Top 10 Ways the Bible Changed My Life: #4. It Connected Me With the Most Dependable Friend I’ll Ever Need
This one is for those who are afraid of ending up alone…so much so that they’d stay in situations where they’re abused and taken advantage of just to avoid that loneliness. This is for those who feel like they have no place in this world.
Some of us are blessed to have a tight-knit circle of friends. Some of us have one or two buddies they can always depend on. Some of us have boyfriends, girlfriends, wives or husbands we can talk to. Those who uplift us and encourage us when we’re down, who celebrate us in our triumphs.
What about the rest of us?
I took an Enneagram Personality test last year in which I was labeled a Type 3, work-oriented, driven, and thrived on results. Another trait associated with “3” is that WE NEED validation. Sounds bad, doesn’t it? I’ve heard it said many times that anyone who’s constantly seeking validation is “sad, pathetic and weak.”
Truth is, I really do seek validation. And yet, I wouldn’t describe myself as sad, pathetic, and weak. I used to…back when I sought validation from “everyone.” Back then, I was seeking to impress not just family members, but also my peers, my colleagues, co-workers, friends, millions of potential fans as an author, and of course potential love interests.
And I confess…when I didn’t get that validation, it would depress me deeply…
Especially when I saw everyone else being celebrated for the most trivial and ordinary things…And so, I’d get jealous. However, if you don’t know anything about me by now, I have an uncanny gift of turning my negative feelings into motivation. Back in my early to mid-twenties, any hate in my heart, only drove me further to work harder, to keep pushing myself…”I’ll SHOW YOU!” was the roar from the lions in my heart.
But no matter how much I improved, no matter how much I’d overcome and accomplish…I always felt like I wasn’t getting the recognition I deserved. But maybe that’s my fault. Perhaps I had an over-inflated ego, too full of myself. Too self-important, which is a flaw I’m still working on. (Phil 2:3)
Goes without saying, I wasn’t exactly the perfect friend to others back then either. Don’t get me wrong, I could laugh and pal around with you all day. But because I was so focused on my goals of becoming a published author, unless you were a female who I liked as more than a friend, I didn’t really make an effort to hang out with you outside of work. I’d much rather use my time and energy to accomplish said goals while I was still young with no wife or children to make it my number one priority. And as one old friend pointed out, I had a habit of leaving friends behind when I got tired of them. But really, I was just seeking individuals who were like me. Otherwise I felt like I didn’t belong.
When I picked up the Bible and learned the Truth about God…let’s just say it became easier to let go of “needing” validation from other humans. Because while I’ll never truly know what’s in the heart of the people around me; whether they admire me, love me, secretly scorn me, plot against me, genuinely appreciate me because they want to and not out of mere politeness or ulterior motives. I don’t need to worry about any of that with our Heavenly Father.
I take comfort in knowing he’s always watching. Even if no one else sees the work I put in. Even if no one else rewards me for my pain and sacrifice, my endeavor to be “a good guy” regardless whether or not I finish “first” in this world…I know God sees it. I don’t have to convince him of anything. I don’t have to hide anything. He knows my heart. He knows my darkness, my hate and the countless times I bit my lip and did the right thing when anyone else watching me would’ve called me a sucker. With a multitude of Angels watching, I desire to give them a reason to rejoice.
Until the day I die, I will never stop seeking validation from the Living God, whose name is Jehovah.
So let’s get into it. Are we really “ entitled “ to things like love or friendship? One of my characters from years ago, I gave these words, “Because love is an illusion. Moreover, it’s not guaranteed that everyone will have it. That’s why love is cruel, extremely cruel. Love is ephemeral. It is the very definition of pain.”
And that’s rough, because we live in a society. And with the age of the internet, our world has gotten much bigger. Society is no longer just the neighborhood or small town you grew up in. It’s everyone, far and wide.
Think back to Ancient Israel and why they wanted a king when they were already given powerful judges like Samson, Gideon, or Jephthah. They wanted a king because all the other nations around them had kings. It was normal. Accepted. They wanted to be like everyone else.
