I’ve decided to write a little about my past and include a story about a friend I made in Nicaragua. My title, “Breathing, Not Beating” I hope to make a bit more profound as I write. Now, my life does not include some tragic life event or poor upbringing, but hardships have still come my way. Many who read this will relate to some degree. I am glad to say that my past remains in the past. Much of the hardships, with the Lord’s help, have been overcome. This is essentially my testimony, leaving some detail out. No need to post all my sins on the internet, the impact is just as powerful.
I’ll begin by attempting to briefly describe my fourth grade school year. Many issues steamed from this point, but actually fourth grade was one of my favorite times in school. The situation was, I went into the year with no friends in my class. I would see them during free play and the such, but I didn’t interact a whole lot with the other students assigned to my teacher with me. at first I was upset, but then had a thought! “I know no one in this class, they don’t know me, I can be myself!” Problem is, when I’m acting like myself, I tend to become highly obnoxious. I love to laugh, especially in my younger days I could barely get through a joke due to laughing while trying to say the punch line. I had no care in the world what my classmates thought of me, I was myself, if they didn’t like it, then oh well. the year went on rather well. My classmates viewed me as the class clown I suppose. jokes weren’t really my thing, it was more of what I did. Putting my feet behind my head and walking on my hands, (yes I could and still can somewhat do that) putting my pinkie toe in my nose, (yes I did that too) and doing somersaults into the class while making a finger gun and humming the James Bond theme song.
My classmates weren’t the problem for me that school year. It was actually the students from other classes. During free play I didn’t change my behavior and still ran around the school grounds like a mad man. Some friends and I did start a very intense game of “keep away” which is nothing more than tackling whoever has a kickball in their hands and then taking it for yourself until YOU get tackled. It got banned. Anyway, one day while waiting in line to play an actual game of kickball, I had a student from another class say they didn’t want me on their team. A little hurt I asked why? They said because I was gay. Honestly, not knowing what that meant entirely as an eight or nine-year old. I still walked away knowing I was just insulted. The following days I discovered others were calling me the same thing. No one from my class however, only those from other classes. After some time of this, I greatly reduced my levels of hyper activity and became much more calm. I tried to act like everyone else, I still laughed and enjoyed life. However, all of a sudden, others opinions drove my actions.
Skipping forward to sixth grade, I found myself in another situation of where I knew few people in my class. This time I had a new thought “I know no one, if I keep to myself and say nothing, then they can’t use anything against me.” Thus, I literally went days at school saying nothing. Friends aren’t exactly easy to come by when you say very little, if anything at all. Needless to say, it was a very depressing year. I sat alone at lunch quite often, if someone were to speak to me, in most occasions it was to mock me. I would smile when people stared at me, not sure why, I guess I figured I needed to do something in order for them to look away.
Being trapped within your mind can become very scary. For hours a day I simply thought to myself. I bothered no one, yet bullies would go out of their way to bother me. A lot of hatred was birthed from that. It appeared to me that no one liked me, or cared for me. Of course not everyone hated me, but when no one seemed to care that others mocked me or no one sat next to me at lunch, it caused the appearance of that. Obviously I was sad, you could see it in my eyes. My smiles were always fake, and if conversation ever started I would quickly end it. Seeking to talk, but fearing it at the same time makes sense to anyone in any similar situation I would say. I suppose, if someone were to persist on speaking, and make it known that they really did want to talk, then most would open up. On the other hand, often times the first thought is, “oh they feel bad for me, it’s the only reason why they’re talking to me.” People don’t want others to feel sorry for them. If you want to be a friend, then be a friend. Saying “sorry that you’re so sad, I wish I could help.” Then walking away is the equivalent of saying nothing at all. So, here I was, a rather sad sack who closed himself into a tight shell. speaking softly when I chose to speak and had clenched fist ready to swing when enemies approached. I did have one saving grace however.
Everyday after school a friend and I would run from each others homes to meet at the entrance of my neighborhood. A grade higher than I, we never saw each other at school very often. Playing Rec park soccer and knowing him since elementary school made us close friends. Being able to open up and talk to a true friend each day, I swear kept me from total devastation. We had this crazy idea that we were going to break school records for our P.E. classes. Each day we trained for our end of the year physical test, so we could attempt to shatter a record. We started by doing a quarter-mile warm-up to meet each other, then we walked back to my home while eating fruit, followed by sit-ups, push-ups, leg lifts and a half mile run. Then, we played. This continued for quite some time. As soon as we arrived home we were out the door ready to go.
