously accepting Christ as my savior. I found a church family and have a deep interest in learning everything I can about God and His Word.
I decided to further my studies. Do I think my graduate studies in theology will land me a dream job? Not likely, but it is still every bit worth it if it can help me share the gospel, write about Him, and talk about Him with others.
God isn’t Done with me Yet
In the years that have passed, I have indeed become a strong Christian. The way it happened though was not like Paul on the road to Damascus. The process, for me, was slow. Christianity hasn’t necessarily made life easier either.
Becoming a Christian actually makes many things harder. Temptation to sin doesn’t go away. The world in some ways becomes a colder place. Jesus even says that we must take up our own cross and follow Him (Matt 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23). What Jesus means by this is that when we become Christians we face the possibility of losing friends, family, respect, dignity, careers, sometimes even our very lives.
Christianity has given me a sense of peace within the storm. It has given me something solid to stand on when everything else falls apart. It gives me something to cling to when aspirations fail, people hurt me, and life just takes its toll. Even when all seems to be lost, I still have everything. It is the one thing that death can not take away.
A lot of people will say that they have hit rock bottom in their life at some point, but often they never stop to think why there is a rock bottom. Why don’t we just keep falling?
We end up hitting rock bottom because we fall through the shifting sand of the human experience, and yet there is something solid that we land on once we fall through.
I’ve heard it expressed before that the rock at the bottom is God holding us up. When all else fails and we are at our lowest, he is still there stopping the fall. To this I fully agree. He’s been my rock.
I do not claim to have all the answers, but I know where to search to find them. I am not a good Christian, but God has encouraged me to try harder. I do not claim to demonstrate a victorious Christian life, but there is still victory in Christ. This is not because of what I have done or how I have succeeded since accepting Christ, but because of what Christ has done for me.
God Bless. Thanks for taking the time to read this.