I Shouldn’t Be Alive

There were about five years during my youth where my life should have come to an end, or at least I should have been severely hurt, many times. At the time I was blinded by immaturity and bravado, I never even noticed. A bruise here and there, some emotional wreckage for sure, but for the most part, that’s it. And, it wasn’t just me not getting hurt, but I didn’t kill or main anyone else either.
Looking back on it, twenty or so years removed, I am afraid. I am afraid of times that are in the past. That makes me weird I guess. It makes my stomach tie itself into a knot.
I didn’t love God in those days, and in fact much of the time I was openly hostile towards him. Why didn’t he just snuff me out and let it be over? I’m guessing it was because he had a plan to redeem me; a plan to redeem my experiences. He helped me walk through it all for his purpose and that’s all I know. His purpose is good enough.
I’ve been jumped by angry skinheads
I’ve stood in the midst of a full blown riot where people were stabbed, police cars were destroyed, and tear gas was deployed.
I endured a hell bound and drunken ride in the back of a jeep. I didn’t know the driver or anyone else in the vehicle and we were all drinking. We were on our way to score drugs, it was raining, we were pulled over by the police and inexplicably let go. We traveled in excess of 100 miles per hour much of the time and a lot of the trip was spent driving on the shoulder of the freeway. The methamphetamine that we were after was located in an eerie garage and bought from some pretty sketchy dudes. The situation strongly resembled the scene from the movie Training Day where Ethan Hawk interacts with those crazy Mexican gangster guys (that scene still freaks me out). Guns were pulled and words were exchanged, but thankfully everyone walked away. Oh, and I was 15 at the time…and a homeless runaway.
I stood in the midst of some notoriously mean guys, whom had caught me red handed stealing from them, and who I found out later were planning to kill me. For some reason they didn’t. I casually walked away and have never seen them since.
I spent over a year in juvenile detention, watching daily fights all around me, and barely had an incident.
I sat in a room full of strung-out druggies after they had stolen an arsenal of firearms. I watched a bullet skid across the floor and into the wall after one of them accidentally fired a shot from a Desert Eagle handgun. It missed everyone in the crowded room.
I’ve burglarized houses when the owners were home, stolen cars, been homeless and slept on the roof of my high school auto shop. I ran a bootleg cigarette business at 15, dealing with the shadiest types of people. I ingested more drugs than I can remember of every type and description, with nary a side affect. I stole from friends and strangers alike. I supported my self for six months once by “donating” blood plasma for 35 bucks a week and sleeping on a friends dirty futon. I sat in a ditch with the barrel of a cocked pistol in my mouth, but was too afraid to pull the trigger.
The stories go on and on, but hopefully you get the picture. They’re not unique or original, in fact they’re probably mild compared to some people, but these ones are mine. It’s chapters in my story, it’s what I’ve lived through.
I need to stress that I have never been tough, never a fighter or a cool guy. I was never all that streetwise or clever either, all this happened before I was even 20 years old. I am not special or unique, just a guy, regular you could say. Some might call it luck but I choose to see my Heavenly Father at work.
I fear telling the tales because it wasn’t cool. Even at the time it was dehumanizing, but I blocked it out with drugs while I was using or youthful ignorance when I was clean. It was a few years of staring at the bottom of an ugly barrel, over and over again
The only reason to bring any of it up is to glorify my Savior. He was there when no other father was, interceding on my behalf. His divine hand moved the pieces on the game board and protected me from things that I’ve seen others not escape. I could not see it at the time and would not have understood or appreciated it if I had.
In April of next year it will have been 20 years since I have taken any illegal drugs. While I did attend years of 12-step meetings, I haven’t been to one in over a decade, the impulse to reenter that world is completely gone. Again, evidence of my Father invading my circumstance.
What does all this mean? I believe it firmly plants a responsibility on my shoulders. When I came to Jesus he revealed a purpose and direction for my life. He gave me a heart to love people that had been missing or broken before. In the moment of my salvation (which is one heck of a story on its own) I knew that I had to “chase after His mission” from that point on. I wasn’t saved to be comfortable or quiet, not at all. I was rescued to tell people about Gods amazing grace. It’s not a “want to”, it’s a “need to” kind of thing. It’s ingrained in my soul and written on my heart. At the moment it’s in prisons, tomorrow it may be in board rooms, I don’t care where it happens so long as I get to participate.
I shouldn’t be alive, but I am, and I will honor that gift as best I can.

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