The return of a prodigal son
I was born into a devout Christian family. When I was a child, my parents brought me to a Protestant church Sunday School, where I learned about the Bible, sang religious songs, and was taught to love all of God’s creatures. When I was in the second grade, my parents decided to join First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Jakarta, and enrolled my little brother and me in the Sunday School. There I learned to understand the Bible and discovered God’s infinite love to His creation, and that He created men and women in His image and likeness. I was also healed of several illnesses from which I’d suffered since a very early age.
However, I had a difficult time when I turned 13. The stronger children in my school neighborhood often bullied the weaker ones, and that happened to me. I was treated unfairly by those who were stronger. I felt hurt and wanted to take revenge. At that time, I felt that prayer could not help me.
I was determined not to become a victim ever again. I wanted at least to be able to defend myself physically when I was attacked, so I joined a gang. Early in 1991, I joined several gangs: the gang in my school, a gang in my school neighborhood, and a gang in my neighborhood at home. Doing drugs and smoking was a must among the gang members. So I started to smoke and drink. It wasn’t long before I did drugs and smoked marijuana.
My parents learned of my conduct one day when I was found with an illegal substance during a sudden inspection at school. They were shocked and beat me. But their reaction did not stop me. In fact, I became bolder because I thought that since I had been caught once, the second time wouldn’t be as frightening. Besides, my parents’ beatings weren’t as harsh as the beatings I got when fighting on the streets.
I continued down that dark path, although I attended a Christian Science Sunday School every week. Often, deep in my heart, I heard the “still small voice” calling me to live a good, normal life, but fear shouted even louder, reminding me that I would become a victim again if I did that. Eventually, I left church and went deeper and deeper in my association with gangs. I dropped out of school and decided to stop my formal education. This was the darkest time in my life. In the meantime, the attitude of my parents changed drastically. They became more patient and treated me very tenderly. Out of desperation and frustration, they chose to support me with prayer alone, instead of corporal punishment, to bring me back on the right track.
In 1996, my church in Jakarta participated in a “Bible Wise” competition open to churches of every Christian denomination around the country. I was asked to participate on our church’s team. This forced me to study the Bible again. When preparing for the competition, the truth of God’s Word started to dawn on me. In my heart I had a strong desire to live according to God’s way. Then changes for the better started to happen. I stopped using drugs, participated in church activities, and returned to school.
However at the end of the year, drawn again by association with gang members, I started once more to smoke marijuana, used heroin, and left the church. This went on until mid 1997, when I was again asked to participate in a Bible competition. Thus, I opened my Bible once again, and I heard the voice of Truth, this time very strongly echoing in my heart. Once again, I was freed from the bonds of drugs and became active in church. My life became better. I finished high school and the Sunday School, and went to college in Jakarta.
In 1999, I experienced setbacks that made me feel very dissatisfied with God and went back to the use of drugs. This went on for two years, when I suddenly felt so weary and wanted so much to stop using drugs. But I couldn’t, the addiction was so strong. Then I prayed to God very earnestly from the depth of my heart: “God, make me free from all the bondage of error. You are the only power and I am Your son. Oh Father, please help me.” I repeated this prayer with my whole heart over and over again, every day.
Mary Baker Eddy says, “Desire is prayer; . . .” 1 At that time, freedom from the bondage of drugs was my most sincere desire. And God answered my prayer in such a beautiful way. One day I had a bitter dispute with my gang and decided to leave it and stop using drugs then and there. I succeeded without any difficulty. This was the beginning of my freedom and the turning point in my struggle against drugs. Although I stopped using drugs and alcohol, I was not yet free from smoking.
Two months later, I got a job teaching mathematics to children. This helped my financial situation a lot. Then I felt I wanted to have a close friend with whom I could share my thoughts and feelings, and I met a girl who became my girlfriend. I felt the outpouring of God’s love in my life.
In 2002, I willed myself to stop smoking, but I started again and turned away from church three months later when disappointment upon disappointment came. My studies at the college did not go well, the relationship with my girlfriend deteriorated, and my businesses ventures went wrong. My life was shattered. But this time I didn’t go back to drugs. Instead I realized that Christian Science can solve any problem. I read Science and Health consecutively every day, studied the weekly Christian Science Bible Lesson, and went back to church. And like the prodigal son in Jesus’ parable 2, I was welcomed by God’s great love when I returned to the right path.
My life became much better, my studies improved, my relationship with my girlfriend became stronger. I prayed that my girlfriend might also feel God’s infinite love, and God answered my prayer. She was able to overcome a serious problem when she accepted my explanation about how to pray as taught in Christian Science. She became very enthusiastic with the teachings of Christian Science, and started attending church. She is now a member of The Mother Church and of a local branch church.
I still had a sincere desire to stop smoking. A cousin told me that he stopped smoking by praying to God, “Lord, I cannot of myself stop this bad habit, but with Your help I can.” His experience reminded me of what Jesus said: “I can of mine own self do nothing” 3 I reasoned that I cannot do anything of myself, but can only reflect God. Holding steadfastly to this truth and understanding its logic, I was able to stop smoking without any difficulty.
Since that time, I have been convinced that God loves me and there can never be a life outside of divine Life, Truth, and Love. My greatest desire has been to glorify God with my life, thoughts, and heart, and opportunities have opened up for me to do this.
One day in February 2007, there was a big flood in Jakarta. I was in the office teaching the children math, when my boss decided that we should close, lest the children not be able to get home. Dirty water surrounded our office building and the children had to be carried to their cars. I’d had an infection on my feet for several months. At first, I was afraid that the infection would become worse if I went into the dirty water. But then I remembered that a good deed cannot bring penalty to the doer 4, so I carried the children to their cars through the water. The next morning, I noticed that the infection was completely healed. This experience made my faith in God stronger.
I know there might still be other difficulties to overcome, but with the understanding that I am the image and likeness of God, and as such can only experience what God experiences, I am confident that more and more I can see the joy of being free and of overcoming limitations.
Now, instead of seeing the challenges in my life as a burden, I perceive them as an opportunity to get closer to God and learn more about Him. And I am filled with gratitude for God’s leading hand, and for the love and support of all those around me.
Topics: Bullying, Peer Pressure, School | Tags: drugs, gangs, prodigal son