"We are overcome by
the word of our testimonies."

Love, Grace, And Purpose

When Stephen asked me to tell my story, and describe my walk with God, I thought to myself who would genuinely want to hear it? I’ve told my story so many times, I became desensitized to my own trauma. After some reflection, I realized that I don’t view my journey the same as I once did. My story is filled with many adverse traumatic experiences, and until recently I had not acknowledged those experiences for what they were. Nor did I celebrate the changes in myself that were birthed from those adversities.

2 Corinthians 4:18 says “The things we can’t see now, will last forever”

I couldn’t see it then, but I see it now. I don’t know that much about my beginnings. My mother and father were married and divorced very early in my life. I have memories of my father being a good father when I was a young child. For reasons I may never know, he disappeared from my life for many years, I was raised without his presence. My mother was my primary caregiver, she was my first true love, and my first example of unconditional love.

I saw with my own eyes, alcoholism, drugs, I watched my mother physically abused on several occasions. Most times to the point of black, blue, and bloody. I watched her work on the assembly line of Ford Motor Co. for 12 hours a day, coming home with her fingers taped up. A very beautiful woman who worked in a male-dominated environment. She came home often stressed and tired.

My mother died before my 16th birthday. In the year following I would move states, I watched most of my friends falter while I was in mourning. I learned very quickly that everyone doesn’t mourn your losses with you. I reunited with my father, only for him to die a year later. Before my 17th birthday, I was an orphan. In my senior of high school, I had my own apartment, paid rent, and put food on my table.

I put myself through college, dropping in and out several times, and graduating college when I was 27. I began a career as an accountant, why? I thought that’s what I needed to do, find a career that provided financial stability. I got married and started a family, my responsibility was to provide for them financially right? I desperately tried to be what I didn’t have, a stable and consistent male role model.

Making a long story semi-short, I got married and started a family in my late 20’s. After a few years, I realized that accounting wasn’t for me, and I began a career as an educator. I buried myself in the lives of other people, unaware that acts of service were coping mechanism for my trauma. I had to suffer more traumatic events for God to sit me down and force me to listen and accept what He had for me. I had to dismantle the stigma around mental health issues in the black community and accept that I was suffering from major depression and anxiety disorder.

I began a journey with therapy and in that journey, I found peace in the word of God, and that is the walk that young Stephen asked me to touch on. I want to share with his readers what I’ve learned in that journey in hopes that it helps even one person in some way. I am not a high holy roller and I will never claim to be, however through faith I have experienced undeniable security in the grace of God. Here are a few things that I learned:

“For this cause, I was born” John 18:37

God has a purpose for all of us. Without knowing your purpose life can seem pointless, you’re born, you die and in between, you just exist. I have always been a super-achiever, leading me to a false conclusion that I was fulfilling my life purpose. I achieved academic, financial, and social success so in my mind my life had a purpose. God gave me hardships and adversities to show me that nothing I had, the people in my life, or any of my achievements defined God’s purpose in my life. Because of that, I lived without peace. God created us for a specific purpose and it is our responsibility and our pleasure to identify and fulfill that purpose.

“Make allowance for each other’s faults, forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others” Colossians 3:13

Understanding and action are not the same things. So although I admit I understand forgiveness and how the failure to forgive can block your blessings, I still struggle with it. Not only forgiveness for others but forgiveness for myself. Again through experiences God had to show me the meaning of grace for myself and others. I’ve seen many live in judgment of me, and it forced me to realize how many times I’ve lived in the judgment of others. Forgiveness is a cornerstone of faith. Purpose and allowing grace for myself and others has allowed for more peace in my life than ever before. There are people in my life I still struggle to forgive but the effort is there. There are people in my life that I’ve hurt and struggle to give myself grace but the effort is there. Forgiving is setting a prisoner free, and that prisoner is you.

“Hatred stirs up quarrels, but love makes up for all offenses” Proverbs 10:12

Unconditional love is a principle that I live by, even if I have trouble forgiving, I have no trouble loving. If you are reading this, and you know me….if I have ever told you that I love you, know I meant it and I still do. I also understand now that the major cornerstone of God’s word is love. Hate does not work in this world, look around us, look at what is transpiring in the world today. Love is everything and I am doing my best to model it. At the very least, I will do my best to do no harm. Again I say, if I ever loved you, I will always love you and when it matters most I will show you love. I thank God daily for the unconditional love shown to me by my wife Donna, my sons Deven and Donovyn and baby sister Samantha.

These are the lessons of my life as it stands today…I hope that is what you wanted Stephen. Thank you for reading if you read it, and I hope I didn’t bore you to death.

May God bless you all with understanding of Love, Grace, and Purpose……

Joseph E Corley Jr.