I remember it like it was yesterday, police officers roaming from class to class with their dogs and handheld metal detectors. As one of them entered my classroom I knew any minute I would be in more trouble than I ever thought I would be, when waking up for school that day. I unzipped my steel-toed combat boots and slid the metal into my boot, slowly zipping my boot back up. It was a self defense weapon much along the lines of brass knuckles, but made out of lead with one pointy end coming from the side of the palm, and two pointy ends coming from the middle knuckles. It was given to my older sister while taking a martial arts class in college. She left it behind after moving out to begin her own family and I began carrying it in order to protect myself in my previously rough highschool.

The police officer walked towards me and made the “get up” signal with his hand. I slowly stood up from my desk as he ran the the metal detector down my baggy-legged Jnco jeans and down to my boots as the detector buzzed loudly. “Take off your boots, please,” he told me sternly. I slipped off my boots and out fell my weapon onto the floor. He reached down and picked it up, “Come with me,” he said. I remember thinking that at any moment my parents would be called up to the school that I just started going to only a month before.

“Tell me why it is that you need a weapon like this on you at all, much less at school? He said. You know that you could kill someone with this, don’t you?”

“Yes sir, I do. I was in ROTC, plan to join the Marines after highschool and have a good knowledge and respect for weapons. I just came from a very dangerous school and had to protect myself everyday.” I said.

“The first day of school, someone was shot by a gang member right outside of the cafeteria doors. The second day, in that same cafeteria another student was stabbed only tables away from me. We had police officers, metal detectors and chains on every door, but somehow it wasn’t enough to protect us. I was threatened every day and jumped by a group of boys the year before. I don’t want to hurt anyone, I only want to protect myself.” I explained.

“But this school is different,” he interrupted. “We are in the suburbs, there’s no crime like that here in our schools and definitely no need for weapons like this.”

“Sir, I understand and I apologize for bringing it to school with me, even though it made me feel safer having it. But sir, the same evil that was in the hearts of those people at my old school, is the same evil that can live in all of us. I go to church, speak in my youth group, head up the praise and worship team. I help with bible study and spend every day trying to be a good person, but even in all of that I cannot escape evil around me.”

The officer paused for what felt like a few minutes, as my heart pounded out of my chest in fear that I would be placed in handcuffs.

“You don’t have to be afraid here. That’s what I’m here for. I won’t be giving you this back, because it is illegal and I do not want you to ever have to use it, but I want you to understand that while you are here, I am your protection now. You can go back to class.”

I walked back to class thinking how lucky I was for not being arrested and more importantly, that my parents didn’t have to know about what just happened.

The next year, young men murdered their fellow classmates in a massacre better known as Columbine, and life for young teenagers was never the same.

Weeks ago, when this last school shooting happened, I sat in bed and cried for three days. Begging for God to intervene and fix this. My heart broke all over again for the loss of life and extreme violence that runs so rampant these days. I prayed for him to mend the hearts of the parents, teachers, loved ones and friends who were personally touched by this tragedy and to heal the wounded heart of the young man who decided that that was the day to take so many lives into his own hands.

The truth is, this is an issue of hurting people, who have no answers to stop their pain, who lack the wisdom to see their issue from a broader perspective in order to feel some kind of hope, who choose in-kind to hurt others. People who came to no answers in time to keep their bitterness, coldness and hatred from setting up a place of refuge within their hearts. Their isn’t a simple solution for such a complex problem as this. Or is there? We’ve spent so much time blaming eachother, opposing political parties, or the inadimate object wielding no ability to use itself to kill without an owner to pull its trigger — And still, no one has reached a solution that will settle their minds and take this unrelenting ache, away.

This is an issue of spirit, that we are seeking to resolve by physical means. Even in this, the fighting has become so loud that the still, inner voice of spirit, cannot be heard.

What we have abandoned today — Is God. God is what we have removed from our schools, from our homes, from our lives and from our nation. In order to be politically correct or socially acceptable. Yet only God can save us from ourselves and the immense destruction that we have caused by letting a little evil in. We have replaced His truth, for the temporary lies that we tell ourselves. We have forgotten how faithful his love is, and that his grace is sufficient. He promises that he will never leave us, nor forsake us. We’ve forgotten his command to love one another, and to love our enemies.

We spend so much time attacking one another and calling for violence over simple ideals that we don’t agree with. Spewing vitriol at each other over OPINION. Attacking each other over theories. Waging war because we think that we are right and are the only ones who can be. The mindset of today is far rooted in anger, resentment and hate and our society is now showing its dis-ease.

