When June 30th hits each year since 1994 I always reflect on my life before and my life since. In so many ways I can now clearly see God having His mighty hand on my life before, during and after, and upon reflection it is easy to see His fingerprints on all of it. But it hasn’t always been so easy.
On that day so many years ago I clearly had two things I really wanted to do. I wanted to wish my brother a happy birthday and I really wanted to get stoned. Lacking a mobile phone back in the day, I chose instead to make an unannounced drop-by to wish Dave a happy one, and then to kill two birds with one stone I would venture a few doors down to get high. The problem of course was that there was no one home at either residence. All I could do is leave a note for Dave and walk sorrowfully away from the Pot House.
I returned to the apartment of despair. Things were not well. I was hungry and opted to make instant mashed potatoes, but then I read from a book that would change my life so dramatically that the thought of eating any food for the next few months would be a challenge, as my heart and mind would be focused solely on what I had read.
It was time to move on.
My life is so radically different today than it was that day that I barely recognize that version of myself any longer, but June 30th comes along every year and so I relive that day in my mind. I recall the hurt, agony and feelings of regret all over again. The questioning, the pleading and the anguish all come rushing back like a flood of icy water that I shudder at some of the thoughts that run through my mind.
I thought I was living the dream back then, but I was younger and a lot more foolish (see, desire to get high and eat instant mashed potatoes for reference), and I couldn’t see things very clearly. I was scared all the time, and as volatile as I can be now when times get tough, I was truly a maniac back in those days and driving people away from me was something I did on a pretty regular basis. It was probably the only thing I was good at.
The luxury of time and perspective affords me the opportunity to look back on that time and that particular date and completely remove the blame and responsibility of what transpired off anyone but myself. I was selfish, sell-centered and angry. I was incapable of loving others in a genuine way, and I lacked both the focus and sense of responsibility to pursue any serious career. I took my family for granted and pretty much rejected the idea and reality of the God of the universe.
Still, I sit here today fully aware of my transgressions and feel the sting of regret.
God created me and has a holy purpose for me, but I often question what that particular period of my life served for either me or Him. Why did I have to hurt so much? Why did I have to hurt others in the process? Was it all just to finally see You Father? Was it all just to get my attention?
I probably won’t ever know.
I remember reading those hurtful words from that awful book and standing there in stunned silence. I wanted to be mad and I felt like I needed to cry, yet no rage was to be had and the tears would only fall much later. I recall pacing the floor and wondering what to do and then stopping to catch a glimpse of myself in a large mirror and taking a good long look. I was a wreck. Not because things were falling to pieces or because I’d overdone it on the instant mashed potatoes and pot, but because I’d secretly hoped that my hand would be forced to take action so that I would wake up from my stupor and begin living-out the purpose of my life. And now it was here. And I was terrified.
But that brings me to where God needed me to be.
I’m certain that people come to Jesus in moments of absolute joy and adoration all the time, but I tend to think that the vast majority come as I did – completely ruined and in need of being rebuilt. It wasn’t too long after that June 30th that I began my journey, first to find Him and then ultimately to cry out for Him.
And I’ve been amazingly blessed ever since.
We all have our stories to tell. I have lots of them. Some are more interesting than others, but on that day – on June 30, 1994 – I started walking a path towards God. And in retrospect I’m beginning to see that I was always on that path, but I just didn’t know it.
I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again, but I really do apologize for the hurt, anguish and confusion I personally caused. I’ve said that I forgive, but I was the one who really needed to be asking for forgiveness.
Life moves pretty fast. It seems like the fast forward button has been on for a good long time now. I’m so far removed from pot that it makes me laugh to think that I was ever Jeff Spicoli-like. I haven’t had mashed potatoes out of a box in a while, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get my fill of the real deal every chance that I get. And my brother David is still my “little” brother even if he’s just as big as I am (and I think he has a few pounds on me too!).
Today is his birthday, so I want to wish him well and I hope that we can get together soon for coffee and laughs.
I always enjoy that time. No regrets.