“I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” Ps 34:4
When I think of my teen life and my then relationship with God the image of a fraying rope being held together by a single thread comes to mind.
Growing up in a Sunday church the Lord gave me from a young age the clarity of mind to see the many contradictions and false teachings that the people absorbed without one thought or question, but being young I was ill prepared to question doctrines and priests; there seemed no one who could guide me in reading the Bible. I remember trying hard to make sense of the book in which my life was to be governed but it seemed like a puzzle that I could not solve. Although I despaired, part of me held on knowing in time I would find my answers, and a voice repeated in my mind, “be patient”.
As the early years of my teen life went on I became enchanted with the world and God begun to fade from my thoughts. After receiving disappointments here and there but failing to understand them as the gentle call of God to return to Him, I began to question my God.
My church attendance slowly disintegrated and the questioning and curious mind I once had, fuelled by despair and distracted by the excitement of the world softened to a whisper; I had become but a number in the church, another voiceless person to occupy the seats. Although I had begun to turn from God, part of me held on knowing in time I would find my answers, and a voice repeated in my mind, “be patient”.
The last years of my teen life were by far the most challenging and despairing. I was completely in the world, a rebellious teen angered with how unfair life was, made bitter by demands of a family that expected much from me and would mentally bring me down if I did not meet standards. I associated myself with people that cared little about anything else but themselves and would betray each other’s trust for personal satisfaction; these were my friends. All the while my esteem faded and my anger would be directed at God. I went through many a heartbreak in this time also, domestic quarrels and being stuck in a destructive relationship with a maniacally jealous and suicidal girl brought me to a low point. Instead of turning to my Saviour for answers I cursed Him and fell further into the world. I turned to alcohol and drugs for my escape and as I entered my final year of school the pressure that had been building only grew. My family on my back, my friends not caring for my problems, a relationship that brought me to frustration and anger and the mix of drugs to escape life were taking their toll.
This final year was to me a blur, I had sunk deep and realised it when my grandfather passed away right before my final exams. I cried bitterly yet deep within I was indifferent, I had lost hope in God and in my life. I no longer cared. I continued to drink my pain away thinking there was nothing else to do and went through my final exams without care, I did not study one book before me just to make my family angry and went to my exams hung-over and under the influence. I didn’t want anything anymore, this life had become dull and I was so bitter. The boy who had once eagerly sought the Lord had become lost in me. I repeatedly questioned God, why if He cared so much for me was I losing the strength to live?
I finished my exams and decided I needed to get away. With my so-called friends I took a vacation from myself and my troubled world. I did not care at that point about anyone in my life and wanted to do nothing but party. I had become a shadow of who I really was and at times I could hear the faint whispers within me say “This isn’t who you are”. It wasn’t long before the thread that held me together broke. I, being utterly bitter decided to betray my friends and after doing so felt in full the pain that I had hid away. As all my friends took their turn to cast me out of their lives I felt the emptiness inside me swell and no drink could let me escape it.
I staggered to the beach late in the night and I was ready to end it, despair had defined my life, emptiness had defined me. I walked into the freezing waters and felt a soothing sensation, I was ready to let go, I was ready to give up. I walked further into the dark water and just as I went to dive into my grave alone and defeated, I heard a once familiar voice scream out, “be patient!”
Tears flooded down my face as I realised the Lord was with me, I was not alone and after falling so far from Him I realised that it was His hand under me when I needed Him most. He had been through my bitter walk right by my side and now I finally listened to His call. I fell to my knees and did something I had not done in years, I prayed. I prayed earnestly, letting Him know my heartÕs desire for Him, letting Him know I needed Him and I asked for forgiveness again and again. I could not stop crying, the tears blurred my vision so I kept my eyes shut. Still in the freezing water I prayed and cried out to God, “Lord show me what my life is for, what do you want of me?” I pleaded with the Lord to give me a sign. As the hours passed I felt a peace in my heart that I had never experienced before and as I opened my eyes I saw before me the sun rising. For the first time in a long time I was happy, my Lord was with me and I finally understood that He was more than stories in a book. He was an ever present companion, a true friend. I did not know where He would lead me from there but I trusted in His promise of
something better, all I had to do was “Be patient”.
