When Self-Examination Hurts
“I know who I once was, and I know who I became, and I even have a decent idea of who I want to be. Unfortunately, I don’t know where I am on that path.”
– From Early Release, by Jason Michelsen
When I wrote Early Release, the quote above was about as brutally honest of a self-assessment as I could give. As a Christian, I suspect that it may never change. The question we have to ask is, should it? A Christian is growing every day, and the changes that a year or two make are often staggering. For me, the first major change I noticed was in my language. Growing up in Detroit—even in Christian schools—was not conducive to PG rated speech. Four years of parties college did not help. And then nearly a decade in the Army? Yeah, I was beyond hope. Sailors complained when someone “cursed like a Jason.”
Then I started reading my Bible a bit more often. I was praying more and attending church and bible studies regularly. I started listening to Christian music almost exclusively. And then one day I was having a normal conversation with normal people, and I noticed myself getting a bit uncomfortable with the language they were using. I caught myself saying “fudge” and “crap” a lot. Eventually even those were awkward on my tongue. Now I cringe when I hear vulgar or crude language. I want to throw people out of my house if they use it more than once an hour. It’s not just being easily offended or sensitive, either. It’s the attitude behind the words that is at odds with my spirit. My heart will not let me cheapen a person’s being by calling them any of those words, and the anger that drives coarse language is foreign to me now. Granted, I have been known to speak that foreign language occasionally; I am not perfect. But still, the change in something as basic as my everyday speech has been nothing short of miraculous.
I wish I could say that my language was the worst thing about me back then. The truth is, I was so filled with anger, despair, and regret that I could barely function. When I began my walk with Christ in earnest, it was the result of a serious and painful period of self-examination. One of the mistakes I had been making (and incidentally, one of the ways I had been justifying my behavior) was only looking at who I used to be. I could still picture the young child growing up in church and Sunday school, (mostly) listening to his parents and (occasionally) doing the right thing. I saw the direct development from that child into the immature young man I was, and it seemed like the logical progression. Who I became was just an extension of who I was. I had a good career that most would consider noble, I had decent educational achievements, and I was financially stable. Clearly I was going down the right road since my life was so perfect, right? I mean, never mind the crushing depression that had me sleeping with a knife next to my bed in case I woke up crying for no reason one more time. And drinking myself into oblivion each and every night was certainly not an issue since I could go to work half drunk in the morning and still perform at a high level. My life was awesome!
God disagreed. He knew who I became wasn’t even close to who I had been. In a classic example of extreme circumstances calling for extreme measures, He got my attention. It hurt. It saved my life. Like a doctor resetting a bone, He made me scream out in agony so that I could begin to heal. I recognized that I was not that same (kinda) innocent child, and I had become a full blown example of human depravity. The hardest part about overcoming it was learning to differentiate the good from the bad. As I examined my life, I came across so many things that were not what they seemed. Times I helped people, but only for my own “glory.” Times I chose not to help people, but because it was sincerely tough love. I could accept nothing at face value, and I forced myself to examine every action I had taken to determine what I was really doing and who I had really become. I was better and worse than I expected. I thought maybe I should hate myself, but I knew I definitely should forgive myself.
If it’s not clear by this point, I am still pretty messed up. I have no clue who I am. But, like the hero of the book, I know who I want to be. And more importantly, I know that I cannot become that person on my own. Now I follow a God who can take all those broken parts of me and make me into something amazing that He can use for His glory. I know that despite all the misuse of the talents and abilities and character traits I was given, I have a second chance. And when (not if) I screw this one up, He’ll give me a third chance. His patience knows no bounds, and His love endures forever. Sometimes it’s hard not knowing where I’m at in my journey, but I can take comfort in the certain knowledge that I am right where He needs me to be. Even the wrong turns I take will put me in a place where He can use me, and then He will nudge me back toward my destination. My self-assessment saw depravity, God’s assessment of me sees perfection through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. I’m my own worst critic, but He is my biggest supporter.
Who was I? Who did I become?
I know who I will be, and I can’t wait to see how He makes me that person!
About the Author
Jason Michelsen blogs about faith, family, and anything else that crosses his mind for his blog, “Jason’s Life” (www.jtmichelsen.com). His debut novel Early Release was ironically released late, but is now available in paperback or Kindle format through Amazon. He lives in Baltimore where he has been blessed with an amazing wife and three extremely hyper children. When not writing he is working on his Master’s of Divinity degree, searching obsessively for news about the Detroit Lions, or occasionally even working his day job. He has no pets since his cat was hit by a truck, but there is a goldfish in the house that is closing in on the world record for “Lifespan of a Carnival Prize.”
About the Book
Early Release is the story of David Saul, a Soldier who has fallen from grace and found himself in prison. When a series of devastating earthquakes results in utter chaos, the inmates are able to escape the prison and are turned loose on the surrounding community. Now he faces his most difficult decision yet: abandon the society that abandoned him, or remain true to his nature and fight to protect the innocent?