Disbelief & Finding My Way Home: Part 2

A CHURCH FOUNDED ON JESUS’S LOVE

When my Christian friend from college met me at a Starbucks the week after we had attended a church in Orlando together, he asked me if I wanted a relationship with Jesus. I was hesitant because I didn’t completely understand what faith in Jesus meant. But, what I had gathered from visiting the church together was how different Christianity was from the Catholicism I had been raised around. The difference was significant enough to make me feel immediately welcomed; this church was a place I didn’t feel resistant to. The church we visited played invigorating Christian music and a pastor who was more passionate about speaking of the love of Jesus and His power to transform lives, and nothing about shame or guilt. This immediately grabbed my attention, considering what I had experienced the previous 10 years.

THE REAL JESUS

Growing up, my family had not prayed for anything other than our food before dinner, sometimes not even then. Our prayers, however, were not directed at Christ, but God—and I never really knew who the God was I was praying to. He was the one we prayed to, sure, but there was nothing personal about Him. That was the main difference between the anonymous God that I grew up not taking seriously and this Jesus Christ of the Bible… I had never understood Him, nor had I cared to. Now that Jesus’s true nature was being revealed to me through this new church and my Christian friend, I was beginning to see not a religion with rules and rituals, but a man with morals, humility, feelings, intentions, thoughts, experiences, integrity—and Lordship. But it wasn’t so much the Lordship of Christ that drew me in at the beginning as much as His humanity.

“Yes,” I told my friend. I didn’t know exactly what I was getting into, but I wasn’t signing any contracts or giving away my social security number. I was going to discover more of who Jesus was, and go from there.

WITNESSING JESUS’S IMPACT

Nothing happened right away. Faith came in gradual steps and moments; conversations, Bible studies, questions and answers, prayer, and time spent getting to know the stories of the Bible with more context. I had never even known there were “translations” of the Bible and that certain translations made the Bible easier to follow without changing the meaning or significance of a single story inside. That intrigued me. When my Christian friend (and my roommate at the time) helped me find a Bible translation which was easier for me to read (It was the NIV at the time), he also helped explain what I was reading based on Bible studies he’d had with spiritual mentors of his own. His stories were insightful and sometimes playful and funny. I could see my friend had developed a healthy relationship with Jesus, and so his genuine mix of humility and confidence were striking. My thoughts became, “Is this what it’s like to know Jesus?” The anger of my previous 10 years was beginning to subside, and a deeper-rooted understanding was taking its place. I was beginning to realize that the message about the Bible that I thought I knew as an atheist was either based on distortions I had gathered along the way, or they were assumptions I’d made based on the limited scope of an understanding of the stories I had read with people focused more on guilt, shame, and repentance than on love, mercy, forgiveness, and healing.

MORALITY AND LUST

Like I mentioned in Part 1, I turned to lust when all else failed to soothe my pain. When I learned about Jesus and His integrity, as well as His teachings, I came to realize that the way I was desiring women was very misplaced. Not so much that I viewed them as sexual objects, but I viewed women as though they were the solution to my problems; my emotional problems. With Jesus, I learned faith is the solution to a dead life. When I applied what this meant to my life, many things changed. One of the changes was that I recognized the way God loved women through Jesus, and that there was a call to love women the way Jesus loved the church (community of believers). This image of love was inviting, and clearly more healthy than my approach had been. It was a beautiful picture of what love should look like, and it was a reality I wanted to embrace as my own. That meant changing my thinking, my motives, and my perspective of pain and solutions.

This helped me, tremendously, to appreciate and admire women more than need them. While God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone,” (Genesis 2:18) He did not add that man is incomplete without a woman. To me, that meant that God wanted us to have companionship, but He wasn’t suggesting that man needed a woman in order to be complete. Again, all of this changed my view of women—whereas before they were the solution to my pain, now they were people who I respected, admired, and wanted to see more with the eyes of God.

