On January 27th, 2013, I was baptized at Community Bible Church in Vallejo, California during evening service. I had the opportunity to give a very brief testimony on God’s holiness, faithfulness and patience, on the trials that I went through in my life, and how God used those trials to bring me back to Him and bring glory unto His name.
I present my testimony in full here for whomever may read it. To God be the glory.
My life is quite a work in progress. Many areas of it lay cordoned off with yellow tape and are either under construction or left abandoned. It’s like watching a shopping center slowly go out of business.
I wasn’t able to get that Bachelor’s Degree from the school(s) I attended.
I never did bother to continue pursuing those various computer certifications I said I was going to try for.
I haven’t been able to stick to the exercise and diet plans I had laid out.
I haven’t been consistent in my studies. I fail to be consistent in my Japanese language study and I haven’t even picked up that programming book ever since I bought it.
I can probably go on, but the bottom line is my life is full of shortcomings and failures. For this, I have no one to blame for but myself. It’s kind of funny and sad because I distinctly remember a middle school project I had where I was asked what would be written on my epitaph. In my inability to think of anything good, I wrote something along the lines that I “finished what I started” or “got the job done” or something lame like that. In looking back, I don’t see any event or accomplishment in my life that would attest to that.
I truly am a flawed creature. Yes, everyone has their own flaws as nobody is perfect, but I often felt that I got the shorter end of the stick in this lottery called life.
There was nothing in my life that I could brag or boast about. I wallowed in self-pity and self-doubt and selfishness and escapism. I felt inadequate and I felt that particular quality couldn’t be changed.
And why should I even try to? It’s all meaningless, anyway. “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity”. (Ecc. 1:2)
I ran from my responsibilities. I ran from my pursuits. Most importantly, I ran from God.
As I am, who would embrace one so sad, wretched, and pitiful? Who would accept one so wicked, depraved, and corrupt? Who would seek after one who ran from Him, who hated and despised Him, who turned away to pursue selfish desires, and didn’t want anything to do with Him?
There is One.
I was raised with a Catholic influence, as is common within Filipino culture. I went through CCD (Saturday school at the church I was attending) to learn about various religious matters. I remember rehearsals for my first communion, and myself chewing on the wafer with a loud crunch as it echoed in the sanctuary. I wasn’t signed up to attend the followup class which was for what’s called “confirmation,” though I don’t exactly remember the reason. I had grown relatively accustomed to all the rituals of the church. I knew all the gestures and procedures like when to stand, sit, and kneel, and memorized all the significant prayers that they would have the church recite. Even though I had accumulated much knowledge with regards to the functions that took place there, I can honestly say that I didn’t pull any substance from it. I can’t say that the reading of the scriptures nor the homily given by the priest gave me much insight into God nor any spiritual matters. To me, religion at the time was simply a matter of following the crowd: repeat some prayers, chew your wafers, put some money in the basket, and confess to the priest every now and then.
Not too long afterwards, my older brothers (Dan and Nelson) started attending a different (non-denominational) church. My brother Andrew and I were invited to attend various youth group activities which occurred at that new church. Even though I was shy back then, I think being there helped to bring me out of the shell I was wearing in quite a few ways. I participated in the youth ministry there on a regular basis throughout middle and high school and had a good time. I thought I had accepted Christ into my life at the time (I’m still kind of debating my true point of salvation) and was going with the flow. I went through discipleship with a few close friends, or accountability partners, under various leaders. I helped out the staff, playing roles for skits and helping with games and such. I got involved in the youth choir and partook in quite a few musicals and special numbers for the church. I even performed several solos and duets at camp retreats and for Sunday service. I was quite involved in the body and was having a good time enjoying the fellowship.
