This is my story.
I was raised in a good, loving home. I was never abused, my parents were not rich but they worked hard to provide for me and to show me they loved me. I should have been secure in who I was and I should have been content. I should have been happy and well adjusted, but I wasn’t. Something was missing inside. There was a void in my life and I couldn’t ignore it. I tried filling that emptiness with all the things the world says will help. I tried drugs, a lot of them. I tried alcohol, a lot of it. I tried sexual relationships. I tried sex without relationships. I tried art and culture. I poured myself into my music. I tried everything I knew to feel like my life meant something. Some of the things helped in the moment to forget about things for a while — to distract me from reality, but most of them just made things worse. I fell into a deep depression. It was a very dark time in my life. I hated myself and in spite of how good I really had it, I hated my life. I could not envision my future. I had no hope, no joy, no sense of purpose.
I decided I did not want to live any more and I began thinking of ways to end my life. I decide that jumping off a bridge would be the way to go. I found a bridge that would do the trick. One day I was surveying the site. I was so engulfed by the thought of ending it all that all I could think of was “I wonder how many flips I could do before I hit.” I was not considering the effect it would have on my family. I was not thinking of anyone but myself and how miserable I was. I just wanted it to end.
Just then someone behind me said “What would your mother think?” Angry, I spun around to say “That’s none of your damn business!”, but when I did there was no one there. I was alone on that bridge, but I guess I really wasn’t. I started to weep uncontrollably. The reality of what I was considering hit me like a ton of bricks. “What would my mother think?” was exactly what I needed to hear. I loved my mother and I would do anything for her. I knew I could not do this to her, nor the rest of my family. All of their faces flooded my mind in a vision of them grieving over my coffin. It was more than I could take and I knew I had to find a way to live. I knew I needed to learn how to live and not hate it.
I started taking notice of the people in my life that seemed to genuinely enjoy their life. There were certain people around me that were different than the rest of us. One of those people was a girl who would eventually become my wife. She tirelessly invited me to go to church with her in spite of my endless list of lame excuses not to go. Two more of those people were my neighbors from right across the street. They were Christians and, as I learned later, they had been praying for me for years. I always thought they were kind of weird, but I noticed that there was something different about them. They had joy. They had something I knew I didn’t have. They claimed to “know God personally”. I reasoned; “Well I don’t know about all that religious stuff, but I’m pretty sure I heard God speak to me on that bridge, and I bet they can tell me more about Him.” So, I started going over and quizzing them about God. “Does He really speak to people?” “If so, is it an audible voice?” “Have you ever heard His voice?” etc. They would quote scripture and explain things to me and assign me passages to read in the Bible, which I did, but I had a difficult time understanding it. Our little Q&A sessions went on for a few weeks. I was hungry to know more about Him, but my frustration grew because I couldn’t understand the Bible.
They instructed me to sit down and just start reading it like any book, but to start in the book of John. When I got to the 3rd chapter where Jesus is talking to Nicodemus, and says “…you cannot even see the kingdom of God unless you are born again.” I paused. Misinterpretation aside, I took it to mean that my difficulty understanding the Bible was because I had not surrendered to Him. I wasn’t really sure what it meant for my future or what I was supposed to say but I knew I wanted what my neighbors had. I knew I needed Him.
I knelt down in the privacy of my own room and with a simple, honest prayer I said something like this: “God, I don’t know all the right things to say here, but I know that my life is broken. I need you to fix it. I have messed it up completely and everything I have tried has just made it worse. I don’t know what else to do. I’m so messed up I cant even understand Your Book. I want to understand it. I need You. I need You to fix me. I need this “born again” thing that Jesus was talking about, so that I can see Your kingdom. Help me. Fix me. Please.”
What happened next is very hard to explain. Words cannot do it justice. It felt like the weight of a thousand pounds lifted off of my shoulders. The cloud of depression that had been shadowing me lifted and cleared and it seemed like the flood gates of Heaven opened up. A flood of emotion and power and light rushed through me. I started to convulse and weep uncontrollably, but somehow I was laughing at the same time. It was like being high, I thought, but the reality hit me that all those drugs I had tried were just cheap imitations that were pathetically trying to replicate what had just happened.
For the first time in my life I felt truly loved and this joy — this unexplainable joy filled me to overflowing. I was different. For the first time ever I had hope, and a sense of purpose that I had never known I could have.
I immediately turned back to the Bible and the words came to life. What had been dry, unintelligible gibberish just minutes before began to spill out like scenes in a movie. I understood it! “Thank you God! I get it now!”
My life since that day has never been the same. It took a while to break away from my bad habits and to learn how to live a life that is set apart for Him. I am still a work in progress, but He broke the chains of addiction in my life and set me free from a lot of garbage that had enslaved me.
God has continued to speak to me, though not always as audibly as that first time on the bridge. He has been there, constantly challenging me to address things in my life that don’t belong there. He has guided me through adventures and He has given me assignments. He has encouraged me through difficult times, and He has given me a vision for my life — a life of purpose, filled with joy and peace — to live a life submitted to Him. The days of depression and hopelessness are long gone. He has replaced them with a life of intention, strength and hope.