Epilogue: New Identity
As time passed, I tried to get on with my life. Doing the best work I could at the hair school and staying out of trouble. Life was not perfect or easy and I still suffered from my human identity. This meant that I made mistakes from time to time. No one ever gets it right, only one man did and He was God so there’s that. So, I tried to be a productive member of society, a role model to the students that I taught, and a good man.
In Nov, 1997, I met a beautiful woman named Lindsay, who had an uncanny resemblance to the young Audrey Hepburn. She was enrolled in the Cosmetology program at Capitol and there seemed to be some attraction between us. I can’t say that I was a perfect catch for her, but everything about her intrigued me. At that time, my heart was hardened from a failed relationship and I even told her not to get close to me.
She captured my heart and we fell in love. On March 13, 1999 I married the love of my life. I truly feel that God put her in my life to complete some of the work that he was doing in me. Being married to her has been the best thing that could have ever happened to me. She not only made me a husband, but with the addition of three beautiful daughters, I became a father. The most terrifying role a man could ever take on but at the same time, the most rewarding. My heart swells with pride at the accomplishments they achieve, the beauty they possess, but most importantly the hearts that they have for others.
Lindsay challenges me to uphold the God given roles that I possess and just like everything else in my story, if I do it on my own I will fail. So I rely on God to give me the knowledge, wisdom and strength to live in the same house as these four women. It has never been simple or perfect but it is so worth it. Love is not a strong enough word for what I feel for my family.
On September 11, 2001 our country changed forever. After the attacks a huge wave of patriotism swept our nation. War was imminent and everyone backed our service members no matter what branch of service or what job they held. It was amazing seeing how much love and respect was shared with anyone wearing a uniform.
It was at this time I became very unsettled. My father, brother and sister were all veterans and my youngest brother had just signed up just months before the attacks. As America hailed and praised our men and women in uniform, I began to develop a deep sense of guilt and shame about the actions that led to my incarceration and dishonorable discharge.
This feeling wouldn’t go away and it cut deep into my soul. It was hard to go to work every day feeling like that. I was feeling like there really was no significance to what I was doing. That in the grand scheme of life, I was irrelevant. Men and women were going overseas to fight and die for a cause.
In no way, shape or form did I ever want to leave my family to go to war. It was in knowing that even if I did want to, I was blacklisted from serving. The time that I spent in the Army was good for nothing. The worst part was, every time someone said to me, “Thank you for your service” it dug the knife in even deeper. They meant well, but I just couldn’t shake these feelings.
This same thing would happen around Veteran’s day and Memorial Day. Holidays honoring those who serve or have served and for remembering the men and women who died while serving in our country’s armed forces.
A reminder that I live in a country that was fought for with blood, sweat, tears and lives. I know that I walk around every day with the freedom that was provided for me. My heart is heavy and my head hangs low because I was discharged from the Army with dishonor. My selfish actions are to blame and I accept full responsibility. Having failed my family, my country and God miserably, I deserve the death that each military grave represents.
Yes, I know now that I am forgiven, and I know that God doesn’t look at me this way. However, it seems, the consequences of my past still haunt me year after year.
Knowing that I am forgiven by God’s grace is not enough. I need to surrender my past to Him and rest in my new identity daily. My conviction does not have to define me. I have to leave my old identity and accept my new one.
It is time for me to step out of prison and into the arms of Jesus.
1Peter 2:9 (NLT) …For he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.
You do not have to be defined by your past, you have been forgiven and can have a new identity in Christ.
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