My Loser, Cowardly Self!
This is going to be the longest post I have written yet, but I think it will encourage some of you who might be going through similar battles.
In October (2018) I had a book event in Fort Worth and on my way home, just a few minutes down the road from the event, I witnessed the aftermath, you could say, of a car accident. I didn’t see much, but it was more of what I heard that sent my mind railing with an onslaught of thoughts. Let me give you a little back story of my personal struggle, God’s redemption, and regular spiritual attack.
I spent one enlistment in the Air Force as a Security Forces member (basically a cop) from 2004 to 2008. Around 2007 I was deployed in Iraq and manning the flight line. It wasn’t all that dangerous -unless the bad guys got past the army guarding the outer perimeter of the base, but that never happened, thankfully. I don’t remember the actual day, but I remember the events of those few moments. They were a defining part of my life for years. My partner on post and I were sitting in our patrol vehicle (a truck used to drive around the flight line), and one of the flight crew raced over to us, telling us that one of their co-workers had been injured, so we rush over to where the injured guy was. He had slipped off of the back of his vehicle, hitting his head on the way down. His counterparts were already performing “self-aid buddy care”. They had the self-aid buddy care book out and were following all of the direction in bandaging him up….and…. I…. just…. stood there. I didn’t know what to do. I saw the guys bandaging their buddy, and I kind of just froze, unsure of what to do. Another of the flight crew suggested that we have the street duster (those giant vehicles that brush away and clean up the dirt on the road) shut down so the wound wouldn’t get contaminated with dirt, after all…it was the desert. My flight chief showed up a few minutes later, and I got in trouble for not taking charge and taking over the bandaging. I used the excuse to my partner that they seemed to be doing a well enough job of it on their own, but in truth, I just didn’t know what to do…you could say that I froze in second-guessing myself.
So, let’s fast forward to 2008 when I had finally gotten out of the military. I was back in my hometown, Abilene Texas. I had been dealing with the fact that I couldn’t help the guy because I was so unsure of what to do. I really didn’t like myself because of it. Now…don't get me wrong…I have always liked who I am, but at that time, I didn’t really like at least that aspect of myself. You see since that day, I had been viewing myself as a complete coward, and I didn’t like the fact that I was a total and utter coward. I had always thought how cool it would be to be part of an elite black ops team that runs headlong into certain death, yet coming out unscathed because they are well…. just…. bad…. well…you get the idea. I knew from that day on that I could never be one of those awesome, cool-headed, calm in the face of danger and death guys. I hated that about me, but as I look back, it doesn’t surprise me that I would not be able to be one of those guys…. I get SUPER nervous at any sign of conflict, verbal or physical, but you would never be able to tell (usually) as I keep a calm façade. So, I had struggled with years of not liking myself – at least the fact that I was a coward – and to tell the truth…I really didn’t think that God liked me all that much.
So…. let me backtrack even further into my teenage years and very young adulthood. I had often thought that God made me the one he could be mean to. I had always thought of myself as a major loser, the nerdy kid who rode the short bus and was stupid and who even all of the resource kids made fun of…. like…. literally…the last of the last…if Jesus was the King of Kings, I was the loser of losers. When nothing seemed to go my way, and I would get a little depressed I would start thinking this way.
When I was depressed my view of God was that I was the last one on His mind on the cross, the one he saved more because he had to, not because he wanted to. Until I get to heaven, he would always have bad stuff happen to me because I was such a loser and I was the joke of humanity! I would start to think things like God only saved me because it was his “Christian” duty as God…almost like if he had to pick a handful of people not to die for…I would have been one of them. Like us, sometimes…we are only nice to some people because we know it is what God wants and we, frankly, can’t really stand the person. We could live life abundantly never ever seeing that person again our entire life. I know you know what I mean, we all have that person…. well, that’s the guy I thought I was to God.
Even in bible college, I felt like those popular students were only nice to me because it was “their Christian duty” but I was okay with not being part of the in-crowd…I had my own group of friends who did genuinely care about me….In college, I had the saying…though I really only said it to myself…..as far as losers go, I’m a pretty cool one.