HEALING FATHER WOUNDS

When I first brought up my new faith to my dad, he too had found Christianity from another church in Michigan. I was shocked and pleased, because for the first time in my entire life, we related to something meaningful and intrinsic. Also, for the longest time, my dad and I didn’t really speak for more than once every few months. But that changed to once every couple of weeks during my slow transition into becoming Christian. I wanted to know that my dad had Jesus, and I wanted to develop an emotionally deep relationship with him in ways we had missed out on during my adolescence. Over the course of almost 8 years, we have come a long way, and we are much closer now than we ever were before I left Michigan to go to college.

A SON’S LOVE FOR HIS MOTHER

While growing up, I had looked up to my mom like a god because she was authoritarian, strict, and always seemingly knowledgeable. When I found Christ, I realized how powerless my mom had always been. Her emotional outbursts also became crystal clear to me; she hadn’t been upset because of me, but because of separate issues from far before I ever came along. When I grasped this truth, a weight was lifted off my shoulders, and instead of continuing to feel sorry for myself, I prayed that God would lift the weight off of her shoulders as well. My faith has also enabled me to see my mom in a healthier way, loving her where she is in every aspect of her life, rather than feeling tormented by our differences.

I’ve prayed, so many times, for Him to show Himself to her in a way that would soften her heart and help her to see, feel, and intimately experience His love for her in a way she couldn’t miss. Up to this day, I continue to pray. She has a stubborn heart, and I love her, truly and deeply for it. I continue imagining how much glory to God she would give if she aimed that stubbornness in the direction of passionately evangelizing about the love of Christ in her life.

THE BLESSING OF INNER-TRANSFORMATION

After learning that Jesus was a wise, personal, loving, intelligent, spiritual, knowledgeable man with incredible insight and presence, I had to know more. What I can tell you is the more I’ve discovered, the more I can’t help but want more.

Ultimately, the pain I experienced that led me to my bathtub so many years ago has been replaced with a hope I can finally explain. I know Jesus is real because I’ve spoken with Him, experienced Him, and I continue to pursue my faith in Him because I understand now that He was working in me all along. I truly believe His love was pouring into my heart when I tried to kill myself and that that was what drew me from the water; that His hand scooping me out was His response to my screams for a reason not to die. I believe He didn’t want to lose me then, and that He doesn’t want to lose me now. I truly believe the divorce was His way of asking me to take faith seriously and to find Him in a way that would ensure I wasn’t “following the crowd,” but rather, choosing Him on my own accord.

Sometimes we find ourselves asking Him, “Couldn’t you have done that a little less drastically?” But, really, who are we to question God’s motives? If He can align all that is needed to maintain the universe from imploding or exploding, does He not also have the strength and foresight to know what we need and how we need it in order to mold us into our best selves? Would we really claim that we know any better?

THE NATURE OF CHRISTIANITY

Being a Christian doesn’t mean a person is perfect, and it doesn’t mean that a person knows everything. To me, being a Christian means putting my relationship with Jesus first and seeking Him when I forget to do that. Being a Christian means humbly pursuing Him and coming back to Him when I lose track of that pursuit. Christians are not perfect people who have decided to stop pursuing a life of denial, nor do we think we’re perfect because of our decision to accept Jesus; Christians are sinners who recognize their sin and acknowledge their need for a Messiah capable of and willing to extend mercy, grace, and love through sacrificing Himself in order to prevent us from experiencing the eternal judgment that we actually deserve.

THE POWER OF MERCY

This may be new for some of you, so please feel free to leave your thoughts in comments below if you have a different perspective which you would like to share. The way I view this is, we are all sinners—that is, we would all fall short of our purpose in Christ if we did not have Jesus’s mercy, and therefore no one would deserve anything but the consequence for their actions. However, because of Jesus’ mercy on us, His mercy says, “You’ve sinned, and it requires a debt (a consequence). But because I love you, I’ve taken your punishment upon myself and paid, with my life, the debt which you originally owed me. Now, you don’t have to worry about paying me back. Go and love others, living in the joy of knowing that you are debt-free.” That, to me, is mercy.

