In the midst of a group of young children in Chelsea, during a game of Duck, Duck, Goose, seems an unlikely time and place for God to reveal Himself to a little Jewish girl. Yet that’s what God chose to do.
I share my story so that you might understand how much God cares for you, and that you might get closer to Him. “I proclaim to you what I have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ. I write this to make my joy complete” (1 John 1:3, NIV, personalized).
I was only about seven or eight years old. At one point during a game of Duck, Duck, Goose, some of the kids started teasing me. I remember standing there frozen, with clenched fists. And then God spoke, “It’s ok Dale, I love you”. That’s all He said. I thought to myself, “I don’t care, God loves me!”, and moved on. But in that brief moment, God planted a seed of faith in me that told me things about Himself that have been the foundation of my faith ever since. From then on I’ve understood that God created everything, and that He is in control of everything. I understood that He knew everyone’s thoughts all the time, all at the same time. I knew He is totally good in every way. I knew that He is always by my side, that He loves me, and that He would always love me. I have never doubted any of these truths, and it is this gift of faith that has carried me though my terribly dark times.
My parents had a difficult marriage. Partly to escape the difficulties at home, partly because of my curious and adventurous spirit, and partly because it was the 60’s and 70’s in Chelsea, I started smoking cigarettes and marijuana when I was twelve years old. I later discovered some of the pill drugs that were available during that time. Although I knew many wonderful things about God, and I felt He was always close, He was silent during these years. He never spoke to me about my lifestyle – or more accurately, I was probably just preoccupied. Then, when I was 18 or 19, my father and I had a confrontation, and the next day I moved in with friends.
Other than the situation at home, I had always felt very happy. I had been working since I was 16, and continued to do so, but now I had few problems and restrictions, and I could just enjoy life. I enjoyed hanging out with friends, going to clubs, traveling, and just having fun.
But a couple of years later, I found myself going into a depression. It started with one bad day, and then another, and another, until every day seemed dismal. I didn’t share how I felt with anyone, as I thought they wouldn’t understand. I felt like I was living a double life. I would go to work, putting on a happy face and pretending everything was fine, and then come home to crash in the reality of my confusion.
This is the first time I remember asking God for anything. I began asking for help, and I was absolutely sure He would answer me and give me what I needed – because He is my God who would always love me, from Duck, Duck, Goose to forever! But God was silent. I knew He was there, that He heard my every cry, and that He loved me. I never doubted anything He had previously told me, even though He remained silent. The depression deepened, until I really believed I was going insane. I was sure I would end up in a straight jacket in an institution somewhere, detached from reality. I lost hope and began asking God to take me home, even sharing with Him my ideas on how that might happen. I wasn’t suicidal. I believed that when and how God wanted me to die was His choice. So I went on with my life, believing that I would never live to see 25.
Then, as I was home one day pondering my dilemma and asking God for help, God made His next move. I had heard about Jesus from the people at a little Southern Baptist church in my home town of Chelsea. They were very nice, but very different from me. Their beliefs were odd, (a virgin birth – really!) and I am Jewish. And I already knew God intimately. But as I sat there, in God’s silent presence, a question formed, and I asked, “Is this why you are not helping me? Is what they have been saying about Jesus true?” Immediately the depression was gone! That was more than 25 years ago.
I used to wonder why I needed to go through all that to find the truth about who Jesus is. Couldn’t God have just told me, like He told me about Himself when I was a child? What were the benefits? What was the purpose? I don’t have all the answers, but I know that experience helps me to understand and have a deeper compassion for people dealing with depression, or going through really difficult times. Hopefully, I won’t ever say to anyone, “Just snap out of it.”, or “Just think about all the things you have to be thankful for.”, or “How can you be depressed if you have God in your life?” One thing I know for certain is that sometimes the most painful things are the things that teach you the most about life, about being thankful, and most importantly, that bring you closer to God. In looking back, I realized that the root of my depression was not being able to understand or process the abusive and traumatic home life I had experienced for 20 years.
After that experience with God, I read the Bible, and I found that I understood what I was reading about Jesus – the virgin birth, my sinful nature, and God revealing the depth of His love for me though Jesus, the Messiah. I so much wanted to be baptized, but I still did not want to live like those people in church. I didn’t tell anyone what had happened to me, yet I slowly began to look at my life in a different way. I began feeling the emptiness of the superficiality of many of my friendships, and the lack of purpose for my life, things I had never felt before. And the consequences of my bad decision-making and lifestyle were starting to scare me. Still, in all, it took me about ten years before I started going to church, the same little Southern Baptist church that had been praying for me for these fifteen years. Immediately, I knew God was asking me to give my life to Him, and to make a commitment to follow Him. I did, and I was baptized on September 11, 1988, when I was 31 years old. Since then, my life has gone through a steady transformation, including a lot of forgiveness and healing with my parents.
I could tell you so much of what God has done in my life that I believe would bring you hope and understanding of God’s love for you. But for now, I will share one other story of healing, and the blessings of the unity in the Body of Christ. In 1980, when I was 23 years old, the mysterious illnesses that had been plaguing me since I was very young finally led to a diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease, an incurable intestinal disease. From that time on, I lived with almost continual intense pain. I had to take multiple medications that caused side effects resulting in my having to take additional medications to help relieve the problems associated with the side effects.
In 1999, eleven years after becoming a Christian, having been hospitalized for the fourth time, my doctor told me that he felt he would need to remove my intestines. I was disappointed. For years I really thought I heard God say that He would heal me, and I cannot express to you how many people were praying for me and how often. Almost everyone who prayed for me would tell me that they really felt God was going to heal me. In fact, I was so spoiled with prayer, and it had been so long, that I even asked God that if He wasn’t going to heal me to relieve all these people of the burden to pray. But people kept praying and encouraging me that they felt God would heal me. So, I was discouraged with this development, but I just felt we must have all been hearing God wrong.
I’m not recommending my next decision to you, especially since you may not see the same results, but for me, I felt I was at peace with God. I’ve always looked forward to “going home” to be with God. So, I refused the operation, despite my doctor’s diagnosis that if the infection in my intestines did not get better, and I did not have the operation, I would die. The disease had made my life as difficult as I could handle. I was discharged from the hospital, hoping the drugs that had not been helping would somehow work. But at the same time, I needed to start thinking about getting my affairs in order and preparing to be with the Lord.
A group of pastors and friends I had been praying with weekly in Roxbury, and for the unity of the Body of Christ, came to my house to pray for me. Bishop Gideon Thompson, Pastor Roland Cooper and Linda Clark from then Jubilee Church, David Hill from Abundant Grace Church in Brighton, and a few others crossed the Mystic Bridge to petition God and storm the gates of hell for my healing. What a time of precious, joyful prayer! I wasn’t healed immediately, but I started feeling better, and it has now been more than ten years since I have been pain free, off all medication, and on a diet with no restrictions. It took me years to “find myself”, because my identity had so much revolved around my disease.
I do want to be honest in saying that my doctor doesn't necessarily share my perspective. But after five years since my last visit and testing at the end of 2014, I can barely put into words what it feels like to be free from this demonic disease.
God has done so, so many other things in my life as well. He’s been so faithful, gracious, and merciful. I suppose that if I were to write them down, my home would not have room to contain them all.