A Place to Belong, A Place to Become

Growing up, I’ve always felt “without roots”, with a thirst for identity and a place to belong. Questions resonated within me: “Why do I exist? Who am I?” Even though my parents did their best to raise me, they somehow failed to answer these deep questions about life, so I set out to find answers my own way.

I arrived in the city at the age of 18, thinking I knew better than them what path I should take in life. Like a prisoner set free, swollen with youth and vigor, with hope for the future, I was now king of my life and no longer needed to restrict myself to the limits that seemed to have been imposed on me since childhood. At last, I could start living! No more parents telling me what to do, a bank account and the keys to an apartment: my own little kingdom.

I’d been writing music since the age of 15, and being appreciated by the people around me, I hoped to break through, get noticed and “take off in life”. I identified a lot with the artists I listened to. Their music somehow connected me to another reality, where things were “better”. Dissatisfied with what society had to offer, what attracted me was challenging standards, questioning the established order, exploring and pushing back limits, because I thought there was something else to live for than “just life”. I knew there must be something else out there, and I was determined to find it. I soon got noticed in the music scene and started playing live in the city I lived in. At last, what I wanted! I quickly blended in, and at the age of 18, naive and amazed by what was in front of me, I was quickly caught up in the spiral of my new life: drugs, alcohol and parties.

From then on, my life became like a lit cigarette: a burning ember. As I experimented with hallucinogens and other narcotics, the gates of existence seemed to open before me, and the knowledge that I thought had been hidden from me seemed to be revealed bit by bit. I met a lot of people, a lot of faces, also artists I admired, and one event followed another in the electric haze of this new – mostly nocturnal – life. I defied known limits, and was intoxicated by the feeling of ecstasy this gave me, like a great leap into the void. I lived from day to day, with no tomorrow, in my actions and in my relationships. I learned to push away the little voice that told me I was going too far, and pushed my exploration even further. I didn’t know that this little voice wanted to preserve me. I didn’t think about the fact that my actions would have consequences.

In fact, the further I went, the more I pushed the limits, the more I gave myself over to this one-way life where moral codes are shattered and debauchery is king, the more confused I became. And I still had no roots. I could feel my mind gradually fogging over, and I even began to get depressed. So I sought even greater ecstasy, giving myself over to ever more advanced experiments. I’d had a girlfriend for several years, but I was unfaithful, going from one affair to the next, because these days “you don’t belong to anyone”, and I despised the so-called virtuous values of marriage and faithfulness, which seemed old-fashioned and didn’t fit in with the new codes of the emerging youth, “liberated” from the restraints of the past. I judged these things as silly, naive and, really, I thought I knew better what life was all about.

It seems to me that deep down in every human being, there’s a profound desire for fulfilment, a thirst for the absolute, and I believed that this path I’d taken would get me there if I persisted. Why then, as I pursued my quest for the unknown, did I feel less and less joy? Why, when I thought one day I’d fly away, free and light as a bird, did I feel increasingly heavy and tired on the path I’d taken? I gradually came down from my “trip” and began to see the fruit of what I had sown.

I was the king of my life, yes, but was I really reigning? Was I taking care of my kingdom, of the people around me? Could they count on me, trust me? My reign was that of a selfish king, pursuing his own interests without really considering those of others, a tyrannical and destructive reign. At 22, like that cigarette that’s lit and burns out quickly, I felt like I’d already burned out my whole life. All I had left were ashes and the aftertaste of smoke in my mouth. Every morning as I got up and every night as I went to bed, it was there: that weight upon my shoulders. How heavy it was!

Little by little, I realized how much I had hurt the people around me. I felt regret for the choices I’d made, and like a tape rewound, I wished I could go back and erase the traces. But I knew that my actions were inscribed and engraved, indelible. “Perhaps I’ll be able to forget them as time wears on”, I thought.