We can extend mercy to others on behalf of the mercy we receive from God through Jesus, but mercy requires forgiveness, grace, and love—and we do not have this power without God first extending it to us. I believe this is one of the fundamental differences between Christianity and any other faith. This is another massive part of the reason Christianity drew me in and continues to do so today.

A NEW JOY AND HOPE

I still fall and make mistakes constantly. But I believe what is important, both for me and any person willing to follow Jesus wholeheartedly, is that we can seek refuge in Him (Psalm 119:114) who has already experienced our consequence for us. We need to ask for His strength to move us to action, and to continually replenish our souls with hope and joy. To me, this is no longer cliché, because I’ve experienced what having faith in Jesus feels like in my mind, soul, and body. 

If you have not experienced this, I hope and pray that by reading my testimony, you will feel encouraged to open yourself to Jesus and experiencing the fullness that comes with living in relationship with Him. Truly, faith in Jesus changes everything from the inside out: Our perspective of pain, our view of purpose in life, the meaning of everything large and small, and not needing to have all the answers.

MADE NEW IN CHRIST

After all that I’ve been through, Jesus words, “I am making all things new,” makes so much sense to me now. He made me new, starting at a soul level by giving me a purpose (writing). He made my relationship with my father new by connecting us through our faith; he made my relationship with my mom new by clarifying that only He is God—and by placing the desire in my heart for her to know His love the way I have come to know it. He even renewed my desire for love by providing the healthiest way to view women through His own eyes. I cannot imagine my life now without Jesus having intervened when He did. I was ready to die, but now I’m ready to live. So, without a doubt:

Trust Him, listen to him, love him, choose Him, and continually pray (speak) to Him. He will never forsake you.

LET’S CONNECT

If you resonated with what you read in this article and would like to read more, please follow this blog, and please share this with anyone. You may also find me my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog 2017, Twitter at LPBlog2017, Instagram at LPBlog2017, Pinterest at Lance Price Blog 2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017. Please feel free to leave your thoughts or any questions you may have in the comments below. May God meet you where you are and affirm you in ways you never imagined before. In Jesus name!

Heal

The Significance Of Pain

The shock of trauma is the deadliest lie about pain, influencing the idea that pain is to be associated with fear. Where setting the surface of our skin on fire feels atrociously unpleasant, it teaches us not to do what led our skin to be caught on fire ever again. In this one sense, the existence and experience of pain is made purposeful, though excruciating. Likewise, the modern fallacy that pain is bad is exhaustively misguided by the preemptive decision to connote the message of threat to the experience of pain, marking it as meaningless and morbid. If pain is truly without purpose and therefore unnecessary, then what is to be explained of people’s opportunistic chances to learn from their most painful experiences?

Why write about this? If we continue to view pain as an obstacle to overcome rather than a tool to utilize, we will forever resist what was meant to help us develop into stronger, pertinacious individuals; remaining cantankerous in the face of challenge and childish in the absence of maturity. In this article, I will reiterate an approach to pain that I hope you will find helpful and indicative of a healthier response to our multifarious circumstances.

THE ROOT OF HEARTBREAK

Heartbreak is a form of pain, and it is also an opportunity to leave an otherwise potentially noxious relationship. Sometimes separation happens when we least expect it, whereas other times it doesn’t happen soon enough. The excruciation of heartbreak operates in the same way as catching on fire; instead of standing still and burning, we move and extinguish the flames before permanent damage is incurred. In this way, heartbreak tends to project the notion that we were meant to live alone, that we aren’t worth loving, or perhaps that the love we project is dangerous for someone else—leading us to believe we are incapable of loving others properly and convinced our perception of love is so convoluted as to be warped with no hope of redirection. These are the emotional “flames” of heartbreak. How does one extinguish these flames?

Well, first off, we need to acknowledge those thoughts written above are all fallacies, of course, rooted in the fear birthed from a lack of feeling like we belong anywhere. Since the fear of being unlovable or of being incapable of loving others occurs in our first relationships, we know our fear is rooted in family. 

