My first job lasted for nine months. It involved cutting grass, picking weeds, shoveling snow, and having to endure a litany of insults and mistreatment at the hands of my boss and some of my coworkers. Although my official title was that of “landscaper,” I felt more like a slave whose job description included feeling chained to a hopeless situation that involved my oppressors disgracing me and mercilessly taking advantage of my weaknesses. This predicament was made worse by the fact that I was, for the most part, literally unable to speak up for myself due to being extremely nervous.
How Did I End Up Here?
I had entered this job fresh out of graduating from high school, more fragile than I had ever felt in my entire life. I had very high anxiety levels and a psychological stutter that had developed at a young age and was only getting worse. So, knowing how fragile I was at the time, I decided to avoid catastrophe by avoiding the conventional path of entering the big, bad, scary university scene (that most adults loved to prop up as some kind of monster), taking a break from school and working for a while. My intentions were noble as I thought I would make some money, gain more life experience, and build up my confidence.
Well, that plan backfired. as what was supposed to be a wise life decision that involved carving my own path and redefining who I was became a disaster that took my feet from under me and sent me spiraling down the proverbial drain of despair until I had finally reached the common destination where all free-falling hopeless folk eventually end up — rock bottom.
Transformation or Malformation?
The fall into the abyss — my tumble down the drain — lasted approximately four years. Four long wayward years that saw me desperately trying to recreate myself. For instance, I went through a period where I would intentionally try to watch movies and shows whose main characters would consist of a complex ensemble of mavericks, tortured souls, or reckless “work during the day and party at night types” for the purpose of adopting some of their so-called ‘coveted qualities’ that seemed to work so well for them in their fictionally-contrived worlds.
I tell you, it was as if my personality at one point was a blend of Magneto, Tony Soprano, and half of the Jersey Shore cast. A medley of mayhem, right? You might think so, but to be honest, I actually believed I was progressing in the right direction. I mean, somewhere along this process of “Identity reformation by pop-culture appropriation,” my high levels of chronic anxiety became low to non-existent and my psychological stutter disappeared. I honestly thought I was free. I was also no longer skinny, as I had packed on quite a bit of muscle, and my mind felt sharper than ever before. And, my speech, which was now restored, had the capacity to flow as pleasantly as a harp or to sound as ferocious as a lion’s roar.
The thing is, I wasn’t free. Not. Even. Close. Because I was still very much harboring a lot of pain, fear, and anger from my past. So much so that those emotional ingredients in combination with the reformed identity I had forged for myself had led me to transform into a vengeful narcissistic intellectual who used the conjoined forces of his razor-sharp mind and tongue and other revamped qualities to figuratively crush those who had malicious intentions towards me.
I was merciless. I would ferociously lash out at my past wrongdoers — and anyone else — If they dared to cross me in any way. I wanted to harm them as they had harmed me, cause them to feel weak, cause them to believe they were sad, stupid, ugly losers, as they had led me to believe about myself. And the thing is, I justified my actions because I thought I had good reason to do so. I thought I was just evening up the score, doing what anyone would do, using the hot-boiling rage that coursed through my veins to restore my sense of worth by taking matters into my own hands, believing that I was gaining the honor, strength, and victory that I was often deprived of in the past. Until one of my enemies, a wrongdoer of the past, called me something I will never forget.
He called me a bully.
That word, that truthful permeating word stuck to me more than any other label or insult I had ever received (and I received many). It was like a fine-point needle designed to pierce through my heart and cause me to reflect on who I’d become.
He called me a bully.
I was horrified to discover that I had become the very thing I had hated and feared all my life— a heartless, insensitive bully who tore into people by mercilessly attacking their weaknesses. This revelation shook me to my core, and soon after, I called out to God. I openly and honestly pleaded with him, saying that I would be willing to lose all that I’ve gained if it meant I could change and be who he wanted me to be.
I believe God had told me that all of my vengeful fighting and pursuit of self-glorification needed to stop. And so, I decided to drop my “sword” and “shield” and surrendered my campaign to acquire the honor, strength, and victory I seemed to always want.
And, although abandoning the desire to do things my way was ultimately good for me — things got worse before they got better — as I did lose everything I had gained. In about a year, all of my so-called “pillars of strength” that I gained in life and boastfully wielded came tumbling down one after the other. Until finally, I had unequivocally hit rock-bottom. A life-zapping, lonely place that consisted of having extremely low energy levels due to averaging three hours of sleep a night for months straight, stuttering so bad that I couldn’t even speak fluently to my parents in the comfort of our own home, having to deal with the aftermath of burned bridges and strained relationships, and much much more.
Broken. Defeated. Dishonored. Weak.
You see, before you can ever find out who you truly are, which can only be achieved through God, he first needs you to know who he is. And that only comes when you choose to let go of the lies you’ve been told all of your life, deny yourself and then accept Jesus, God’s begotten Son, into your heart.
The lies I had believed were several and sinister. However, I can say with certainty that the two worst lies I had thought to be true were:
I was fated to live a life of either being a failure or a monster, which, unfortunately, seems to be the common narrative for those who have been rejected by the world.
That the Bible couldn’t be trusted as being God’s true word.
The first lie left me hopeless and bitter. The second lie left me lost and wayward.
And both lies caused a great separation in my life.
