My life drastically changed for the better at the age of 17 when I first came to know about the Community. It is amazing to me, however, to look back now, at the age of forty-nine, and realize how ravaged my soul already was at that young age. I had cultivated a life of guilt and deceit, revealing the fatally flawed condition of my soul through the choices I had made. Flawed, in the sense of character; fatal, in the sense of my inability to change my state of being. Most people might not have noticed, though, as these things are often camouflaged, having to do with the deep inner workings of the soul.
I was like most anyone else born into the American dream of becoming something and leaving my mark in life. Yet at the same time, I had this terminal “disconnect” condition within me. My conscience had been effectively switched off through years of constant suppression. Though only 17, I was given over to immorality and vices that were destroying my life and the lives of those around me. I was alienated, depressed, alone, and divided from others. My rebellious teenage years had sent me into high gear, accelerating my plunge into debauchery.
Feelings of inadequacy and uselessness lurked within, although outwardly I was extremely social, bright, and outgoing. I did not have the inner worth that comes from obeying one’s conscience. During those early years, I constantly tried to compensate for my sense of inferiority. More than a handful for my parents, with my strong personality, I needed a strong authority figure with a firm hand to direct my energies. Sadly, my father was not closely involved for most of my formative years, and my mother worked to help carry the costs of living. They did the very best they could, and certainly taught me spiritual principles and moral values, but still I grew up very independent, strong-willed and insecure. It was a bad recipe that was destined to flop.
During my teenage years, I craved acceptance and dreaded any sense of rejection. I didn’t realize that the fatal flaw of self-concern would lead me in such a devastating direction. Entering high school, I was determined to come out of my shell of introspection. Scott, who had been one of my very best friends, did not now seem “up to par” for the kind of friends I thought I needed to have. So, I turned against him and any other genuine friends I had, in order to become popular and fit in with the cooler crowd. I determined within myself to break the mold and become an entirely different person, but in reality, I was plunging my soul into deeper, darker waters from which I would not be able to free myself.
I wanted to have friends and feel accepted and loved, but I didn’t see that I already had this and was rejecting it because of the deep feeling of inadequacy that plagued me. It was the fruit of rebellion and the rejection of authority in my life. As a result, I had no anchor for my soul, so who and what I really was eluded me. I remember finding out much later how deeply my words and actions hurt my parents and the few genuine friends who had been so kind to me. I did not have the power within myself to recover those friendships or heal the alienation between me and my parents.
I got involved with a girl in high school who met all my outward criteria, but it was all for a show, not really from my heart. We could never communicate honestly or deeply with each other, as both of us were like faceless mannequins without a heart or soul. I led her along in this pretense for a few years during high school, until she went out on me, and I felt obliged to do the same. It was a nasty outcome, causing us to part with an irreconcilable rift, being filled with animosity and resentment towards each other. The wounds never healed.
In such a blinded state, I was unconsciously led by various impulses and desires into other selfish relationships that gave opportunity for the fatal flaw to reach its ultimate climax in my life. My deviant behavior was so shameful, and my family was mortified, having been publicly disgraced and humiliated. Any remaining relationships were ruined, though I scrambled to cover whatever I could with as many lies as possible to save my family from undeserved grief and remorse over my own unseemly actions. I cannot count how many times I came home at 5 in the morning to find my mother asleep on the couch, having waited up for me all night, and then to see her cry when I woke her. Not much was said, but I knew, seeing the Bible nearby, that she was in turmoil. All she knew was to read and pray.
With a hardened conscience I would scold her for waiting up for me. The quarreling that followed only made matters worse. One day, I slammed the door to silence her pleading voice, and when I was finally alone with my thoughts, it hit me: I was a dead man. Full of reasoning, full of lies, yet somewhere deep, deep inside, like a fading ember discarded after a fire that had long died out, the tiniest flicker of shame glowed in my long-suppressed conscience. As I dropped into bed, I refused to allow anything to reach me. The year continued, and I had to cover my tracks: skipping school, associating with those who cloak their guilt with darkness, drinking, racing, nightclubs, on and on.
There is a proverb that says, “As a man thinks, so he is.” How true! Those who feel little worth about themselves end up doing worthless things. If you think this way, you tend to associate with those who think the same way. There is hardly anything more destructive than that feeling of worthlessness. In the scriptures it is called, Belial1 — another name for the evil one. Everything vile, coarse, filthy, degrading, and evil comes from entertaining such company. How deceived I was when I rejected my father’s authority in my life, and my mother’s attention. What ruin I experienced as the due penalty for how I plunged my soul into such darkness!
I wanted to get away, as quickly as I could. I could not handle living in the same house anymore, or even living in the same city with those who participated with me in such evil. They all knew too much; they were all equally guilty. So, I did what I could to save face, and applied for a scholarship to a faraway university. As it turned out, I received not just one, but two scholarships. This helped to compensate for all the humiliation I had brought upon myself, my family, and others. I thought I could begin life over again with new friends, in a new location. I hated what I had become, and all the lies I had told to cover over the shame and guilt of my life.
Oh, what freedom! A new start!
But wait… What was this? How foolish I was! My fatal flaw could not be healed by merely moving to a new city, or finding a new set of friends. I had tried to believe everything would change, but in the end I found that I was the problem. I was trying to run away from myself. It really didn’t matter where I went, or who I was with. I left Shelia only to find Sue, and now it wasn’t Joe, but Mark — the exact same personalities, but with different names and faces. How could they be so exactly the same, along with the façade and enticements to do exactly the same things I was trying to escape from? Such madness! What was wrong with me? I had thought I could just flick a switch, and it would all be over, but it wasn’t.