FAMILIAL EMANCIPATION AND THE MEANING OF “HOME-LESSNESS”

For the first ten years of my life, my family introduced me to movie nights or TV show-marathons on Fridays, outdoor fun on Saturdays, Catholic church on Sunday mornings, and playing ball outside on weekday nights; it was either the American Dream, or it was my idyllic fantasy of a perfect life before I was aware of such a phrase. As many of you know, my parents divorced when I was 11. That familial schism caused such a traumatic ripple effect that it literally sent all of my three siblings (I am the youngest of four) to three different states, each at their own time. While I’m sure personal endeavors at least partially inspired my siblings to their distant locations (college was among those inspirations for the oldest two), what is more telling is how they didn’t came back for more than holiday visits.

They say home is where the heart is, and while many young adults do in fact move out of their parents house when they are old enough and can afford an independent living—not every grown-up child intentionally moves out-of-state, far away from their parents and maintains that geographical distance long-term. That is the story of my family however, and indeed, that is also a big picture view of the effects of divorce. 

Needless to say, the experience of that trauma led me to believe that there was something wrong about me, or about life as a whole, that it would include the agony that I came to experience so soon after the divorce. What happened to me emotionally after the divorce is nothing shy of what happens to every boy when he loses the confidence in his parents’ love for him: He looks for it elsewhere, all the while sure that he is unworthy of it because his own parents couldn’t extend it in a way more palpable than separation and the ambiguities of “what it all means” when everything is finalized.

Divorce “breaks the rules” of a healthy home life, debilitating the image of a stabilized family regimen and disparaging the emotional security of what it means for a home to be home. Having two homes is not better than one when you must acclimate on an exhausting weekly basis to actively participate as a sentient constituent of two households, two very different and distinct ways of living, and two very opposite family dynamics. All of my teen years were spent trying to be the right kind of son to two very different parents in very different home lives. And that is why home, for me, post-divorce, completely lost its definition altogether. What happened to me next propelled me to understand what it means to need to know why we as humans are alive.

ELONGATED SUFFERING

The pain of my parents’ divorce led me to attempt suicide multiple times, which stirred tension namely for my mom. I discovered creative ways to employ pain on myself; I felt I deserved to bleed if I deserved to experience such excruciating pain such as divorce, so I would cut myself and watch the blood trickle out. Those experiences left scars that remind me of a time when I truly experienced the reality of self-loathing and the most extreme convolutions of detachment. My view was that if there was a loving God, He wouldn’t allow such pain to come to exist. That, still even today, is among the most prominent of arguments for atheists who disbelieve in an all-loving God as described in the Bible. I can speak with extraordinary empathy for each and every atheist for that matter because I used to be one. And the reason I am no longer an atheist is because of what I discovered through experience, time, insistence, intention, and the unstoppable urge to find answers to intrinsic questions that left me threatening myself once again with suicide if I couldn’t find the answers. 

THE UNSTOPPABLE URGE TO DISCOVER MEANING

Years of inner torment would lead anyone to desire extreme outcomes. For me, those outcomes were as simple as they were extreme and possibly even morbid. Either I would discover a purpose beyond myself that provided a viable reason for me to want to live, or I would end my life with the confirmed and inarguable truth that there was nothing worth living for, breathing for, or even remotely trying for. When I was 20, I discovered I wanted to attend college to become a filmmaker since I loved movies so much. I thought the idea of becoming a filmmaker sounded cool and impressive, and it fed my ego. So I worked for one more year at the grocery store I’d worked at for four years prior to save up some money for that trip. When I finally got to move, I drove myself with my mom (who flew back to Michigan after helping get me there) down to Florida, but it wasn’t just a move to study film; it was a move away from the traumatic memories of my parents sitting me down to tell me they were getting a divorce; it was a move away from the many heartbreaks in school that ripped my heart to pieces and made me feel even more worthless inside. And most intrinsically, it was a move towards finding myself and my purpose in a place not encompassed in the atmosphere of familial agony and self-abhorrence. 

