The story is long, but I’ll try my best to keep it sweet. You see, I grew up in a Christian home but never really knew Jesus. I just did what mom and dad said, and eventually rebelled at around fifteen or sixteen as a result. Then I went wayward, if you will. I was hanging out with the “cool” kids, abusing drugs, failing classes, engaging in sexual immorality, clubbing, stealing, drinking etc. During this period, aged fifteen to twenty one (I’m twenty four now), I was also dealing with *severe* mental health issues that started at around twelve or thirteen. My life was quite the cesspool to say the least. I’d go through bouts of debilitating depression and crippling anxiety; I’d be lucky to get a shower a month.
Psychosis would also pay me a visit every now and again. It was quite the rollercoaster. I coped with, food, sex, fags, drugs, seshes and oversleeping. It’s cliché to say but, anything to numb the pain really. I’m not sure of an English word or phrase that can really encapsulate my life during that period but ‘wired zombie’ is close but still too far off. My life was completely void of meaning. Many of my companions were in a similar boat so I felt quite comfortable in the quagmire. It’s like “Hey, I’m drowning and quite very suicidal, but sure aren’t we all? Ha ha ha pass the joint (!)” I was dark internally and surrounded by so much darkness, at times I’d think it was light. I’d hoped it was light. We all did. We were miserable to the core, but we were “happy”, “care-free”. Oh the ways humans will delude themselves to avoid facing reality.
Like I said, we were all quite comfy. Until one day- I wasn’t. I was tired. Really tired. I was frustrated, incredibly so and I wanted a change. I needed a change. I wanted a life- a real life. I started getting this intuitive feeling that there was more to life than what I was experiencing. I got tired of the empty, pseudo-intellectual conversations at pubs. I got tired of the skags. The binge-purge episodes. The bouts of depression. The paranoia. The self-harm. The mania. The fear. The “Big Sad”, as we called it. The repressed shame and looming sense of being a failure. Ryan’s overdose would often replay in my mind. We were so “smart”, so “cool”, so “alt”, so “different”, sure we were even “spiritual” sometimes (high, we were high, even when off the drugs). I now realise our existence was a perpetual state of deluded escapism. Darn, I couldn’t really believe Ryan died, he was so young, and here practically yesterday. It always felt like the time we first met and he introduced me to my first hash joint. With his goofy, bouncy walk and blue backpack the feds would’ve loved to get a hold of. You could spot the goose from a mile away. I recall this with a wistful smile. Loss is weird.
Anyway so, I got tired, and I started expressing it. No one seemed to share the same sentiments, or be having the same epiphany. Some were also tired, but didn’t want to change. You can’t force change on people, even if you love them and they, you. I learned that the hard way. It seemed like everyone else still wanted to be the people I was tired of being. Then, all at once, I lost everyone. Some, I cut off for survival reasons, but most turned on me when I didn’t see the value of living like we did. Which is natural, I didn’t fit in anymore. “Can two walk together unless they are agreed?” Still, it was incredibly painful. It was shocking at the time.
“Can two walk together unless they are agreed?”
My own friends were bullying me. Like full-blown bullying me- emotionally, physically, my property, the works. I felt so betrayed. I was so alone. That went on for about two years. I stayed in that house for way longer than I should’ve. Those feelings still creep into new relationships I try to form till this day. It was a horrible time. Zero out of ten, would not recommend to a friend, not that I had any left. Yet somehow, I had a sense that I made the right decision. Don’t get me wrong, I was still engaging in nefarious behaviour from time to time, but my mind had changed. I didn’t see certain things the same way. My mind had changed. That was the catalyst.
New Year’s Eve 2020 came and I prayed. Like a genuine, honest, heartfelt talk to a God I didn’t know or trust, with the 0.001% of faith that I had. Which is enough, according to Matthew 17:20-21. I had a vague idea of what prayer was from childhood and just gave it a shot, not really knowing what would happen. I’ve since then learned that it’s only possible to pray if you’re open to God’s Spirit. The inkling that I was made for something greater, to break away from the path I was on and seek a better existence was a nudging from God.
I’ve since then learned that it’s only possible to pray if you’re open to God’s Spirit.
So, I prayed on New Year’s Eve and carried on with my life. I took up reading the bible, it was my only company. March 31st 2021, I had a failed suicide attempt. That wasn’t my first rodeo, so you’d think I’d have had enough practice to finally execute it effectively but, I guess not. God was definitely preserving me over the years, however that wasn’t clear to me till the next series of events had passed. The next day I suddenly remembered about a church that had approached me on campus, I think I even attended a few times. I had the Pastor’s contact so I hit him up and went, it was okay. I was also learning to skate during this time, and being the rookie that I was, and still am quite frankly; I fell and sprained my ankle. Highly inconvenient to say the least. I couldn’t put any weight on it without pain and was on crutches.