I remember looking at myself in the mirror, thinking: “Did I really do all those things? How can this be?” It’s as if my outward representation didn’t match what was really in my heart. Deep down, I didn’t want to be the person I had become. I wanted to be someone else, someone noble, someone with integrity, a loyal and faithful person, trustworthy, a friend. I longed for a new beginning, but it seemed unattainable. My heart cried out in regret and I felt trapped in my soiled body, my thoughts and my condition. I needed to be washed clean of the things I’d given myself to.

That’s when I started working in an organic cooperative, through a connection of my father. I became interested in agriculture, food and natural therapy. I thought, “In order to put down roots, I have to get connected to the earth, to nature, to the environment”. So I immersed myself in all kinds of therapeutic literature and soon became fascinated by the various theories and detoxification cures I discovered. I was motivated by this need for purification, and the answers I found gave me hope that it was possible. I soon put into practice the “cure” that seemed most radical to me: raw food.

What intrigued me about these books I read was that the authors, therapists, however different their theories, all spoke of a return to man’s original state. They said that man’s current condition is not what he was meant to be, but that there is a way to remedy this. Fascinated by this idea, I continued my search, determined to find the answers that would satisfy my thirst for truth. Amidst the ashes of my past life, the glimmer of a small ember could be seen: hope…

From then on, all my free time was devoted to finding the best quality food to “cure” myself. As soon as I woke up, my day was planned: what I was going to eat, at what time, how I was going to prepare it and so on. Convinced that I was damaged inside my body, I thought that I could heal myself this way. As I became more familiar with this “new way of life”, I soon discovered all kinds of spiritual awakening practices, such as meditation, yoga, qi gong and sunbathing, which seemed to go hand in hand with the treatments I had started. I was more encouraged and determined than ever to find my way to the “truth”.

But there it was! I was so preoccupied with my diet that I ended up becoming anxious. I read more and more books, and as my knowledge grew, an evil fear took hold of me: the fear of illness. My research became obsessive, sickly, to the point where for months I couldn’t sleep at night, my mind constantly preoccupied by the complexities of my diet. As time went on, I became less and less available to the few friends around me, who were concerned to see me losing weight, pale and lacking in energy. I hardly went out at all, except to go to work or to the food stores. I spent most of my time at home, reading, watching films or trying to meditate, but I rarely managed to clear my thoughts. I was restless, lacking peace, agitated. Even music, until then a source of satisfaction and soothing for me, became dull and insignificant. Sometimes I’d sit down with my guitar, hoping to receive inspiration and take off to the rhythm of deep, melodious chords, as I used to do. But alas, I’d put it down a few minutes later, jaded and empty.

The therapies I’d tried to adhere to had given me some answers, but I was dissatisfied, I wanted to know more, I still wasn’t satisfied. I gradually became discouraged again, not really knowing where to go, what path to take next. Everywhere compromises, contradictions, questioning. I was confused. My “cure” didn’t seem to be working: I’d lost 10 kilos, I was weak and my stomach ached all the time. I had no energy for socializing and was withdrawing more and more into my own home, taunted by the weight of my past that was still very much with me – images, impressions, feelings, guilt and regret. I was alone. There seemed to be no way out.

One evening, at the end of my strength, alone, I sighed a little question, hoping that “someone” would hear me: “What will become of my hope?”

The next day, on my way to an appointment, a man stopped me in the street and told me about God. I’d always rejected the idea that there was a God, especially after history lessons at school that drew a violent, bloody picture of religion in Europe and the Christian church. I was more inclined towards Buddhism and Hinduism, which seemed much more tolerant, close to nature, open-minded and pacifist. I knew deep down though that there was something greater than Man, something that surpasses us and that we don’t understand, but I wasn’t counting on it being God, especially since the “revelation” this man in the street was talking about didn’t inspire me too much. Nevertheless, I remembered that the night before I had asked this question before going to sleep… I had the impression that, somewhere, “someone” had answered me.

