Gregg is a Large Group Leader for KidZone at Grace Community Church in Fulton, MD. As he mentions in the story below, he struggled with dyslexia, among other things, growing up. But if you ever saw him in front of a group of kids, teaching them about the Lord, you would know he is truly gifted. I praise God he was able to find that awesome gift and use it for the One who gave it to him.
Recently I was heading to the local mall to do a little shopping when I witnessed a very sad event. I had the misfortune of walking behind a woman who was yelling and berating her teen-aged daughter. The girl was called “stupid” I don't know how many times, and “idiot” at least twice. I did not hear what the girl’s infraction was but nothing could have been that bad to deserve that kind of public humiliation. My heart absolutely broke for that girl. I could only imagine what damage those words were going to have on her. I wanted to slap the mother and tell her to cut it out. Then I wanted to hug the girl and tell her that her mother was wrong and that there was a God who was crazy about her. As you will see I have firsthand knowledge of what those kind of words have on a person.
When I was very little my father decided he did not love us anymore so he left. Just up and left. So my mom raised my sister and me as best she could until she got remarried. Unfortunately the man she married was not much better than the dad who left us. My step dad was not a happy person and he took his unhappiness out on my sister and me—a lot.
I remember one day when I was about 4 or 5 I was in the bathroom goofing off when I got into my mother's makeup and made a mess. I had it all over the place! When my dad saw what I had done he made me put the makeup on and then he locked me out of the house. I can still remember how stupid and ashamed I felt. I hid in some bushes until my mom came home. I will never forget one particular Christmas. Christmases in our house were very stressful. We were always being yelled at because of the mess that we made or the fact that we did not appreciate the things we got. This went on EVERY Christmas. Now this one Christmas was the worst of all. For weeks leading up to Christmas I had begged mom and dad for two very specific toys. One was an M16 plastic rifle, that when you pulled the trigger it made different sounds. One time it was a gun. The next time you pulled the trigger it would make the sound of a bomb going off—that kind of thing. The second toy was a toy called “Rudy, The Robot.” When you turned it on it would walk and talk, and if it walked in to something it would just go the other way.
So I am begging and begging to get these toys. Christmas comes and the first present I open is Rudy-The-Robot!! The second present I open is the M16 rifle! Man was I the happiest kid in the world. So, we are done opening all our gifts hanging out and having a good old time. I am playing with my gun, shooting the hamster and such, when there’s a knock on the door. My mom answers it and it is one of the neighbors coming to wish us a Merry Christmas. As she is standing at the door I put the muzzle end of the gun on the ground and rested the stock end under my rear-end so I could sit on it. All of a sudden you hear this loud cracking noise and the gun snaps in half. My dad see's it happen and gets really, really, angry. He starts yelling at me about not taking care of my stuff and if I don't know how to take care of them, I don't deserve to have anything. He then walks over to Rudy-the-Robot and kicks it across the room and breaks it. Then he comes over to me and pretends he is going to punch me in the face. As you can imagine I was devastated.
Unfortunately, it did not get any better the older I got. My dad would always say things to me like "How could you do something so stupid? You must be stupid." Or, “You're never going to amount to anything” Or, another one of his favorites was "If you don't like the way things are, you can pack your bags and get out of my house." But by far what I heard the most was how stupid I was. And because it was dad who said It, I believed it. When you hear something often enough you tend to believe it even if it is not the truth and if it is said by someone who is supposed to love you, you believe it even more. It did not help at all that I had dyslexia as a kid which made school really hard. Not being able to read correctly, and do math problems correctly, really made me feel stupid and then to hear your dad say that it was your fault because you just did not try hard enough only reinforced the feeling of being stupid. From 6th grade to 11th grade I went to summer school because I was so far behind. That also made me feel stupid.
I hated who I was. I was ashamed of who I was. I was a stupid loser. For two full years I never looked in the mirror because I was so ashamed of who I was. I was a stupid kid who had a bad case of acne. It was during my senior year of high school that my life changed forever. My homeroom advisor came to my house one night to explain to my parents that because I was so far behind in my work, barring a miracle, I would not graduate with my class and would have to make up some classes the following year. I was devastated, and to this day I can still see the look on my dad's face. When it was just he and I in the kitchen once again I heard those familiar words " I told you you were stupid. I told you you would never amount to anything."
