I was born to a 15-year-old girl who had been kicked out of her own home just before my birth. We lived in Austin, Texas, in a small duplex where my mother began doing drugs. I would bounce back and forth between my mom’s place and my dad’s house. The early years of my life were difficult times, filled with confusion and trauma. Over the course of those years, my aunt would take me into her room and molest me. I never told a soul.
Eventually, my mom met an older man who took us in and cared for us in a way that gave the illusion things were going to be okay. But it was just an illusion. My two younger brothers were born, and I felt as though my mom forgot I existed. So much of her attention was given to my brothers and my stepfather. I turned to my friends in the streets to seek refuge and meaning. I would be their entertainment by way of bullying, fighting, stealing, vandalizing, and setting things on fire. But at least they recognized my existence.
My stepfather would often get angry and beat me. Ropes, extension cords, belts, and even his hands became familiar territory as I was always in trouble. Mom’s presence at home diminished as she fell deeper and deeper into drug addiction. I began to believe that I was the reason for this negligence. I reached a point where I was sick and tired of dealing with the abuse every day and I wanted to get away.
One day out of sheer desperation, I grabbed a gas can and strategically laid a trail of gas throughout the entire house and set the place on fire. My wish of moving out came true, but not the way I wanted it to. Police officers took me to a juvenile detention center where I stayed for two months before being placed in a group home in Keene, Texas. I was bitter and confused.
Throughout my teenage years, I did anything to make sure people liked me. Teachers would often tell me that I wasn’t going to be worth anything, and my basketball coach didn’t like me much. Tragically, around the same time, my stepfather lost his life to AIDS and one of my best friends committed suicide.
Upon graduation, I received music scholarships but lost them during my first year of college due to my partying lifestyle. My attitude at the time was if it’s too much work, I don’t want any part of it. So I made the unfortunate decision to move in with my foster brother, Fred. He had animosity toward a car dealership owner over a bad deal and wanted to teach him a lesson. Fred had this idea that there was a ton of money put away in the owner’s office and we needed to break in and steal it. Not wanting to “scar” my reputation, I went along. We took TVs, auto parts, money, and whatever else we could find. After searching for us for a week, the police arrested Fred first and then me.
We were officially charged. I was facing a max of 10 years in prison. Distraught with no money and stuck with a court-appointed attorney who was drunk half the time, I started the process of settling into jail. This became the first time I had picked up a Bible since my teenage years. There were always people ministering to us in jail. Since I had nothing else, I listened to what they had to say. I went through the motions, thinking that God was there to serve me. I prayed and prayed, but I often got mad when he didn’t answer my prayers as though he were on my time frame.
Eventually the courts gave me time served and put me on probation. I was finally released! The problem was I didn’t know what to do. My girlfriend left me because I couldn’t support myself. I continued to steal and sell drugs. I even stole from family members. I landed back in jail.The judge was not happy to see me again. He wanted to send me back to prison. Once again, I turned to the Bible for comfort, but I was still using it for personal gain. Due to a mix-up in paperwork, my probation was reinstated and I was released.
A year later, I met my future wife. We were each facing our own challenges. We’d argue quite often about my porn addiction because I never saw it as a big deal. My stepfather watched it as though it were a prime-time TV series. So I thought nothing of it. In 2012, we got engaged. As a condition of where we were getting married, we had to be celibate for the months leading up to our wedding date. I agreed to this condition because she was excited for it, but I knew deep down inside that I was not prepared for this.
Over the months, I grew bitter. I’d toy with little hints of needing intimacy, but she wasn’t having it. Our communication was diminishing, and I developed an illusion that she didn’t want anything to do with me. I was very selfish.That summer I cheated on her twice. She wouldn’t see me for quite some time. That’s when I knew that a change needed to happen. I began to understand the true strength that was within this beautiful woman God gave me. I saw the hurt on her face. I looked at my kids and knew that I betrayed them as well. Enough was enough.
I got on my knees and made my plea to God. We began attending Shoreline Church in Austin, Texas. I signed up to get baptized. We were married in March of 2013. It would be great to say that things were suddenly perfect, but it was a process. There were times when I just wanted to give up because I felt it was a lost cause, but God provided us with strength. We got involved with Celebrate Recovery®. We are living proof that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. God can and will mend things together if we allow him to do so.
Principle 5 says, “Voluntarily submit to every change God wants to make in my life and humbly ask him to remove my character defects. ‘Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires’” (Matthew 5:6 GNT).
This principle has had the most impact on my journey because it’s the one that I’ve had the most trouble with. So often, instead of submitting to the change God wants to make in our lives, we’d much rather prolong the process by “doing it all” ourselves. I’ve found that God can move things along a lot faster than we ever can. True growth comes from having the willingness to be vulnerable. I had to be willing to embrace change. I had to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “Progress is not possible without change.”
I’ll end with this quote attributed to Carl Sagan: “Who are we if not measured by our impact on others? Because that’s who we are! We are the sum of the influence and impact that we have, in our lives, and on the lives of others. Whether positive or negative.”
Let’s be better so we can help others do the same.