From that point on, I had to start facing what was in me. The smoldering ember of my conscience had not yet completely burned out. That was the only remnant of hope I had. “Please don’t go out! Please, God, don’t let it go out!”
I would go to the mirror every day and just cry and cry, in such grief and pain, when I realized that everything I had experienced was entirely my fault. No one else could I blame. It was all on me. I was so lonely and divided from everyone. There was nothing I could do to ever change the past. I had tried to run away from it, but it haunted me and caught up to me in the form of other human beings. The fatal flaw was terminal. I was on a collision course with death, and there was no way to change it.
When I finally started to wake up, can you imagine how desperate I became? Not a day went by without another dreadful thought reminding me of what I had done that held such irreversible consequences. What was most painful to reckon with was the knowledge that I was responsible for the hatred that so many people now had towards me. I tried and tried to make things as right as I could, to repair the damage, but some wouldn’t even open the door when they heard my voice. I would drive away slowly, crying still more. Some people that I had irreparably hurt, I couldn’t even face. It wasn’t even worth the effort, not only because I couldn’t face the shame, but because I knew they wouldn’t even care. The very thing I wanted — to love and be loved — I had prevented by my own pride and sense of worthlessness.
Then one day, between orientation and the start of classes, my older sister asked me to go to lunch with her. She had come close to a nervous breakdown due to a divorce. “Seven years!” she screamed aloud as we sped away in a car, “seven years, for nothing!” Tears rolled down her face. I sat there in silence. What could I do? Nothing. I just watched her quietly sob as we drove quickly down the highway. What was really baffling and troubling was the fact that although I was close to my sister and loved her very much, all I could see was myself in her ex-husband. I hated and loathed how he treated her, going out all night, gambling and drinking. I pulled down the visor to shade my eyes from the sun and noticed myself in the mirror. My eyes started to fill with tears.
“There is a nice little café called the Yellow Deli on Brainerd Road,” she said after a long silence. “I thought we could eat lunch there. The people are very kind.”
“What sort of place is it?” I asked.
“Oh, you will see. They have great food.”
We finally reached the café and went in. Then it hit me! Once, in high school, a friend had taken me to this deli. But now, I was looking with new eyes. The music, the shining faces, the way people worked — something was strange… What was it? I found out that the deli was operated by a community of people who lived together, sharing all they had, and the young woman at the counter placed a card in my hand, warmly inviting me to come to a meeting.
The love and warmth of her words and her smile drew me like a magnet to their next meeting. I went alone, a bit timid, not knowing anyone there. Nevertheless, something was drawing me, and I could not resist. I walked into a room packed full of people and literally had to sit down on the floor as there was no other place to sit. As everyone spoke his heart in the soft glow of amber lighting, I noticed the faces of those who were speaking. “What is going on here?” I thought to myself. “What have I walked into?” It was like nothing I had ever experienced in my life. Everyone was intently listening. Every eye was fixed on those speaking. The singing, the smiles, and the warmth of their love for one another — it all captivated me. I was spellbound. The genuine love and welcome after the meeting was overwhelming, and I had one thought: “I’m HOME!”
Because I was not yet 18, I was encouraged, out of respect for my parents’ authority, to continue on in college, but it was like torture. Although I was doing very well academically, it didn’t mean anything to me. Life wasn’t worth living without a remedy to the fatal flaw I was afflicted with. Was a career going to compensate for the guilt I could not by my own power escape from?
The words I heard spoke right to my heart. They had the cure and the life that could heal me from the fatal flaw of mankind. Even the most devastating defects could be healed by faith in Yahshua, the Messiah, if I would surrender everything to follow Him, and leave the world behind. I knew where I belonged. As soon as that first year of college came to an end, I spoke with my parents (whom I now wanted to honor and respect, making up for all the years of turmoil I had caused them), expressing what I knew to be true in my heart about joining the community. They listened and gave me their blessing and support. That was it! I was packing my bags in an instant, and out the door I went! Home, I got to go home, where my heart belongs!
That was 32 years ago. My life is totally united with these people. The anguish of my guilt and shame has forever been removed through the sacrifice of Yahshua, the Messiah. No more did I have to live in the misery of unconfessed sin, chained to feelings of worthlessness and pride. It was all a lie. Over the years, little by little, love has reached deep into the crevasses of my soul to unlock the truth of who and what I am. It hasn’t always been easy to face, but the love of our Father and the love of my brothers and sisters is stronger than the clinging tentacles of the evil one. Love reached the smoldering ember in my heart and caught it on fire. I met my wife here in the community, and have been blessed with four beautiful and amazing children who have grown up to follow me in this lifelong covenant with our Master Yahshua.
There is a welcome sign hanging on every door of the communities of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. The fatal flaw that afflicts humanity has ravaged us all, but we know the remedy, and we have the healing balm to cure these maladies. The life I have experienced here in the Twelve Tribes has become richer and deeper as the years have passed. Our life is even more vibrant now than when I first encountered it, with the fuller expression of that love being expressed all over the world in all of our tribes and clans, united as one in community. You will have to come and see whether my words are true. Maybe, if you come, then you too will be like I was, overwhelmed by the life and love of our Master and His people, and respond joyfully by saying, “I’m home. I’m finally HOME!”