In recent years, Charles worked in circles where most professionals only dream of working. Some of his favorite requests were when he was asked for by name from nations who knew of his expertise to architect solutions to complex problems. On the local scene, he was invited into board rooms of top corporations. At the Executive level in Washington, DC, he found himself before Senators, Congressmen, four-star Generals, and Governors. His knowledge-base, tact, and ability to be direct carried him, and his integrity was evident when he disagreed with policies and practices — he wasn’t seeking personal gain.
To his own amazement at times, Charles wondered how he made it so far with the start he had. Because he was born out of wedlock, his grandmother frequently called him a bastard. He was often beaten by his dad, but ironically when his dad wasn’t drunk he held Charles’ hands and told him he could be in any profession he chose because he was so smart. Added to the dichotomy were the times his mother said she wished he’d never been born.
The complexity of that environment made for a great misunderstanding of love. Tied to a fence and beaten senseless one day, and told another day he could be a lawyer, caused virally extreme thinking and emotions. Being molested at the age of six by a relative furthered his confusion about love, trust and justice.
Because of the wounds his dad incurred during WWII and the drinking that followed, his dad died at the age of 48. Afterward, in an attempt to become more stable, his mother moved the family from the small town in which they lived, to a large city. But conditions only worsened. Trying to medicate her pain and loss, Charles’ mother began drinking and bringing home men. Had it only been them it might not have been so bad, but an older sister’s boyfriends came over as well. When some of those boys held Charles down while some of his siblings were brutalized, it was a breaking point for all of them.
During this dark and hopeless time, a kind and caring elderly couple Charles did not know, stopped and offered to take he and his siblings to church. And there, even though the people at church were poor and their practices unfamiliar, Charles felt some peace — and God planted seeds of eternity in his young heart and mind.
By the age of 13, Charles had left home. He lived with friends, on the street, and in drug houses. Because of the occasional threat of trouble, when possible, Charles slept in the corner of a room so no one could sneak up behind him. And though he was wayward, God often made His presence known when Charles sat alone in an alley at night, or had to fight someone coming at him with a knife. God protected Charles many times, as well as provided places to stay and something to eat.
Although he had chosen to leave home, it was devastating when he discovered his mother had moved to another city. Her choice caused loneliness to gain even more place in Charles’ heart, and a new fear surfaced. If a disaster occurred, now he had no home to return to, and he felt truly alone. Any semblance of an earthly security blanket was gone.
Charles struggled to survive on the streets, but found and maintained a job and a decent place to live while completing high school and then college. In the meantime the seeds of God’s love grew, however it was decades before Charles comprehended God did not equate love with his behavior. God’s love was unconditional despite Charles’ behavior. God’s love did not have to be earned; it was freely given. His sins were forgiven; all of them.
Acceptance was mixed in at every level of God’s love, and these concepts took Charles time to grasp. Getting beyond the way he grew up was a feat. But along the way, in God’s tender mercy, He sent Charles a woman who loved him, more often than not the way God did.
For Pam, there were times when Charles’ actions ripped her heart to shreds, so she quickly realized her only strength came from frequent prayer, Bible reading, and finding Christian women who would help her stand when she was crushed by circumstances. Though her heart bled, she stood. She was kind, direct, and never hesitated to tell Charles the truth.
Charles said Pam forgave him of things he would never have forgiven her for, had she committed those same sins against him. But her forgiveness and mercy worked. Charles saw a side of God he may not have otherwise seen, and because of the grace demonstrated through Pam, he was able to make a deeper commitment to God.
God also introduced Charles to an eighty-year old preacher and counselor who had similar experiences in his youth. The two men spent many hours going over Charles’ difficult and painful childhood. These times helped Charles understand that the hurt and anger he experienced needed to be given to the Lord, and he needed to ask God to help him forgive.
This wise counselor asked Charles to make a list of people he didn’t like or who hurt him. And then Charles proceeded to do the hardest things any man is asked to do. Forgive. Forgive each incident of betrayal, rejection, abuse and neglect; every angry and hateful word and action, and the humiliation of each incident. It was hard. Charles struggled and refused. He made progress and fell backward. He hated, and loved. He didn’t want to and then he did. He hurt and asked why; he was defensive and overcome with self pity. Then as a sheer act of his will, he just obeyed. And what pinned him to the floor for many years began loosening its grip.
Pam also urged Charles to seek medical help to ease the anxiety that surfaced while those memories stirred. Charles feared doing so; to him it was a sign of weakness. But after his doctor, who was also a friend, explained what early traumas had done to his mental state, Charles agreed to use a light medication.
With the support and prayers of Pam and the elderly pastor, Charles moved through the list one at a time, month after month, until he could think of a person without wincing. It worked, and the pain in the memories was greatly reduced. He was now seeing life differently and began believing God loved him, and he began loving God in return.
Charles also gained understanding of those who inflicted his wounds, which sometimes made it easier to navigate through the process. That knowledge exposed him to a whole new realm of comprehending how patient God is. He realized what a great miracle had taken place when God sent His Son to be our Savior — when we didn’t have a clue who He was, or what He was doing, or why we would even want to associate with Him.
As the list grew shorter and the pain diminished, Charles was no longer held captive by the events of his childhood. As an adult he no longer slept behind the couch terrified by night, successful by day. Instead he knew a calm, a peace and strength he’d never known.
Today Charles tells his story to two groups of people. The first are those who’ve endured similar abuse and neglect. His hope is that his story will influence them so they find freedom sooner than he did. Therefore, when opportunity presents itself, Charles makes his way to the streets, feeds the hungry and talks to them. He tells of the many times God was there for him — even before he knew it was God.
The second group are those who, like himself, are or were in positions of power and influence, and are viewed as successful, but haven’t found lasting happiness or peace. He speaks into their lives as well.
No longer does Charles bow to his past; now he stands before our Great and Mighty God giving thanks for his countless blessings. He worships and adores the One who delivered him from what seemed like impossible circumstances. He is now filled with hope and a knowing that is deeply rooted in the goodness and love of God.
Charles and Pam
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For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him. John 3:16-17 NLT
So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to Him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death….you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. Romans 8:1-2, 9a NLT
My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. Galatians 2:20 NLT
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see. Amazing Grace, published in 1779 by John Newton
“The words Lori used to write my story resonate from my heart. Her telling of it has been an additional instrument in my healing.” — Charles