In a society, everywhere we go, everywhere we look, we see scenes of love, comradery, and affection. We see families spending time together. Couples walking hand in hand. On Facebook, it’s all everyone posts. The highlights of their life. The good times. Images telling the world, “Look, I’m having fun! See how people enjoy my company? I have friends. I’m normal! I’m happy! I’m succeeding in life. I’m not a failure!”
Forgive me if it sounds like I’m knocking people for doing this. I’m not trying to slight those individuals or dissuade them, but to illustrate how normal the behavior is. Normal. Accepted. Like everyone else.
However, if you don’t have another person in this world who loves you or sees you as one of their best friends, it’s an abysmal feeling of loneliness and neglect that takes over. You feel as though you’re missing out or that something may be wrong with you. That you are a failure.
And I’m not talking about the love from your parents, siblings, aunts or uncles…because a lot of that may be out of obligation, tradition, or their own pride where they vicariously take credit for your success, telling themselves that you are where you are because of them.
I’m talking about whether or not any of these relatives see you as more than just flesh and blood. Whether they enjoy your company, friendship, your honest thoughts and opinions.
Trust me…I have a huge family. Most of them “think” they know me but only two or three individuals actually do. The rest, it’s just a performance we put on to keep the peace, dancing around things like honesty, deviating from the original script to cut out what we want to say because we know the audience won’t like it…or worse, they won’t understand it.
Even with the COVID pandemic, we kept getting these commercials about how we’re “All In This Together” or we’re “AloneTogether.” Commercials of families and friends spending time together. It’s almost as if the media truly believes all of us really have someone. Do we?
Why is suicide on the rise among Millennials, particularly Millennial White Males? Sure, there are many reasons, and in some cases, a culmination of reasons…but I truly believe at the crux of it all, it’s because people are alone with no purpose.
If you had to ask yourself, what’s the point of being alive? Many of you would say it’s your job, your goals, your son or daughter, your sweetheart, or the love of your craft that keeps you going. But what if you have none of that?
As an author, you hear of the celebrities like Stephen King, JD Salinger, J.K. Rowling, and think it’s a glamorous wonderful life. But that’s because you only see the end results; the books on the bookshelves, the fan signings, the conventions, and in some cases the glamour of books being turned into movies.
But the process itself…sometimes a single novel can take years to finish. It’s a solitary job of isolation, especially if you’re not married with a place to come home to have someone uplifting you, encouraging you to keep going.
That’s why a lot of my peers (fellow Millennials) couldn’t understand why I carried myself with such confidence. Or why I wasn’t shy about expressing my belief in success. To them, I was full of myself and arrogant. And once, an old love interest even poked at me saying, “you compliment yourself enough, so why should I?”
What she said hurt, but she was right. However, the thing that hurt the most was her lack of understanding. I HAD TO carry myself in full confidence. My success wouldn’t come for years. Until then, if I didn’t believe in myself, who would?
I’m not sure if it’s a Millennial thing, whether I was just a bad writer, or deep-down my peers just didn’t like me in my mid-twenties. But most of the compliments or praise I ever got was from other professionals and older people…hardly anyone my own age.
As you can imagine, this older generation…they all had their own families with children and grandchildren. They had their own businesses, so I couldn’t just call them up any time of the night or invite them out for a drink if I was feeling down and out.
“Rock, call me anytime you need to talk.”
Once you’ve taken them up on their offer and reached out when you’ve fallen hard, deep in the depths of your despair and they don’t pick up, they’re not available, or they’re occupied…Am I supposed to remain depressed, angry, and desolate until the next representative is available to speak to? I’m hurting now! The suffering is here, now!
And it’s worse when you take a chance on the next available rep, and they lack the comprehension to understand the magnitude of what you’re going through. These are the ones who’ll tell you you’re overthinking things, or you’re taking something too seriously, or you’re too sensitive, or it’s not that big a deal. All of this is just to make up for their own lack of thought, sad to say.
I don’t say that to be insulting, but its ignorance to not realize that even though something’s not a “big deal” to you…it’s clearly a big deal to the person sitting here crying her eyes out.
