Freeman's Front Porch Musings

Home of an aspiring writer seeking to improve his craft.

A Joyful Life…a bit of my personal testimony…unedited and incomplete…

For His anger endureth but a moment; in His favor is life: Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. Psalms 30:5

I’m often asked, “Why are you such a curmudgeon?” That question bothers me, if for no other reason than for the sheer audacity of people thinking they know me.  According to the Japanese, and I know this for a fact because I saw it on Pinterest, people have three faces. The first face is the one they show to strangers. A second face they show to friends and family. However, the third face is the true one, and no one ever sees it-save for God Himself.

Oh, that question bothers me. I, in fact, have a wonderful life. I even write about the wonderfulness of my life from time to time on my blog. It’s true, I struggled for many years with depression and anxiety. I hated my life and wanted to die. None of those statements are false. I can’t deny that I struggled with suicidal thoughts, or even with addictions. Again, there’s no falseness in that either. 

If, and I stress IF, I come across as a grouch, it’s probably because of the pain in my body. In 2020, I broke my left ankle, on both sides, and the doctor used a hardware store to put it back together. Never mind the long runs from my Army days, nor the 15+ years I spent in retail.

I turned 50 not long ago, and all the lights on my imaginary dash began to blink. The check engine light came on, so to speak. Thankfully, I’m in relatively good shape and try to maintain a busy schedule.  Being married helps in that regard. Gone are the days where I languished in a chair, controller in hand, and a bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos nearby.

Not that there’s anything wrong with the occasional lazy day. I will admit to having an acute fondness for lazy days. I like ‘em, a bit too much I’m afraid. Never mind the fact that a seditionary lifestyle is not the best for your long term health, too many lackadaisical days will kill your creativity, your ambition, and short-term and long-term goals. 

There are seven days during the week, and someday isn’t one of them. 

Sorry, I chased a rabbit there. My bad. This is about a joyful life, my joyful life. It wasn’t always the way it is now. As I wrote earlier, I hated my life, but most importantly, I hated myself. There were days when I wanted nothing more than to erase my entire being and start anew. Unlike many who have no idea on how to climb out of the pit of depression, or to overcome the anxiety in their hearts and mind, I knew what could solve my problems. 

I just chose to ignore it. After the collapse of my marriage, career, and health, I went on a ‘never bender.’ It went something like this: I will never own another house, never buy another car, or remarry. Yeah, I kinda went nuts there, and I would live to see my complete restoration. However, it didn’t happen overnight. Several things would have to happen before wholeness came. 

One of the first things that had to happen, and something I found myself detesting, I had to move home. I loved living in Colorado. The scenery was beautiful, many of my friends still live there, but my life was empty. I craved companionship, and I tried many times to replicate the highs of love, albeit unsuccessfully.  

In an ironic twist, I came home to find my rental invoice taped to my front door, along with a letter. The letter was blunt and to the point: Rents going up for everyone. We spent money on new toilets and other necessities, now we need to recoup our losses.

The leasing agent and owners sprang this news on us during the holiday season. It’s not stressful enough to live on a limited income, this unwelcome surprise sent me into a tailspin. I can pay this ridiculous amount and not eat, or I can be homeless. 

In a fit of unbelief, I called home and asked if I could live with my parents until I was back on my feet. “You’ll need to ask your dad,” Mom said, as she handed the phone to him. “Come home,” he said, in his usual rough manner, but I could hear the relief in his voice. After a few minutes of conversation, I had a plan. That doesn’t mean I liked the plan, but it was a plan nonetheless.

On 07 January, I boarded a Greyhound Bus and began my journey back to Mississippi. I wish I could tell you that my return to joyfulness came from offloading in Memphis. Yeah, if I told you that, I’d be lying. As I walked down the terminal toward the front of the building each step seemed to gain in heaviness. I saw my mom and dad waiting for me; my mom had her arm raised. I gave her a wave and a half-hearted smile. At that moment I felt like a complete failure, but I was overjoyed to see them. 

The drive to Mississippi took a couple of hours, but it seemed to fly by as we talked about life and the people that we knew. I was okay as long as I wasn’t the topic. Everything that I owned fit in a three-day pack the Army had issued me. Among my belongings was one of two pairs of jeans, I wore the other, a couple pairs of socks, a Playstation4,  my laptop, and my college textbooks. I didn’t have much to my name.

Still, I was home. 

It didn’t take long for me to realize that I wasn’t a nice person. Some people find this out when dealing with annoying individuals, or riding behind a slow driver in the passing lane. I found out by being a butt to my family. For years I had lived with stress, but I had developed no ways of coping with it. It didn’t help matters that I was actively failing Algebra II. 

My mother tried to encourage me to seek help, but all it did was trigger my rage. “I don’t need any stupid help,” I’d snap as I stormed out of whatever room I was in. Bless her heart, mom tried to help me as much as she could, but I refused to let her. On a Sunday morning, I went to church with my parents. 

If I remember correctly, the sun shined brightly that day. I remember grimacing when I stepped through the doors. I had often said that I’d never return to church, but here I was at another church. Lots of songs were sung, lots of people danced around, but I felt nothing. 

After we left that day, I smugly told my parents, “I’m not going back to that church.” They didn’t say anything to me (that I can remember) and I wiped my memory of that service. Soon, I was right back to my old way of doing things. 

As I write this, I scoff because the old ways hadn’t proven to be effective, but somehow I figured that if I continued to do the same things over and over, my struggles would get sorted. It hadn’t happened so far, but I refused to quit. After all, nobody likes a quitter. 

