I remember taking the bus to work and sometimes just standing there, staring vacantly at the houses opposite the bus stop, and without realizing it, tears would trickle down my cheeks. I would think, “Why am I crying? I’m fine.”
But I wasn’t fine. I didn’t even know where I was going to live. I couldn’t stay with my cousin forever. I thought, “You have to figure something out, Aden.”
But my mind wouldn’t let me. I was too focused on the failure of my relationship and the many losses I had experienced over the years. I thought, “You did it again. Well done. You managed to fail.” I succumbed to the negative thoughts, numb to my failures. I thought back, “I have done all I could.” My ego mind responded, “It wasn’t good enough.”
And there it was. Another blow. More pain. Tears kept trickling down my cheeks. So many days, I would contain my tears until I got to the bus stop. I didn’t want my family to see that I was feeling like a wreck inside. I didn’t want them to worry. But I wasn’t coping, so I would cry at the bus stop instead, and at any other opportunity I had to be away from them.
I felt like a wreck. Sometimes I would just go walking and burst into tears. I thought, “Why am I crying? I can’t even control this anymore. I haven’t cried in so many years, and now I’m crying like a fountain. There’s no stop to this.”
The crying wouldn’t stop. Sometimes I would go to bed and it would creep up on me. I thought, “I have to find a solution to this. I’m losing control.”
I tried to take deep breaths, inhaling and exhaling, but my breathing techniques were not working this time. I needed a new solution. Sharp pains gripped my chest as if someone was stabbing me, as though something was suffocating me. The more I thought about my circumstances, the more death loomed. One night, in bed at my cousin’s house, I lay awake, looking out the window, and saw that it was raining. I couldn’t help myself. I cried again. I cried to the rhythm of the showers, completely lost to myself. I thought, “I don’t know where to go from here. I’m out of options. I don’t know where I’m going to live.”
So, I let the summer showers roll over my heart.
The tears were too much. Crying wasn’t going to bring my happiness back. I had tried everything. Nothing had given me inner peace. I thought, “What do I do now? Where do I go?” Then, I thought about my faith, something I had lost along the way. When I was much younger, I was very much in touch with my faith in the Universe. I was very connected to it. But life had created barriers to it. Then I found myself beyond disconnection, to the point of questioning the Universe. I thought, “The Universe doesn’t care about me. If it did, why would I have so many battles to fight? The Universe doesn’t love me, or if it did, it doesn’t like love.” I battled with my doubts. “No, the Universe doesn’t care for me.”
But I couldn’t help but remember the times when peace had reigned amidst my storms, the breakthroughs, and miracles I had experienced. Right now, anything would do. I needed to quell the fire raging within. I thought about going to church, but for some reason, my feet wouldn’t budge. There was resistance. I couldn’t force my feet to go. I thought, “Maybe I’ll just pray. Tomorrow.” Tomorrow came. I thought, “I’ll pray tomorrow.”
This went on for some time, this resistance to church and prayer. But the more I resisted, the greater the pain became, and the more the tears rolled on. My mind continued to rage on.
I was at work one day, and a colleague of mine, Linda, came to chat. She sometimes came to have a chat before getting her tea. I thought she might have something to talk about with me. But this time, it was different. She looked at me differently — sternfaced. I thought, “Did I do something wrong?”
She blurted out, “When are you coming to church?”
I was shocked. It was as if the Universe had spoken through her. “I don’t want to go,” I thought. I scrambled to find excuses: I was busy; I had lots of workshops; I couldn’t make it.
“Make it happen. You need to come.” She insisted. She wasn’t budging.
I was aghast. Who was she to tell me what to do or where to go? But it was as if her voice wasn’t her own. It was a voice I had heard before, the voice of the Universe. I gave in. “Okay, I’ll come. Next Sunday.”
“Good,” she replied, with finality. She walked off. No goodbye, no pleasantries. It was so unlike her. I stared after her.
“Did that really just happen? Did I really just see that? Am I imagining things? I’m pretty vulnerable right now,” I thought. Then I stopped myself, and stopped the churning thoughts.
“No, it’s fine. Let’s just get back to work.”
I just couldn’t believe it. Somehow, she knew I had been struggling to go to church, and out of the blue, she came up to me and demanded that I go.
I thought, “What are the odds of that?”
Sunday came. I was hesitant. I left the house and walked to Linda’s car for the drive to church. The whole way, I was fighting myself. “Should I really do this? Maybe I should just run away right now. I haven’t been good at all. I’m full of guilt and shame. I don’t want to be somewhere where I’ll be ridiculed and made to feel even worse than I do now.”
I hadn’t always had the best experiences with religious venues. But I needed something to numb the pain — anything. The pain was just too great. I couldn’t help but hope that this was the remedy I needed so that I could think again. As I approached her car, my heart was beating fast. “Now or never,” I thought. I got in, smiled, and pretended not to be a nervous wreck.
“Are you ready?” Linda asked. “Yeah,” I said.
“No, you’re not.”
“Yes, I am.” I was fighting with myself in my head. “Yeah, all’s good. I’m ready,” I replied with a smile. So, we started off.
During the journey, all I could think was, “Yeah, I need this in my life. I can’t take drugs; I know that won’t end well. I need something else. I need more than a quick fix. I need healing.”
We got to the church, a warehouse. I thought, “Where is she taking me? This isn’t a conventional church setting. What is this, some kind of weird cult?” I started panicking.
Then I thought, “Calm down. Just step inside and feel the vibe.” So I followed Linda into the warehousechurch. The minute I stepped inside, I felt a jolt of energy — familiar energy, like a gentle shock. I thought, “I know this energy. I’ve felt this before. Where have I felt this before? Where? I know this.”
