“I Am Not Nothing”
By David Kurbaba
Harrison Correctional Facility, Adrian, MI
How are you friend? I pray this email finds you cloaked in the Love of God. I am doing well. God has been gracious to me.
I wanted to share with you a struggle I have had my whole life. When I was growing up it was drilled into me that I was nothing. I was told daily that I was nothing. Now, the real words used to belittle me is not the word “nothing.” I am choosing not to use the same words used to tell you of my struggle but would like to make sure you understand they were words of death, not life.
So, my whole life I was told these things, and as a child of the ‘70s you did not talk back to any adult, never mind your parents. So I always “stuffed” the pain and anger which came from these words deep within me. I grew up convinced these words were true, how could I not? These words were being spoken by people who were supposed to love me. If they said them, then they must be true.
As the years passed I became isolated within myself. I never said no, I never stood up for myself, and I never felt worthy. I obeyed everyone regardless of what they said to me or directed me to do. I was the perfect “nothing.”
When I hit the streets at the age of 18, I hit them with such anger and hate I left a trail of destruction in my wake. For 22 years I ran wild on those who crossed my path. But one thing stayed the same in my “adult” years. I continued to believe I was nothing. The words of my childhood remained the words of my adult life. I continued to hold them as truth. As I got older I got angrier but I never knew why. To say I drank is useless. I guzzled booze. The drinking allowed me freedom. Freedom from the words of death even though I didn’t know that was why I was drinking then. I have learned this truth through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. When I drank I came alive, well at least I thought I was alive. The more I drank the more I could speak. However, the words I spoke were death to those I spoke them to. I got in many fights due to my words and anger.
When I finally came to prison at age 40, I was just one word, one drink, one outburst away from death. What I didn’t realize at the time of imprisonment was that God was already at work on my behalf. He allowed a certain person to enter my life who guided me on my journey of recovery from my past life.
After several years of painful work, I made great strides towards becoming the man I was created to be. One of the areas I worked on was the concept of not allowing others to talk to me in a degrading way, to hold those who feel they can talk to me in a negative way accountable. I was finally standing up for myself.
At first I bumped heads with many people. It seemed everyone felt they could talk to me in any way they wanted. When this happened it always brought me back to my childhood. I would see those of my early years standing there again saying those words of death to me all over again.
During these first few years of recovery work were hard but I pushed on. I finally learned that I cannot control others’ words or actions. I can only control mine. So I started “letting it go” but what the phrase really means is “stuffed it.” So what would happen is things would be good for a while. then BOOM.
It is said that God will allow things to happen in one’s life in order to help that person learn a lesson of life. I have always struggled with the way people talk to me. For me, that is my biggest thorn in my side. During the last 4 years I have had several “BOOMs.” I have snapped on inmates and officials alike. Every time it has been over how they talked to me. Well, it just happened again two days ago. I came real close to going to the hole. I told off a sergeant. It is not a secret that MDOC is not inmate friendly. What they say on paper is not what they do behind the walls.
So, as I laid on my bunk pondering the events of the day, I got mad at myself again. I knew that what we get for food a dog would turn its nose up to. I knew that the “authorities” spoke to every inmate in the same demeaning manner. I knew they looked at us with such contempt and disdain. I knew these things yet I still get off my square when I get served a 4″ hotdog, or when I ask a question to the one in charge and get spoken “at” with hate. So, as I laid there I asked myself, God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, why?
My conclusion is that I still have much work needing to be done. My biggest “thorn” is my biggest area of work needed. I need to stop stuffing, I need to stop reacting. I need to stop my “pride.” I know I cannot control another’s actions or words. So why do I allow their actions or words to define my attitude? I allow it. I have a choice. When I know how a person is, I can either continue to interact with them or walk away. I can continue to engage in their way of life or I can stay engaged in Jesus’ way of life. I have realized that I am “nothing.” I am nothing to the world. However, I am something, no, someone, to the One that matters, Jesus.
Will I be able to allow the words of death that most people speak towards me bounce off me every time? I am unsure. If I can call on Jesus before or as those words are being spoken, then yes. However, if I choose to fight off those words on my own, then no. Turning the words of death into words of life is the goal. Not allowing another’s words or actions to have control over my words or action is the goal.
Does God allow tests in one’s life? I say yes. They are not to hurt us, they are to help us grow in His likeness.
Eph. 6:12-17, the Armor of God, may I learn to always put on this armor before heading out into the world and may you adorn this same armor.