This is why my relationship with God…I can’t begin to tell you how beneficial it’s been to me. By the time I hit 30, my personality had changed because I had read the Bible cover to cover. Just like with any human…if you hang out with a friend, you begin to pick up their qualities, their mannerisms. Their strength, their patience, the way they react to things, the way they respond to things…it rubs off on you.
Jehovah is a friend who’s available 24/7, 365 days a year. He’s been there with me ever since I was born. I ignored him for a time, thinking I didn’t need him, but the teachings of Christ were always there, impacting my decisions, molding my conscience of what’s right and wrong.
My inability to fit in with current trends or agree with popular opinion, it isn’t because I hate humanity or look down on my own peers. It’s because all this time, the Word of God has been in my heart.
If you were raised under the wing of an older role model, who’s constantly telling you to stick to the books, stay away from drugs and say no to gangs…but most of your classmates are hanging out with gangs, skipping school, and doing drugs…what will you do when one of a classmate puts his arm around you saying, “hey man, you wanna hit?” as he offers you some weed?
Even if your role model isn’t physically there, if you respect him and believe in his teachings, you’re going to remember them in that situation. You’ll politely decline. And when the gang surrounds you, threatening to beat you up if you don’t smoke…you’d still say no.
When you trust in God, the Grand Creator who creates the good days and the bad days…honestly, the world just doesn’t seem to faze you as it once did. If you defend yourself and win, its because God gave you the strength to fight. If you try to run and get away. It’s because God gave you the speed and stamina to flee. If you get caught and that gang beats the ever-loving crap out of you…you trust in God, your friend, that he let it happen to either teach you a lesson, to help another friend, or to set you up for an even beneficial situation (Providence). No matter what, you trust in him.
In reading the Bible, your faith is strengthened to believe God is with you. Because of that, I can be alone in my new condo, or surrounded by others, or at my spot by the water, or working out, or in the middle of writing…but I won’t feel lonely. I feel His presence. I know God’s watching over me. Guiding me, directing my footsteps so long as I strive to do what’s good in His eye.
I know…that sounds crazy, right? There are billions of people on this earth, so why would I think God is taking the time to watch over me. I’m but a grain of sand on a massive beach. A breath from his nostrils. Who do I think I am?
The answer is that I think I’m a Christian. I believe I was saved when Jesus Christ sacrificed his life for all humanity. I honor Him as my Lord and Savior by heeding his words and striving to do as he commanded, as his Apostles counseled. Every day, I pray that he stays with me, molding me, blessing me with the strength, patience, and wisdom.
With God, all things are possible. In reading the Bible you begin to grasp that God can be anywhere and everywhere at the same time. The full scope of his power can never be measured. As a believer, I know that there are millions of invisible Angels all around us at any given moment. God can be with me, here in this room as I write this. While also being with you, wherever you are, as you read this.
I’ve heard it joked, how creepy it is to think that we’re always being watched by some all-powerful God. But why? When you were a child, were you not always watched by your parents? Did they not make sure you stayed away from the outlets, warding off stray dogs and warning you of the dangers of the world?
I don’t know about you, but I think there’s nothing more comforting and assuring than knowing no matter where I go, or what I do…God is right there. Especially these days when Satan’s power and influence is so self-evident. Every time I’ve stumbled into depression or faced anxiety, it’s because I was trusting too much in other humans or myself so much so that I had forgotten to consider what God thinks.
“How are you supposed to know what God thinks, though? Isn’t that a bit high and mighty of you?”
I’m sorry. When I say, “consider what God thinks,” I’m merely saying, “what do the Scriptures tell me?”
Don’t you see? For all those out there who think God’s some great, incomprehensible mystery…the answers are right there in the Bible. When you read it every day, and better yet, when you read it from beginning to end, understanding the context of each scripture, you begin to understand God’s character, his patience, his love, his mercy, his wrath. The World starts to make sense.
Abraham was a friend of God. Enoch was said to “walk with God.” David was called a man after “God’s own heart”. Enoch and Elijah were two examples in the Bible where it’s implied that they did not taste death. Instead, at the end of their days, God simply took them.