When college years rolled around, I started to grow distant to the faith. I was rooming with some brothers from the church back then, but I don’t think I was ready to jump straight into University at the time. I wasn’t really close with any of my roommates and it was difficult to adjust as I lacked a sense of independence and drive back then. I began to drift away not long after I dropped out of CSU Sacramento. I tried to reboot my college career a few times, and it seemed that every time I stepped it up to the university level, I just couldn’t focus as well as I could while in the junior colleges. I would stop attending class and not bother to drop out, resulting in a U grade, which is pretty much the equivalent of an F. All the grades I actually did earn and complete were fairly decent. I generally got A’s and B’s for the most part. However, because of all the U’s I accumulated, my college GPA was left in shambles. Even if I were to finish my degree, my GPA wouldn’t be anything worthy of bragging about. There was a way to remedy it, but it was all too much work to deal with at that point. Not to mention the fact that the very last quarter before finally dropping from CSU East Bay once again consisted of U’s. Just like old times, I guess.
I suppose there are several explanations as to why this occurred, though I feel that not a single one of them truly justifies the outcome. While at CSUS, I got sucked heavily into a gaming addiction. Maybe not so much an addiction but rather an escape from my issues. I gamed often as a youth, so I guess I sought to escape this new and unfamiliar jungle by crawling back to where I felt comfortable. There were times where I would literally find myself playing until I was no longer capable of playing them. I would only stop when my hands could no longer function well enough to perform competitively in those games. Either that or I’d awaken to find myself with my face planted on the keyboard. If I wasn’t gaming, I was wallowing in my problems. So instead of doing that, I kept gaming. My lifestyle very well could have led me to become one of those sorry cases you see in Korea and China about people dying while playing at net cafes. I laugh about it and shake my head when I hear about it now, but in reality, that was me. I didn’t really care about attending classes. I had absolutely no vision at the time of where I wanted to be after college.
I was also involved with an R&B singing group back then. I suppose that particular activity in itself was relatively healthy from a social perspective, but I think that it also assisted in further detracting from my already diminished view on the value of a college education. It clouded my future goals with the dreams and visions of making it professionally in a music career. We had small gains here and there with various showcases and competitions. We held fundraisers which helped us in purchasing equipment for our performances and recording with a home studio. With this funding and some pitching in from our own pockets, we were able to publish our own single accompanied with a music video. We were literally living the dream at the time. Sure, it was on a small scale, but it was still quite the life. I enjoyed singing and performing and I enjoyed the attention it brought us. I did have some visions of being big on the Asian music scene, but I can’t say that I held the same lofty visions as my fellow group members held. Yes, I enjoyed it, but I wasn’t sure if I exactly wanted to live it as a career.
It was during this time that I met my significant other. The relationship moved quickly and we ended up marrying not too long afterwards. This eventually led to my departure from the group. I fought to stay as long as I could. I made some poor attempts to try and balance the two, but ended up having to step down in the end. I really didn’t have the time to do it anymore, nor did I have the heart to continue making the efforts to do so. I had a little one on the way and I needed to focus on what mattered more and take care of my family. We were young and in love and shared in going through the joys and hardships of raising a daughter together, and a few years later, a son. I can’t say that the relationship was the healthiest one for either of us. Our situation was actually relatively ideal. I was able to land a solid job and was supporting the family well enough. I was also able to provide for her college education, which led to her landing a great job and ultimately in us getting our own house. However, the real problems began to surface the moment we began to live on our own. I wasn’t being a man and was living life on cruise control. I wasn’t leading my household. I was letting the wife handle most financial matters and make most of the decisions. We really didn’t compliment each other well. We shared many flaws and didn’t work on fixing them together. The love was slowly fading and I didn’t know how to get it back to normal. Her group of friends and coworkers played a role in drawing us even further apart. After losing my job to the mortgage crisis and eventually falling out of school again, my life went spiraling downward. My physical and mental health fell into a decline as I sought and found that familiar escape in gaming. However, I could only go into hiding for so long.
I was at the lowest of lows in my life. I felt as if I had lost everything as I watched my wife slowly drift away from me, feeling hopeless and helpless in my inability to do anything about it. As more signs of unfaithfulness began to surface, it was then that I had decided in my mind that I was no longer necessary in this world. I figured that things would be better off without me and that my children would be in better hands anyway, as my life really didn’t amount to anything. I felt that I was nothing more than a burden. A waste of space. A carbon footprint variable that needed to be balanced out of the equation. I sat there composing a message to my wife and made a trip to the supermarket to gather materials to blot myself from existence. Once I had made the necessary preparations, I sent her my parting words. I made my way into the bathroom, mixed some chemicals in a bucket, and locked myself in with the vile concoction.
