Have you ever felt insignificant or despised? You know, the feeling you get when you are the last one picked for a team or overlooked altogether. It hurts doesn’t it? Our lives shape and form who we are, for better or for worse, we become a byproduct of our environment. How we deal with adversity and success speaks volumes about our character. During the developmental stages of life we are subject to a myriad of experiences and the emotions that follow can leave us either mired in pain or flourishing in triumph.
We as humans want to believe that we have something to offer the rest of humanity, that we possess a quality that has value. It was no different for Enrique. Growing up in the barrio afforded its inhabitants every opportunity to do bad or good; and socioeconomic pressures of the times had lent ample excuse to circumvent poverty at any cost. Somewhere in the middle lies a human heart trying desperately to make sense of its surroundings. Balancing on a razors edge Enrique tottered between a deep hatred for the injustices of his daily life and the equally deep seated love he had for his family and his neighborhood.
It would take him forty years to wade through the wreckage of his life. Drugs, alcohol and petty crimes littered his past like a wind swept land fill. But today, Enrique walks the streets with a different heart, one that burns to share his avenue of escape from an impoverished life and its subsequent failures. Today Enrique has been set free from prison in more ways than one. Most certainly the fresh, clean, outside air feels good in his lungs. A crisp fall breeze stings his face in contrast to the motionless air of the cell block, and the joys of freedom flood his eyes with tears. Today is good day.
Enrique rounded the corner stepping briskly toward the small group of men. “Orale!’ ‘Look who it is, mi ermano Enrique!” exclaimed one of the men.
“When did you get out ese?” asked another.
“Yesterday, I got off the bus late last night.”
“Late last night?’ ‘Why didn’t you come down to Bruno’s for some pool and beer? ‘You know we got you covered.”
“It was late and the bus ride was long, I was tired, besides I don’t drink any more.”
“Oh right, sure you don’t!” The whole crowd broke out in laughter. “That’s a good one ese, here have swig.” said one of the men passing Enrique a bottle Mogen David 20/20.
“No I am serious, I don’t drink or use, or smoke. It feels good to be clean.” affirmed Enrique.
The atmosphere physically changed as did the demeanor of the men. “So what, you think you better than us now? You got religion is that it? You haven’t changed, you’re still Enrique, your mother still lives in the same old shack she always did. Your old man is still the town wino. Did you forget where you come from?”
For a brief moment fear flooded over Enrique at the contempt being thrown his direction. He grew up with all of these men and knew them well and now they had turned on him in a second. Forty years of life shared in the same small neighborhood counted for nothing, erased in the blink of an eye. He knew by experience that a difference in ideologies could turn violent instantly and now he was surrounded by violent men. He swallowed hard his mouth dry, when suddenly a peace came over him, a peace like he had never known before. He knew that he was at a crossroads and that his next actions would form the basis for the rest of his life. He closed out the sound of ridicule and mocking laughter. In his mind he heard the words; “Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us? So they were offended at Him (Mark 6:3 NKJV)
Enrique filled with purpose pushed the fear aside. He looked them all squarely in the eye and said, “I have changed! This is my neighborhood and I claim it for the Kingdom of God and His Glory sake. From this moment on this is holy ground. You are a stumbling block to the blind, professing a loyalty to the hood when you are loyal only to yourselves. You claim to fight oppression yet you oppress with extortion. You proclaim liberty yet you enslave your own people with drugs and line your pockets with blood. You proclaim to be strong yet each one of you is afraid of the dark. The Lord rebuke you, now therefore repent and turn from your evil ways that you may be delivered from the chains that bind you.”
One by one the crowd dispersed, some walked and some ran. The power of the Living God had been unleashed in Satan’s stronghold through the life a sinner turned saint. All fled, save three, who fell to their knees in tears having the intents of their heats laid bare for all to see. This was their divine appointment. One is now a missionary in Mexico, another now helps Pastor Enrique in the neighborhood church, the other was killed in a car accident his eternal destiny secured.
Living a transformed life is the most rewarding thing God can give us next to salvation. When we return to our generation to proclaim the goodness of God, many will scoff and ridicule. “Who do you think you are?” they will ask. We will all come to a crossroads, when we do, what will we say? What will YOU say?