— My Testimony —
Dear friend, I want to tell you what happened to me; not because I want to talk about myself, but because I want to bring you hope…soulHOPE. Years ago, my friend who is a pastor, asked me to tell my story to his congregation. What you read here is what I read to them. I hope it helps you. —Don Mondell
Addictions, anxiety, fear — how God fixed a broken man.
I was once addicted to drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, and later I was a workaholic.
Whenever I told this story in the past, I would mention events of drug overdose, crime, violence and some of the horrific things I did to myself and to others during my addictions. I don’t want to talk about those things this time. Now I want to focus on something different.
You see, while my addictions were a serious problem, they weren’t the main problem. My addictions were simply a symptom of a much deeper problem.
I’m almost 60 years old now and I haven’t been an addict for over three decades. But, it wasn’t until my late 40’s that I fixed that deeper problem.
It would be easy to say that the reason I became an addict, was because alcoholism ran in my family. There is no doubt that alcoholism in my family helped influence me toward addictions. But I want to tell you about why I HID in my addictions. I want to tell you about that deeper problem.
And that deeper problem, my real problem, was fear.
I’m not talking about fear of death. I’m not talking about fear of pain. I’m not talking about fear of evil. I’m talking about a much more sinister & slippery fear.
I’ll tell you in detail about that fear, but first, listen to what fear caused me to do.
When I was little I wanted to join Cub Scouts, but at the last minute, I backed out. I remember being afraid to join, but I didn’t know what I was afraid of. I was too young to understand it then.
Even so, it was fear that prevented me from doing something I wanted to do.
Baseball, football, basketball. It was fear that caused me to never learn how to play those games. I was afraid to try. I didn’t know WHY I was afraid to try.
And right now I am tempted to not mention any of that.
I’m tempted toward shame. I’m tempted to think of myself as a loser. But I won’t give in to this temptation, because I was just a kid then, and I didn’t know why I was afraid.
The sad part, is that once again, fear prevented me from doing something I wanted to do.
Of course, not knowing how to play those games made me somewhat of an outcast. All the other kids played those games, so I learned to make excuses why I couldn’t play. And I chose to make friends with kids that were either too heavy or too skinny to play those games. They never got picked, so I was safe with them.
Well…so it was fear that dictated even what friends I would have.
Fear prevented me from ever saying much. Fear prevented me from joining activities. And that made me stand out. It made me awkward. And that led to insults from bullies…and sometimes beatings. That led to me being more afraid of people.
Eventually, I made a habit of cutting classes to avoid the fear I felt around people. Yet, I was actually smart in school. I could answer most of the questions asked by my teachers, but I would never raise my hand. Instead, I would slouch low in my desk. I tried to hide behind the kid in front of me, so the teacher wouldn’t call on me. Why did I do that? I knew the answer to the teacher’s question. In fact, sometimes, I was the only one who knew the answer. But I wouldn’t raise my hand. I didn’t know why, but I was afraid. Afraid of what?
As time passed, I learned to avoid situations that would put me in front of people. Then a weird thing happened.
After years of practicing the drums alone in my basement, a band asked me to audition. They were professionals who actually made money playing music. Crazy thing is I went to the audition.
Now why would somebody who is afraid of people want to be in a band that plays in front of people? The answer is I needed money. And I figured I might be okay, because drummers are BEHIND the rest of the musicians.
I got the job. I was the drummer. And for years, every time I walked on stage, I almost passed out. Fear.
Later, when I was on tour with the band, one night something happened in my hotel room. It was a few hours before I had to be on stage. I was warming up by tapping with my drumsticks into a pillow. I was alone.
Then, all at once, I was not alone. I was aware of a presence in the room. I don’t know how, but I knew it was God. I swear I heard him say, get the bible.
I started to say I didn’t have a bible, but he reminded me that somebody put a bible in the nightstand. I got the bible, knelt on the floor, and opened it. I don’t remember what I read, but I do remember that it felt like it cut my soul. I wept. And at that moment, I turned myself over to him.
For the first time, I sensed peace as I had never known it. And when I entered the stage that night, I wasn’t so bound by fear.
Now, I would like to tell you that once I came to Jesus, I didn’t have any more problems with fear. But that would be a lie. Fear returned.
After some years, I left professional music, and time passed. Then three significant things happened.
I became a husband. I became a father. And I became a pastor.
Yes, I was a Christian. Yes, I knew the Bible. Yes, I loved God. Yes, I wanted to live as God says we should…and I worked hard at it. Yet fear would show up again and again. How could this be?
I found myself in a position of leadership as a husband, a father, and a pastor. When you’re in leadership, people expect you to have answers. But what if you’re wrong? What if you don’t have an answer? They expect you to lead them, but what if you lead them wrong? Now, if you stay at it, you learn to put your fear aside and just do what people expect. You take your best shot and a lot of times it plays out and you’re safe. You made the right call. Yet…it all still bothered me…why was I afraid?
As a husband, I was afraid of not being a good enough husband. And I was afraid of not making enough money to support my family.
As a father, I was afraid of messing up my children.
As a pastor, I was afraid of not having the answers for people in need.
