Don’t get me wrong, my childhood was wonderful. I lived a middle class dream, filled with all the things and experiences any child would want and need. We had a four bedroom house, two cars, a Commodore 64 and an Atari. I played soccer and baseball, racquetball and tennis. I had excellent friends whom I stayed outside with every day until the sun went down, without worrying about strangers. I was known as the kid with the contagious laugh because I was always cracking up with a strange, genuine guffaw. And in addition to all of this, I had loving parents who were gracious, kind, hard working and dedicated to me and my brother. I had peace and I was happy.
However, that significantly changed when I turned 13 and woke up one night with a bolt of fear. A black thought struck me down like lightning: All of this was going to end one day. This wonderful life. This Being called Me. I would one day die. It hit me like a ton of bricks, like a wave of the harshest truth. I felt like I had been living in an illusion until that moment – in a veil of lies.
Did no one else realize this truth? Why was no one talking about it? I didn’t even feel like it was OK to ask questions to my parents or my friends. I felt very, very alone and extremely frightened. However, I went on with daily life as a teenager, which has its own distractions and challenges. But underneath, always, was this lingering fear. And there was no one I felt like I could talk to about any of this.
No one, that is, until a beautiful elf angel appeared seemingly out of nowhere. Her name was Yesha Tolo. She was a 15 year old sprite, a believer in God, an old soul, a fairy pixie who bounced around our high school halls as if she knew the answer to life. The answer I needed. I felt like a little kid next to her, an infant even. It didn’t help that I looked like I was 12 when I was 15. However, Yesha looked like she could be 12 also, or maybe 25. Even my parents noticed her when we went to eat at Mo’s Diner, where she waitressed. She already lived on her own and had 3 jobs. I told my parents she was dating another boy, so I put that idea out of my head. But she still intrigued me for the next 2 years.
Then senior year came and Yesha and I grew closer. It is a whole other story to tell how we started dating, but the important part is that we did. And it changed the course of my life. Not only was she (and is today still, for she is now my wife) the love of my life and my soul mate, but she taught me about God. Yesha and her large, amazing, messy, beautiful family were my first spiritual guides. I finally found people to discuss my thoughts and fears, and I heard new ideas and beliefs to ponder. I was exposed to church and various religions through life with the Tolos. I didn’t realize it at the time, but over the course of my years with Yesha and her family, a foundation and path to God was being built.
In Rhode Island, Yesha and I began a family and had 3 beautiful boys. We were happy, but we lived in isolation and without a church community. However, when we moved to San Diego in 2008, Yesha’s brother, Ben, and his wife, Shaby, guided our family to PLC. Still not completely comfortable with church, it took me a little while to embrace this change. But we attended every week and slowly I became more involved at PLC. I grew to truly love this community and I discovered its beauty, and became grateful for all of the wonderful people who were a part of it.
After a few years of feeling at home at PLC, I finally decided to try the Alpha Course, which many people had been suggesting for a long time. With Yesha, Robert (Yesha’s Dad), Ben, and Shaby at my side it immediately felt right. Sean’s incredible lectures gave me a foundation of the Bible, God, and Jesus that I simply didn’t know. The small group discussions were a new avenue to discuss all of my thoughts, doubts and beliefs in a setting free of judgment and full of understanding and love. And we made wonderful friendships and enjoyed many incredible meals and fellowship.
To top it all off, the Alpha Day Away ripped open my heart to let God in. Just like the auspicious fog that rolled in, thicker than I have ever seen, so did the Holy Spirit dive into my soul. I have never felt anything like it. And I knew for the first time in my life, that God is real. God is with me. Always.