In this life, I've found that things will not always go your way. It may seem obvious if that statement were taken only at face value. God hasn't worked at only face value in my life, however. Sure, this world is full of problems!. But, there are three things that can, and will, permeate those "worldly" problems. From where God has placed me, now, those three things are Faith, Hope, and Love. Looking back, those are the three things I allowed the "world" to deplete from my heart. It became a tangled mess and left it in tatters.
From childhood until my 19th birthday, life was about academics, athletics, and family. Family was my top priority. I attended church, although not routinely. I prayed, although that wasn't routine, either. I got baptized at 18, but it, too, was to appease a "routine" for others and for God. In any appeasement scenario, you give up what you hold dear in your heart for others, places, or things. It's a compromise that drains part of your soul. Essentially, in my opinion, you give away what God has "wired" into your heart from birth: Faith, Hope, and Love. My parents split up when I was 15 for a brief time. They divorced 2 years later. All of my heart ached substantially. And, I tried to fix that ache by being baptized because it was "the right thing to do." It seemed reasonable, at the time. However, it was for all the wrong reasons.
After giving up an athletics scholarship and returning to Chattanooga, I began searching for a "community" to belong to. As I saw it, I was no longer part of a team, a nuclear family, nor was I part of a Christian community seeking to better the world around me. Temptation crashed into my life like a towering ocean wave. Without any fabric or sense of belonging, Satan had me where he wanted me. I began using drugs, which was something I never intended on doing. I began hating others, which was new to me, as well. The more I tried to fill the void in my heart by chemically altering my brain, the wider the gap became between my heart and the Faith, Hope, and Love that was supposed to fill it. For over a decade, I sought comfort in the things unakin to what God intended me to need. There were large gaps of time where I abstained from drugs. But, there was never a time where I wasn't in constant despair. I knew I was sinking and felt hopeless to just about everything that could "right the ship."
I reached a point where I was without a place to live, a vehicle, and food. I slept on top on insulation on the ground beneath a bunch of trees. I used expired gas station promo signs as a "lean to" to keep me dry on rainy nights. I was homeless. During that brief 4 weeks, however, I constantly clung to the fact that there was a glimmer of hope to be found in prayer. So, praying like I had never prayed before, I decided to reach out for help. For the next 10 months, I became a resident at a Christian discipleship program that was more rigorous than any practice, conditioning session, or exam I had ever experienced. Through those months, I slowly began to see the "light in the dark." God mended my relationships with family. He provided friendships. He maintained my health. And, He gave me the hope that everything would be okay. That kind of hope is substantial, and it isn't the desperate sort of hope that initially sparked my decision to reach out for help. He continued to soften my heart to the things I purposely blocked out for a decade. There were prayers answered during those 10 months that were nothing short of miraculous. It was almost and if God was "showing off" and making absolutely certain that I knew He was always in control. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, I knew He was capable of the very things that I needed most.
It has not been an overnight transition to this new life I have. In fact, there are stretches of time during some days where doubt still creeps in. However, no matter how lost and hopeless that stretch of time may seem, I'm able to find peace in the things outside of that stretch of time. Things that God has purposely proved over and over again remain very real to me. Having experienced all of this and so much more, I firmly, resolutely, and unequivocally know that God has plans for me. And, those plans rest in how much Faith, Hope, and Love I allow Him to put back in my heart.
God is Good!