Algebra II was the last class I needed for my degree, but I wasn’t feeling it. I’d cracked open the textbook once, saw an infinity sign, and closed the book. “That ain’t math,” I had grumbled to myself. “This isn’t freaking astrology.” I was only home a handful of days prior to me calling around for a tutor. Finally, I was given a number to call, and I set up an appointment. “You can come to Iuka, and we can work on it after class.” On a brisk day, I walked into a tiny trailer in small town Iuka. As soon as I walked in, I could tell there was something different about the tutor.

“Hi,” she said with a smile. “Can I help you?”

Lord have mercy. It’s one of those professional Pentecostals.

I forced a grin and replied, “Yeah, I called for a tutor…”

She motioned for me to have a seat, and she went on teaching her class. For eight weeks, she assisted me with Algebra. “You should visit our church,” she’d say, but I didn’t want to hear it. I’d make some lame excuse, and she’d let it go. She didn’t pressure me, nor did she blast me for my obviously sinful ways. Instead, she kept trying to help me.

On a Wednesday, I finally relented and went to church. From the moment I walked in the door, I felt conviction sweep over me. To say I was uncomfortable is an understatement. I squirmed and kept looking back at the door. When the altar call was given, I dipped out and ran to my vehicle. It took a while for me to recover from the experience, but I went back again. Each time, I felt a tug at my heart, but I refused to give in to it. 

After the term ended, I got lost in my own little world. Life went on, and I stayed busy with college and whatnot. Several weeks passed by, and I sent the tutor a message: “Hey, do you know of a good church that I could attend?”

It took no time for her to respond back with: “Yeah, the church I attend.”

In time, I began to go to church on a regular basis. A sense of peace washed over me when I was at church, but it would quickly dissipate after leaving. Things began to work in my favor. I’d lost my drivers license in Colorado, but I received them after several failed attempts in Mississippi. I passed Algebra II, and I received my degree. Furthermore, I was unable to access my VA benefits in Colorado, and in Mississippi I had access to medical facilities and my primary care doctor. 

Things were looking up, and without me even noticing, God began doing a work in my life.

Revival has several definitions, but this is the one that fits my story: It’s a recall, return, or recovery from a state of neglect, obscurity, oblivion, or depression. To say I was in a state of neglect doesn’t go far enough. Depression? I had no control over my mind or the thoughts that raced through it. It would probably be sufficient to say that I was enslaved to my thoughts; a prisoner locked away in a mental cage. Going to church helped ease my mental struggles, but the dark thoughts continued to nag me. 

On a Sunday morning, our church had a visiting minister for revival services. After a few words of gratitude for the pastor, the preacher launched headlong into his message. Each word he said seemed to hit me in the heart. Tears wet my eyes. The floodgates opened, and I felt warmth run the entire length of my body. “Stand up,” a still, small voice whispered. I stood. “Lift your hands.” I lifted my hands toward Heaven, and God’s Spirit washed over me. I began to speak in tongues as the Spirit gave utterance. 

Redemption came calling, and I answered the phone. My journey toward joy had just begun.

Now, one might think that after finding redemption in the arms of a loving God, I had no more trouble. Far from it, instead, I found a sense of peace in the middle of the storms that arose in my life. After my experience, I drove back to my cabin. I unlocked the door and stepped into my living room. My dog, Chunk, had torn out the trash and strewn it everywhere. My normal reaction of anger was replaced by a soft blanket of peace, and I picked up my broom and cleaned it up. As I swept, the still small voice whispered, “This is how I found you. Lost in the gutter, but I picked you up, cleaned you, and put your feet on solid ground.” My tears spilled from my eyes as I thanked God for giving me a second chance.

I was far from perfect, but my spiritual man had been renewed. Now, it was time for me to pick up my cross and follow Him.

For some reason, non-believers seem to think once you become a Christian that you put on a mantle of perfection, and you’re immune to making mistakes. Oh, how they enjoy pointing out the failures of Christians. Come to think of it, I know some Christians like that as well. There’s no shortage of mistakes in my walk with the Lord, so these folks have something to talk about.

As a young Christian, I began trying to follow my Savior, but life kept interfering. Things would go well for a while, but then I was back to chasing rabbits. Then, I’d go to church, get things sorted, and things would go fine until I hit another snag. Just because I have the Holy Ghost doesn’t mean that I quit wanting things, and soon I had the cart ahead of my horse. 

The Lord stuck with me, for He is the friend that sticks closer than a brother. I gave more time to video games, Netflix, and other forms of distractions than I did Him and His Word. I began to grow cold in the Lord, and things began to go south. 

In between my distracted living and growing cold spiritually, I entered a season of loss. With the rise of COVID, I lost my grandmother and father on consecutive days. Friends that had welcomed me to church and treated me like I was their own, they too passed. I was heartbroken.  God, why am I losing everyone that I care for? I’m ashamed to say that all the loss seemed a bit personal to me. My heart lamented the pain, and for the life of me I couldn’t understand it.

Each loss seemed to add to the grief in my heart. My tears burned down my cheeks, but in time, I found solace in the one place that I replaced with the distractions this world had to offer. I went back to church. 

It was at church that I found the peace I had traded in for mere worldly pleasures. I was back on the straight and narrow, and this time I would stay with it.

Published by

2 responses to “A Joyful Life…a bit of my personal testimony…unedited and incomplete…”

  1. Chassidy Freeman Avatar
    Chassidy Freeman

    I’m so proud of the Godly man you have become. Love you, Forever and Always!❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. frontporchmusings694846020 Avatar
      frontporchmusings694846020

      Love you back, snookums!!

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: