Sometimes something comes along that just rocks your world and removes any question of the status quo that was threatening to creep into your life. Something that prompts you to keep pressing and pushing for a deeper richer experience in life than you have ever had before. Sometimes someone shares a story with you the helps you to make a little more sense of your own story. Sometimes you have a blog and a place to share the thoughts that you had during that process. So here is the continuation of the story of my experience with reading the book “Jesus is Better Than You Imagined” by Jonathan Merritt.
Chapter 5 I noted was the darkest chapter, yet probably the most powerful. This is the chapter that I had read online that began the process of me reading the book. In this the chapter the author is forced to confront the demons of his past, the abuse he suffered and all that goes along with that. I wasn’t sexually abused as a child and I thank God for that. However as I read that chapter and the author’s painfully honest account of his young life memories of my teens came flooding back, the beatings, some severe, some not. The verbal abuse, the feeling of being alone, of being worthless, the feelings of hopelessness. It wasn’t just in school either, it was out of school too, I was terrified when I walked the streets at night, coming home from a friend’s house or my Dad’s apartment. The shame I lived with, somehow believing that I deserved it prevented me from telling anyone. These wounds coupled with other events led to a dark period in my life that I was lucky to survive and needed the healing power of Jesus to get unchained from.
While reading the book I remembered the worst beating that I took, it was at the hands of so called “friends”. Clearly it was my fault for trying to be funny, at making a joke that was laughed at but apparently also offended, just trying to fit in, just trying to find a place in the world. It was a stupid teenage quip that ended with me on my back rolling down a hill with I don’t know 5 or 6 of them kicking and punching me. I remember escaping when they stopped, I remember sitting on a park bench while the sun set, alone, crying. I remember a friendly young woman trying to console me, listening to me through my sobbing. I believed I deserved it, I believed in my heart of hearts that I deserved everything bad that ever happened to me, yet I have no idea why I believed that.
The hours I spent in tears that night were not just about that night, it was about all that had gone before it, from the bullying, from the name calling to the crippling lack of self-esteem. I used to think my pain had all begun when my parents divorced, that didn’t help, the pain from that that I wouldn’t process for another 20 years certainly added to the emotional mess that I was, yet there was darkness before that, there were thoughts of suicide long before that.
At the time I didn’t consider myself a victim of bullying. I don’t know what I felt that was, but I wasn’t being bullied, I was being toughened up, that is what they said as they hit me. Relentless violence and verbal intimidation were part of my life for the best part of a year during high school. I didn’t say it then, but I know now, I was bullied, viciously, because for whatever broken reason I could not defend myself, something internal was always stopping me. I believe today that was caused by my chronic self-esteem challenges, obviously the bullying didn’t help that situation to say the least. The toll this all took on my life is difficult to put into words and will most likely never be fully detailed here.
The grace and love of my Heavenly Father, who rescued me from my darkness, in His time, when I was ready is beyond explanation or comprehension. It was ten years ago that I was “saved”, 2004. However I knew God when I was a boy, I loved Jesus when I was young, to this day I cannot remember what it was that took me away from the church. I remember leaving the choir after my grandfather died, but I don’t recall what made me stop attending. Maybe it was simply having the choice, maybe it was a cold stone building, dreary music and boring sermons, somehow after I had heard slash play the guitar, a church organ didn’t quite have the same draw. Maybe subconsciously I was angry at God for taking one of the men I loved most in the world, someone who made me feel special, someone who made me feel loved. I don’t know, I don’t even know what I’m trying to say here.
In the book the author talks about the mask that he wore in public and that when he was forced to confront his demons he began to dismantle the mask and for the first time finally be okay with being himself in public.
Masks – do we all wear them? I became an expert on making and wearing masks. In my early twenties, scarred by my life so far and afraid of the road I felt I was headed down I began to develop these masks. I learned how to fake being confident, aggressive, brash, how to have a hard exterior so that nobody could ever hurt me again. If I didn’t feel things then there would be no pain, or so I thought. It wasn’t so difficult to do either, after all that is what the world teaches us that a real man is. All I had to do was look around and imitate whatever I felt I wanted to be. So I became a confident aggressive (asshole), I developed over time coping mechanisms for life that let me recover from leaving high school at 16. I became a fully functional, fully assimilated man of the 20th / 21st century western world. I became louder and drank more and worked harder and started to succeed at “life”. Yet at the core of my soul I was rotten and broken and I still could not comprehend what the point in living on this planet was.
Jesus is better than I imagined because while I thought I was suffering and living this miserable existence without Him, and suffering the consequences of the choices I made as a result. He was aligning things to bring me into a new life, a better life, a life in the land of my dreams with an amazing wife and most importantly, in relationship with Him.
It makes be sad that this is such a broken world, a world that causes us to live lies so often.
“The irony of masks is that we wear them to appear strong – yet people are drawn to us when we take them off” (@note2leaders)
It is ok to be you. You are enough, you have worth, value. You are unique and beautiful in the eyes of God. Be the best you that you can be, don’t be the you that the world tells you to be, be the you that you were created to be.