I was having lunch with a friend today and we were talking about different things, like always, when the conversation came around to God. This was one of my best friends and someone I’ve known for over twenty years now, from long before I walked with Christ. He made the comment that I had made a complete 180 in my life and it occurred to me that yes, I guess I have. Of course, none of it was done on my own. Even though I still have a lot to learn and a long way to go, I can look back and see where I was and how far I’ve come over the years. And I am glad that God has been merciful and faithful to forgive me and bring me through it all. If left to my own devices, I doubt I would have even lived to see 43.
I was pretty reckless when I was younger. I didn’t care what I said or who I said it to. It wasn’t so much that I was a tough guy but I was belligerent at times. It is a wonder I wasn’t always getting in fights but that never really happened. I don’t know if people were afraid of me or just thought I was a fool but nobody ever stepped up to me. That’s probably a good thing because there’s always somebody out there who’s bigger and badder than you. I somehow managed to run wildly through life saying all sorts of crazy things and never run into that bigger, badder person and I guess I can thank God for that one. It probably wouldn’t have ended well for me if I had.
I used to be quite the connoisseur of “altered mind states”, too. I loved nothing so much as drinking and getting high and that was the focus of my life for several years. Every day was scheduled around either obtaining or using whatever substances would get my mind off of the reality of my situation, which was a budding case of schizoaffective disorder, I would later find out. I was self-medicating myself through every day and had no intentions of ever stopping. I came from a good home where drugs and alcohol were clearly looked upon as bad things but I went out and did what I did anyway. It would take nothing short of the intervention of Almighty God in my life to get me to look up from my hazy vantage point and see that there was more to life if I would just trust in Him.
Because I was dealing with what was diagnosed as bipolar disorder at the time, I was having some pretty major problems. My moods were all over the place and I was extremely paranoid. I would get suicidally depressed and I was in the psych hospital more than once. I refused to take my medication, medication that probably would have saved me a lot of years of suffering down the road, and continued to do things my way. I was clearly spiraling out of control and my world was crashing down all around me but I just kept on doing what I was doing like everything would somehow work out. I never really thought much about the future or had any aspirations to make anything out of my life. I was basically just drifting from day to day and doing whatever felt right.
I had been raised in church as much as my mom could get me there and knew about God and how He sent His Son into the world to die for our sins. That all sounded good at church but kind of faded away as I got older and started “doing me”. The faith that I was raised in took a back seat and all sorts of other things took its place as I struggled to figure out who I was and what life was all about. I was on a bad path and probably would have never left it if not for the hand of God in my life. God used my interest in a girl to get me back into church and that is where things started looking up in my life. I started reading the Bible and really thinking about the implications of what it said and how it affected my life. As I did this I came to some startling conclusions. I realized that I was in need of help, and not the kind of help that the world has to offer.
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians chapter 5 that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. He says that the old has gone and the new has come! When I repented and turned my life over to Christ I became something different than what I had always been before. I was no longer just a sinner running blindly through a world of pain, I became a child of God with a purpose and a calling in life. I have, as Jesus said in John chapter 5, crossed over from death to life. Even though my biological life will one day run out, the life I now live in Christ is eternal and will never expire. I have the promise and assurance of the One who was resurrected from the dead that He will keep me safe and bring me into the kingdom He has prepared where I will be with Him for all eternity. That is what He waited all those years to get across to me.
I have indeed made a 180 in life. That is what repentance is: turning away from one thing and towards something else. I have turned away from my unbelief and turned to a life built upon the belief in Jesus Christ. It has had a ripple effect through my entire life and now I am quite different from the person I was so many years ago. I still have my issues and struggle every day, but I don’t struggle alone. I take my problems to the cross where I find mercy and strength to deal with them all and I take comfort in the One who guided me safely through many years of reckless living when He could’ve just given up on me. I am much better off now in every way and owe it all to Jesus Christ. He offers a new life to all who will repent and believe the good news. I am living proof of that.