I sat there just waiting for the effects to take hold. The fumes were pungent and noxious. My sinuses were almost immediately cleared the very instant the chemicals were mixed. I looked up and saw the vapors circling at the top of the room. My formerly tear-filled eyes were soon emptied as I could feel the gases slightly burning. As time passed, I soon felt the same sensation creeping into my lungs. The minutes passed slowly, and I kept wondering how much longer it would take. My body began to react towards the human instinct of self-preservation. In the back of my mind, I cried out, begging to get out of that room, but I resisted as I sat there on that cold floor. I was tempted to lean my head over the source and take a deep whiff, but I was afraid and decided not to do so.
There was a time during my teenage years when I was having an episode of night paralysis (maybe a seizure? I never did figure out what it was) accompanied with some delusions. While it was happening, I kept hearing a voice in my head telling me that he was going to take me away or something along those lines. As the sensation of the paralysis increased, so did the authority of the voice. I tried to cling to something, but I couldn’t. I moved my eyes about uneasily and struggled to get up, but no matter what I did, I was unable to move. I tried to gasp for air and I began to feel a sense of urgency. I cried out in my head that I didn’t want to go. This is the same feeling that I began to feel that night. It crept up on me with every passing minute that I sat in that room, with the walls slowly closing in on me. Despite my actions, I already knew it deep down…
I didn’t want to die.
I suppose the fact that I brought my phone in the room was further evidence of that. It began to vibrate not long after the message finally reached my wife and she was able to read it. I fought with myself whether or not I should answer it. I rejected the call a few times only to be greeted once again with the vibration. I don’t exactly remember how she talked me out of it, or if she even needed to talk me out of it or not, but I eventually got out of the bathroom, opened the door, and stepped out into the backyard to breathe in the cool fresh air. I dumped the concoction out into the yard and picked up the kids who were at my parents house at the time. After that, I put them to bed and waited for my wife, who was rushing home. So much for my dramatic exit. It appeared as if the earlier reference about the fallacy in my proposed epitaph and the shortcomings in my life rang true even in this case. I even failed to do this.
As is common with most suicide attempts, I guess mine was simply a cry for help. Unfortunately, this attempt upon my life was the final catalyst which drove the divorce into motion. She filed and the documents soon made their way to me. I had been expelled from the house and found shelter at a friend’s apartment. I stayed with him for almost a month, but after unsuccessful job hunts in the area, I eventually found myself coming back to live at “home” briefly to help out with the kids. Soon after, I would head to my parents, in spite of my wishes not to be there. For some reason, I felt that I would hear it to no end if I told them about what happened. For the longest time, I kept it hidden from them, even though they knew something was going on. However, when I finally mustered the courage to tell them what happened, they were understanding and “officially” took me in, even though I had already been there for a while.
Order slowly began to return in my life as I was finally able to settle in to some full-time work and start paying my bills and remaining debts. With some exhorting from my brothers, and ultimately because of the Spirit moving on me, I began attending church again. I also started to attend home fellowship groups that my brothers were leading. As time passed and in hearing His Word and the gospel preached, I slowly drew near to Him again. Like the prodigal son returning home, He accepted and embraced me in His arms. The Great Shepherd of the sheep went after that one lone sheep that had gone astray. The God of the Universe stooped down and washed me, even though I was so filthy in His sight. He has clothed me in His righteousness, and not for anything I have done, but out of His sheer love.
God has revealed to me that He truly is sovereign over all. He is Lord, even over my trials. He allowed all the calamity that came upon my life to occur (Lamentations 3:37-38, Isaiah 45:7). I believe that these trials were necessary as I needed to be humbled and brought low (Psalm 106:43), and through it, He saved me (Psalm 106:44-45, Psalm 116:6). They have worked together in my life ultimately for the good (Romans 8:28), are part of His plan to help me hold steadfast in my struggle towards completing the work that has begun in my life (James 1:2-4), and in it I rejoice as it leads to His praise and glory (1 Peter 1:6-7).
