Growing up I loved playing video games on the Nintendo, Super Nintendo, and Nintendo 64 gaming systems. And like most kids who grew up in then 90’s, Super Mario Brothers was one of the first games I ever played.
Anyone who has played the Super Mario games will know that you use Mario or Luigi to jump up to hit blocks to either break them, get coins, or some other thing to help you win the game. Something that I did not know until I was 28 years old is that Mario is not using his head to break the blocks. If you actually zoom in on an image of Mario jumping to hit a block you will see a tiny hand in between his head and the block. This means that Mario and Luigi actually use their hands to break the blocks to get the coins and other items despite what my eyes told me for most of my life.
I was wrong about Mario using his head to break the blocks. It’s not that my eyes were lying to me, I just did not take the time to look closely to see what was really happening there.
It has dawned on me that this is not the only time in my life when I had a false idea or perception about something. In fact, it was not the only time that my senses mislead me as well. I had a similar, yet more impactful mistake occur with my understanding of heaven as a teenager.
I decided at the age of 16 that if I could not grasp the reality of heaven in my mind, then it could not be real. This then lead me to discount all of religion and faith in God as I figured that I did not have any physical proof of the Lord or the spiritual things I learned about growing up. I misjudged reality because I thought I had everything that I needed to judge it correctly.
I was mistaken. I did not realize that there is more to our world than the physical things that we can see, hear, and touch. There is a spiritual realm that we are in contact with as well.
What is not taught very well is that there are certain tools we need to see and know the spiritual realm, which is where we can find God and heaven. Just like I needed to have the technology with the tools to zoom in on Super Mario to see his hand punching the block, I need the tools of faith, humility, prayer, and perseverance to understand that God and heaven exist.
Thankfully, God was good enough to allow for my poor choices in life to crush me into misery. Between the ages of 16 and 20, my selfishness, which was encouraged by my atheism, only made me more sad. This sadness would push me to keep seeking happiness and equipped me with humility so that I would have the right tool to finally seek Jesus.
In 2005, I was the saddest I have ever been while I was living on the beach in Destin, FL. Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and the outer storms of Katrina put a hole in my roof forcing me to move out. I moved to Fort Walton Beach, literally just across the bridge from Okaloosa Island. It was a very cheap apartment, but it was in a cool part of town.
I was still working in Destin and would make the drive home through Okaloosa Island over the bridge almost every day. It was during a drive home from work that I deeply contemplated my situation, the sadness that I was experiencing, and I came up with a new option that I had never really tried before.
I had gone to Church every Sunday in my childhood, attended Catholic School from 2nd to 8th grade, and knew many of the stories from the Bible. However, I had never really held a real, mature faith in Jesus. At the time of my drive home from work I realized this thinking, “you know I have never given Jesus a real chance”.
In that moment, with humility and hope, I decided that I would do just that. I decided that I would believe in Jesus and a bomb went off. In that moment, I had a very clear understanding that Jesus was indeed real and that I had made the right choice. I felt it in my bones.
I began to occasionally attend a church close to my apartment, still confused as to what to do with this new faith. A year later I would attend a small Catholic college where I would be lead to seek Jesus in prayer more. With the tools of faith, humility, prayer, and perseverance I would succeed in experiencing God in very tangible ways, convincing me without a shadow of a doubt, that He is real.
These invigorating experiences gave me all the proof I needed. I gave my life to Jesus, letting go of my all of my addictions, and began building a new life with the Lord.
I really cannot take credit for any of this. I simply would not remain satisfied with my misery and sought to find happiness. Jesus brings the only happiness that truly satisfies. Thankfully, with His help, I was able to overcome my false perceptions on God and heaven.
God used my misery to get me to look closer at Him to find Him, just like when I looked closer at Super Mario to see his hand punching the brick. My invitation to you is for you to do the same. If you find yourself dissatisfied with your life, take a closer look at God. With hope and humility, give Jesus a chance and He will show you what you are missing.