Our younger generations were born into it, knowing nothing else. They think it’s okay to hurt others, because their feelings matter over doing what is right. We forgot to teach them that feelings ebb and flow and that we should never allow any one feeling to make a permanent home in us. So many are depressed, not realizing that depression is from unspoken anger, turned inward. Letting it fester to the point that the simple thought of violence becomes an act of desperation to get OUT, what is defiantly lurking inside. We glorify violence in the things that we watch, listen to, and the conversations that we entertain and we teach our children to do the same. We spend more time arguing our feelings and fighting over offenses than we do showing mercy and love to those around us. We stopped tending to our own battles of internal conflict and started projecting them onto everyone outside of us, because it’s easier — But the real problem is not with anyone else. It is with us.

The Bible likens our minds to that of a snare. What is a snare’s purpose, but to trap anything which crosses its path? Within our minds sits trapped madness, insecurities, bitterness and resentments, the fertilizer for hate and evil to take root and to thrive. What we feed our minds daily, through all avenues is what eventually breeds the seeds of conflict, chaos and discension. By trapping the pain and letting it fester into anger, we create the perfect storm to in-turn lash out at those around us. What we allow to sit in the recesses of our subconcious is what disconnects us from the love and the grace of our Creator.

We created this culture of hate and we further it by providing no good, solid, loving foundation for our youth to grow and mature in. When we took God out of everything, we as a society took His hand off of the very things that he promised to take care of. The very things that we lack wisdom to remedy. We removed ourselves from the basic principles that further us in our maturation. Here we are stagnate, depressed, angry and uncertain, having permanently let go of the very tool to pull us up and out of this perpetual cycle of chaos.

Jermemiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you; plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all of your heart. I will be found by you; and will bring you back from captivity.”

The last part of this text, “I will bring you back from captivity,” Could it be that God is telling us that being without Him, is the same as being held hostage away from all that makes your life fulfilling? When you are in captivity, you are lacking the things most valuable to your existence. You are missing the very things which add to your fullness. Is being without God, to be held captive? Removed? Disinfranchised? Separated from the essence of life? How can the creation function being totally disconnected from it’s creator? If we are, in God’s eyes, as his children, then this would be much like my four year old all of the sudden being completely removed from me. Her provider. The one who not only gave her life, but also sustains it each day. How could she truly function at full capacity, with the confidence that someone is there to help her out, pick her up when she falls, set her back down the right path and look out for her best interests, if that which sustains her, is no longer in the picture?

I grew up in the church. My father was an ordained minister, my mother the child of missionaries. And though I grew up knowing the Bible backwards and forwards and serving in the church each time that the doors were open, later in life after losing my son, I ran in the opposite direction. I could not get away fast enough. My mind couldn’t comprehend how this God that I had prayed to, the God that I relied on to keep me – could abandon me in such a way to take my child from me. There were so many more things that had happened in-between this time that continued to shake the little faith that I had left. People whom I loved, time and again turned their backs on me and I found myself feeling more and more alone with no answer of how to feel whole again. I became angry and hardened inside. What seemed like a short period of time, turned out to be over ten years of anger, resentment and heartbreak, boiling in me just below the surface.

In many ways, I blamed God for my loss and my grief. I even blamed him for my anger and disappointment. My thought was, had he saved my child then I would have never had anything to be angry about. If he had only done what I thought was the proper order of things, then there would be nothing for me to be upset about. That’s how I told myself that my walking away from God was with good reason. In those years of running from the reality of God in order to find something that made more sense to me, I researched as much as I could about every religion, form of belief system and spirituality that I possibly could. My struggle was to believe and I desperately needed to believe in something real. While fighting the existence of God so hard, it still made no sense to my spirit, not believing that something greater than me existed. That there was a distinct purpose for, and order to, everything that ever happened in my life. The only example that I can equal this disjointed feeling to, would be a child denying their biological parent as being a part of them. It was as if I was denying my own DNA and no matter how convincing I was to myself, it still felt like I was living a lie.

While I lived a life uncaring of who I offended, while I drank to excess and partied way too hard, ran around with people who cared as little as I did and shared the same level of hate and disdain as me, I still found myself many times, alone and crying out for something more. Something to save me from myself, from the emptiness, and from the world I was finding to be all too miserable at heart. This world I had acclimated myself to, was one without conviction, without concern for others and far more self-centered than I had ever imagined it would be. Through abandoning the principles of God, that I was taught, I adopted the principles of this world that glorified indulgence, self-promotion and honoring your feelings no matter how unjust. I wanted out of that life and mindset, but I lost my own way of how to break free from it.

