I was born an only child of a single mother. I grew up living in the poorest of neighbourhoods in the city core, but didn't know I was poor and was loved by my mother so I felt rich. We moved a lot as we followed my mom's jobs and career so I got good at making new friends and adapting to new circumstances such as schools and neighbourhoods.
I enjoyed school and always got good grades but enjoyed sports far more than classroom time. My mother wisely got me involved in sports to keep me out of trouble and it worked well.
I wasn't aware of the many difficulties she was enduring for us but soon found out when she had her first nervous breakdown when I was about 9. It was very traumatic for me to see my mom in that kind of light, as she was all I had for security in this world.
I was fortunate to have most of my extended family living nearby though, so I had a sense of security through them which helped immensely. Though I had no father, I had plenty of uncles and one in particular who I idolized. He spent a lot of time with me and lightened the load for my mom many times.
I was very competitive growing up and found myself in tournaments regularly, and competing for trophies, which became something of an obsession for me. Like any kid growing up, I wanted to make my mom proud and worked very hard to achieve success for her.
Until then I had managed to stay out of trouble, but sometime in my teens I lost my interest in school and began looking for new friends and activities to occupy my time. It wasn't long before I fell in with the wrong crowd and began doing what they did.
Late nights, skipping school, and crime became the routine of my life. Many nights I went to bed worrying about the police showing up at my door, which worried me more for my mom's sake than mine. I would pretend to go to school in the morning for my mom, but often returned after she left for work or I took the bus somewhere else.
It was liberating to realize I could go anywhere I pleased, and after living practically everywhere in the city, I knew my way around much better than most teens. Somehow I knew that school wasn't going to be the path for me and I viewed my high school years as something of a vacation until my work life set in.
My life consisted of a few nights a week of crime, a few nights of partying, and days spent roaming the city by bus or occasionally going to school, when it suited me. I rarely missed gym class though, due to the sports aspect.
It wasn't long before I was in trouble at school of course and failing miserably. Although it was a shock to see bad grades, I didn't care much and went from bad to worse. My mom began to see a trend in my life and tried to help by getting people involved, but what I remember most was how she didn't alienate me, and kept loving me as she always did. This is ultimately what turned me around I believe.
What also helped was that I was a lousy crook and we were caught one night by police on a random suspicion pull over. For some reason the police thought it was unusual for a couple of 16 year olds to be driving around at 3 am on a weeknight in a car they could never afford.
That night reality sank in as I sat in a police station answering questions and worrying about my mom finding out, though she was on vacation at the time and my uncle showed up as my guardian. I decided right then that this was not the life I wanted and put an end to it.
Now came the work I knew one day would arrive, I had to figure out what I would do with the rest of my life. Not that the partying had to end, but the carefree existence during the day did. I got a job and began finishing courses at school as well.
I had no idea what I wanted to do but I knew I what I didn't want, and that was to be average. I began reading success books and embarked on a journey of self discovery. Until then I had been an avowed atheist and had no interest in spiritual matters whatsoever. But there was for the first time a small voice in my heart asking questions.
I looked for answers everywhere and got involved in the new age movement and with its followers. I read books, listened to speakers, and practiced many of the principles. It was fun and interesting but it did not answer my deepest questions or fill the void in my heart.
I never considered going to church or praying to God in my search but would spend late nights running a track nearby and looking up to the stars in wonderment for the first time in my life. This was my first experience with God.
Soon after that, I met some people who I thought had it all, as they were wealthy and had time to enjoy it. I made a point of being around them, never knowing they were Christians, though they knew where I stood all the while.
When I found out that they were Christians, it didn't bother me at all, which was another first for me. By this time my heart had been prepared and I was willing to consider what they had to say. What they told me was that I could amass all the money in the world, but without God, I would lose my soul and never enjoy it.
Nobody had ever spoken like that to me and I was surprised to discover that I loved being told that. These people had an authority greater than themselves which they obeyed, and intrigued me.
They explained to me that the Bible said everyone has sinned and is going to pay the penalty for sin, which is death and ultimately spiritual death as well, which is separation from God. Yet there was good news, that God still loves His people and had made a way for them to avoid this punishment. That Way is Jesus Christ, God's Son who committed no sin but was hung on a cross for the sins of all men. This was a free gift which anyone could receive by faith and repentance of sin.
After a year or so of hearing this message, one night I could not resist anymore and gladly prayed to God to forgive my sin and let Christ's sacrifice stand in my place. It was a night like no other in my life that I will never forget.
Since then my life has not been without problems, but through it all I have peace and no longer need to search for the answers which plagued me early in life, but most of all, I know I have eternal life.