The day I first experienced God

photo credit: evanse1 The Purpose of God’s Management Work via photopin (license)

I got to know God on an intimate, personal level the day I contemplated suicide as a heavily-burdened teenager, broken and unmercifully swallowed up by other people’s demons. I was in a bad place. That place led me down the path of thinking about taking my own life. How I arrived there at that point is complicated. And messy.

But there I was, a student at Long Beach Millikan High School, standing at the top of the football stadium bleachers, thinking about jumping off and permanently ending the inner pain I was dealing with. The anguish felt like an inescapable house of horrors that kept knocking on my soul’s doorstep.  I got to the point where I wanted to end it all.

What led me down this pathway? Well, the angst I felt came from years of self-worthlessness, peer pressure, bullying, and family dysfunction. Ridicule had set up shop as my next-door neighbor on a day-to-day basis. As a kid, I used to dream that one day I would become a great writer. But my dark reality would not allow me to think it could be possible. I struggled with self-worth. My self-esteem barometer often tilted on the low side. Being comfortable in my own skin seemed to only mock me.

My aspirations of daring to do something different was oftentimes kicked to the curb by my inability to see beyond the moment. My future filter had become fogged up from anxious worry. I would never become anything successful I thought. I began to think that everything that I did was wrong. I started to believe I was a failure. In everything. I believed I had no redeeming quality for which anyone could be proud of. I took negative attributes directed at me as truth. Becoming a success was nothing more than a faraway pipe dream.

photo credit: Pamela P. Stroud The Hymn of God’s Word All Things Are in God’s Hand via photopin (license)

Finding praise and acknowledgment was scarce. There was pain. A lot of it. I wanted it to go away. But it didn’t. It just stared at me and dared that I get fixed from this disease of suffering. Every day, I forced myself to put on a smile to mask the emotional and mental tug-o-war I was going through. Emotionally, I was running on fumes. The tank of positive energy was empty. I was in a really dark place, secretly drowning in my depressive state.

I didn’t know how to get away from the torment I was dealing with. I grew up in a house with a very large family, 10 brothers and sisters to be exact. Yet no one could hear the quiet suffering I wrestled with. I stopped laughing. Confusion and uncertainty became my new lifeline. I love to laugh, but during this period, I simply forgot how.

Tear streams became my best friend. I looked for answers, but couldn’t find any. I looked for comfort from what I was going through. Verbal taunting and physical trauma introduced themselves to me on a regular basis. I tried running away from my home a couple of times, just to calm the storm in my mind. That didn’t work.

photo credit: Rennett Stowe Dark Morning via photopin (license)

Going to school was no better. Avoiding threats and recruitment of local gangs was a daily activity that did not allow me nor my friends to have any peace. I thought going to church would give me what I was looking for. It did not. Going to church became more of an exercise of religion repetition than it had been as a spiritual influencer. It had become just a lot of noise.

I didn’t quite have an understanding of what it means to know Jesus for yourself. I didn’t know God like that. I grew up in the church. I sang in the choir. I participated in usher duties. Just about every Sunday, my brothers and I were somewhere singing with my late uncle at different churches around Los Angeles County. Church life was as much part of my life as much as getting up and putting on a pair of jeans.

But for all the singing, all the whooping and hollering, the marching, the bake sales, and being around church folks all my life, everything seemed to be more of a ritual thing than anything else. I was too scared to tell anyone in my church what I was going through. I worried if I did it would haunt me later.

Somehow, I finally mustered up the courage to say something to a couple of church members. And like I thought, it backfired. I felt betrayed. There was nowhere else I could go. I was tired of getting physically beat up on one side and emotionally ripped to shreds down the other. I wanted to put an end to the secret inferno I was walking around with.

photo credit: Pamela P. Stroud All Things Exist Under the Authority of the Creator via photopin (license)

But before I could get to that point, a miracle happened. I experienced God in a way that I never had before. He felt real at that moment. It was just me, God and those stadium bleachers. It was a surreal experience. As I stood at the top of the stadium looking down, I began replaying a message that my father once said to me.

“The Bible says that there is no forgiveness for self-murder.”

Then the swirling thoughts of handing my mother an unfathomable hurt began to engulf me.  My mother would have put the onus of blame on her shoulders. This simply would have destroyed her.

“I can’t do that to her,” I thought.

I was torn. I needed clarity, an answer to my inner drama. “Where are You?” I wondered out loud. I was exasperated. I was almost numb and just completely drained from this back-and-forth dilemma. I didn’t have an ounce of fight left in me. Almost instantaneously, I felt a surge sweeping through my body. It was as if someone had placed their hand on my heart and gave me specific instructions on how to deal with my trauma.

I felt released. I had found my quiet. I had experienced God. As I stood in the middle of my hurt, peace had embraced me. I remember crying my head off as I sat on those bleachers afterward. The lowest point in my life turned out to be the best moment of my life. And it has helped me move my life forward.

Dennis J. Freeman
About Dennis J. Freeman 1236 Articles
Dennis is a longtime sports, news and entertainment photojournalist. Dennis has covered and written on subjects such as civil rights, politics, and social justice. His work has appeared in various publications across the country. As editor and publisher of News4usonline, he currently covers the NFL (Rams, Chargers), NBA (Clippers, Lakers), Major League Baseball (Dodgers) and NCAA sports (USC, UCLA, Long Beach State). Dennis is a proud alum of Howard University.