By Walt Walton
My mother gave birth to a 10 lbs. 8 ounce baby, it took 9 doctors to help him arrive. That baby was also born dead and spent a long period of time connected to a machine to give him his every breath. That baby was me. Five years before my mother gave birth to my sister. My mother raised my sister and me as a single mom; all by herself she did everything in her willpower to always make sure she provided all our necessities no matter the sacrifices. My sister and I always had food, clothes, and a warm place to stay. Mom always worked two jobs, or more, which instilled in me a high appreciation for hard work, no matter the job. She hardly ever took days off and she taught me a lot of what I know today; all while being a single mother. My mother is currently 21 yrs. clean of drugs and alcohol and has had quite the journey. All that said, in order to know me you’d have to know my mother first. She instilled in me many of her characteristics like: being responsible, loving, respectful, hardworking, genuine, and the list goes on. She’s an amazing woman, and despite her mistakes I couldn’t ask for a better mother.
I’ll never forget, at the age of ten, as I approached my second childhood home in the midst of a cold winter, tears froze on my cheeks like paint drying on a wall. I saw red and blue lights flickering on and off by our house like a frazzled light switch. Several cop cars sat in the front of my house and the first thing that came to my mind was: If my mom is gone I’ll be in foster care. Fear drove me to immediately sprint to a neighborhood friend’s place. I stayed the night there and as I laid there in silence that night my thoughts were racing. Is my mom hurt, is my sister all right, did someone get in trouble? Come to find out that next morning, my mother would be gone for quite some time.
My mother had robbed a gas station unarmed and her footsteps in the snow traced back to our house. She went to court and plead guilty because she knew what she did was wrong. Shortly after her sentence she attended a program called “The Healing Place.” It’s a place that provides AA meetings and a safe place to stay. Each person is given rules and is tested for drugs and alcohol frequently to qualify their stay. Once the program is completed, they send the graduate out into the real world and try to help them find a place to live. When my mom first went away for that three year period I was stuck living with an Aunt who had five children. They were all much older than me and their house was located in the heart, the center-piece of the ghetto. I remember shootouts, drugs deals, gang violence, and much more chaos I don’t care to mention. I grew up all around the inner city parts of Louisville, Kentucky. There were several childhood family and friends I stayed with during those years.
Towards the end of that three-year period when I stayed in South Louisville my father came around several times to check up on me. He gave me my very first Bible and taught me about God. We had Bible studies a few days throughout the week for a few months, and I got to meet some of my first-cousins on my dad’s side. My dad was also able to show me around the city; as we drove through downtown he showed me which buses I’d have to catch to get to certain places. Later, as an adult, this helped me out because I traveled all the time through the city. As an adolescent, I learned a lot about life on my own: puberty, sex, money, and drugs. I lived in areas of Louisville where all these things were prevalent and accessible, even for kids–sad but it’s true. I normalized these things and my dad wasn’t around to give me guidance and leadership, to tell me the dos and don’ts. He didn’t take me into his home, which led to me jumping from house to house, no place truly home. Each family had different backgrounds, boundaries, morals, and rules.
My mom came around occasionally to drop off money. Money to help me get by, but that’s nothing for a child that needs love, comfort, and affirmation. My parents were mostly absent and I was broken. And my way with dealing with that pain was – I blocked out all of it. Whether it be through music, sports, or video games, those escapes distracted me from the pain. But it didn’t heal the pain. I became increasingly embittered toward my parents. Towards my mom because the decision she made and the damage it caused, and toward my dad for not taking me in. When I graduated the 8th grade my mom had completed the “Healing Place” program. We celebrated her graduating but we still didn’t have a place to call home. We ended up living out of a hotel for about a month until finally the program reached out; they had found us a place to stay. It was in a very rough part of the West end but we took it. It was a brand new brick house that had just been built, it was such an accomplishment for my Mom after all she had been through, so I was proud of her and happy to be back home.
As I got older I began to learn more and more about Jesus, whether it be through church camps or people just witnessing to me. I used to go to church with my dad for about two months but eventually I stopped going because that’s the only time he’d ever spend with me. Apart from going to church he never came around, never called me on my birthdays, never came to my track meets, or basketball games; he was still absent emotionally. During my sophomore year I was playing basketball and received a tutor to help keep my grades up. I really didn’t need a tutor because I was an A/B student. The special thing about this tutor is that he was a devoted believer of Jesus Christ and every time we finished my homework he would share the gospel with me. He taught me what it means to be saved, repent of my sin, and get baptized.
Years later I was lost in the world; although Jesus was revealed, my eyes were concealed. I began to smoke marijuana to deal with the pain and stress of having such a rough childhood. My mom overcame drugs and here I was struggling with those same issues she had. I know it had to be hard for her to see me go through those stages in life. I eventually began to mature and knew that there was more to life than the way I was living and, as I got older, I realized I had to heal the boy for the man to appear. I couldn’t continue to blame my parents and how their circumstances affected me. Rather, I had to begin to effectively examine those issues, embrace what went wrong, and accept what was out of my control.
I’ve had guns drawn on me, seen a body lay breathless, been caught in the crossfire of shoot-outs, and remember countless times when I had to take off my school clothes because they weren’t the appropriate color for the neighborhoods I was about to enter. Somehow, I still knew that God was with me every step of the way. I suffered in a lot of ways, so for God to allow me to walk through each stage of life regardless of its challenges, showed me that He remained faithful even if I couldn’t always see it in the moment.
One night I prayed, “God I know you’re there. Please work in my life and give me a clear sign of who you are.” The very next night I went to a church event and God sent someone to water the seed that had already been planted. He shared the gospel with me and later in life he began to disciple me. The more I read the Bible, the more I learned about what it looked like to follow Jesus. The gospels allowed me to know God, which created a Godly lifestyle. I grew in Godliness through the knowledge of Him. My whole life began to change drastically; I was being made brand new. Through this process, I was what the Bible would call, “born again.” I received a different world view and stopped suppressing the truth and, instead, started to live by it. This new life that I had received changed my friends, relationships, and lifestyle. I no longer lived the same and all the suffering I went through allowed me to receive the peace of God through faith. This peace that I received was from God. And, like the Scriptures promise, that peace surpassed all human understanding while also guarding my heart and mind in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6).
I’m still that baby that needed nine doctors to arrive. But I’m also grown and have been made different by a greater Physician. I’m not always sure where I’m going still–that’s just how life goes, I think. But my path has been made straight, and I keep walking by faith, in hope.