21 March, 2012

Dude? Are You Serious?

So, this evening I'm chatting online with a friend of my youth, someone whom I'd only recently reconnected with, through Facebook. We had not seen nor spoken to each other since 1981, when I went to prison. For those who don't know, I never returned home once I was released in 1984. Nothing against my hometown, nor the people... it was about me. I knew that I needed a new start and that it needed to be in a new place, because I was still very young in my walk with the Lord and believe me, I knew where to find trouble there in the Saint Louis metro area. Anyway, my friend was asking me if it was worth all that I'd given up to be where I am today. Specifically, he was asking if it was worth giving up being near all my friends and family, but he also asked me if I ever missed the days of partying. My response was, "Dude? Are you serious?"

OK... Yes, I've missed out on a lot. I genuinely have, and still do miss some people who were very special in my life. I've missed out on a lot of family activities and events, and that pains me more than words could ever express. I've been out of high school now for 35 years, and I've never been able to attend a single reunion. That bothers me. I miss  a lot of things... But do I miss partying? NOT FOR ONE MOMENT!
Let's just look at this from a practical level for a minute.
Was there fun times? You bet. But trust me there was a lot more hell to walk through than those good times could ever make up for.
Trust me, I don't miss waking up in my own vomit. I don't miss waking up in a jail cell. I don't miss walking out to my car and finding dents and scratches and not remembering how or wear it happened. I don't miss waking up and not knowing where I was, who I was with, how I got there or even what day it was.  I don't miss waking up to find out that I'd blown $800 to $1,500 or more in a weekend on stuff I snorted or run in my arm or drank. (And remember... that was 1980 dollars.)
I don't miss getting phone calls that someone I'd shacked up with was dying with AIDS, and having to tell my wife that my stupidity before I knew her could be my death sentence... and hers! (Thank God, my tests all came back clean!)   I don't miss any of it! I lost many friends due to their partying, their drunk driving, their overdoses, their murders and their imprisonment. I'm so glad that that whole scene has been gone from my life now for 31 years. Do I ever think about partying? Not a chance. I cannot express strong enough that I am so eternally grateful to God for the change He has brought in my life.

I'm thankful that over the last few years I've been able to reconnect with people. I'm amazed at how many of my old friends are now Christians as well. But I'm even more amazed to see how many have hardly changed at all. Yes, they have changed in age, marriage, divorce, and so on. But some of them... (thankfully only a few) still live to drink and party. I'm not trying to play judge or jury, and if someone drinks responsibly, that's their call. But when I talk with them and find out that in reality, their life is about drinking or drugging, I'm heart broken. When I talk to people and they are struggling to survive, yet they continue the weekend warrior lifestyle and blow all of their extra income on "a night out"... I'm like, "Wow... glad I'm out of that scene."

My friend was telling me he'd seen pictures of me and my family in the Bahamas, in Florida, San Diego and New York, and he said, "So, I guess you're rich or something?"  Right... I'm rich. We just save and budget to be able to do those things. He says he can't afford it... and I remind him that the $60 or more he spends every week on cigarettes and beer would be more than $3,000 a year he could use to take his family on vacation.  I won't repeat what he said... but my point was well taken.

Then he got to the crux of the matter. He questioned my faith in God. He asked if that was all about getting out of jail. Hello?  First of all, it did not get me out of jail one day sooner. But it did help me survive. I reminded him that I'd actually given my life to Jesus a few months before I went to prison, and he said, "I always thought you were running a scam to get out of going to jail."  I asked him if he'd given any consideration to the fact that after I went to jail, I kept serving Jesus. After I got out, I kept serving Jesus. For almost 31 years now... I've been serving Jesus. And I said, "dude, of all the guys you've known that have gone to prison, how many never went back again?"  He said, "I guess you are the only one."  I asked him, "So, do you still think I'm running a game?"

I'll not share the rest of our discussion, but I have to share this with my readers. I know that most of you are serving Jesus yourselves... but there are some of you, you've never made that decision. I'm not just talking about changing your behavior... I'm talking about being Born Again... giving your life to Jesus Christ. I'm talking about a radical change... a change that changes your eternity. If you don't know Jesus, I am asking you... don't you think it is time? Especially those of you that knew the old me... you know the changes in my life did not come by my own doing. It took something much more powerful than that... and that something... someone... is Jesus.  I care about you. I really do. And I want to see you saved and blessed in this life, and I want to see you when I get to heaven. I'm not talking about religion. Religion sucks. I'm talking about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I hope you'll come to the same conclusion that I did years ago... life had no meaning without Jesus.

To all of you... but especially my friend... I don't regret one day, not one moment of the last 30 years, 9 months and 9 days that I've been serving Jesus. I only pray that you one day ask Him into your life too.

Peace out bro!

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