Be UnBroken!

Unbroken is a best selling biography and movie depicting the life of Louis Zamperini.  His story is one of great trials and tribulations, yet, of incredible resilience and determination.  It is also a modern day example of God’s wonder-working power to change a person’s life when they are willing.

Louis Zamperini was a troubled teen whose rebellious nature caused him to encounter law enforcement on several occasions.  He was an athlete and continued to pursue his sport interests despite his troubles.  He later became a standout at the 1963 Olympics in Germany.  His athletic prowess allegedly caught the eye of Aldolf Hitler, who wanted to meet Zamperini.  Zamperini later enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces.

While in the military, Zamperini and a crew of ten other soldiers were sent on a rescue mission for other soldiers whose aircraft went down.  The B-24 aircraft he was in experienced its own mechanical problems as well and went down in the Pacific Ocean.  Eight of the eleven soldiers were killed, leaving Zamperini and two other soldiers behind.  Unfortunately, one of the three men later died before they were found.  Zamperini and his remaining battle buddy survived for more than 40 days in the shark-infested water on chocolate, rainwater, and fish.  Japanese soldiers later captured the two men. Initially, the men were well kept and fed until they were transferred to a camp run by an eager soldier named “the Bird”.

For the next two years, the men were beaten, tortured, and starved.  Zamperini often endured longer periods of torture because of his rank as an Officer and his public figure status during his Olympic tenure.   The men were eventually released from Japanese custody when WWII ended.

Zamperini suffered from PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, as a result of his experience. His life began to spiral out of control.  Just like many people who experience trauma of any kind, he self-medicated with alcohol in order to cope.  However, let’s back up for just a moment – while stranded at sea, Zamperini prayed using bits and pieces of prayers he’d heard in movies.  He told God that if “He (God) would save them, he would serve Him for the rest of his life”.

Zamperini went on to experience torture while being a POW after praying the prayer that would one day change his life.  Again, he became an alcoholic and began down a path that many find difficult to escape.  Eventually, he attended a crusade led by a young Billy Graham.  This day would be the first day of the best days of his life.  Zamperini opened himself to God’s agape love and was forever changed for the better.  He was delivered from PTSD and gave up his self-medicating habit of alcoholism immediately.  He became a man of such faith and love than he later returned to Japan to show his forgiveness for the Japanese soldiers who tortured him and to share the gospel with them.

BetterSense.orgWow! What an amazing story of victory? I have not watched the movie but I have read a number of stories about Zamperini since the trailer for the movie was released.  Honestly, most people will never experience the type and degree of trauma Zamperini experienced, but trauma is trauma.  A very small percentage of the human population will become Olympic athletes.  An even smaller percentage will be a POW.  However, most people will or have experienced some type of emotional or mental trauma that has affected their life in some tremendous way.  Just because one’s trauma is not directly reflective of that of Zamperini and his battle buddies does not lessen the impact of the trauma.

A traumatic event threatens a person’s safety or makes one feel helpless.  Any overwhelming life experience can cause a person to experience symptoms of PTSD for brief or extended periods of time.  One can feel “crazy”, disconnected, and emotionally numb after experiencing a situation that shatters their trust and safety.  Many of us have experienced situations in our childhood and adult relationships that cause us to build emotional and mental walls in order to keep from being hurt again.  The problem is, however, we often have these experiences very often and by a number of different people. Which can cause a great deal of emotional trauma. People become angry, irritable, and often have feelings of depression, hopelessness, and mistrust.  Many walk away being so much of a victim, that they never truly seek change for themselves.

The facts are in: according to www.ptsdunited.org,

·      70% of adults in the U.S. have experienced some type of traumatic event at least once in their lives – about 223.4 million people.

·      Up to 20% of these people go on to develop PTSD – about 44.7 million people with PTSD.

·      An estimated 8% of Americans have PTSD at any given time – approximately 24.4 million people.

·      An estimated 1:9 women develops PTSD, making them about twice as likely as men

I think it is safe to assume that most of us have experienced some type of trauma or bad situation that has affected us in one way or another.  Some situations are much more traumatic than others but the results are often very similar. So, what makes a person UnBroken? What is it that causes some to overcome while others succumb?

First, I think a person must be able to recognize the internal and external battle raging on in and around them.  It was obvious for Zamperini to see that he was in the mist of one of the most significant battles in American history. However, he also needed to acknowledge that he had a personal battle within.  He could have easily blamed his condition (alcoholism) on being a POW and I am sure that most people would have understood that.  He could have easily slipped into the abyss of never-ending hurt and blame with very good reason, but he did not. He had to take ownership of the person he had become more so than the reason why he became that person.

It is so important to view your in a very real and unfiltered way.  If the person you have become is not the person you know you really are, you have some changes to make.  If you have become an alcoholic, if you are miserable, if you are mean, if you are anything you despise – you must accept it at face value.  No excuses.  Let it be exactly what it is.  Once you see who you are and you know changes must be made, make the necessary decisions.  Some decisions are more difficult to make than others but, when you have a true desire to change, the decisions will be made.   I know how difficult it is to make tough decisions because I’ve had to make a series of them myself but I do not regret making any of them. The fear of the unknown paralyzed me a lot longer than I should have allowed, but I eventually overcame my fears and began moving forward with my decisions. You must stand on faith and believe that you can and will make it through whatever decisions and choices you have to make.

bettersense.orgLife requires us to make decisions very often.  However, once you have made a life-changing decision, stick with it.  Hold on to it and pursue it in spite of how you feel. As I experienced my personal issues a few years ago, I quickly learned that my feelings could not dictate my life if I was going to make a great change.  Again, Zamperini had so many valid reasons to remain a victim but he chose different; he resolved within himself that he’d press on anyway.  You must do the same. Allow God to mend your brokenness in spite of your current condition.  Zamperini pursued change, even in spite of himself and his life circumstances.  Don’t forget, he became an alcoholic after God answered his prayer.  When he decided that enough was enough, he opened himself to God’s healing hands and was never the same.  We now know him as Mr. UnBroken.

