The base metal of the circumstances of my life were anything but perfect. There were flaws at every turn. A dead natural mother. An alcoholic natural father. And even in the wonderful couple who adopted and raised me, the husband had grown up as a gang member and had always struggled with how to give and receive love.
Many of us find circumstances within our lives where the “base metal” of early occurrences is far from ideal. Imperfections can exist that, if not overcome, might later cause tragic dilemmas in life. And they come at us from various angles.
Taylor, for instance, grew up with an inaccurate view of God that formed a vacuum in the base metal of her life. She grew up in a home where her parents did not see God as a loving, caring Refiner with a wonderful plan. Instead they saw Him as a harsh and cruel taskmaster. She was taught that God was waiting to catch her making a mistake, and He would summarily zap her for her mistakes. As a result, her summarized biography looks more like a rap sheet.
• Age 7—began stealing from her mother’s purse.
• Age 10—started smoking.
• Age 12—had her first sexual experience.
• Age 14—had become sexually active.
• Age 15—was an alcoholic.
In her late teen years, she went to Alcoholics Anonymous for help. She met some people she thought she could trust, but then three of those men gang-raped her. She then started doing drugs, which led her to turn her first “trick.” From there she moved into prostitution. Having found life to be so empty in the war zone of prostitutes, she turned to lesbianism.
In the mire of that tragic and flawed journey, she heard a radio speaker say that God could forgive anything. That day she made a commitment to find a church and see if indeed that could be true. Arriving at a local congregation, hardened and embittered by life, with a countenance that reflected such hurt, she listened to a message of repentance, forgiveness, and God’s plan for every life. That day, she committed to not staying a victim, but to becoming a victor through God’s grace.
Or consider Gihwan (pronounced Kee-wan) Shin, who grew up with inadequate hope. Gihwan was born in Seoul, Korea. At the age of ten months, he became extremely ill, and the diagnosis was polio. As his young life unfolded, his mother told him this tragedy was punishment for the sins of his ancestors. He was offered no hope of ever getting any better. Growing up feeling ashamed, he hated his appearance, his life, and what he understood of God. He wanted to know why he deserved to be punished for what someone else did.
As a teenager, he stopped walking when he saw other kids. Wanting so badly to run and play with them, he was trapped in a body that had to drag a crippled leg. In his mind, the future looked hopeless, and no one told him any differently. Despair hung like a dense morning fog, blocking any sunlight of hope.
In 1974, at the age of 14, he had one of many surgeries to correct the residual damage left by the disease. While in the hospital, his cynical, bitter spirit was challenged when he saw other patients in even worse condition than himself. Patients with leprosy passed by with no fingers or hands, no toes or feet, and one without a nose. Yet something was different about them—they had smiles on their faces and seemed to have a song in their hearts: He couldn’t understand what could make that kind of difference.
Into his room came a pastor who was also handicapped—suffering from blindness. Sensing Gihwan’s bitterness, he simply explained how Jesus had made a difference in his life. As he shared the gospel, he read John 3:16, but the boy lashed back in anger and bitterness. The blind pastor simply said, “I cannot explain everything that happens, but I can explain that God loves you enough to change your life and give you hope.”
Although the pastor left, his haunting words remained. His bottom-line message had been, “God loves you just the way you are, but He loves you far too much to let you stay there. “In a short while, Gihwan opened his heart and invited Christ in with a simple prayer. Immediately, he began praying to see his family members come to know Christ as well.
In 1986, Gihwan came to the United States to continue his education in computer science. Through that journey, he sensed God’s call into ministry and pursued the path of theological education. Today Gihwan serves in the state of Indiana as an Asian Catalytic Missionary for the North American Mission Board. He has personally started over twenty-five mission congregations and has personally introduced at least fifty people per year to a relationship with Jesus Christ in each of the last four years. In addition, Gihwan’s three sisters, one brother, and wife are now also Christians.
How easy it would have been for Gihwan to find himself trapped in the milieu of no hope and circumstances beyond his control . . . yet he became a victor!
Bob Reccord is a nationally recognized speaker, author, and business consultant. Bob and his wife Cheryl founded Total Life Impact to encourage the development of purposeful, Christ-centered missions and goals in the lives of believers. Bob served for nine years as the founding President/CEO for the North America Mission Board. He has authored eight books including Beneath the Surface and Made to Count.