I hadn’t anticipated the apartment being so quiet that morning. Several months earlier I had moved into a one-bedroom apartment, with a friend of mine, to try and save some money. Not to long after, two more guys moved into the place with us. Describing the situation as chaotic would be an understatement. The apartment was always filled with loud music, laughter, pizza, and even more friends crashing out anywhere that they could find space. However, on this particular morning, for some odd reason, the only person stuck at home was me.
The walls echoed with silence as I sat at home alone. I could have dealt with the silence just fine. However, as timely as clock work, the tranquil state of my mind was interrupted with the crashing roar of my thought life. As I entered adulthood I found myself raging war against a particular thought that shamelessly wedged itself into every ounce of joy and hope that I held on to. On this particular day, the roar carried a different tone. The tone carried with it the understanding that I would have to make a decision, one that I could not put off for long. At first I fell into a state of panic. My heart was racing. I didn’t know how to respond. I felt as I was entering a state of shock.
Overcome by waves of anxiety, I reached out to see if I could find someone to deliver me a word of hope. I attempted to call several people that morning, but each attempt was unsuccessful. The only person that I was able to reach that morning was my pastor. When I asked my pastor if I could talk to him, he simply told me, “Not today John, I’m busy, I don’t have time for you right now.”
The urgency to make a decision became louder by the minute. I hadn’t yet settled on a response and didn’t know how to go about it. Any decision would be difficult. There were two paths that lay before me. Both were difficult to face.
I’m not sure what shifted inside of me, all I remember is that I found myself on my knees, in front of my bed, and crying out to God. I can’t recall how my conversation with God started. However, I clearly remember the moment when my decision was made. Somewhere within me I mustered up the strength to say, “God, I don’t know how I’m going to do this, but today I choose to live. I don’t know how I’m going to make it, but today I choose life.”
The summer after my high school graduation I found myself in front of the nation’s capital in Washington D.C. having a conversation with one of my best friends. What began as a simple conversation turned into a moment where I disclosed some of my darkest and deepest hidden secrets. My friend was a godsend and her story offered me hope in my situation. However, my journey, towards healing, was destined to be a rough one. I spend the next few years coming to terms that I could no longer hide behind a fake smile. The true story behind my smile was one of pain and torment, and sadly, no one had a clue.
I looked at the stories of people who had experiences similar to mine and I didn’t like the end result. I saw people self-medicating their torment with array of unhealthy vices. Somehow I came to conclusion that I would find myself giving in to a habits too. This brought me both confusion and sadness. In hindsight, I see that my thought process was tainted and troubled. However, it was what I had reasoned and came to terms with. It didn’t take long for me to resolve that I no longer wanted a life where I was tormented by my past. I reasoned that the only way to escape this darkness was to end it.
For the next two years I silently planned my exit from this world. At first, it started as a small thought. However, as I entertained it, the possibility of ending my pain brought me a sense of comfort. Sadly, it’s what made sense to my nineteen-year old mind. In spite of moral conflicts, I decided that I would make it as painless, as I possibly could, for all involved. I knew how I would notify those that I loved; my family, my church, and my friends. My mind was pretty much made up. I had made peace with my destiny and I was waiting for the right moment.
I didn’t anticipate waking up that morning and making a decision to live. At the moment I don’t know why or how I came to make that decision. However, in hindsight I recognize that the words that came out of my mouth, my decision to live, was nothing short of a divine intervention.
Here are some lessons that I’ve learned from this experience.
“….. Today I choose to live.”
- The words you speak are powerful
The bible tells us that the tongue holds the power of death and life (Proverbs 18:21). It also tells us that our tongue controls the direction in which our life is headed (James 3). It is my personal belief that my declaration to choose created a shift in the foundation of my life. This is not to say that my life has become free of troubles or that it has become easier. However, my statement has given me the strength to choose life regardless what comes my way. I now live life knowing that I will face many battles. Nevertheless, I am determined to not allow those battles to get the best of me.
- Working though your junk is a life-long process
My decision to live was not a get-out-of-jail free card. It did not come with an announcement telling me advance to go and collect $200. In fact, I’ve spent a good part of my life working through personal baggage that I’ve carried along with me. There are times that I reflect on my past and get down. However, I’ve learned that I don’t have to go through it alone. In previous blog posts I mention that I have a team of people that I know that I can turn to when I need help. I also have recruited the help of a counselor to help me work through some of the areas of my life that need professional help. Oh yeah, I also make sure that I am connected to a pastor that won’t tell me that he’s too busy for me.
- Life is worth living
I’d be lying if I told you that my life’s journey has been a smooth ride. On the contrary, if you were to graph the high and low-points of my life, it may result looking like the blueprint of a roller-coaster. Nevertheless, as I look back, I can find beauty in every high and low. It’s easy to celebrate the highlights of life. However, I am also able to look back and see the fingerprints of God in the midst of my dark seasons of life. Darkness always tends to bring moments of personal growth, encouraging words, lessons, and adventure. Furthermore, darkness always helps me to appreciate the presence of light much more. It is not something that I take for granted anymore.
John Eli Garay
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