There were two traumatic events that impacted my life...
The first occurred at the age of 7 when I heard multiple loud bangs that sounded like loud firecrackers right outside my home. When I looked through the living room window to see the fireworks, I didn’t see fireworks but instead I saw a man lying dead on the floor after being shot 10 times. My parents tried to keep me from looking out the window but curiosity sent me to my room to find another window to stare through. The second event occurred when I was about 12 years old when my parents got divorced. I was very close to my father growing up so when it happened it was confusing; it was surreal.
By the age of 15 I started experimenting with alcohol and drugs. I started missing school and getting into fights. I was angry that we didn't have money like other families while having to experience several evictions. I was angry that we had to wear hand-me downs from my mother’s church while other kids would make fun of us at school. I was angry that my father wasn’t living with us yet my friend’s father’s lived with them. The consequences of my actions led to my expulsion from all of Miami-Dade County schools.
By the age of 18 my relationship with my father had grown apart to the point where he had lost all influence in my life. I had made friends with the older men in the neighborhood who had money, women, power, respect, etc.. and decided to join a gang who would be the family I longed for. My life went down a violent road that brought death knocking at my door several times.
On the streets I was known as “Suicidal Crazy”... a name that was given to me because of the reckless way I lived life. I felt hopeless, feared nothing, and was angry at everything; especially God. I had made several enemies on the streets including local law enforcement officials. The result of this lifestyle led to several arrests including the last one where I was charged with 7 felonies and was facing a minimum of 15 years in prison.
In retrospect, I believe that during these difficult times of my life God was always with me, protecting me from imminent destruction although I deserved it. This isn't only true of the times I stared down the barrel of a gun, or the times I was shot at and miraculously never hit, but also that day in the courtroom when my lawyer told me I had no hope of getting out of jail. My lawyer had advised me to prepare to have my bond revoked (which means that I would have to remain incarcerated until case went to trial or I accepted a plea bargain) and to be prepared to face prison time for my charges. Needless to say, I was allowed to get out of jail on bond and also had some of my charges dropped to only facing 3 felonies where I received probation and not prison time. My due recompense should have been prison and death but God showed me great mercy and had a different plan for me.
Afterwards, I still felt a sense of dissatisfaction and emptiness as I questioned whether or not that life that I was placing all of my hope in would bring me the satisfaction I longed for. I began to question and search for answers even in the Bible I once scorned. During this time of my life I was still using drugs and partying, but there was something about a particular verse in scripture (Revelation 21:4) that captivated me because it spoke of the future hope I longed for. This verse was so hopeful to me that I ended up tattooing it on my forearm as a reminder of what God had for me in the future. I believe during this period of my life God was revealing the gospel to me. Even though I was not in church and wanted to have nothing to church, He was drawing me to Himself with the true hope that only the gospel offers. I lived my life reckless because I believed I had no future hope but when God revealed this verse to me it was the answer to all my questions and all that I had been searching for. Kids who live reckless have no hope; others place their hope on careers, money, love, etc… All are false hopes that lead to disappointments!
"There is only one true hope that is found in the gospel."