I let the energy linger, and I started looking around. “This is an unusual church. It looks like a club — a warehouse club.” There was a coffee station, and the whole building was dimly lit, with curtains drawn. I heard some music. It captivated my soul. There was energy here that was peaceful. I walked to the seating area. It was like a real concert. There was a full band, a full performance. All the people were of different colors, from different ethnic backgrounds.
And everyone was focused on praise. I stood there, looking around in awe, asking myself, “What is this energy around me? It feels so therapeutic.” I let it engulf me. I let it take control. I hadn’t felt this much peace in a long time. And for that church service, I sat there, embracing peace. “Wow, what was this?” I thought.
After the service was over, I went home. I knew. It was as though a layer of me, a layer of pain, had been peeled off. I felt slightly better — not whole, but slightly better. I thought, “Hmm, maybe I should go again. Not this place, it was too far.” So I went and looked for one in London, another Hillsong Church campus. Sure enough, there was one in London, in the Dominion Theatre. “Perfect. I’ll go again. I’ll see if I feel this same feeling again. Maybe this is my only way,” I thought. I had run out of other options for peace at this time.
Sunday came. This time, I wasn’t as hesitant but almost eager, and almost hopeful that maybe another layer could be shed. I got to the Dominion Theatre and I thought, “They have churches in the most unusual places. I’m not used to this. I’m used to the sterile and disciplined church environment. But here I am, in a theatre, filled with smiling faces, full of positive energy. I’ve never seen anything like this.” I couldn’t believe it.
“Why are they so happy? I don’t understand. What do they see that I don’t see?”
Someone asked me, “Do you want to sit lower down, near the stage?”
“No,” I said, “I’ll sit up higher.”
I needed to be up high, away from everyone else, where no one else could see me.
It was dark there, a comforting dark. No one would notice me. I could be here, unseen.
As they sang the songs of praise, without realizing it, I felt it again: the peace I had experienced the previous Sunday. I thought, “Is this happening? Is this real? Is this all in my head?” But no, it was real. I felt it soothing me. It was as though I had been transported into a place of comfort and peace. My raging mind was actually at rest for once, and my heart was beating gently. As I continued to listen to the words of praise, I felt this warm energy surrounding me, as though I had been fully encapsulated. I didn’t want to resist; it felt so good, like receiving a big, warm hug. I stayed in it. Then, suddenly, it left. Just like that, the cold returned. Just like that, I was there, numb again.
This time, I wasn’t as broken. Again, it was as though another layer had been peeled off.
The praise ended and the sermon started. I was listening halfheartedly, part of my mind listening to the pastor, and the other half ablaze with painful memories. I couldn’t focus. I tried hard to pay attention, but every time I tried to focus on the sermon, my mind hurled insults at me: “You’re a failure. You have no purpose.”
“Shut up!” I thought back. I tried to silence it, but my mind was adamant. Then the worship began again. Again, I was lost in the words of praise, with the music and the lights. I had been transported again, to the world of peace. I looked up and saw the lights flicker.
“Why are they flickering?” I thought. No one else was bothered by it. No one else seemed to notice, except me. I thought they might be broken. They kept flickering. But every time I looked down and then back up, it shone brightly. But when I stared at it for a moment, it started to flicker again.
I was scared. “What’s happening?” The lights flickered for the entire song. Then, suddenly, they stopped. The song ended, and the lights were restored as if nothing had happened.
I looked around. No one else had noticed. “How could no one else notice?” I thought. “What is going on?” I was even more curious now. This was the second time I had felt this peaceful energy. “What is this place? Every time I’ve been here now, I’ve felt this warmth.” Something the pastor said, at the end, gripped me.
He said, “Whatever you do, come back next Sunday.” It was as if he was talking to me.
“Come back next Sunday.”
So I did, for almost a year. At first, I didn’t really listen to the messages; I was just there for the warm embrace of divine energy during the praise. Then, slowly, after enough layers of pain had been peeled away, it was as if I could hear again. I began to listen to the messages. And each Sunday, it seemed as if the pastor was speaking just to me. Not him, exactly, but the life force within him. The messages were about my purpose. I thought, “How do you know me like this?” It was too coincidental. I couldn’t help but want to learn more about myself. So, I kept coming. I kept listening. I kept healing. I kept peeling away the deadened layers I had built up over the years of turmoil and abuse. I felt lighter and lighter and lighter.
I began to read the Bible, something I never thought I would do in this lifetime. My Bible was a gift from my colleague, Linda. She just gave it to me, out of the blue. I had jokingly told her, “I need a Bible.” But I didn’t expect her to buy one, of course. Then, one day, it showed up. She had bought it for me. I thought, “How strange.” I tried to read the first chapter, but my mind was resisting. I put it away for a few more days, to clear my head.
“I’ll try again. This time, I’ll try 30 minutes a day,” I thought. “I can handle 30 minutes a day.”
Soon, I was reading for more than 30 minutes. It was as though the texts were guiding me to my next steps in life. The words I read in the Bible would be repeated by my colleagues, my friends, my family, and at church. For every message I read in the Bible, I’d go to church that Sunday, and somehow, the pastor would recite the same verse. “How? How is it that you’re reciting the same verse I just read?” At first, I thought: “This is just crazy. How can this happen every Sunday? This is just bizarre.” Then, the lesson came.
At first, I couldn’t believe it — wouldn’t believe it. “This is too big a coincidence. This is just weird. But could it be a coincidence? EVERY Sunday? Every SINGLE Sunday? Maybe there’s something to this.
Maybe this is the answer. Maybe I should just LISTEN.”
And so, I did. And before I knew it, I started to receive messages. Messages on my divine purpose, on my mission, and on who I really am, and whom I was supposed to become.