Besides this blog, Jordan and I also share a love for the classic anime Dragon Ball Z and its companion movies and series. What can I say? Guys love stories that involve fighting and being able to fly and shoot energy blasts. Aside from a bacon tree, that’s the dream.
While Jordan is a die hard Goku fan, my favorite character hands down is Vegeta, mainly because I love a good redemption story.
To give a quick overview, Vegeta starts out as a complete jerk and the main villain of the series. Over time, necessity forces him to align with the heroes against a common foe. He later joins them as a fellow defender of Earth, but only out of obligation. Seeing Goku as his great rival, he plunges back into evil for a chance to defeat him, but soon finds it may cost him everything he holds dear. Vegeta then makes considerable sacrifices and faces up to all the evil he’s done. He opens himself to goodness and love, and goes from a selfish villain to a family man, hero, and close friend to his former enemy.
As I said, I love this character because I love a good redemption story.
Redemption stories are epic, especially when your own life is one.
For me, such is very much the case. The road that led me to the heart of Jesus comes out of a great wasteland of sin and selfishness. The time spent in that wasteland and the exodus thereof is now the story I will tell; so be forewarned, it’s kinda gritty.
In 2004, I went to Lee University with big dreams of being the next big name youth pastor. By May 2007, I became disillusioned and apathetic and decided to quit. I railed against God for this happening, but really, the fault was my own.
So from there I went into job hopping, drifting through life, slowly ignoring God, and eventually looked for happiness in the party scene. In 2009, I met a woman and things got hot and heavy pretty fast. Six months later, we moved in together, and a year after that, we found out we were having a child. Then came September 2, 2011, the greatest day of my life, when I held my son for the first time.
At the time of my son’s birth, his mother and I were engaged. All in all, I was a pretty good father. As for a good fiancé, not really. We fought, a lot; and I fought dirty. I was quite emotionally abusive towards her. Her past was a bit more checkered than mine. She had sown more wild oats, and I used it as a weapon, frequently. But in reality, I was jealous that I hadn’t really had my own wild phase. I thought that I had missed out and took it out on her. I made that longing into an idol, and it yielded pain and destruction.
In the days leading to what would’ve been our wedding, I was an impossible jerk to her. As a last ditch effort to pacify things, she offered a “free pass” for me to have one outside experience before the wedding. I sought to make use of it during my bachelor party, but only ended up with a night in jail for public intoxication.
Soon, due to cold feet and conflict, we decided to cancel the wedding. The idea was to take time to work on us and be better prepared for a marriage. But I believed that I was still entitled to my “free pass”.
Sin thrives on a sense of entitlement.
So I still sought to use my free pass, including posting Internet ads to attract any takers. But soon, she found out and was hurt and livid. Of course, it was done there and we went our separate ways. Granted, in hindsight her and I went together like oil and water. But because of my selfishness, a family was broken. That doesn’t get fixed.
When we make ourselves into our own god, destruction and pain will always be the results.
So we went our separate ways, and I went into a long chain of depravity, one girl after another, always making them objects and saying whatever to get what I wanted. That kind of existence has a high price. Thankfully, I avoided any biological consequences, but as Taylor Swift says, “You live like that, you live with ghosts.” And the house of my life was very haunted.
Among all this, my spiritual life was a sham. I was virtually agnostic, deciding that if God existed, then He was a series of four-letter words for letting my life be how it was. I pushed away God and people, but continued in church attendance to appease my family. It was all a show, and I endured every service with a stone heart.
But here’s the thing about stone hearts: they can’t be maintained forever, and mine had quite a few cracks.
Finally, one day, I broke. I admitted I needed God and rededicated. I admitted I needed community and got involved in groups. I admitted I had to face my demons and confessed my sins to my new brothers and sisters. The farther I went with this, the more I realized that I had pursued a false freedom. But now, true healing and freedom could begin.
Despite the junk and grime of our pasts, God is always calling us to freedom and to see ourselves as His beloved children.
To paraphrase the words of Father Gregory Boyle in his book “Tattoos on the Heart”…
“The world looks at us and says Empty. God says Enough. The world looks at us and says Finished, but God seeks to lead us to Fullness.”
God began to drive me to be better than what I was. Then He prepared to take me out of the wasteland and into the Kingdom. Where I saw only a cautionary tale, God saw a storyteller and brought me to writing for this blog. Where I saw just a failure, God saw a leader and eventually brought me to being a leader in my church’s middle school ministry, which has been greatly rewarding. God has made me face faults, and now I am returning to school to finish what I started. I saw only jaded and damaged goods, but God introduced me to the woman that has shown me what it really means to love unselfishly.
In this call to change, God has also made me a better father, son, friend, worker, and person in general.
I love redemption stories because I am one.
No matter where you are or have come from, you are as well. Trust me on this:
All the redemption stories God writes are great ones.
So to live out your redemption story, remember a few things.
1. God sees you as better than what or where you are, and is calling you to better.
God sees you and all your potential, no matter what your past and/or present looks like. The fact that He sees better in you is more than enough reason to be that better. Take your faith out of your own power and put it in God’s, and He will guide you to being better than you saw yourself.
2. Quit running and own up to your junk.
You’re going to have to face up to all your dirty deeds eventually. That’s just life. But it’s okay. After all, you can’t have a redemption story without something to be redeemed from. Just admit all you’ve done to God. Own up to it, be an adult, and admit it. And then leave it at the throne of God. You don’t need the junk anymore; you never did.
3. Stop loving yourself more than everyone else.
Jesus wasn’t kidding about that “love your neighbor as yourself” thing. He meant it. We’re good at the love your neighbor part, just not the as yourself. But take that to heart. I left a trail of hurt behind me because I refused to love anyone as much as me. Sin thrives when we make ourselves number one and render love unbalanced. So how do we balance love properly? Two things: Love God most, and love others as much as you love you. That’s how it’s supposed to be.
4. The hardest part…Forgive yourself and move on.
This part is excruciatingly hard, but so necessary. God loves you and forgives you. He will no longer hold that sin over your head, so don’t do such to yourself. Forgive yourself and move on. To not do so is to say that God’s grace is inadequate, and nothing could be farther from the truth. To steal a quote from “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”, “Don’t let your past dictate who you are, but let it be part of who you will become.”
At one time or another, we all screw up and end up playing the villain in our own story. But the good news is that God will redeem you and your story by joining it to His. What’s more,God’s story is full of former villains converted into heroes for this world. A better life, a better calling, and a better story await you. The choice is yours.
Written and Posted by Adam McBroon