So, I left the house, walked to my high school, climbed the bleachers and cried my eye's out. I asked God why I was so stupid and I asked God if it was true that he loved me? I asked God if he truly loved me would he show me. So I told God that I wanted to see a live Owl within 3 days or I would know that there was no God or that He just did not love me. The next day my mom was driving me to an orthodontist appointment. Oh yea, I forgot to tell you I had a mouth full of braces. So anyway we are on our way and I am sitting in the front seat passenger side looking out the window when all of a sudden I scream to my mom to stop the car. I really freaked out my mom. She screamed and asked what had happened. I sat there with my mouth open and tears running down my face because on the branch of a dead tree (so I would not miss it) was the biggest Owl I have ever seen. It was beautiful! At that moment I knew there was a God and I knew he loved me.
It was a few weeks after this that God once again showed me that he loved me. Remember a little while ago I told you that I had not looked at myself for 2 years? Well one day I was in the bathroom shaving with my head in the sink, not looking at myself, when I felt like someone was telling me to lift my head and look in the mirror. I didn't want to do it, but I really felt like I had too. So, very slowly, I lifted my head and even slower I began to look in the mirror. What I saw drove me to my knees in tears and laughter because what I saw was how God saw me!!! And I must tell you I AM AMAZING!!!!
That's why I call myself a disciple of Jesus Christ, because He gave me my life back. And as I started to read His word on a regular basis I began to understand that my earthly father may not have thought much about me, but my Heavenly Father sure did. The more you get to know Christ the more you love Him, and the more you love Him, the more you want of Him, and the more you want to follow Him. The shame, self loathing, and feelings of despair gradually started to disappear the closer my relationship to Christ became. In the book of 2 Corinthians chapter 5 verse 17 it says this: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation: the old has gone, the new has come." Amen to that!
As my relationship with Christ grew, I allowed Him access to more and more of my heart and soul, and the more I gave the more He healed. The healing did not happen overnight. You do not go through years of abuse and "get over it" right away. At least that's not how it happened with me. For years I hated my father, I used to pray sometimes that he would go to work and never come back. Even worse were the times where I wished he would trip coming up the stairs, hit his head, and die right there. As time went on I felt Christ calling me to pray for my father. At first I refused. There was no way I was ever going to pray for him, but Christ would not let that go. So gradually I began to pray, grudgingly at first and not very sincere. But I did pray and the more I prayed the less I hated him. I finally got to a point where I earnestly and regularly prayed for my father's healing. Through my prayers I came to realize that he was just as broken as I was and just as in need of a savior as I was. I finally reached a point where I wrote my father a letter, and in it I forgave him for all that he did to me, and explained to him that God would forgive him too if only he would ask. I explained how God loved him and that no matter what he did God would never stop loving him. We never spoke about that letter but I know that it had an impact on him.
My mother always said that she felt that God had given her a word that my father would become a born again believer before he died. I cannot tell you how many times I prayed that prayer for my father. The Bible says that God is faithful and He would forgive us our sins if we would repent and accept Christ as our savior, so that is what I would pray. It was a few years later when my youngest daughter was just a year old that we all attended a Christmas eve service together. My sister was there with her son, so were my mother and my wife and daughter, and at one point during the service my father began to sing one of the songs, and there was such a look of peace on his face that I knew that night my father became a Christ follower. Later on during the night my mother said to me "Did you happen to see your father during the worship time? Did you see how he glowed? Your father accepted Christ as his savior tonight. He did not tell me this but God did." And I knew in my spirit that he had. Four days later my father died of a massive heart attack. My father had no church he called home or a pastor that he would have called "his pastor." We, as a family, were trying to decide what kind of burial we were going to give him and who would do the service. Well, God in His infinite wisdom spoke to me again and said I was the one who should do it. So that is what I did, I honored God by giving the service. I look back on it now and realize that it was God's way of completing my healing process.
I cannot say that I am glad that I went through what I did or that I wouldn't trade the experience for anything. But I will say that because of that experience I became a follower of Jesus Christ. Romans 8:28 says it best "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose."
So, my question to you is: What have you been called to, and will you answer the call?
Gregg Stein lives in Jessup Md. He has been happily married to the same beautiful woman for 15 years and I has two beautiful, smart, and talented daughters. But most importantly, he is in his 30th year of following, loving , and obeying his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
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