One particular day in 1989 stands out in my mind. I was in my Newport Beach apartment, alone. I had just come from the library across the street where I had used the Xerox machine to copy the poem, “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley.
I sat at my table and used an Exacto knife to cut out the last two lines of the poem. They read, “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” I took that small paper to be laminated and I then carried it in my wallet for over a decade.
I look back now and I am embarrassed by my naivety. I had read Anthony Robbins’ “Unlimited Power,” and a slew of other books. I was using what I learned in the books to better myself. Or so I thought.
That was the story of my life. I would take something and then twist it until it fit into my life. It made me feel like anything I did was okay, because I was in charge.
I had spent from birth through age thirteen going to church or a church school. I had been taught better than to believe I was so powerful, but I chose to believe in myself anyway.
I started building a wall between myself and God in my teens. I was twenty when I started carrying those laminated words in my wallet. My goal from an early age, from 1984 until the mid-1990’s was to be a mobster, just like the ones I had seen in the movie “The Godfather.” By 1989 I was well on my way to realizing my twisted goal.
I had lost a friend and mentor to a murder in 1987. The murder was a classic gangland hit. I had been with him just hours before. A normal person would have gotten as far away from anyone or anything in that life at that point. But I didn’t. What did I take away from his death? I thought he had become soft and slipped up. He had started going to church and even had a taped sermon playing in his car when he was murdered. It made me think I was one of those lucky people because I was not with him.
I felt untouchable because things in life just seemed to work out for me. I was arrested many times and but I always skated. They could not build a case, or they dropped it before trial.
I remember getting arrested for extortion and spending ten days locked up in a cell before I was able to be arranged. I had what I felt was bad luck by being picked up the Thursday before the Fourth of July weekend. Then they had a riot in Huntington Beach where they arrested hundreds of people. I just wanted to make bail, but I first had to be transferred and then go to court. I was on a no-bail hold until I went before a judge.
One day when I was in my cell a chaplain came by and asked me if he could pray for me. I told him to go ahead, I was thinking to myself, “Hey, it couldn’t hurt.” He prayed and left me a pamphlet. I just read some Stephen King book instead of even opening it up.
Finally, I saw a judge.
I was in a cage in the courtroom chained to five other inmates. We were all bad guys, but I looked out of place being the youngest. The guy before me stood up and took a deal for nine years like he was ordering fries at McDonald’s. Then they started reading off my charges and listing my organized crime ties. Everyone in the cage moved away from me. I felt proud right then. My lawyer was there and he argued that I was entitled to bail. The judge agreed to set bail at $80,000 and I was free that day.
I learned nothing.
I had not thought about that place in my life until Pastor Arol, during a sermon at Minooka Bible brought up people who think they are the captain of their soul. That was me. It couldn’t be much clearer than the words I lived by in my wallet.
I wasted many years thinking I knew what was best for me. It was not until I surrendered my life to God that I was able to see myself for what I really was. What I could not see because of the wall I built between us, I now see with clear eyes.
Have you ever built a wall between you and God, or do you have one now?
No matter where you are in life, I can tell you that what lies behind that wall is far greater than anything you might think you gain by standing alone.
God’s purpose for your life is greater than any purpose you can dream of on your own.