I was born and raised Jewish. The Chosen People. Back then, I was never really taught what that means. I was Bar-Mitzvah at 13, which I remember as being one long memorization activity. I have many generations of Jewish relatives including my Grandma Fay who fled Poland as a young girl. Being Jewish became more of a cultural part of me than anything else. I always felt a lot of guilt. I was always taught that I needed to marry someone Jewish and pray once a year for God to forgive me of all my sins. None of it made much sense and my relationship with God was built around guilt, but it was mostly non-existent.
Like most young active boys, I played baseball, football and soccer and eventually found my way onto a wrestling mat in 9th grade because the football coach said I was too small to play football. While I was in High School, I managed to get really good grades, but I also was starving for attention. I made some very bad decisions back then that involved alcohol and run ins with the police. In 1986, my senior year, I got accepted at Penn State University and I walked onto the wrestling team.
I worked extremely hard for 3 years before breaking into the lineup and eventually qualifying for NCAA’s in 1990 and 1991. I came close to achieving my goal of becoming an All-American but fell short both years. Looking back on my athletic career at Penn State I am proud of the progress I made and what I was able to accomplish. However, I also look back now and realize that I had NO foundation to give me unconditional confidence that I needed to overcome the “Walk On” stigma. It never came from the coaches (and who can blame them). My confidence was based on a breakthrough workout or match, hard work and certain mentors. But as I look back, there was something missing to give me the ultimate belief in myself, especially when the chips were down. I had no spiritual foundation to go along with my work ethic. More importantly, I had no peace in my life that could have helped guide me to better decisions.
As frustrating as my athletic career was without God, personally, it was much worse. When things didn’t go well, I went to a very dark and dangerous place. My teammates may have memories of me being the crazy guy at the party, but I am not proud of those times. Inside my head and in my soul I was very lonely, afraid and desperate for some peace. So instead of crying or staying in bed all day, I dealt with that sadness by abusing alcohol. And when that didn’t work, I engaged in very self-destructive behavior. Only through the Grace of God (who I didn’t even know back then), am I still alive today.
I continued on a very self-destructive path after graduation, through Wall Street, and then back to State College, PA. But now I was starting to destroy all the relationships in my life. Anger, Rage, Selfishness, Pride, Greed, Unhappiness, Darkness, Loneliness….and more rage. I blamed everyone else in my life for my unhappiness. On the outside, I’m sure that most people who casually got to know me thought I was a positive, “happy go lucky” life of the party guy. Hard worker, positive, Type A personality, funny, blah, blah, blah. Couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Very few people know what I was like behind closed doors and what my soul was thinking and feeling. But it was LONELY and DARK! I had frequent vivid nightmares. Despite thriving financially and making more money than I ever imagined, I was still in a Dark, Dark Place and very alone. Sad and unsettled. No purpose in life except to please myself.
By the Grace of God, I met my wife, Heather. I believe that only through the eyes of Jesus did she see a good heart in me. For the first 10 years of our marriage, Heather put up with a lot. A lot. I believe the only reason she didn’t leave me was because of God’s forgiveness that He put in her heart. In 2017 my rage, greed, selfishness, depression, pride was quickly ruining my life. My good deeds at this point were to make myself feel better (selfish behavior).
Up until March 2, 2017 my life was a complete mess and worse than I could have ever imagined. My selfishness and anger had pretty much dissolved our marriage. The love we once had was 100% GONE. My kids, Faye and Lincoln, were afraid of me. Lincoln was afraid to get into a car with me and, many mornings, didn’t even want me to take him to school. I made Faye cry all the time with my anger and I was becoming the worst male role model ever. I had no real relationship with my Mom or Dad or brothers. I was abusing alcohol and drinking excessively and that was making it even worse. My demons were killing me and my life in slow motion. But I was blind to this slow motion decline.
But then, on March 2, 2017 everything changed. On March 2nd, 2017, that morning when I got into work, ONLY THROUGH A DIVINE MIRACLE, a guy named John Essy called me out of the blue and said he knew I was in big trouble. What? I hadn’t spoken to him in 5 months. How the heck did he know? But he did. He said he was praying that morning and God spoke to him in his heart and told him “Chad is in trouble.” So I met him for lunch and, after lunch, I simply asked Jesus to come into my heart so I could begin a relationship with Him and have a new life. I asked Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit to please come into my heart. That day I became a new man, a Child of God and a believer in Jesus Christ. I accepted Him as my Savior and forgiver of all my sins. I was finally alive. John told me that my life would never be the same again. I normally would have been extremely skeptical but for some reason, that I still can’t explain (like being in a dream that you can’t control) that day, I believed him. And he was totally correct.
The next day, I felt like the rage, darkness and loneliness start to fade. I had a hope and a love that is hard to explain but was real and has just gotten stronger. It wasn’t like, poof, everything got better overnight. Heather and the kids still felt the same about me, but I was a changed man. I knew I had work to do, and I was driven to continue changing, maturing and evolving as I followed Christ in my heart.
Fast forward almost 5 years from that day….. my life has changed 18,000 degrees. And because of the changes to my heart, over time, that Love has spread. Today, because of what Christ did for me, my relationship with Heather and our love for each other is so much deeper than I ever imagined. It gets better every day. I now believe that the only reason she didn’t leave was because of the forgiveness that God put in her heart, and the Grace of God to teach me a lesson of ultimate forgiveness. She is a living Angel.
My relationship with Faye and Lincoln couldn’t be closer and is filled with more love than I ever imagined. I also have rekindled love and relationships with my Mom, Dad and brothers. When people talk about getting saved, I now look back and realize that it did literally save my life. I gave my life to Jesus and He gave my life back to me. Jesus gave me new life though I had nothing to offer Him.
Since March 2, 2017, I have become more and more motivated to continue to want to understand God and to keep learning what He wants from me every day to be a better son. I have found the answer to “Why am I here” and it’s not about making money or being powerful or being popular or having stuff. It’s simply about loving God, getting to know Him better, and loving others the way that He wants us to love. I’m not where He wants me to be (yet) but I’m certainly not where I was!!
Thank you for reading.