I continued reading the Bible, some of it made sense to me, other parts I didn’t really understand. Still, I kept at it. What other choice did I have really? There was no one to talk to. A verse in particular stood out to me, John 05:08 “Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk””. There was a man who had been paralysed for thirty eight years. He was sitting a little ways away from a healing pool, but couldn’t get to it because he was paralysed and no one would help move him there. Jesus came along, listened to his story and told him to walk, and by the power of God’s Spirit in Jesus’ words (John 01:63), the man got up and walked. Just like that. Jesus later told him “See, you’ve been made well. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you” as a result. I have a hard time explaining it but, those words shone. They rang true in my heart. Real, loud and clear. I felt like He was speaking to me “Pick up your mat and walk”. It makes sense now, because I understand that God’s Word is alive, has a Spiritual force underpinning it (Hebrews 4:12).
For a while after my New Year’s Eve prayer, I’d been experiencing the urge to get baptised, but never really had the opportunity. I didn’t really know how it worked fully but from what I understood, it was an open declaration of faith in Jesus and I’d decided that I wanted to do it. When I go down in the water, it symbolises me dying like Jesus died for sin, and when I come up, it symbolises me being resurrected in life like Jesus was. I go down a sinner, but I come up as a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 05:17). I wanted that. A new beginning. So I called up the Pastor, Pastor David Richman, great man, if ever you’re looking. This was, funnily enough, around Easter. There’s something about this time of year, aye?
So this time two years ago, I told him that I wanted to get baptised and he kindly obliged. He broke protocol and compressed a six-week module, into a one-day crash course on baptism and the gospel for me. I was quite very desperate. I told him I wanted it to be extra symbolic by having it coincide with Easter Sunday. I didn’t have time to wait six weeks. He saw my faith as a newbie and didn’t want to curtail my enthusiasm, I suppose. So we schedule the baptism and do the crash course on the Saturday. Sunday afternoon, I’m mentally preparing for the baptism. Nervous, quite very nervous but also excited. The words “take up your mat and walk” keep ringing in my heart and I keep saying them out loud. Then I think to myself “you know what? I’ll ditch these crutches”, so I walk down to Ballyloughane beach in my oversized, red flip-flops. Just a three minute walk, or ten minute limp, from my gaff at the time. I can’t remember if I arrived first or if Pastor and the team were already waiting for me but, I got there anyway. They lead the prayers, I repeated them back and then, they dunked me! I cannot describe the exhilarating feeling that coursed through my entire body when I came back up. I was filled with so much inexplicable joy and I’m pretty sure I started laughing afterwards. I also still have the video, I wish I could show you. The footage definitely doesn’t do it any justice but re-watching it takes me back to that blissful moment.
I felt so happy! Yes, emotionally, but also in my soul or something. It was foreign, but it was amazing, for lack of a better word. Later down the line I learned that it’s called joy and is a characteristic of God’s Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Also, I hadn’t noticed because I’d been so overjoyed but I’d walked home! As in walked, not limped, walked. It didn’t register in my mind until I got home. I was in the middle of showering the beach off of me when I thought to myself… wait a minute… My ankle!! It’s fine!! It’s perfectly fine!! I was so shocked, in pure and utter disbelief. I started doing lunges and jump squats just to be sure! Literally, just hours earlier that same day, I couldn’t put any weight on it without immense pain and now I’m jumping???? I was so shocked. Shock and joy is such an odd combination, indescribable. In the best way. Having just experienced the miracle of salvation and a literal, real-life healing on the same day. Luke 18:42 explains that faith in Jesus brings healing, now I know. I was over the moon, and that was all the confirmation I needed, to know that I’d chosen the right path. That was my first tangible encounter with Jesus’ presence. Isaiah 53:5 says “But He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.” That’s why it’s important to me that I remember Jesus, especially during Easter. When He went through the most excruciating pain possible so I could experience, once unimaginable, indescribable joy. Glory to God! I’ll never forget it. I can’t. You can’t forget something like that.
So yeah, that’s my story. That’s where my journey started. I can’t say it’s been linear since then, but I can certainly say it’s been extremely progressive and worthwhile. I became a member of the church Pastor David leads, The Power House, and I’m now surrounded by a wonderful family of loving believers. I don’t experience mental health challenges with the intensity to which I was so familiar, yet somehow not accustomed. You’ll also be very pleased to know that I shower everyday now. Well, almost. But, most importantly, I’m on the path towards heaven! I have eternal life! I’m filled with so much hope for the future both here and in eternity. Ah, hope, a concept that was so unfathomable for me back then, which I now have heaps of in Christ Jesus. Glory to God! Jesus is the way y’all, Jesus is the way.
“Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”