WHEN MY SOUL DISCOVERED ITSELF

After moving to Florida and far away from everything familiar, several factors hit me in the face like a cement wall:

  1. I had no idea who I was, and I was shell-shocked at how little about me I actually knew.
  2. Faith in Christ is less about knowledge, and more about empirical experience; obedience, faith, and slowing down enough to examine how God’s love works through our every-day circumstances, others in our lives, and the small blessings (i.e. the taste of food, the sound of music) as well as the bigger and possibly more obvious blessings (i.e. affording rent, having a family to come home to, etc.)–and worshipping Him for providing these blessings!
  3. My self-worth had been pulled back from my family’s influence and handed over to women for many years. In other words, I came to realize through faith in Christ how I had been associating my worth with how much women wanted me in their lives romantically (which wasn’t much, which made me all the more desperate).

I later learned after I’d moved away from Michigan how number 3 is common, and that for boys without a strong bond with their parents, basically, we take a lot of perspective of ourselves from how our parents view us and treat us, and we project that perception from our parents onto others, further ingesting others’ perception of us in the same manner we would our parents, thus associating the weight of our worth based on others’ opinions of us. When I realized this of course, I had to learn to retract my old habits to allow Jesus to help me structure in new habits; healthier perspectives that would allow me to see myself without outside influence.

All of these realizations culminated in me understanding something I never had before: When I die, I’m going to be somewhere—and where I will be will depend on the belief in my heart, and concordantly the way I live based on that belief. This meant that I had something inside me that was constantly being influenced and challenged; something deeper than character and personality, more eternal than thought and more intrinsic than emotion—in short, a soul.

WHAT IT MEANS TO DESERVE PAIN

Every time I hear the argument of pain and human suffering being a curse in life, I think of the times I cut myself because I believed I deserved it. I believed I did not deserve anything good and so cutting myself was my “rational” response to executing justice. How do I see it now? I understand where my thoughts were at the time, and I obviously disagree now, but what I see most differently is not what you might expect. I actually believe even more now that I deserve pain, but I believe that Jesus took that away when He was crucified. In dying for me, I believe He stood in the place of what I deserve for my selfish ambitions, for my lust, and for my pride. Through Him, I now believe He has taken justice for my actions into His own hands (literally nailed into them), and now I no longer have that price on my head. It was given to Jesus 100%. I have Him to be eternally grateful for every day; a reason to experience joy in every moment through faith in His life and resurrection.

THE VALUE OF PAIN

Considering this, what is the value of pain? We claim God would never allow harm to come to us if He was so loving, but how can we justify that? What kind of life would we allow our children to have if we never allowed them to walk by themselves without holding their hand to absolutely ensure they would never fall? Not only would they never reach independence, they would never truly live. What kind of life would we allow our children to live if we gave them everything they ever wanted every waking moment of their entire life? Not only would they be spoiled and feel no need to try at anything, set goals, nor put their mind and heart into a passion or hobby—they would expect the world to act the same way, and obviously that is not realistic as the world operates whether you acclimate or not. If we allow our children to fall, do they learn to get up? Of course! How else do they learn to go from crawling to walking, and from walking to running? Through repetition; trial and error. Likewise, when God allows us to experience pain, not only has He given us the freedom to know what to avoid and why to avoid it, He also opened our eyes to see what we could do instead. Pain is not a threat or a curse, it is a lesson. When we learn, we improve. How would we improve if we were never given the chance to try learning in the first place? If God always held our hand and never let us roam independently—while of course keeping His eyes on us to ensure nothing fatal would occur—we would never learn the ropes of the world, never grow adventurous or curious, and certainly we would not develop creativity or excitement for something new. When we experience pain, we learn something invaluable.