Like Louis Zamperini and millions of others, you too can be an example of strength, courage, and resilience to those around you.  A great story is one of survival, redemption, victory, and faith.  If you faint not, you too can do the seemingly impossible.  If you put in the work, you too will be Mr. or Ms. UnBroken.

Be UnBroken!  Be Better!  Make Your Life Spectacular!

#bettersense

#unbroken

#bespectacular

You can read more about my story and my book at www.bettersense.org.  My book “Thank You Hurt…I’m Better Sense I Faced You!”  is available online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Ingram, and over 35,000 other online book retailers.  It is available in paperback and ebook format.

What Is My Purpose For Going?

Why

Have you ever thought about your purpose for attending church each week? Many of us attend regularly but why?  I asked myself this very question when I was going through a difficult time in my life. I went to church on a regular basis, however, my spiritual condition remained in need of intensive care.  In my book, Thank You Hurt…I’m Better Sense I Faced You!, I speak very openly about my experience.  My life was in such turmoil that I was desperate to find out how to make it better.  Ironically, I lived in a terrible emotional and spiritual place under the roof of a sanctuary every week.  Sadly, I sank lower and lower with each passing service.

I struggled to really accept God’s genuine love in my life.  I had a hard time believing that a man so perfect could love someone like me – an imperfect mess of a girl.  I just could not see how this was going to work.  It did not make sense to me.  I had issues on top of issues so I decided that I would give church a try, not God, but church.  Now, I know that my personal issues were my own to work out but I was not ready for church at all.  Is anyone every really ready for church? I dare not touch that topic now but I do know that I was caught off guard by my experiences. I genuinely thought that if I surrounded myself by other church-goers that I’d get the help I needed for life.  I thought I made the right decision because I felt that my life was missing something.

I thought my life would change automatically when I first started going to church.  I thought my commitment to God would shield me from having the issues, temptations, and desires I had before.  I thought that once I got saved that my life would change.  At least, that is what is said in church.  I was a young, immature twenty-something year old college student when I decided to give it a try.  I hoped that God would take control of my out-of-control life and make sense of it.  I was making decisions and doing things that I was not proud of.  I was dumbfounded by many of the things I did along the way.  I often wondered to myself “what in the world was I thinking?” or “why did I do that?” It seemed I could not help myself. I was self-destructing and things were getting worse.

So, like many struggling Christians, I was an on-again-off-again saint for years.  Going to church in the beginning was hopeful because the people in church showed lots of love and welcomed me with open arms.  The attention was overwhelming.  However, the love and kindness faded after a while. As the new car smell of my conversion began to fade, the people I thought would demonstrate God’s unconditional love began to get fewer in number. The atmosphere went from “come as you are” to “don’t come like that”. I think my spiritual growth and maturity was either taking too long or it did not unfold the way some thought it should after a while. Most people became less kind and more judgmental.  Ironically, though, no one helped me to find any resolution for the problems they judged me on. Lord knows I had no clue what to do.  I was not in a place that I could pick up the Bible and it make sense to me. Even if I did, I needed someone to help me apply what I was learning to my life. I needed to know how to activate the power source that I tapped into. I was lost.

Better SenseI felt that I was left to fail because people threw scriptures at me and treated me as if I was rebellious to God’s word.  I felt as if people (when I say people, I mean church folk) wanted me to change as soon as they said anything or quoted a scripture to me. In addition to my own self-esteem issues, I felt that I did not have what it took to satisfy God.  I failed at every turn with His people so, I felt it was pointless to try to be right in His eyes. Au contraire, my friend!

I felt this way for years until one day I decided that God’s grace and His mercy were all I needed to get by.  The Bible declares “But God demonstrates His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ dies for us” (Romans 5:8, KJV). I wish I had figured this out a long time ago.  It took me a long time to get it but I got it now and I want you to have it.  God loves us so much that He sent His son, Jesus, to die for us before we had a chance to mess up.  Jesus paid the ultimate price to save us from the penalty of sin – no one else.  This changed my life.

The words, looks, thoughts, and opinions of people became mute points for me.  Internalizing this truth freed me of the need to be approved by seasoned saints.  I have learned that people with think of me however they see me – be it good, bad, or indifferent.  My plea to you is that no matter what issues you come with, go to church to hear the word.  Allow the word of God to change, guide, and improve your life. The people sitting next to you need Him just like you do.  They haven’t made it yet.  They are not Enoch. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17, KJV).  But, do not cheat yourself or others – be a doer of the word. Please do not deceive yourself (James 1:22, KJV) into thinking you have made it just because you attend church regularly and can quote scriptures on demand.

As you sit in the pew on Sunday mornings, allow God’s love to penetrate your heart and change your life. You do not owe anything to anyone.  You are not required to be perfect, no matter what anyone says to you.  God will complete His work in you as you stay before Him.  On this journey for eternal life, please remember the uncomfortable feeling you felt when people judged you.  Not to be hostile or mad with those who judged you but, to help you be an example of God’s love to the next generation believers.  You just might be the other reason people keep coming to church.

God bless you!