And I was afraid of saying to anybody, I don’t know.
Worst of all…I was a Christian, a pastor, fear OWNED me and I couldn’t stop it. How could that be?
I was certain I had disappointed God, because I couldn’t get over my fear. And why would God put me in a job that required me to be with people all the time?
Wasn’t he listening?
I was afraid of people!
Some years later, God showed me something about this fear.
You see, on the surface, it seems like it’s a fear of people, but that’s not exactly it.
Then it seems like a fear of failure, but that’s not really the issue.
It’s fear of rejection. Because rejection says you’re not accepted. You’re not accepted, because you are not enough.
You’re not enough.
I said to God, that’s my problem… I am not enough…
God said, I am enough.
I said, Ok, but I am NOT enough.
He said, I am enough.
I said, I am not.
He said, I…AM.
And this fool still did not comprehend what God was saying.
Years passed as I carried the weight and pain of fear until one day I sat alone in my office…sad.
I was sad about the affairs of the church. I loved God’s church. Though I was often fearful, I still loved God’s people. I had spent the entire day with one saint after another. I listened to their problems and I tried to help.
Then. In one swift moment. That same sense of presence I had years ago in that hotel room was now in this room with me.
I hadn’t been praying. I wasn’t doing, “holy things.” But there was no doubt, again, here was the Holy One.
I sensed the power of creation in him….the power to give and take life.
I was aware of his eyes of fire.
I was aware that nothing can withstand him. I felt in my bones the reality of no mere man can see God as he is and live. Just to behold the Holy One as he actually is would extinguish my existence.
It seemed to me that I should not move. Don’t even move my eyes. Be cautious with my next breath.
I was positive he held me together, and could just as easily allow me to disintegrate. I was aware of his immensity…and…my smallness.
I felt terror.
Here was almighty God, and here was weak, fear-filled man.
Had he finally come to destroy me, because I let him down with this fear that I could not overcome?
He remained silent for what seemed as hours. He allowed me to sense his overwhelming ability, while sensing my own inability.
Then he spoke.
But he wasn’t angry. He was somehow in my pain. He was kind, compassionate, understanding. He didn’t want it to take this long for me to get this broken. That was my fault. But he waited for this moment when he knew I would be so worn down that I would finally listen and hear. He wasn’t angry with me. He was sad. He didn’t want me to suffer as I had.
I sensed tears in his eyes when he spoke these words to me…
I never told you that you had to have all the answers. I never said you had to be able to do everything. I told you to bring it to me.
And then he was gone.
And I remembered 1 Peter 5:7. “Give all your worries and cares to God, because he cares for you.”
I knew that verse. But I never knew it like I knew it that moment.
I sat in my chair and remembered so many other verses just like 1 Peter. They all carried the same message.
He is God and I am not. He created me, because he wanted me. He loves me regardless of what I – think of me. He wants to act as my father…he wants to protect me, provide for me. He wants to take care of me and do the things that I cannot do.
And all these years, he was telling me the answer to my fear. And I heard the answer many times. But hearing is not the same as believing. I am ashamed to say it, but fear ruled me, because I knew the Bible, I just didn’t believe it all.
How strange it seemed. My favorite verse had the answer right in front of me for most of my life. Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the LORD with ALL your heart – AND – Don’t rely on…your own understanding…”
The trouble with being smart is it’s easy to rely on your own understanding. You’re smart. You can figure things out. And—without really trying—you can figure God out…right out of your daily life.
Now, it’s not that God didn’t want me to use the smart brain he gave me. It’s that he didn’t want me to only rely on it.
That’s because he’s not only Almighty God, he’s also…Father.
The whole idea of fatherhood was his. He created the word, father, and he loves being father. He wants to provide for me as a good father does. And by not fully relying on him, I robbed myself of experiencing him as my father.
It made sense. I had always relied on my own smartness. And while I was aware of my abilities, at the same time I saw, lit up in neon, my inabilities. It was simple, I believed my inabilities were so great that it didn’t matter how good I was. I was still…not good enough.
I was fearful of rejection, of not being accepted. I was fearful of not being enough. And I was certain that I wasn’t enough…for anybody or anything.
And there…waiting patiently…was my heavenly father. He kept whispering, you don’t have to be…enough. There is no such thing…I am enough and I have you…believe me…believe me.
And…I finally did.
I found out that how I learn to believe him is by just doing what he said in his Word. I first must know what his Word says. Then I must obey it. Because, when I choose to disobey, I am saying, “I know what you said God, but I got this. I think I have a better idea.” God wouldn’t have said what he said, if his idea was a bad one…he’s God…he doesn’t have bad ideas.
So today, I’ve come to believe that he not only loves me, but he wants me. And when I can’t understand why I should do something the bible says, then… “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and don’t rely on your own understanding.”
And now…fear no longer owns me.
1st John 4:18 says that God’s love drives out fear.
And John 15 teaches me that to really learn God’s love I must obey him.
And that love then throws out fear…like rubbish.
This is a letter I wrote about me.
That’s who I was.
That’s not who I am today.
Have you struggled with not being “enough” or the fear of rejection? What did you do about it? Please leave your comments below.