Updated: Aug 16
My life was empty, just like those dark, late night I-5 lanes. I was heading towards an unknown destination with nothing bright ahead of me. My older cousin Tim was shot by the police and six months later a good friend also named Tim died in a motorcycle accident. I was just waiting for my own death. I was still deep into porn and various idolatry of cars and women. My goals in life were marriage so I could leave the house and live life for myself and a luxury car, preferably a BMW. I didn’t have the car or the woman, and instead worked at a job I hated while pretending to be a model Christian at my church.
I began contemplating suicide. I felt like a fraud and a failure in both of the double lives I was living. I didn’t have a wife yet, which disqualified me from being a deacon or pastor, so I wasn’t a success in my Christianity. I didn’t have a hot girl or the cool car or the house or the money I so longed for which made me a failure in my other life. So what was the point of living? My rock bottom wasn’t drugs or alcohol. Or being bankrupt. It was total emptiness. I lost joy in life. I started hatching a plan on how I was going to end it. What a lie I believed. Just because I didn’t get the toys I wanted I was going to kill myself. My desperation culminated on my 26th birthday. After the party and friends and food, I was empty. Just imagine a dank, dusty, dark, empty warehouse filled with the smell of decay. That was my soul. After years of trying to fill it with porn, cars, video games and fake faith, I was left empty and alone.
I broke down and just cried that night and begged God to do something with me if He was there. I don’t know how long I cried on my knees that night, but I know that I woke up next morning with a glimmer of hope. I went through my morning routine and something weird happened, as I began the ritual of reading my chapter of the Bible, I actually enjoyed it. I couldn’t get enough. It was like cold refreshing water for my parched and thirsty soul. That began my journey to fall in love with Jesus. I still claim that that if you can convince me that my faith is not real and that God does not exist, I would just kill myself because there’s no other reason for me live. Jesus became my sole reason for living.
This also began my journey of learning anew who God was. One of the things that I have learned is that my dad is not supposed to be perfect. He cannot be my god. Only God in heaven is the perfect Father. If I had the perfect father, I wouldn’t want God as Father. It has been a difficult nine years of breaking out of the chains of all the different lies I believe.
I learned that God was always there. He was there in my dad’s prayers for my healing when I was dying in quarantine as a baby. He was there in my uncle who grabbed my hand before I could be swept away into the ocean. He was always there in my mom who I could always come to and talk about anything without being judged and who taught me how to pray and read. He was there to provide for me in the economic recession. He was there keeping me from driving off a bridge when I wanted to end my life. He was there in Jason Chudnofsky when all the other men in my life abandoned me because I was led to go to an American church.
God has led me through reconciliation with my siblings. He led me to begin praying for my dad for three years before my dad admitted and confessed many areas where he messed up. We were sitting in a sauna one night and he confessed that he treated me and my brothers badly and in anger while we were growing up. I was glad I was sweaty because I cried. Now my relationship with my dad is better than it ever was. God has made tremendous transformations in my dad and our family overall. A turning point for me was that my grandpa on my dad’s side lived with us the last four years of his life. Getting to know my grandpa and his character made me realize my dad tried a lot harder than the way he was raised. My grandpa developed dementia and stopped recognizing his own sons and died in our living room. My dad wept, never getting to hear his own dad tell him he loved him.
I really love God’s word. I love to study it. I love to talk about it.
God restored and renewed my relationship with my dad. But I’m still dealing with the wounds that were inflicted on me. You all know the story of the Prodigal Son; well I’m the older son in that story, still trying to work my way to gain the affection of my heavenly Father. I know in my head He loves me and that He’s forgiven all my sins. I know that I can enjoy the goodness of my Father’s house, but I don’t believe in my heart and so I still long to be recognized and have that party. I still have trouble making life decisions, petrified of making the wrong decision. I struggle with the fear of being rejected by people and women because I was rejected by every single girl I’ve ever pursued. I still struggle with lust and find my escape in porn when life doesn’t work out the way I want it. I still self-deprecate and don’t believe my worth in God’s eyes. I still hear my dad’s voice telling me I’m useless when I mess something up. But I know that God is there.
Earlier this year, my brother Jason challenged me to ask God what His name for me was. I prayed for three days straight. I was driving to work one morning and was like, “This is dumb,” but something beckoned me to just keep praying. As I was coming up to 405, in my head I saw the following picture. I saw myself on a battle field bloodied and with damaged armor. I was exhausted but with my enemies fallen all around me. I lifted up my head and I saw Jesus standing next to me with His sword lifted and I heard my name: Victorious. I know I will have many more battles to fight and wounds to sustain, but I will have victory. Not because of my strength, but because Jesus is the one fighting for me. Just like He has saved me from sin and death, He will fight my battles. I’m just learning how to receive that grace and lay my battles and struggles at the foot of Jesus, my King.
All I want in this life is that when I come face to face with my maker, I hear “My good and faithful servant.” I still love life and I have a long way to go, but I have hope. That’s why the song Legends is so important to me. The chorus says, “Caught in the cross fire; Stand up to empires, waging a war; That's where legends are born.” I want to wake up every morning and go to war. Go to war with the lies I believe. Go to war with hell and death. Go to war with my sin. I don’t know how long I will have to fight but in Jesus I will be victorious.