“But the man wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus ‘And who is my neighbor?’” Luke 10:29
Jesus responded with what has become one of the most famous parables known today, The Good Samaritan, (or the despised Samaritan if you know the history).
When you hear a parable, you’re supposed to ask yourself, “who am I in this story?” It was actually a really common teaching method in Jesus’ day.
So, who are you in the story?
Perhaps the Levite or temple priest who walks past a man in deep distress, barely clinging to life after being beaten and robbed…
As I look back over my life before Jesus, I always fancied myself the robber. Heck! My criminal street name was ‘Bandit’ because I was a stick-up kid. If you had something I wanted, I was leaving with it whether you agreed or not. That was my life. I don’t remember choosing that life; more like I was born into it.
My dad was a criminal, and my mom a drug addict. I grew up broke: like, trailer park, food stamps, and goodwill broke. My path was pretty well established from the start. Sexual abuseearly on (as well as later in my teens), arrested and in juvenile hall by 12, smoking cigarettes and weed around the same time, expelled from 6th grade for biting the principal, and a string of residential burglaries at 14. My dad introduced me to meth at 16, and at 18, I was sitting on a prison bus headed to the penitentiary for my first term.
In prison, I committed to the violence and racism that rules the yard, and at 23, I joined a white supremacist prison gang and shortly after became a needle meth user, all while sitting at the infamous Folsom state prison. By 28 years old, I had spent nine and a half out of my ten years of adulthood incarcerated.
This is where my rock-bottom moments happens.
I met a nice girl named Sunny. She was a total square: never used a drug in her life, had a college degree and everything. We started a family, all while I was using drugs behind her back. When the truth finally came out, she kicked me out of her house and her life. The problem was I had fallen in love with our little baby girl, Maddy. She was the first person I had ever loved.
I spent months running the streets, trying to drown my sorrow in drugs, sex, and crime. All my attempts to feel better were empty and led me to decide to kill myself. My plan was August 28th at 8 am (when my Darrel’s mini storage on motel drive opened). I would go into my storage unit, where I had a gun, and would be done with this life.
The night before (the 27th), I went over to motel drive to pick up some meth for the night. I came out of the motel room, got in my car, and …
…it wouldn’t start.
I lost it.
I screamed and cussed and ended up sitting in my car crying and shooting meth all night. At one point in the night, I yelled at God, “if you’re real, this is all your fault! Screw you and screw this life you gave me. If you don’t want me to kill myself, you better do something.”
As the sun came up and my drugs were gone, my heart was heavy. The time was getting close, and then came the knock on my window. I opened the door. Standing there was a guy who arrived to tow my car. I broke. I wept as I told this man my whole life story up to what I was planning in a few hours. His response to me was, “Do you want to get help?” Through tears, I nodded imperceptibly. He said, “I recently graduated from a place called Teen Challenge, I can get you in if you want to go.”
After a call with my ex, Sunny, who agreed to drive me to Oakland for the program, the man decided to leave my car and go. As he drove off, I sat back down in my car, leaned my head on the steering wheel, and turned the key…
…The car started right up.
That evening Sunny dropped me off at Teen Challenge, where I finally got sober.
“The Lord protects the simple hearted. When I was in great need He saved me.”
“God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”
Now, I was not sold on the “God stuff.” I just wanted to get sober, but Teen Challenge makes you go to chapel every day and church twice on Sundays. I would always sit in the back with my arms folded, letting my unbelief show for all to see. One particular Sunday -within my first week of being there- we visited a black church on the outskirts of Oakland called Sequoyah Community Church. I was standing in the back (as usual) as worship started. A large black woman got up to sing, and I thought to myself…. (Well, I won’t share what I thought to myself. Remember: white supremacist prison gang member)? But when she opened her mouth to begin singing, it changed my life.
“It’s your breath, in our lungs, so we pour out our praise.”
Man, she has a great voice, I thought. My arms slowly unfold and down to my sides.
“Great are you, Lord.”
Wow, this is amazing. Is this how all church music is?
“You give life, you are love…”
I slowly realized I was silently weeping.
“You bring light to the darkness.”
All of a sudden, IT hit me.
God’s grace, love, compassion, and forgiveness washed over my soul in an instant, and I was on my knees weeping openly. At that moment, two things were instantly clear to me:
God was real, and He absolutely loved me.
I didn’t know what any of that meant. What I did know is that I was all in.
“’Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’ The expert in the law said, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’ Jesus told him ‘Go and do likewise.’” Luke 10:36-37
When I take an honest look at my life and ask, “Who am I in the story?” I am not the robber, as much as my pride and anti-establishment bad-boy arrogance wants me to be.
No. If I am really honest, I was the man beaten and bloody on the side of the road. The one religious people saw and crossed the street to avoid. The one so near death, people who saw me assumed I already was. The man so lost and broken, who so desperately needed a Savior to take pity on me, bandage my wounds, and set me in a place where His people could look after me
until He returned for me.
And He does return for me, but that’s a story for next week.
TO BE CONTINUED…
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