I won’t say I “walk with God” and dare put myself in the same league as Enoch or David…but I aspire to. In so doing, I consider my friendship with our Heavenly Father one of the best decisions of my life. Thanks to this, I believed I’ve been spared and will be spared a great deal of unnecessary stress, hardship, and misery.
I’ll give you this illustration, inspired by the real-life murder of Neal Williams and his two sons by his wife. Long story short, Manling Williams married a man who didn’t share her love of money, ambitions and the finer things of life. I don’t know if Neal was a Christian, but clearly Manling didn’t put God first. Months before the murder, Manling reconnected and had an affair with an old flame who was doing well in life, single and without children, thus possessing those finer things. The old flame was interested in sex…but not a long-term relationship with a married mother of two.
After working as a waitress and dealing with her financially-inept husband for so long, Manling finally snapped and smothered her children in their beds before hacking her husband to death with a samurai sword.
So here’s the illustration:
I’m courting a beautiful woman. She begins talking to me about how she wants “the finer things in life.” There’s nothing wrong with that, right? Men are meant to be providers.
So, what would I do if the woman of my dreams promised to marry me and give me all the sex and companionship I ever wanted…IF I made it my goal to work harder, pursue money, advance the corporate ladder to continuously upgrade her lifestyle.
I imagined us on the promenade next to crashing waves as the sun set in the distance. She’s just laid out her conditions for marriage and now I have a choice. I think I’d look sad at first…then I’d smirk and turn to her.
“Well…I’m certainly glad we’re having this conversation now. This is a good thing, really. It spares us the mistake of getting married and having to divorce later.”
“So, you’re not willing to better yourself?”
“Your definition of ‘bettering yourself’ is different from my own. I told you. I don’t care about money or materialistic things. I better myself everyday by hitting the gym, by reading and writing, learning history, studying cases. I better myself by drawing close to our heavenly father, seeking first, the kingdom of heaven.”
“You can still do that and have the finer things in life, Rock. Look at all these pastors with their cars and big houses. They’re pillars of their community. Don’t you want that?”
“It’s not me. I’m a writer. I have no talent for oratory nor do I enjoy it.”
“I’m saying though! You could if you worked at it! Don’t you think I’m worth it?”
“No…I don’t. I did until this conversation, which is why I’m super glad we’re having it. Listen to me. I’m 33-years-old. I’ve known you all about six months. You’re awesome. You’re gorgeous. You’re fun to talk to. But I’ve known you for ALL ABOUT SIX MONTHS. God’s been with me my entire life.
“Darlin, I don’t know what you’ve done before I met you. I wasn’t there. And you weren’t there for me. The only reason why I am where I am is because of God. It was him who uplifted me when I was by myself all those years. It was him who instilled the sense of determination to get my fatass in the gym and work out. It was him who gave us Jesus Christ, a loving example of what it is to forgive, promising us a better life far removed from this wicked and materialistic world.
“Thirty-three years. God has been my friend. Compared to him, who are you that I should abandon everything he’s taught me and put such emphasis on money, status, and materialistic things?”
“You’re being unreasonable and stupid, Rock. Your standards are too high. There’s nothing wrong with a girl wanting to have fun, go traveling, to enjoy life!”
“THEN GO FOR IT! You don’t need me to do those things!”
“So what, you’ll just be alone forever?”
“I really hope you come to understand, I’ve never been alone. Yeah, I might feel lonely when I put myself in a position to see what I’m missing out on. But even now, I feel God watching over me. I know this might sound crazy to an unbeliever, but I’m really trying to let go of my ambitions in this world that’s run by Satan, in favor of a better world where Christ reigns. Don’t you see? If you want to ‘enjoy life,’ go for it. You don’t need me and I don’t believe for one second you’re concerned about my loneliness.”
“I AM though!!!”
“Nonsense. Your frustration comes from the potential life you see with me and the fact that I choose God over you. I wonder if it’s how Eve would’ve felt if Adam had refused the fruit.”
“Really, Rock? You’re comparing yourself to Adam? Get over yourself!”