Now, this is where my testimony really begins, I hope you enjoyed the back story! Let us begin. I was raised in a Christian home, very good upbringing, wonderful parents and my siblings and I got along for the most part. My friend had a good home life as well, but he wasn’t raised in a Christian home. One day, while playing soccer, he posed a question to me. “Why do you believe in God?” He asked. a little off guard I simply said, because I do. After a little more discussion, I went home thinking, “why DO I believe in God?” After getting home I started to help my mother with the dishes and I told her what my friend had asked. After talking with her I felt confident in my belief in God and was ready to confirm that with my friend the next day. He had another question for me though, “Do you love God?” Do I love God? I thought…Well of course I do! Questions such as these continued everyday…everyday I had a new question and he a new answer. I washed dishes with mother happily at this point. It gave me a chance to discuss my newly posed question. My questions always demanded answers, not just for my friend, but for myself as well. As his questions increased in difficulty, my answers became more defined and confident. My knowledge of the Bible had increased and my love for God was at new heights. One day, as I came onto the school bus, he turned to me and demanded to know if I truly loved God. I quickly and fully sure of myself answered yes, of course I do! I believe that somewhere along this time span, the Holy Spirit truly entered into my heart. Being about twelve years old at this time, my water baptism three years prior became very obvious to be a safety net and not a true change of heart. I know now that I was Baptized by the Spirit in my time of growing with the Lord. No longer did I partake in communion just for a little juice or bread, but now I partook with gladness and joy in the knowledge of my Lord!
I first heard this from my mom, but I know it comes from another source, a poem perhaps.
“Sometimes people come into your life for a reason, and for a season.”
After some time, the questions became very tiring. No longer did I question my faith. Being asked if I truly loved the Lord followed by worldly views became more of a heated debate. We would argue for hours and the final blow was basically a choice between God, or our friendship. Choosing God of course, our friendship faded away and I suppose, our season ended. I like to tell people that I was saved by an atheist. I’ve even had one person confuse it to mean an atheist saved me from Christianity. I told her, oh no, I quite literally mean an atheist converted me to Christianity. You would think that losing my only friend at the time would’ve led me into an even deeper depression. However, God had it all under control. I became much happier even in the current situation of loneliness. Soon after our friendship had faded, God placed another friend into my life. My pastor’s son who is extremely funny and talented became a dear friend of mine and stayed that way up into high school. Where once again I had to forged new friends.
In my current state I face constant fear, not for my own sake, but for my Brothers and Sisters in Christ. I’m currently working on that and am trying to learn to leave matters in the Lord’s hands. He saved me from despair, he can save others as well.
On my mission in Nicaragua one of our team members gave her testimony. It was of a rather dark past with much tribulation. It spoke to one of our translators who after hearing our team members testimony decided to share his as well. Aneriam is his name. He put a name to what I felt in my loneliness. He told us that he never felt so lost that he wanted to end his own life. However, he had been dead inside for years. “My mind may not have said I am dead, but my heart did.” That hit me, I can’t say I was so consumed by despair that suicide seemed like a reasonable escape. However, feeling such intense sadness in my heart it was as if I were dead inside and yet alive. I had breath in my lungs, yet my heart ached.
When the Holy Spirit entered me, I was filled with the breath of Life. No longer was I simply breathing in air, but the word of God and the Spirit stirred within me as well. My lungs will one day cease, my heart will stop beating, and my body will fade away. The Spirit however, will continue to live on. We are either filled with the breath of Life, or filled with the breath of death. I thank God for filling me with life and assuring me of life everlasting! Now, I live with gladness and with life! May the Spirit’s breath overflow within me and fill those around me!
I encourage anyone who suffers in whatever tribulation they face to look to God and to pray upon the Spirit to fill them with life and to make a new creation out of them. Dead to your old self and arising anew. Filled with life everlasting!
Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.” – John 3:5-7