He showed me some things about my broken marriage as well. While it ended mostly on “good terms” (thankfully), I used to feel that I wasn’t really at fault as she was the one not being faithful. However, the Lord revealed to me otherwise. We were going through the section on marriage in Ephesians (Eph 5:22-33) at the time in our group study and at first I thought that it wouldn’t apply to me since I was no longer married. He revealed to me why my marriage failed. He humbled me and showed me that I was at fault as well. I wasn’t doing my part in the relationship. I wasn’t taking charge as the head of my household. Such a great responsibility that I often pushed aside. I was letting her lead, and always asked her to make decisions when it should have been me. Rarely did I even inject an opinion on matters. This behavior actually seems to be common in this modern society of ours, as women have become more “empowered” in several ways and men have slowly become neutered from their primary role in marriage. I truly failed to play my part in the relationship.
In all of my trials and all of my failures, the primary focus that I was lacking in my life was Christ. Christ wasn’t the centerpiece for any of my endeavors. As men, we can build up our castles in many areas in our lives. Whether it be status, career, fame, fortune, knowledge, or even family, there’s so many areas of our lives that we can put on a pedestal and idolize. However, if it’s not for Him and for His glory, it’s all in vain (Psalm 127:1-2). If Christ isn’t our foundation, our castles will crumble (Matthew 7:24-27). All of these without Christ is merely rubbish (Philippians 3:7-11). Just like it says in that old CT Studd poem and Commissioned song, only what you do for Christ will last. Even if I were to achieve my previously mentioned failings, what would it matter if I didn’t have Christ in my life (Matthew 16:26)?
Of course, this is not to say that I had a guarantee that God would have granted me success and favor in these things if I had Him as my Lord at the time. This is also not to say that He wouldn’t have done so, or that I can no longer attain these sometime in the future. I try not to dwell on the possibilities or stress about trying to understand all that has occurred (Isaiah 55:8-9). I’ve learned to just give it all to Him and put my trust and faith in Him (Matthew 6:25-34, 1 Peter 5:6-7, Psalm 55:22). He certainly is able to do far more abundantly than anything I could ever ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). I continue to remind myself that God is sovereign and in control and has orchestrated and ordained both what has happened and what is to come. What He has given me thus far is peace and joy. Definitely a peace that passes understanding, for how else could one find joy in the midst of such trials apart from God? (Philippians 4:4-7)
I’ll admit, it is easy to look back on events in my life and have feelings of regret. I’ve had occasions where I’ve struggled with contentment with regards to my situation, but He’s been teaching me and has given me the strength to press on (Isaiah 43:18, 2 Corinthians 12:10, Philippians 4:11-13). I have faith and confidence that He will continue His sanctifying work within my life (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24), and will reveal to me where He wants me and where He will bring me. All I can do is continue to pursue Him and strive towards the call (Philippians 3:12-14). Though I may fall short in my life, I thank and praise God that He does not. Jesus was the perfect sacrifice, and through Him, despite all my imperfections, I am made complete with His perfection (Hebrews 10:14).
I thought it fitting to close this off with a song. And what better song than this? This has been one of my favorite worship songs as of late, and I think the lyrics simply fit with what I’ve shared. Just as the chorus says:
Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life
All I Have Is Christ
I once was lost in darkest night
Yet thought I knew the way
The sin that promised joy and life
Had led me to the grave
I had no hope that You would own
A rebel to Your will
And if You had not loved me first
I would refuse You still
But as I ran my hell-bound race
Indifferent to the cost
You looked upon my helpless state
And led me to the cross
And I beheld God’s love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I know is grace
Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life
Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone
And live so all might see
The strength to follow Your commands
Could never come from me
O Father, use my ransomed life
In any way You choose
And let my song forever be
My only boast is You
Music and words by Jordan Kauflin
© 2008 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)