The New Beginning!
( True Story)
When I was about 22 years old I had become very Christ curious. I remember coming home to Los Angeles from the Nam with a distinct memory of praying to God to make it back home. I remember so many short timers that got down to last few days only to be killed before they made it home. I kept asking myself was I praying just because everybody else was? Or, was I actually beginning to believe in God?
You see, I was raised by a woman who was severely anti-Christian. She took pleasure in ridiculing them and calling them hypocrites. Unfortunately, from all that I had seen in the neighborhood, it seemed that she was right about a lot of them. She never hesitated to tell someone at the door with religious materials to "get the F#$% off her porch. She was a devout Buddhist. She had an alter with a "Gohonzon" in it. Everyday, she forced me to get on my knees and chant "Nam Myo Ho Renge Qyo" to the Gonhonzon. So I did as I was told at first in order to avoid a beat down but later found that the more involved I became with the religion the less I had to deal with her. Plus, they had bands that performed all over the city. I joined the bands and became a youth leader in the religion. As a matter of fact, I was one of the youngest Honchos in the Los Angeles chapter. Yet, know one knew that I was also a leader of one of the most ruthless street gangs in L.A. It was kind of like a double life for me. But that was all the religion I had ever known.
Then, after the Nam I just couldn't believe in it any more. Something had changed inside of me. I felt that there had to be more to life than death and destruction and I was bound and determined to find it. So, I began to take long walks at night. I would start walking and be in a state of semi consciousness. Sometimes I would come to myself and realize that I had walked 20 miles and be too tired to walk all the way back home. While I would walk I would talk to this unknown entity that everyone kept telling me about. I had been all the way around the world and I had seen many things that had made me believe in something, but I wasn't quite sure what. Was it Jesus?
Anyway, I was shacking up with an old girl friend that I really hated. She was just not the one I wanted in life but our relationship was convenient. This one particular night we had had a big argument and I was so angry that I had come close to hurting her. But I backed away and to take a walk until the rage in me dissipated. I knew that feeling so well. I had been in so many battles in war and on the streets. While in the military I had been forced to go to "anger management" classes twice after I had beaten other soldiers up for what the military deemed as mild offenses. But for me, whenever I heard the "N" word, I was like a mad man possessed. I decided no matter what rank or file, the "N" word was the final insult and I would not take it. That got me locked up several times and I did two stays in the brig ( 3 days bread and water only) because of my temper. So, I knew what I was capable of and I knew I had to get out of that house.
So, I went on one of my walks. I was angry, pissed off and I looked up at the sky with total disgust. I began to curse at God. I started to taunt God with foul words of anger! I said he was a fake. He wasn't real! If he was real, then why had I been tortured and abused all my life? Why had the very person that was supposed to love and take care of me treated me like an animal and beat me relentlessly for so many years. Why? Why? Why? Then, I dared God! I said God if you're so &^%^^%%$ real, then get me off these ghetto streets. If you can get me off these ghetto streets I will believe in you. C'mon, I shouted loudly, open up the heavens and show me how real you are. I was tired of being denied jobs, tired of being pulled into conflict by the old crew, tired of living with a woman I hated, I was just plain tired and disgusted!
So, I walked and I cursed God for the life he had given me. I kept wondering why I hadn't died like so many of my homies in the streets or my friends in the Nam. What was he saving me for? I was a nothing, a nobody. I was everything that my tormenting former guardian had told me I would be all my life. She said I was the scum of the earth when I was 4 years old. She said I was Black and evil and would always be Black and evil. According to her my mother and father got rid of me because I was Black and evil. All this came from a light skinned Black woman. She had done a good job of making me believe the lie. She had made believe that I deserved to be beaten day in and day out because I was Black and evil. She had nearly driven me insane. I thought about that as I walked and cursed God.
That night I walked all the way to Hollywood and back. When I got home I crashed out on the couch. About 10 o'clock the next morning I was awaken by the sound of the mail coming through the mail slot and hitting the floor. I jumped to my feet with anticipation for action. I had been doing that for a long time when I came home from the Nam. I picked up the mail and saw one from the department of the defense. I opened it while saying to myself "hell no, I am not coming back". But to my surprise it was a check with a letter. It said that the Navy had searched their records and concluded that they owed me this money. I was like wow! What a trip. Then, the phone rang. It was my mom asking me to come up to the Bay area because there were lots of jobs and opportunities for veterans.
I hadn't known my mom long. We had been reunited about a year before I went over seas. I was so glad to have her back in my life but we had not achieved closeness yet. So after I got off the phone I sat down and began to think. On the one hand I could take the money and buy a pound of weed, break that up into quarters and 8ths and start selling drugs like all my friends were doing. On the other hand I could buy myself a plane ticket and go to the Bay Area. I sat there and I thought about it for quite a while. Then, I remembered my walk the night before. I remembered how I had dared God to change my life's condition. But this couldn't be one of those blessings from God that I heard folks talk about could it? Was God answering my dare? As I sat there thinking about it a warm peaceful feeling came into my heart. It was so foreign to my body that I started laughing. I was actually giddy. I asked out loud. Ok, is that you God? Are you tickling me? Then I began to cry. For the first time I realized that I already knew God was real. I could feel him in the room. He was all around me.
The following day I got on a plane and flew to San Jose. Within two days I had a job. No. it wasn't a good paying job. I was only making $1.65 an hour as a security guard. But I was so happy because it was a job! It was a new beginning for me and my life. In 20 years I went from $1.65 an hour as a security guard to making over $85,000.00 a year as a high tech manager. I also became a prison chaplain and professional musician. God was there for me every step of the way. I became the first person in my family since slavery time to buy a brand new home. I watched them build it from the ground to the roof.
So, to you my friends I must say, be careful how you dare God! He may pour you out a blessing to real to believe. Everyday I get up and I walk 4 miles on the Clayton trails. While I walk I sing songs to Jesus and I thank God. I have heard many people say "The Lord has brought me a mighty long way" I look around at the green hills and countryside of Clayton California. Then I think back to the concrete pavements and flying bullets of L.A. and I say to myself. "The Lord has surely brought me a mighty long way"
If you are a little lost today. If you feel like God doesn't exist in your heart any more, I would like to encourage you to seek the Lord. He is waiting for you. God is every where. Right now where you sit or stand, God is ready to accept your dare. I dare you to dare God. God truly is real. This old fart has seen so many miraculous things since that day I dared God. The most important thing is that I have seen my broken heart healed. My inner pain has turned to inner strength. Now I know the truth. Yes, I am Black. But I am not evil. I am a child of God. That makes me an heir to the holy kingdom. So are you, come home to Jesus right now today.
Lord God I come to you today on a dare. I come to you because I am tired. I am ready to give my life to you. I ask forgiveness for my sins. I repent from my sins and ask that you will come into my heart and change me according your own will. I give you all the glory and praises! I worship you Lord. Let this day be the day that you accept my dare to change my life Lord. Thanks you so much for your loving kindness and blessed presence. In The Name Of Jesus, Amen
Love You All, Stoneman