The past 18 years of my life, turned out to be the most influential and fruitful of all my years combined. It was the start of a journey that I had to take in order to know God in a way which was most personal to me. It was no longer about what my parents told me, or what Sunday school taught me. I wasn’t regurgitating relayed information and basing my faith on the experiences of others. Instead, I was finally coming to know God in a personal way through evidence of the things coming to fruition within my life and more importantly, in how my heart was beginning to mend. My faith was being built this time on my own experiences of God. It wasn’t until the last couple of years where all that I had learned and witnessed became a solid foundation of the truth of God’s word in my life. As each day went by and I turned my focus little by little, it became obvious that I had spent years trying to deny my birthright. Trying to run from that which created me. But the prodigal son (or in my case, daughter) was coming back home.

We have forgotten God’s truths, His promises and His commands, and replaced it with political correctness, self-indulgence and the need to be part of and accepting of every-THING instead of every-ONE. We’ve forgotten to be kind and show humility instead of boastful, judgemental, haughty and proud. We’ve forgotten to be quick to listen and forgive, and slow to anger and to speak. We’ve abandoned these truths because they aren’t easy to live by. In fact, many days they are quite honestly impossible to live by. We all seem to be looking for that quick fix. The pill we can take to make us all better instead of getting our hands dirty in our own muck and doing the work needed to make ourselves whole again. We want the temporary solution without foundation and like a house built on sand, that solution gets shaken to crumbling at the slightest disturbance.

In our inability to recollect that we are a loving creation formed in the image of the Creator of ALL things, heavens and earth — We have in-kind abandoned our very identity. Love, peace, humility, compassion, truth, forgiveness. His ways were meant as a safeguard, a form of checks and balances, to insure that we never be lead too far astray from the very purpose in which we were created for or from the Creator of whom will sustain us. Not only in times of good, but in times of trouble.

In the time that I spent running away from God’s truth, I thought that I was now a part of a more accepting world, but all that I continually saw was like-minded people on this suicide mission to destroy others while unaware that they were also destroying themselves. I didn’t see acceptance and love. I saw fakeness, pretention. As much as I tried to convince myself that I was like them and also didn’t care, that foundation which my parents raised me on, was still alive in me. As much as I tried to believe that nothing affected me, it still did. Because I was raised with the principles of God instilled in me, I could never truly escape it. Where I watched others so easily side-step responsibility for their actions, I couldn’t. There was no safe distance to run that would completely separate me from the principles of God which I was raised on knowing.

My childhood teachings of the principles of God was like being ushered through a maze, hand-in-hand, on how and where to find God on the other side. My departure from and journey back to those principles was like going into the maze, this time unaccompanied and without guidance, having to find him on my own. I made many wrong turns, but eventually found my way.

Proverbs 22:6 – “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

It says nothing of the journey in-between, but that when he is old, he will not depart.

I fall every day. I make mistakes every day. I battle with my own mess, every day. But just as I love my children no matter what they ever do and also know that they will definitely make multitudes of mistakes — I am humbled by the fact that far GREATER is God’s love for me. Greater is his mercy and grace for me. Greater is his faithfulness for me. Greater is his knowledge of who I am than even who I know of myself to be. He will never leave me, nor forsake me. I choose to stay connected to the source of my life and all life. I choose to hold on to that which sustains me, through the evidence of its existence within my own personal life.

As a society when we gave up teaching these fundamental principles to our children, we gave them no road map to finding it themselves, later, when life gets harder and reality becomes inescapable. We left that job to pastors, teachers, counselors, etc., closing our eyes and hoping that someone else would intervene to do this job for us. Now we are seeing what a society, devoid of God looks like. What our children grow up to be without that foundation that we were instructed and entrusted to give them. And here we sit, horrified. It’s not too late to change it. It’s not too late to put God back into our lives and our children’s lives, because he never left us.

As I find myself hungering for hope, for something good to satiate my spirit — I keep seeing this loving father of us all, with arms outstretched just waiting for us to turn back to him. Like any good father would do for his children, he will not force them back into his arms, but patiently wait for them to decide it is time to return, on their own…

“But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5

My Testimony – Marvin Sapp

The Best in Me – Marvin Sapp