“lol, sorry. I’m not trying to be hurtful. You’re a good person. Otherwise I wouldn’t have taken a chance on you to begin with. But no one will ever take God’s place as number one in my heart. I’d like to think my future wife will appreciate that, even value it about me.”
“What if she doesn’t?” She says as she leans over the rails, looking out to the water.
“Then I won’t marry her.” I say, rubbing her back. “You know me. I’m not exactly one to put off the important conversations till later.”
“What if I change?” She tells me.
“I’d have to be convinced. Until then, we can be friends as long as I’m still single. I’ve done too much research. Seen too many homicides and divorces to take the risk. Especially if we’re to have children.”
“You’re comparing me to all those other women, Rock. That’s not fair. Sometimes, you need to give people chances.”
“Well…you’re not wrong. You’ll be alright.”
…as will I…
You can stop reading here. Sorry, I know it’s getting a bit long. The rest is just gratuitous, more background info about a little bit of a rant…
By that example, I wouldn’t blame you for taking the girl’s side over me. In fact, I know other Christians who would. But those are the same Christians who have gone through divorce and had children out of wedlock. I’m not trying to repeat their mistakes. In fact, I’ve had one such person even tell me, “Rock, you need to do a pharisee-check.”
She said this after reading a recent essay and assuming I was presenting myself more righteous than others…or possessing greater knowledge of the Scriptures than others. It was weird to hear that from a fellow Christian. Mainly because she falls into the category of one of those family members who “thinks” she knows me but doesn’t.
Because if she did know me, she’d know that beyond having God simply be here with me…perhaps the most beneficial aspect of having a friendship with God is that he UNDERSTANDS me!
God knows my biggest obstacle with others, is their lack of understanding. I’m not like most people, so when they hear me talk about my goals and lifestyle, they just don’t get it. What they see as “boring,” i find rich and fulfilling. It’s rare to find someone who understands. So when I do find someone who gets me, especially if they’re my own age…those people are priceless to me. But even with them, there are some things I can’t talk about. Things too shameful to confess.
There are matters of the heart and mind…lets just say that a lot of my flaws and weaknesses aren’t self-evident. I don’t have a prison record. I don’t have an addiction. Never cheated on anyone, I don’t steal, I follow the law and pay my taxes. It’s easy to assume I’m this perfect individual who lacks or wants for nothing.
The truth is…when you read 1st Corinthians Chapter 13, it’s the quintessential passage about the true meaning of “love”. And it breaks my heart because I know, my drive, my commitment and dedication…it all ran on hate and rage.
Long story short, the summer before I turned 17, I was ready to throw my life away because a whole litany of mental and emotional issues. I found out my dad told courts I wasn’t his son because I was too light skinned. Meanwhile, my mother and step-father were using their religion to oppress me while holding my older brother up as the golden standard, unaware that I was the only one who went to high school with him and knew he was a hypocrite, preaching one thing and living another way. I was the black sheep. A pathological liar with an overactive imagination. I was fat, and greedy and lost my cool when things didn’t go my way. So at that point, I was like…fuck it.
But that August in 2003, my drama teacher had me write down all the things that went down that summer. To my surprise. She actually read it. It was the first time in a long time I felt someone actually listened. And here’s where my life took a turn…
She wrote me back and told me that she saw so much potential in me. She said she was sorry that all those things were happening to me…and encouraged me to use all that negativity as motivation to succeed.
The rest was history. It’s like a switch was flipped. Family Matters and Fresh Prince had me thinking I needed positivity and encouragement from my family to do well…I felt I had very little of that. Meanwhile, I was drowning in a bottomless ocean of negativity. When I learned I could convert all that into fuel, I took off and never stopped. Every slight, every doubt, all criticism, all the hatred and rage I felt…I harnessed it with the fiery determination to make something of myself, to get stronger, to succeed.
Even when I read the Bible and learned through Jesus’s example of forgiveness…I tried. God knows, I tried to stop relying on the hate and fury to fuel me. But as I mentioned…unless the compliments and positive support are consistently there, it’s a fleeting sensation. When you depend on it and it’s no longer there, complacency sets in. You get stagnant. And for me, doing nothing, inactivity would be the end of my existence. Depression would set in. I say that with some sadness, actually. That is indeed my greatest weakness.
