John’s Story – From defeat and shame to freedom and joy

September 3, 2014

John is new to New Life. He started attending the Linton Hall Campus 3 months ago. At the time he was prepared to take his own life, even having chosen the date and time. Instead, God grabbed a hold of him and he chose instead to try God’s way of doing things. This is his incredible story from defeat and shame to freedom and joy.

Message to my new friends at New Life Church!

Hello New Lifers! For those I haven’t had the chance to meet, my name’s John and I’ve been attending the Linton Hall campus for a few months.  First thing I’d like to say is thanks to the wonderful community of people at New Life, its been an amazing experience and there couldn’t be a better group of people to share my spiritual journey with.

I’ve recently made the decision to get baptized and I wanted to share my testimony as to how I got to this point, what coming back to God has meant to me,  and why I made this decision.  We recently heard a sermon about being bold, and I’m going to be boldly honest, so if you are squeemish about challenging personal stories this may not be the post for you…on the bright side it does have a happy ending!

I guess the first thing I should mention is what baptism means to me.  In my mind its not a finish line, its a starting line.  I am making a commitment to spending the rest of my life joyously praising and serving God, who has saved my life, given me hope and purpose, and has made all things possible thru Him.  The decision for me to make this commitment was a very easy one, due to the overwhelming changes that I’ve gone thru since He saved my life a few months ago.  Everyone’s path is different, and mine isn’t unique but I thought it was worth sharing.

A mere 3 months ago I was in an extremely dark place, I reached an all time low which for me is really saying something because I thought I had already hit that point.  I had let life get to me, was in the grips of severe depression and was seeing life thru the filter of negativity.  I was letting health problems cause me to feel like a victim, was letting a difficult childhood fill me with shame and self hatred, and saw no way out or any chance of things getting better.  I felt so unworthy that I isolated myself, I was afraid to experience life and meet new people for fear they’d find me as disgusting as I found myself. I got to the point where I decided there was no point, no point to go on as there was no chance of things getting better.  And I spent a Sunday morning researching the best way to kill myself, and had it all planned out with the day and time picked out.

Then a funny thing happened, I got really mad at myself.  I became furious at myself for letting things get to me like that, letting life turn me into an ugly monster on the inside.  For fans of the Penny Dreadful series, I was feeling a strong kinship to the Frankenstein monster when he spoke about realizing that he had become as ugly on the inside as he had always felt he appeared on the outside.  But the anger I felt that day brought me to a breaking point, I gave myself two choices, quit complaining and whining and just get it over with, or make the commitment that day to make the changes necessary to make the rest of my life better than the first 45 years of my life.

Since I’m writing this its obvious which choice I made, thankfully.  I didn’t realize it at the time, didn’t understand where I got that energy from to put on the brakes as my mental train hurled down the tracks to an abyss, but now I clearly understand that God intervened when I needed him the most.  He was always waiting for me, and I made him wait too long but thankfully He’s patient and was always there for me. He helped me realize there was another choice to make, and he gave me one last chance to turn to him and turn my life over to him.

I knew what changes I had to make, I just didn’t know how to make them.  That is until I visited New Life for the first time.  A dear friend of mine was suggesting I give it a try, and I was at the point where I thought what could it hurt, its not like I was batting 1.000 at life doing it my way!  I hesitated once or twice, but I got myself there, and nothing has been the same since.  The sermon that first week was on shame, a topic I am intimately aware of.  What struck me was the act of writing down what we’re ashamed of on a piece of paper, putting it in a basket, and handing it over to God.  I remember thinking, “you can do that?  Wow this God guy is pretty cool!”  I walked out of the service that day knowing I had found a home, and knew my life wouldn’t be the same.  In the following few weeks I started reading the bible, thinking about my life in different ways, and I came to the undeniable conclusion that I was a believer.  I was able to say that I believe in God, that He loves me so much that He sent His only son to live among men to save us, that He has a plan for me and will make sure whatever is meant to happen will happen, and will provide all I need.

That assertion changed everything for me.  How can I find myself unworthy and shameful if God loves me so much that His son gave his life for me.  How could I feel like a victim when God saved my life and helped me realize how lucky I am to be alive and how blessed I am.  How could I be envious of what others can do and have, when I know that God will look out for me and provide all I need.  How could I feel anxious about the future when I know that God has a plan for me that will lead me in the right direction.  And while I don’t have all the answers and I don’t know exactly what He has in store for me, I have faith in His infinite wisdom and His plan for me, and I look forward to seeing what unfolds.  Quite a change in a few months, how blessed am I!!

Saving my life and giving me a whole new outlook on life would have been enough, but God wasn’t done providing me gifts.  He had another one in store that I still can’t believe.  My shame and self loathing came from my mother and things she did to me starting when I was 4 or 5 years old.  I won’t elaborate, probably don’t need to, safe to say it involves things no mother should be doing to a child.  But even worse then what was done, was what she taught me to believe about myself.  That I was shameful, unloveable, unworthy, pathetic, ugly….you get the idea.  Unfortunately I’m a very good student, and that stuck with me my whole life.  My solution to my past was trying not to think about it, it was too painful.  Any thoughts of her were surrounded by anger and hatred for what she did.  I hadn’t dealt with my past and I was letting it define me, and was letting her description of me become my description of me.  I knew I had to let it go and take responsibility for defining who I am, but wasn’t quite sure how to do that until there was that sermon on forgiveness.

That was a tough one for me, I felt like a zombie after that one, because I immediately knew that I had to forgive her to move on with my life.  So I prayed for guidance and help, and low and behold I was given the vision to understand my past in a much different way.  The vision of a monster that was trying to hurt me was replaced by a vision of a woman that was severely mentally ill that was trying desperately to stop herself.  My eyes and heart opened to see that she tried everything she could to stop herself, finally taking her own life in a final desperate attempt to protect me from her.

Once God opened my eyes I was able to reach out to my mother thru prayer and tell her that I forgive her and that I love her.  The instant I said those words I was given another gift, a vision that will stay with me forever.  I saw my mother’s soul floating a few feet off the ground, held down by chains on each wrist.  At the base of each chain was a cement block with the words Shame painted on one and Guilt painted on the other.  As soon as I said the words I forgive you and love you, the chains broke and Gods hand reached down and lifted her soul to heaven.  And that is the image that I will have of my mother for the rest of my life.

Needless to say the last 3 months have been remarkable.  God has saved my life, changed my entire outlook on life, replaced feelings of unworthiness with love, replaced anxiety with excitement about the future, replaced feelings of despair with gratitude for all I’ve been blessed with, and feelings of hatred and shame about my past with feelings of forgiveness and an appreciation that with Gods help anything is possible.  Having said all that how could I possibly question whether to get baptized?  It was an easy decision for me to commit myself to serving God the rest of my life, He has saved my life and given me a new outlook on life and I will joyously praise Him and serve Him the rest of my life!

I apologize for the difficult read, but my honesty was with a purpose.  I want all those who get to that dark place, or those that have unfortunately suffered thru similar trials, to know that there is a way out of the darkness.  There is no place you can’t recover from, there is no place so dark that He can’t find you, there is no span of time away from Him that will cause Him to forget about you.  Anything is possible with God’s help, He is the light and the way.  With one small step in His direction He will lead you the rest of the way!


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