This encounter remained in the back of my mind as the weeks went by. I wasn’t getting any better and I felt sleepy, foggy, insensitive, as if I was “floating” in a reality that didn’t correspond to me at all, like a stranger on an alien planet, without roots, without a place to belong, without direction, without purpose. I was clinging on to what I could. I felt at the end of my quest, I hadn’t found what I was looking for. In despair, I tried again one evening to formulate the same question I’d asked weeks before: “What will become of my hope?”

The next morning, I woke up and went to the market. There, as I was buying some fruit, I met a peculiar man. He had a Hebrew name – Shoresh – and I told him about my plans, that I wanted to go to India, and he invited me to drop by his place before catching my plane. He told me he lived in a community, a community of believers who lived like the first disciples of Christ. He told me about God who had sent his son to save people from their condition, and although I recoiled inside, feeling wary, I decided to pay them a visit. Once again, I’d asked a question and “someone” answered. And after all, having searched and not found, what did I have to lose?

I kept in touch with Shoresh, and as the days went by, something happened to me. The little ember of hope that had kept smouldering was rekindled, stronger than I’d ever known before, and I was determined to come to the community and find out what it was about. Deep down, I sensed that I was going to find what I’d been looking for. It was all I could think about now. I left my job and told my friends and family that I was leaving. They all warned me about the community, that it might be a dangerous cult and that I was going to be brainwashed, but in my heart I was determined.

Soon after, Shoresh picked me up at the train station. I had the feeling that I was in good hands, that I was safe. As we passed through the open gate of the property, he said to me: “You’re entering another world”. I had no idea what was in store for me. The sun was setting and everyone was gathered in one place, as is their custom every morning and evening. I was greeted by a few hundred beaming faces expressing only one thing: that I was welcome. I couldn’t define what was emanating from them; it was something extra-ordinary, like an energy bursting with life. Among them were people from all walks of life, men and women, children, young and old. A wave of happiness washed over me, accompanied by a feeling I’d never experienced before: that I’d come home. I didn’t understand much, but somehow I trusted these people.

As the days went by, many of my questions were answered, and the fog that had settled over the years was gradually dissipating. It was explained to me that the weight on my shoulders was the result of my actions, which gave me a guilty conscience and stifled the image of the Creator within me. It was explained to me that we were created to love and serve, and that Man should never have found himself in a place to live for himself, independently. It was explained to me that God sent His son, Yahshua, to save mankind from their condition and confusion, to forgive them of their sins that lead them to death. I was told about forgiveness and that I could be washed clean of my past, given a fresh start, that I could be forgiven and reborn, choosing to die to my old life and do what I was created to do, to live for others, for Him. It was explained to me that at baptism, I would be washed, cleansed, and made a clean vessel to receive the Spirit of the One through whom all things exist, who would fill the void I had always sought to fill in so many ways.

Today that void is filled, and I’m getting to know the One who brought everything to life, His mind and His plan, together with my brothers and sisters who are in the same covenant. I’ve found my home, rooted at last in a people where all things are being restored, such as values, morals, listening to one’s conscience, relationships between parents and children, between men and women, between friends. God has a thought about all things, and the fruit of putting His ways into practice is order and peace. Even music, which I thought I knew, is restored to its full meaning. It is simply an expression of gratitude for the Life to which He has called us, as a people, and we praise Him every day.

I am now married to an amazing woman and have two wonderful little boys. I have so much to be thankful for. I can now become who my heart always desired to be: someone noble, someone with integrity, a loyal and faithful person, trustworthy, a friend – as I acknowledge the ways that I am not that way and am daily forgiven for it, learning to walk anew, free from the selfish ways that have caused so much havoc in my past life. I’ve been given a new chance, a new beginning and this is what is in God’s heart for every human being.

Please come visit us if your heart is longing for a fresh new start! We know the way back to Life, to the truth, because we were also found and brought back home!


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