I had believed in the first lie because my life, for the most part, seemed to unfold that way. I was different from others since a young age and was mocked, humiliated, and bullied because of it. And when I would stand up for myself against those who went out of their way to harm me, I would either receive more flak or be villainized to some degree.
The second lie has much of its roots stemming from the first lie, in that a significant portion of the pain that I’ve experienced in life came from Christians — Christians who preached the Bible and said they were followers of Christ but would, among other things, make fun of a child’s speech impediment and anxiety-induced twitch, and then demonize him when he dared to stand up for himself. Unfortunately, as the years went by, the harsh criticism I received and the wrongful actions I observed from the Christians in my life continued, leading me to eventually form a negative association between their behavior and the Bible that they lectured from. That, in combination with my growing older and attaining more reasoning skills — which naturally led me to question how a book so old could remain reliable (hold consistency to its original message) throughout the centuries and not suffer from mistranslations or intentional tampering — led me to develop a strong defense against the Bible.
A defense that my mind had constructed as a means to protect myself and that resembled a hardened heart that was encased by preconceived biases heavily rooted in emotional hurts and then later compounded with rational thinking.
The Stronghold Must Crumble
Now, It’s important to note that for as long as I can remember, I was always curious and open to talking about God. Yet, rarely was I truly seeking him due to the many layers of distraction and misinformation surrounding me, as well as the pride of doing things my own way that I had held on to for so long. It was only when I decided to finally deny myself by letting go of my pride that I was able to truly seek him. Choosing to quit doing things my way eventually led me to challenge my preconceived biases, which then led me to earnestly pray and make a deal with God. A deal that involved me following the Bible throughout the rest of my life if he could prove to me that it was his true authentic word.
Two weeks later, my prayer was answered. I was celebrating my birthday with family, and one of the Christians in my life (whom I used to not like very much) bought me a book called God-breathed, by Josh Mcdowell. This was an event made even more peculiar by the fact that she had never bought me a book once before. Interesting how God works. Anyway, to keep it short, that book by Josh McDowell gave me all the evidence I needed to believe the Bible was in fact what it purported to be. And once I had gained trust in the Bible, I then started to read it and follow its teachings. Eventually, I found out through my readings that Jesus is the one and true way to God and eternal life.
My New Story
Soon after, I accepted the King of the universe in my heart as my Savior and Lord, and I immediately gained a new best friend in Christ.
“In Christ we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” - Ephesians 1:7
Ever since then, which has been approximately four years to this day, my life has undoubtedly changed for the better. Firstly, I have forgiven all of my wrongdoers from the past, which is very freeing— and by the grace of God, I have even achieved reconciliation with some of them, including all of the Christians (who have changed a lot themselves) in my life who are now some of my favorite people.
Secondly, I have been and still am currently attending the so-called “petrifying” University scene. It is an area in my life where God has blessed me abundantly, as I have had a stardom-like student career that has included winning awards, working in leadership roles, and making long-lasting, genuine friendships.
And thirdly and most importantly, God has used me in ways that I once thought were impossible, for he has used my strengths and even my weaknesses to tell his story through my story through different mediums of communication that has consisted of pieces of writing and public speaking events, which in their own right posed several different kinds of difficulties (especially the public speaking events), since they presented the possibility of being judged, shamed, and rejected — three things that haunted most of my old life — and that I really didn’t want to relive again. However, when I chose to remember that Jesus died on the cross for humanity and the resurrection miracle that glorified him three days later, I then had all the trust I needed in God to know that he had plans to prosper me and not destroy me — for my life, my story, and my future was now being written by the hands of the almighty God and no longer by the world.
I then had the courage and strength to move forward with God’s plan for me. And, in retrospect, I’m glad I took those steps of faith, because not only did God use my pieces of writing and public speaking to move the hearts of people towards him, but he also used my writing and public speaking to bring me the honor and victory that I’ve always searched for but never quite experienced before.
I experienced victory in the form of God giving me the strength and courage I needed to face my fears and prevail over a harmful cyclical narrative of old. And, I experienced honor that came in the form of receiving the titles of “bold hero” and “gifted writer,” which I believe are natural external byproducts of what happens when you trust God to first change you internally. For the honor and victory that truly matter comes from the fact that I am regarded as a child of God, a title that was only bestowed upon me when the blood of Jesus redeemed my soul through my faith in him.
All in all, the newfound strength, honor, and victory I have enjoyed in these past four years of ascending from the spiraling gutters of life have not been told in full. All of the things that God has blessed me with, and more importantly, all the ways he has been working in me and through me to bring others closer to him through Jesus could not fit in this one article. And although I still have health problems (they’re improving), I still have a stutter (also improving), and I still go through challenges and tough times just like everyone else, I know that, no matter how others may perceive me, I am accepted by the most powerful being in the universe:
A being who has given me a new permanent identity in Christ...
A being who loves me unconditionally despite my differences and flaws...
A being who redeemed my soul, once I accepted his son, Jesus, in my heart...
A being who has been rewriting, reforming, and restoring every facet of my life...
A being who has given me strength, victory, and honor and would love to give you the same.
A being who is God and who loves you more than you can ever imagine, and can be your God too — if you choose to accept his son, Jesus.
So yes, life is hard. Life is very hard… but Jesus redeems. And that, my friend, is far more powerful than any challenge, flaw, or difficulty you can have on this wild journey we call life.