BY: BENJAMIN LIN
“Even forty years from now, the damn war still haunts me.”
I was a junior in high school, listening to a Vietnam War veteran, Mr. Weissman, talk about his experiences on and off the battlefield. Observing his tone, his posture, his facial expression, I could feel the pain and sorrow behind every memory he spoke of. There was one line he said that stuck in my memory, “I can’t help but to let my past define me”.
That feeling was far too familiar. Since high school, I’ve disappointed my family and friends time and time again. Never able to meet the expectations that were set before me, I began to feel like my purpose of being was one big disappointment. Slowly but surely, that idea consumed me. Second semester senior year, I stopped caring about everything. I stopped going to church, stopped maintaining friendships, and I fell into a helpless pit of a smoking addiction.
Then one Sunday, my mom forced me to go to church in hopes that I would rekindle the relationships I once had with my pastor and friends. For me, church stood for absolutely nothing. After dozing off while everyone around me was singing passionately, my pastor, Fred Mok, came up to talk. I’ve looked up to Fred as a father figure, being my mentor for many aspects of life. He went up to the podium, and talked about this idea of “new creation in Christ”. When I first heard that term, I thought it was the most stupid and meaningless idea, because I believed it was a concept people used to escape the hardships of reality. I had no interest to listen to this sermon and so I started to play fruit ninja on my phone and began to count down the minutes until I could leave.
When the service was almost finished, Fred said, “If you don’t remember anything from this sermon, please remember this. Everyone has his or her past and it seems impossible to let go, but with God, it’s possible. We can leave our burdens, our pain, our struggles, because that’s not what defines you. Jesus died on the cross for me and you, that’s the only thing that should define you.”
No, it wasn’t a revelation. No, it wasn’t a miracle. But at that specific moment, I felt hope. I didn’t know where it came from, or what it stood for, but I felt it.
Going back home, I dismissed that lesson and continued to live my old lifestyle. Every night, I either drank until blacking out or smoked until hallucinating. As weeks passed, I finally hit rock bottom. Not being able to find happiness in anything unless I was under the influence, I desperately needed help. Telling myself, “Okay Ben, you need to change.” I decided to stop drinking and smoking, be nice to everyone, and live a morally righteous life. It was a miserable failure. Being sober for 2 days gave me satisfaction, and then temptation overcame me again and again. Feeling helpless, I decided to give this “new creation” thing a try. Meeting with Fred, reading the bible, praying, God was nowhere to be seen. I thought being a believer in God was easy, a revelation sort of thing, like in the movies! I faced a lot of doubts and criticism that made me want to give up several times, but the hope I felt kept motivating me to push through with this and see the results. After months passed of doing the same tiring routine, I finally understood and felt his unconditional love for humanity and me and found Him.
Just like Mr. Weissman and me, many people can’t let go of their past struggle. For me, God gave me hope. He gave me hope for a better day, a better future, and a better me. He is here to give you hope. He is here to set you free from all the pain you went through with your childhood, friends, and family. He is here to make you brand new. Love is here.