Now, let’s fast forward to around seven years after college (give or take a year). I had just gotten out of the military, my divorce was finalized, and I felt like I was a total and complete failure. My marriage had failed, I no longer worked in any sort of “full-time ministry job,” and my spiritual life had plummeted (at least that was how I looked at it), so in every part of my life, I had failed. TALK ABOUT YOUR ULTIMATE FAILURE!!!
Well, right around the time I thought of myself as a complete failure and a total coward God revealed something to me. He told me that he just didn’t like me a little, but rather he delighted in me. That moment changed me forever. I remember where I was when he spoke to me. McDonald's of all places. I was on lunch break and reading one of those old testament passages that nobody likes to read because it is so boring. Technically the passage was talking specifically about the people of Israel in the old testament, however, I am a believer that all old testament statements to Israel can be attributed to modern believers in some way. I don’t even remember what the passage was. The only thing I remember is that the passage said that God delighted in his people. That phrase stuck out to me in such a magnificent way. I had never thought that God really, really, preferred me, but the idea of delight is not just a shallow feeling of maybe liking something. To me, the word “delight” means something that you enjoy so much that you can get caught up in it. That it can even consume your thoughts at times. Like me…I delight in bacon (yes, I know…. not really the same thing) but If I had my way, I would have bacon with EVERYTHING. I also think of a newlywed couple. Usually, newlyweds delight in each other so much they don’t want to spend a second apart from each other. I realized on that day that God just doesn’t like me or love me, but he WANTS to hang out with me 24/7! He prefers me! That revelation changed my life. But…I still struggled with my cowardice.
I don’t really remember the timeline, exactly, but it was after the delight revelation when God finally redeemed me of my cowardice, or at least my feeling like a complete coward. If I had to guess the timeline, the above revelation would have been somewhere around 2009 or 2010, and this next one would have been 2013 or 2014…give or take a year for both, maybe.
Anyway, years later, I had accepted the fact that I was a coward and had come to terms with that. I no longer hated that about me…yes…I wished I wasn’t a coward, and I didn’t like that about myself, but I was okay with being a coward.
A side note on how I know God compels me to do things real quick because I feel like it is important to the account. I have come to understand that when I get really nervous about doing something like telling someone a vision I have had or witnessing to someone, or giving someone a blessing, it is prodding from the holy spirit.
So, just days before God’s next revelation for me I was in the convenience store, I think paying for gas and this woman in line started yelling at this guy who was being extremely patient and kind to her. She kept on yelling, and I had that “feeling,” my stomach sank, and I began to sweat. That was God asking me to step out and ask if I could pray for the two or pray for the angry woman. I didn’t….and of course…that sent me down this spiral of feeling that I am just a total coward.
A couple days later I was ministering at the skate park in Abilene. I had been ministering there for about three or four years (give or take a year) at this point. I happened to notice a group of young men nearing the skate park, and I immediately felt that they were up to no good, so I watched these 5 guys like a hawk. I remember one of the guys confronting another patron of the skate park rather passionately. My eyes are jotting back and forth between these two and this angry youth’s counterparts. I see one of them pull out a knife. It wasn’t an ordinary knife, I thought. It seemed to be made of one piece rather than the steak knives we might have at home. The handle and all were one metal piece. He slips the knife out, showing his friend, then slips it back into his pocket. Well, my mind begins to race. I know I should stop this argument before it gets more heated, but I also knew I really couldn’t do anything. My mind raced with all of the possible scenarios…including me getting shanked!
