I asked myself, “Do you really love Jesus?”
Pastor John Piper said, “If you don’t love Jesus, you don’t love God, and if you don’t love God you don’t love Jesus.”
I came across a dilemma, not long ago. I questioned myself about my love for the Lord. I asked myself what it meant to love God. Was it some feeling I was supposed to have, or was it solely to be proven in obedience? In John 14:15, Jesus said, “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” In other words, He said, you will show me that you love me if you do as I have commanded you. Was He saying that the obedience alone demonstrated my love for Him, or was He saying that because I did love Him I would obey Him?
I grew up without a father. He left me when I was three years old. I grew up hating that man. I hated even thinking of him. Because of his cowardice, I learned to distrust all authority figures in my life. I grew up angry and full of rage. I expected people to reject me, to abandon me, and not to love me. I never considered the possibility that someone would actually want to be with me for real. It was not that I went around belittling myself, or thinking the worst about me, it was that I never believed I was worthy of someone loving me. I did not even love myself.
As I grew older, I began to search for importance. I want to be someone special. I wanted others to look up to me. I wanted to be famous. I wanted more than I had. This drive for importance led me to many decisions that resulted in bad consequences in my life. As a young man, I spent much of my time in juvenile homes. When I got a little older, I spent two years in maximum security for assault with attempted murder. After I was released, I met a young woman and married her. I thought I had finally found someone who would love me, but the marriage lasted six months and she divorced me. My anger ruined the relationship and I became violent with her.
After that, I got one job after another, constantly getting into trouble and being fired. I became an alcoholic and started on a downward spiral. About that time, I heard of a group of people called the Brown Berets. This seemed like my chance to become important. I became the Prime Minister of the organization. For many years, I came out on TV, newspapers, and radio talk shows. The Brown Berets became a stepping stone for me to gain importance, but that importance was not real. After nine years in the organization, I became disillusioned with the groups success. I began to doubt the goals and objectives of the group.
Around this time, I got married again, to my present wife. At first, it seemed great. She loved being with me; doing the things I wanted to do. Little by little, my anger and bitterness crept into that relationship as well, and things started getting bad. My disappointment in the Brown Berets, coupled with my bad marriage, led me to start using cocaine. I became addicted to the drug and it only made things even worse for me. I quit the Brown berets and started dealing with the divorce proceedings my wife began against me. I remember thinking about my life and wondering whether it would be better for everyone if I would just die. I knew there was something wrong with me. I didn’t know what to do, or even how to get started to try and fix things. I had spent 32 years of my life wanting to be important, to be loved by someone, and all I found at the end was my anger, bitterness, and my hatred for the coward who left me when I was three years old.
But, there was a little light at the end of that dark, dark, tunnel in which I found myself. I had an eight year old son, Nino, and a second son, Chicho, which had just been born. I thought of them, and I decided that I would not be like my father. I would not leave them. They became my motive for change. I wanted to be a better father. I wanted them to grow up and know that I never left them, no matter how bad things got. I determined to change for them. They gave me another chance, another reason, to be important.
The divorce proceedings between my wife and I were bad. Every time we met for any reason became another chance for her to attack me and say hateful things against me. But, I knew I deserved them. I still got angry, but I knew that I had done this. I turned her against me. Still, I did not want to lose the marriage, and I kept asking God to please save my marriage. The only thing He would say to me is, “Let me change you. Let Me change you. Let Me change you.” I would get so angry at Him. I wanted God to have mercy on me, even though I knew I deserved everything that was happening to me.
One day I was invited to attend a seminar at which David Wilkerson, a preacher from New York, was speaking. I remember him saying, “God wants you to give Him a chance to prove to you that He can do what He says He can do.” I responded and said, “God doesn’t need any chances, I am the one who needs a chance.” I prayed that night and told God that if He could change me, then He could have me.” I have never been someone who does things halfway. If I messed up, it was all the way, if I did well it was all the way. I knew what I was telling God, if He could change me, I would belong to Him the rest of my life.
Not long after that, I was summed to child custody court, and the court took my boys away from me and gave them to their mother. The court also ordered me to leave my home, and restricted me to be able to see my sons only twice a month. I could not understand this, I wanted to be with my sons, and they took them away from me. I wanted to get angry at God, but I kept reminding myself that He was the owner now. He had the right to do with my life as He pleased. The anger would build inside me, and come dangerously close to an explosion. But The Lord would always remind me that He was now in charge, and that He wanted me to let Him do whatever He thought was best.
Later, we ended up in divorce court. I kept wondering how the Lord was going to stop the divorce proceedings. But, we ended up before the judge who heard all the accusations my wife had against me. Then the judge slammed his mallet on the desk and pronounced us divorced. My world seemed to stop. God had not stopped the divorce. I had lost my family. I wanted to get so angry at Him, I wanted to shout at Him, I wanted to hurt someone. But, instead I walked out of the court feeling defeated one more time in my life.
A couple of days later, my attorney called to ask if I had her from my wife. I answered that he meant my ex-wife. “No,” he said, “I mean your wife. She hasn’t singed the papers yet, and they are looking for her to sign them. I started at the phone for a long time. I did not understand what I had just heard. After a while, I called my wife and she answered. I told her that they were looking for her to go and sign the papers. She said that she knew, but that she had decided not to sign. She said she was going to give me one more chance. After we hung up the phone, I thought of all the anger I had had against God. I thought about how I had wanted to give up on Him. I thought about how much He loved me.
As a man I respect very much said to me not long ago. “I may not be the best husband, but I am a better husband now. I may not be the best father, but I am a better father now. I may not be the best man, but I am a better man now” And I added, “I may not know how to love God that way He wants from me, but I will spend the rest of my life learning to love Him with all my heart.”
So, do I really love Jesus? I hope so.
I am going to spend the rest of my life ministering to others, counseling others, helping others, serving others. That is the best way I know how to show Jesus I love Him, and loving Jesus is the best way I know to show God that I am so appreciative of what He did for me. Yes, Lord I love you, but help me learn how to love you better.