LEARNING FROM TRAUMA

In the moment, pain can be excruciating, as was my parents’ divorce for me. But since I learned about Jesus, I have come to understand things I never had before. I now understand that He was holding out His hand every time I fell down—whenever I wanted to cut myself, kill myself, write angry poetry, lust after women instead of Him, or live selfishly instead of seeking something meaningful in life to pursue (like loving others through Jesus)—and it was me who never reached back out and grabbed His out-stretched hand. 

The most important thing I’ve learned that applies to me about my parents’ divorce is that their marriage ending doesn’t define my present or my future, and so it doesn’t define me. My response to what happens to me defines me, and even more so, my faith defines me. Jesus defines me. Everything I’ve experienced and learned from has led me here, to this blog. Here, writing gives me one a way (of many) to use my pain to help others like you.

See, I experienced pain I would never want others to experience, but I believe pain is not a curse, but a blessing; a tool, if you will. If I had never experienced the pain that I did, why would I want to help anyone based on what I learned from it? How would Jesus have shown Himself to me if everything was always as idyllic as it had been?

I write this article to encourage you to look at pain and recognize it with a different perspective. We never “defeat pain,” we merely recognize it’s there and apply ourselves to what must be taken away from our experience. Through Christ, all things are made new. If my parents’ debilitating divorce didn’t ruin me, then the trauma you have experienced can help you to help others through Christ also. We can come to see how God works through suffering by understanding the purpose of pain is not to hinder us or to destroy us, but to develop our sense of reality and to teach us to live more boldly, confidently, and with a more sincere, genuine intent to help others who are suffering in their lives. 

THERE IS HOPE

I hope that in reading this, you can understand that pain is not something you need to hide from, but something to embrace:

(John 16:33 MSG) “I’ve told you all of this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”

If you resonated with this article and would like to read more, please follow this blog, and please share this with anyone. You may also find me my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog 2017, Twitter at LPBlog2017, Instagram at LPBlog2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017. If you have any questions or thoughts, please share them with me in the comments below. May God bless you today!

Reminiscence: The Power Of Testimony

As we entered 2017, I rediscovered a song by one of my favorite rock artists, Red, called “Take Me Over”, from their album Of Beauty and Rage. As I listened, I found memories flooding through me—reminders of where I’ve come in my journey as a believer in Christ, and how, at first, I didn’t take my faith very seriously. Not all that different from dipping your toes in the pool to test the temperature, and then questioning the jump. Through reminiscence, I want to share myself with you in the hopes that, through reflection and testimony, I can meet you where you are, where you may have been, or where you may want to go.

My faith, starting off about six and a half years ago, commenced with uncertainty and skepticism, dubious about what I was getting into and ascertaining the Christian faith made sense before completely committing myself to applying what faith meant: Fully embracing a relationship with Jesus as Lord. At first, honestly, I was curious but simultaneously critical. As an atheist, I was about to leave disbelief behind and accept an invitation to a world most of society lambasted as fallacious and cynical; a religion, so it seemed, that I had been raised around but had never accepted into my heart. Many people looked down on (or were puzzled by) believers for embracing Christ as Lord, openly with faith, rather than only admitting to Christ as a man. I was one of the puzzled bystanders, at one time.

On top of skepticism and doubt was my ever-reductionist perspectives of Jesus and God: He was still fairly one-dimensional to someone like me, someone who, encountering faith as an onlooker while hesitantly inching closer to hear more of the story—took some time to unveil the clandestine Jesus not accurately or effectively described in religion, but described by those walking with Him in intimate relationship; delineating Christ with substance, color, warmth, and reality—truly helping me understand Him relationally and not just knowledgeably.

According to me and my atheism, anyone who believed in a higher power was giving up their ability to live life without concerns (I now understand that belief to be morally indignant). What I would later learn through humility and consequent understanding of the person of Christ through Scripture, Christian friends, and prayer, was that my resistance to surrendering my life to live for Christ clashed with His command to love others who seem to hate us back, and the claim that He was a just, loving God at a time when everything in my life was falling apart; which obviously didn’t seem to align with that claim.

