Story: My story, part three (the best decision I ever made)
I moved away from home for fun, adventure, and some space to redefine myself. But more than anything I wanted freedom. One of the reasons I was so excited to move to San Diego when I was a teenager was that Tijuana is just a few minutes away and the drinking age there is only 18. I didn’t have much of a rebellion during high school, so apparently I decided to have one after I left home. My friends and I would go to TJ (as we called it) for cheap beer and tequila and to meet teenage girls from San Diego who were just as drunk as we were.
One particular night I started off the wrong way. The first bar we walked into had $5 buckets of Tecate beer. They gave you six bottles of beer in a metal bucket filled with ice. You just wandered around carrying your bucket like a little kid at the beach with his shovel and pail.
One of the evils of alcohol that no one seems to acknowledge is that your judgment declines with each drink. So even if your plan was to pace yourself or stop after a certain amount of alcohol, by the time you have reached that point you are no longer thinking clearly enough to stick to the plan.
That night I was escorted out of one club. I used my street Spanish to call the bouncer a four-letter word and almost got the Tecate beaten out of me. Later that night I had to bribe a police officer with $20 to avoid being arrested for urinating in a parking lot. By the time we were in a cab heading back to San Diego, the whole world was spinning and the fun was over. My buddies in the back seat thought I was hilarious until I started throwing up out the window and it was blowing back into the cab on them. I think that hangover lasted a couple days. Those guys didn’t talk to me for a week.
I laugh about this 26 years later, but these aren’t the kinds of stories we want to amass and share with family and friends. I cringe just recalling the details of that embarrassing night. I wish it was the only one.
But God had a different plan for me (and He has a different plan for you, by the way). In retrospect, I can see His hand of grace moving in and around my life to guide me to Himself. It’s nearly impossible for me to explain in human terms how I ended up at Point Loma Nazarene College: an agnostic exploring Rastafarianism (mostly for the pot) and Buddhism, an antagonist toward “those blind Christians”, attending an evangelical, Christ-centered college, submitting myself to chapel and Bible classes, and surrounding myself with the very people I pitied for their narrow-mindedness. Only the God of the universe could have orchestrated such a crazy and miraculous rescue mission.
Like the drunken me in TJ, I didn’t have the capacity to see clearly and make good decisions on my own behalf. I was lost and needed a divine search and rescue before I died from exposure. And that’s exactly what the Lord did.
For the first couple of years at PLNC, I only associated with likeminded people. I found other students who saw Christianity the way I did, and wanted to have some fun. Of course, by “fun” I meant alcohol or drugs had to be involved. And preferably sex. I saw these naïve young church kids having ice cream socials and watching The Princess Bride in their pajamas and I was sure they had been duped into giving up the best that life had to offer.
But over the summer before my super-senior year (I managed to squeeze 4 years of college into only 5 ½ years!), I began to realize that I was not becoming the person I had envisioned I would be. In fact, I was actually becoming something I abhorred. I was becoming the kind of person I disdained and avoided: dishonest, completely self-absorbed, unreliable and untrustworthy, and unable to walk away from alcohol on my own (I had successfully avoided drugs for several months by then).
So I made some decisions that summer that set in motion God’s phase II plan for my life. I asked my live-in girlfriend to move out and I stopped seeing her. And when I returned to campus in the fall I intentionally sought out a new set of friends, people who had a clear walk with Christ. We spent months camping and hiking all the while talking about Christianity and other faiths. They patiently fielded my toughest questions, pointing me back to Scripture when possible and honestly confessing ignorance when they didn’t have the answers. Through the faithful witness of believing students and faculty, including my science advisor, I made the choice to follow Christ. That was 20 years ago this month (December 1994), and while I still don’t have all the answers, I haven’t regretted a single day of it.
Take-home point: God wants to write a new story for your life. Will you let Him?
Take-home verse: 1 Peter 3:15
Questions for thought
Do you have more embarrassing stories than ones you’re proud of? Get them out on paper or share them with your significant other. It’s a remarkably cleansing process. Then be determined to start over, to build a new legacy of stories worth telling.
What is the trajectory of your life’s story? If you could somehow put it on a graph and predict out 10, 20, 30 years from now, where does it take you?
If you’re a Christian, how did you come to know and trust Christ? Were there certain people who shared their lives with you? Was it a parent or sibling or friend? If you can’t remember a time without the Lord, at what point did you make your faith your own? In other words, when did you choose for yourself that you believed the claims of the Bible and accept Jesus into your life?
Lord God, we can’t thank you enough for having a plan to redeem us from our sinful, self-destructive tendencies. Even if we never rebelled in any obvious way, without you guiding us our lives would be a total loss. We want our stories to matter, to count for eternity. We want our story to be your story. May we let you lead us into a better story. In Jesus’ holy name, amen.