Editors Note: This reflection was originally published in the Voices from Prison and the Edge newsletter (issue #30), a publication of the Adeodatus Prison Ministry under the Augustinian Defenders of the Rights of the Poor.
When I was young, my parents spoke to me about Jesus Christ often, but never to help me build a relationship with Him. I had no real help in understanding Christianity. We never read the Bible as a family. Church only occurred once in awhile and I did not have the patience for it. Basically, the seed was planted but I never had help growing it into a tree. By the age of 13, I gave up Christ and decided to go my own way. I began abusing drugs and alcohol, committing crimes, and severely disrespecting my mother. I was thrown out of every school they put me in, and my own mother feared me. I found myself in juvenile group homes. I remained incarcerated until I was 18. It never helped me and I continued with the drugs, fights, and from time to time … suicidal tendencies. I was released to the streets on a path of destruction feeling empty and alone. Soon I was back in jail. Eventually I began to really pray and read the Bible. But when things got hard, I blamed it on God and Christianity. My father bluntly told me that he feared for my soul. I also began reading things that discredited and rejected Christianity. I even went so far as to become a minister of an anti-Christian, White Supremacist Church (I have been a skinhead since the age of 13). I got into a lot of fights with gangs. In December of 2007, my life began to change. I started to realize I was out of control. I began speaking to my parents about coming home. At this point I had progressed from alcohol to IV drugs. Also, something new happened. I realized that being saved does not make everything miraculously perfect. I began praying constantly … at times with so much emotion that I cried. On May 13th, I was laying in my bed and the song “Amazing Grace” came to me. My mother used to sing this song to me as a small child … and as I sang it to myself, I began to cry. I poured my heart out to Jesus … my struggles, my sins, my guilt, my feelings … everything. Then, I begged to be saved.
“Earthly life is a pilgrimage, and as such it is full of temptations. But our spiritual growth is worked out in temptation. By experiencing temptations, we know ourselves. By fighting them, we have the chance to become winners. By overcoming them, we are crowned victors.” – Saint Augustine (Commentary on Psalm 80, 3).