An atheist isn’t ostracized by secularized society because their thinking coincides in believing everything metaphysical or spiritual in life just happens the way it does because it does (despite their disbelief in spirituality altogether). Secularized society also relates to the atheist more than the Christ-follower in their definition of and justification for morality, explaining that they know right from wrong by “what feels right”. The fallibility of this argument, as I would come to understand during my time of learning about Christianity, is that there is no basis for such a belief; morality cannot be singularized to the individual because the individual has nothing firm on which to instill their self-defined moral compass. In other words, unbelievers claiming to feel they know what is right versus wrong categorize morality in terms of emotion (see Timothy Keller’s Reason For God). However, since morality isn’t founded on emotion, but rather on the soul, this argument falls weightless. Believers accept the Ten Commandments, as well as the complementary (and conglomerative) Golden Rule, therefore the believer’s basis of belief is planted in acknowledging God’s sovereign, divine will above their own. In this belief, morality is set above humanity; transcendent, if you will, and therefore it cannot “just be known” (innate morality) without acknowledging the source of our moral compass—God—and getting to know Him in order to understand better how the Bible calls us to live and act in a morally righteous way.

As for the secularized worldview of unbelievers not interested in explaining nor fully understanding the mysteries of spirituality in the world, and thus choosing to deny spirituality altogether—I didn’t search for an explanation for the way the world worked until after my parents divorced. For me, the world was perfect as is up until then. Their divorce turned everything upside down, including my naivety in seeing the world as some perfect place to feel safe in.

With regard to my drastic spiritual perspective shift after my parents divorce, I think an excerpt by C.S. Lewis’s from Mere Christianity says it best:

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of “just” and “unjust”? … What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too—for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fantasies… Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple.”

Like Lewis, my parents’ divorce, and every event which ensued—my only brother moving out, my mom moving out, each family member dealing with pain and suffering uniquely and differently; entering middle school from elementary school, feeling the condemnation of my family and students at school for not believing in God—seemed extremely “cruel and unjust” to a young mindset like my own. I couldn’t find the idea of God as legitimate in any of my misery. Denying God’s love and very existence was a commensurate response to a childhood not founded on faith, followed by events too threatening to a heart like mine, and at a time when nothing appeared to be pointing me towards Him, but towards the need for closure I ended up discovering through lust. I wouldn’t receive C.S. Lewis’s wisdom for myself until years later.

Right after the divorce, I felt dead inside in a way I didn’t know was even possible up to my 12th year of life. See, as a child with married parents (who appeared to be alright), I had been so filled with bliss that I was a giddy. I was the first kid running outside right after dinner finished to play ball, and I was the one excited to watch a movie with the family later on every weekend. I was hyper, cheerful, and satisfied; but naive, shielded, and not made aware of the importance of faith in Jesus. When their divorce hit, the shock imploded on me like an earthquake, minimizing my worth and my passion for life as a child. Ultimately, the stronghold of agnosticism transmuted into atheism, confiscating the home of my reason, logic, and mental health; dilapidating all the cheeriness, hyperactivity, and giddiness—which then became quiet pensiveness, darkness of thought, and eventually suicidal tendencies. During my darker years, I picked up the habit of lifting weights at school to land my rage in something tangible. I listened to Korn because I was constantly feeling hurt or angry, and I needed the validation. Those dark, raging emotions never left. Disbelief became my identity, and I didn’t try to understand the misconstrued idea of a loving God, or Jesus. They were lost characters in a book too old to worry about until I was 22.

Listening Red’s “Take Me Over” reminded me of where I come from, how at one point I begged for death and thought of nothing else but death, but now I feel inspired to remember that I’m far from where I was back then; disbelieving in God, hating myself, everything in my life and this world. The song encouraged me to continue to desire Christ because He is my Rock, my stability, my Lord, my best friend, and my God. His love endured through my most painful years and met me at college in Florida where He helped me see that my story wouldn’t end in disbelief. Through friends, church, prayer, support, and encouragement, faith became my life, and I never let go.