The two combatants are getting more enraged with every second, and those seconds seemed more like minutes to me as I thought of what I knew I should do and what danger that entailed. I decided to intervene. I grabbed a couple Gatorades from my cooler and walked over to the two guys who were staring each other down and asked if they wanted a drink. They both refused, but the one who showed the knife and his friend each took one. That de-escalated the situation for mere seconds, so I tried another tactic. I went up to the two guys and asked if they wanted prayer for anything. They denied prayer, however, the instigator of the conflict backed away for just a couple minutes commenting that he can’t fight when I’m asking if he wanted prayer – or something like that, I don’t really remember that well. This only lasted mere minutes, however, and soon the argument was re-initiated and beginning to escalate even more to the point of shouting. Then God did something amazing in me. Suddenly I became emotionless. The fear that had been pulsating through me since this argument began disappeared and I did the only thing I could think of. At the top of my lungs, like I have seen in church services and t.v. shows I screamed a prayer. I bound the spirit of anger and animosity and…well…I don’t remember what else I prayed, but I remember as quickly as I was given words to pray or thought of words to pray, I lost all ability to continue, it seems, so I just stopped in mid-prayer. The moment I yelled this prayer which only lasted a few seconds the group disbanded momentarily, all freaking out how the skate park got Christianized.
I remember thinking after that that the only time I wasn’t afraid was when I was praying. Even in the aftermath, I was still full of fear. I hadn’t been shanked yet, so that was a good sign, but the conflict wasn’t over. The guys went back to arguing, and a few of us told them to leave the skate park if they were going to fight. Well, they did…they went across the street and started fighting, the one guy against the 5 or 6 of them. Now I was at another dilemma play it safe and just watch this guy get pummeled or become the snitch. I pulled my phone out and yelled at the gang that I was calling the police (I forgot to mention the knife to the police). They all took off before the cops got there. When the cops finally got there, the one guy who had been beaten by the 5 guys was still there, yet nobody…. including me mentioned that he was there. The cops left shortly after and then my hour was up, so I left too. The next week I returned to the skate park fully expecting to be shanked in retaliation for calling the cops…. I found out that day that the conflict was indeed a gang-related conflict.
I tell you that to tell you this…. That was the day that God showed me that I am not a coward. In fact, many people believe I was very courageous in just going to the skate park because the skate park had a reputation of being a rough place.
To further my belief that I am not a coward, in 2015 I took a job at a pretty rough school in Dallas. I remember after about a month or two I had a particular student who hated my guts and I was sure this student would have one of her gang friends drive by the school while I was leaving (at that time I stayed until between 7 and 10 P. M. working. I remember for a couple weeks I would take a deep breath before stepping through the threshold of that school, fully expecting to be shot as I left. After a while, I realized these students had to act tough, or they would have gotten eaten alive by their environment. I say that only to demonstrate that if I was indeed a coward, God has made me courageous.
So, now, in closing, back to this accident. I heard the crash, and when I looked around, I saw two smashed cars. I pulled up to the stop light with the truck next to me which blocked my vision of the scene, but I did see a guy get out of one of the vehicles as I pulled next to this truck. A few seconds later I see the passenger jump out with urgency then I hear a female voice scream “Ah…stop it!” then a man screaming “You had the whole light.” Well, I wanted to get out and help, but the truck was already blocking one lane of traffic, so after a few seconds, I decided to keep driving because I didn’t want to block the only other lane of traffic. I know, what is a little inconvenience compared to helping a person in danger. I thought, maybe I’ll pull over after the intersection, but as I looked over at the accident, I saw half a dozen more people running to help the girl. I also saw a female (I don’t know if it was the screamer or a passenger) crawl out of the front passenger side, then before I could scan the rest of the scene, the corner building blocked my view. I didn’t see much from my few seconds, but I saw enough to justify not stopping as there were already many people rushing to the scene. Was it cowardly of me to not ask if anyone needs help, I don’t know. I probably should have stopped to see if I could do anything or just to check if everyone was okay, but I didn’t….and that’s how my feelings of cowardice resurfaced. I don’t think I am a coward, yet I do think I could be more courageous, for sure.
Hope this novel of a post encouraged some of you. Until next month.
I briefly mentioned riding the short bus to school, but I didn’t go into much detail about it. I have more to tell you about that part of my life…it’s all about the short bus and being a resource kid…. some of you might understand what I am talking about, but for those that don’t, I will write more about that in a couple months or so.
Thanks for reading and I hope this post helps someone understand how God really sees us and how he will redeem us from our own misconceptions about ourselves.