By the Lord’s mercy my marks were good enough for me to enter university and I could see that my life was changing; I made a firm decision to treat others the way I had wished to be treated no matter what and to put them ahead of myself. Eager to start my new life I entered university a decidedly new man and by the Lord’s purpose and grace the first person I met there was a young woman named Elizabeth. In the year that followed, Elizabeth shared with me little gems of the Lord’s word that sowed in me seeds of curiosity that once filled my childhood. I could see in her a strong desire to serve the Lord and by her own experiences she attracted me to Him even more. I decided to study the Word for myself and with a little guidance my interest sparked to a unquenchable fire. I was so eager to know more about the precious Saviour that had been with me in the water and urged me to wait for something to come. To my delight that something to come had been Elizabeth and the IMS. Not long after my desire to serve the Lord was sparked was I asked her if I could come to church and learn more of the Lord.
It has been a year since I celebrated my first Sabbath and my life is now better than I ever imagined. The Lord saved me from myself and from that day I wanted to give everything that I was to Him. On the 13th of July 2007, my best friend, Elizabeth and I made our stand for the Lord and to make it even more special to me, we were baptised in the waters that only a few years before I went into to take my life. In a way I finished what I had begun but this time it was on a happier note. As I stood in the water the voice that beckoned me to keep fighting the good fight was echoed in the songs of my church family and the peace that the Lord had given me on that fearful night was present again.
What a joy it is to know Jesus! What a joy it is to belong to His family! If anything, my life has taught me to never let go of God because He never lets go of you. If ever your walk with the Lord comes to a low always remember to “be patient.” Amen
Baptism of Steve Caruana and Elizabeth Manua.
On Friday July 13, Steve Caruana and Elizabeth Manua were baptized.
In the words of Steve Caruana, Òthe day was perfect and I truly felt the Spirit of the Lord manifest Himself in each member present. The entire Sydney church all made their way to sunny Queensland to celebrate with the members of the Queensland church. Members either drove the 12 hours from Sydney to the baptism site or flew by plane. The day was cloudless, sunny and the location was postcard-worthy. We met early at a secluded spot in Burleigh Heads where the calm river met the open ocean. After setting up and clearing our minds with a walk along the shore, the church raised up in unity to sing my favourite hymn, “Search Me, O God,” followed by some encouraging words from Brother Ebby, and a song by the water performed by Sister Val and her family. The song fittingly suggested that there is a time for everything and that the time for God was now.
ÒElizabeth and I both entered the water together and although the water chilled to the bones, my heart was filled with a calming joy. As I witnessed LizÕs baptism, I remembered the day the Lord called me from the world. I saw my best friend take a step that would lead her to a fruitful life in Christ, and it took all my strength to hold back the tears as I thanked the Lord for this moment. Then came my turn to make my choice. I looked out at the gathered family, brothers and sisters all smiling back at me and I flashed back to my experience. I was no longer alone on that shore; the same voice that urged me to be patient, to keep strong and hold on to hope was voiced in every member as they sang the hymn that led me to my watery grave.
“After changing from our baptismal gowns, we were presented our baptismal certificates. Brother Paul saw it appropriate to use Acts 7:55-56 as my baptismal verses. I truly understand what a miracle is, by the way the Lord has taken me into His fold. I have always questioned through the past year, why me, Lord? I am unworthy. I am a great sinner, but God’s love for me has shown me that although I am blameful… I am also hopeful.”
“I know this is the beginning of a great new chapter in my life and the trials to come will test my faith even more, but my heart is set and my confidence is steadfast. I will see my Saviour and my prayer is that all will stay strong in His love and mercy.”