How I Reconciled with God
Originally this post was published on Charlie Paparelli’s blog as part of an ongoing series called “Reimagine Your Life.” To read the rest of the series, go to paparelli.com and subscribe.
“Why are you holding on to your guilt and resentments?” asked Adolf Coors IVfeatured speaker at the High Tech Prayer Breakfast.
I walked away from God when I was eighteen years old. I did it because religion made me feel guilty all the time. I believed religion and God were one and the same. The people who led the religion had the rules, regulations, and rituals. I learned them. I practiced them. Finally, I rejected them. I was free. On my own and doing what I believed was right and wrong. Setting my own course and practicing my own behaviors.
But there was a problem.
I couldn’t even meet my own standards of right behavior. Too often, I couldn’t make the right moral choices. This resulted in blaming myself. I couldn’t blame God. He was nowhere to be found in my life. I couldn’t blame religion because I wrote it off as foolishness. I was the only one left to blame.
I hurt people’s feelings. I did things in secret I never wanted to think about, much less talk about. As these situations occurred, I didn’t know what to do with the guilt.
The more guilt I accumulated, the more anxiousness swelled up. It took more and more of my energy to hold these feelings at bay. It was like they were spring loaded, and each year the spring became stronger and stronger. It took increasing effort to suppress it.
I found relief in work and alcohol.
I would bury myself in my work. Focused on doing a positive activity, I would forget about the guilt that consumed me. Take a drink, and these feelings were more easily forgotten. I was better able to cope. But I couldn’t drink and work. One method of coping worked against the other. Good thing drinking was such a big part of the work cultures.
The culture of the companies I was a part of was simple. Work hard. Play hard. So that’s what I did. The result was I became a functioning alcoholic. I also learned that if I could think it sober, I could do it or say it while loaded. This caused more wrong choices which resulted in more guilt and reinforcement of resentments. Which resulted in the need to drink. And the negative cycle continued.
I realized I became a man I didn’t like.
One evening, I saw what I was doing and where it would take me. I wasn’t the man I had envisioned being early in life. I became a man I wouldn’t want to befriend. But I was me, and there was no denying it. I knew I had to get off this path, and that’s why I decided to attend my first AA meeting.
In those rooms listening to those stories, I learned there was hope. There was a different path. Choose to stop drinking one day at a time. Commit to the AA program. I heard them say, “It works if you work it.” I believed it. What choice did I have? So I worked it.
My head began to clear after several months in AA.
That’s when I came face to face with the question, “Who is your higher power?” That’s when God came back into the picture in a more personal way for me. I wasn’t drinking after all this time. Was it because I gave my drinking problem to God? This was the third step in the program. It had to be this decision. I wasn’t able to stop drinking on my own, but now, with God in control, I wasn’t drinking.
Answering this question opened the doors of my life to people I knew who knew God. This led me to the High Tech Prayer Breakfast and other similar events. There I heard successful men speak of their demons of guilt and resentments and how they overcame them. They showed me there was a path to knowing God, and God had made it available to me.
I met these men in the more intimate setting of Bible studies.
In these meetings, I saw who these men were and how they thought and saw life. They shared the decisions they made. I realized I was not unique. They suffered just as I was suffering, but they were different from me now. They had a joy I didn’t have. Life was good. They had a higher purpose. They weren’t stuck in a negative cycle.
After several months of these AA meetings and Bible studies, I was driving to Hilton Head to meet up with Kathy and the kids. It was July of 1993. I was on I-16, which is the most desolate road in all of Georgia. No cars, no exits, and nothing to see but pine trees and white lines.
I popped in the cassette tape Robert Campbell had given me. It contained the speech Adolf Coors IV gave at the businessmen’s breakfast I’d attended the previous year. I heard his story all over again. He ended with an invitation, “Jesus Christ came down from heaven to die for your sins. He loves you that much. He wants you to be in a relationship with Him. Will you accept His gift of forgiveness and reconciliation?”
This was not the first time I’d heard this invitation. In fact, I was asked this question from time to time from various people throughout my adult life. I would say something like, “Leave me alone,” or if I was in a gentler mood, “It is good for you, but I don’t believe that.”
This time was different.
Adolf Coors IV asked, “Why are you holding on to your guilt and resentments? Why are you going on like this without God? Is it working for you?”
Why was I insisting on staying in control of my life?
Look where it had gotten me. I was a man I didn’t want to be. I was stuck, guilty, angry, anxious, and depressed. I gave my alcohol addiction to God, and he took it away. Would he take these feelings away and make me into the man I always wanted to be?
As I think back, I was afraid to commit my life to Jesus Christ. If this didn’t work, what would I do? As long as I did what I was now doing, there was hope that an answer would present itself. I would be magically cured of all these feelings and stinkin’ thinkin.’ But Coors was telling me this was the answer. It was right in front of me.
So right there in the car, traveling well above the speed limit, I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ. Coors, speaking on the cassette tape, led me in the prayer. “Lord Jesus, I know you love me. I believe you came from heaven to reconcile me to you forever by dying on the cross for my sins. I surrender my life to you. Please take away my sins and remove my guilt. I know I’ll be with you from this day to eternity. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.”
Something happened in that moment.
It was like my dad showed up when I was lost as a child in a crowd. I was safe. It was OK. I knew life would be good again. The sins of the past were lifted from me. The guilt was gone. I was saved. Jesus Christ was now in charge.
I knew the first place I needed to go was to church. I once saw one in Hilton Head. It had a garden with a reflecting pool. I wanted to pray. I wanted to thank God and process what had just happened. So that’s what I did.
Then I went on to see Kathy and the kids. I said nothing to them about what had just happened.
Charlie Paparelli is president of High Tech Ministries, angel investor and blogger. Twice each week email subscribers to his blog receive his thoughts on being a successful entrepreneur and Christian leader.