Honestly, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fallen on my knees and cried, praying to God for his help. I wish I could turn the other cheek. I see injustice and the wicked seeming to prosper while good people are stepped on and taken advantage of. Even when I write these theocratic essays, part of me is doing it out of love to help others like me. But I can’t deny that it’s out of my hatred for Satan and his wicked influence that prompts me to sacrifice my days off and free time to get this down on paper.
In the Middle East, I hear of Christians being slaughtered. In Egypt I read about an elderly Christian woman being dragged out into the streets and beaten by a mob. Here, in the states, I see Christians being mocked, churches bombed, parishioners shot in mass shootings and my first inclination is fury and a burning desire to teach the world not to messwith Christians.
I blame Satan for my loneliness, the breakdown of traditions, the devaluing of Christian virtues, while the celebration of immorality, debauchery, and idolatry in celebrities and materialistic things thrives. I keep myself together because God made me strong, providing an outlet for my rage through boxing and fictional works.
That’s the truth, not one I like to repeat. So when I had that person tell me to do a “pharisee-check,” on the outside, I politely tried to explain how it was judgmental and uncool for her to tell me that when she doesn’t really know me.
On the inside, the lions were jumping at the chains, my heart was shouting, “GO F**K YOURSELF!”
I’m only revealing this because it’s but one of the smaller issues I’ve had to talk to God about. It does make me sad that I can’t be so plainly honest with others, but even the scriptures teach us to govern our tongue. This is why God’s role in my life is so crucial. Psalms 55:22 teaches us to unburden ourselves to Jehovah God.
The darkness I can’t share here or to others…I share with God. I confess to him. I hide nothing from him. I confess, ask for his help, and pray for forgiveness for such indulgences in the first place.
Thus…when I’m around other humans…my conscience isn’t burdened by the dark thoughts, the fits of rage I contain, the hatred I keep bottled up. I know it’s there. God knows it’s there.
“Dang, Rock. You sound like you’re just one bad day away from turning into a homicidal maniac.”
Maybe. But I don’t think for one second there aren’t millions more just like me. We don’t tell people any of these things because we get small-minded responses like that.
Thankfully God is there. Whether the lions are jumping at the chains, my blood is boiling with rage, my fists are clenched, or my eyes see red. God is there. You may fear me after knowing these things about me, but God understands and still welcomes me.
“Honestly, Rock. I think you need to talk to somebody.”
I do. I talk to God every day. And honestly, it’s amazing how quick you are to judge when you were on the defensive up till the point where I confessed but a glimpse of my own sins. Which is why I don’t, unless it’s relevant. If you just got into a car accident and I’m trying to explain to you what you did wrong, only a child would go, “Yeah?! Well, what about how you drive!?”
Yes. We can address that later. But first off, I’ve never been in an accident. You’ve been in five! So we’re going to focus on you! Here! Now!
In all seriousness…I know a lot of people like to think about heaven or hell, a punishment or reward, but I don’t. My friendship with Jehovah is an honor and privilege enough.
If a friend who owed you nothing, but has taken care of you for so long, saved your life, introduced you to your wife, got you your job, helped you buy your house, protected your kids, and sacrificed his own son so you and your family could avoid a death penalty.
It’s a loyal obligation not done begrudging…but really, it’s an honor to repay His friendship by seeking to do what’s good in His eyes, by valuing his friendship above everyone else’s. If God tells me it’s bad to do a thing, and another “friend” tells me it’s good…who do you think I’m going to choose?
Romans 1:24–26 reveals what happens without God in your life. Without God in your heart, you’re prone to give in to your fleshly desires. You’re prone to give into temptation. You’re prone to fail. Not in the eyes of the world, no, there you’ll be celebrated and accepted for a time. But 1 stCorinthians 6:9–11 tells us what kind of people will inherit the Kingdom of God.
If you’re not his friend in this World, if you don’t consider yourself religious but think that religion has no place in school, work, entertainment, or politics…why would you want to spend an eternity with him?
Originally published at http://stageinthesky.com on November 15, 2020.