Faith, not religion, is my answer to pain now. I will never forget where I come from, and I think that’s healthy because my testimony is that much stronger now: I started off without Jesus, officially denied Him when my life revealed its depravity of suffering and pain… then Jesus opened my eyes to see His reality, and His reality is glorious, perfect, beautiful, and worthy of surrender and hope. My hope is in Him, because where it was—life as only “happy” when seeking relationship to ease my pain, putting pressure on girls to fill God’s role in my life—that wasn’t my purpose, and that isn’t humanity’s purpose. My old mentality and lifestyle didn’t prove to be a life at all because it didn’t offer any form of hope. No more can money buy happiness than can hedonism and narcissism feed a person the reason and passion to truly live. I learned this after years of pursuing idols (music, lust, movies, and social acceptance from people ultimately not worthy of that effort), and seeing the reality of Jesus through the actions of others; through prayers answered right in front of me, through feeling my own transformation from the inside, and amazingly—witnessing my story of conversion inspire and encourage others.

I’ve written this before, but this is why I have a blog—in hopes that maybe you’ll relate to my past, my history, maybe even just one aspect of it—or perhaps, of the traumas I’ve experienced, you have suffered one or more in your own way. I believe what matters is not what we go through, but how we respond to our circumstances. More importantly, what matters is who we believe is behind the scenes of our pain, and whether or not they have the power and the love to help us learn, heal, and grow from those experiences. The divorce nearly killed me—but it didn’t. I didn’t believe in God, but I do now, and I believe in Jesus as Lord. I would never have thought I would say that in my teens. But this is my life now, and I wouldn’t exchange it for anything.

How do you see your traumas in life? Have they become your identity, or have you been looking for something bigger than yourself or your adversities to find your identity in? Perhaps you’ve tried putting all of your hope in yourself; but you won’t last on your own. We all need something stronger than ourselves to get through the chaos of life, and numbing ourselves through stoicism isn’t strength, but muted agony. We need strength through hope and love, which derives not of ourselves, but through the eternity promised us in Christ’s resurrection.

I thought I would include some of the song’s which inspired me to start this post, maybe you’ll find something relevant in the words for you as well:

RED‘s “Take Me Over” (Album: Of Beauty and Rage)

Find my life ahead–
Oh I don’t know, I don’t know where…
But, I’m starting on my way—
Will you meet me, will you meet me there?
Echoes in the night…
Like a melody is haunting me…
But then I meet your eyes—
With the fire of a rising sun—
I am standing on the edge:
Take me over, take me over!

See how fast this life can change!
Take me further, lead me further–
Do you believe a life can change?
Take me over, Take me over!…

I heard these lyrics and they reminded me of my desires to know Jesus, and why I want that. I don’t know what His plan is, but I know I am passionate to know Him and to follow Him. When I meet Him in my heart, I am already standing on the edge of life, and my desire is for Him to take me beyond my hopes and fears and into His desires for me. My life changed because of Jesus, and now I just want Him to live through me. I want Him to take me over, encompass my mind and heart, and bless others through His works in me. I am only a vessel (2 Timothy 2:21); my life isn’t mine, my story belongs to Him.

I hope you will find encouragement and inspiration in my words; a reason to consider faith in the ambush of chaos in life. God loves you, and He will show you His love and His healing power if you will ask and have faith in what He can do. I had to put forward faith before I was really able to see the way Jesus worked in my life, but once I did, I find that my eyes cannot look away. My prayer is that you will try to put hope where you haven’t before in faith that Jesus will be there waiting to reveal Himself to a humble, curious heart. And once you see what I’ve come to see, may your eyes never depart from experiencing His grace and love opening the path before you, showing you towards the hope of Heaven.

To read more, please follow this blog. You may also find me my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog, Twitter at LancePrice2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017. Please feel free to share this with anyone you think would benefit, and feel free to write in the comments below–I would love to hear from you! God bless you!!

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