Square Peg Into A Round Hole

Ever feel like you’re a square peg trying to fit into a round hole?

That seems to be my life story, as far back as I can remember… I was always getting yelled at by my dad for not doing things the way he wanted me to. I was willing to change and eventually found myself talking like him and his friends, using certain grown folk mannerisms hoping to get a chuckle or acknowledgement from him and his drinking buddies. I remember in school I was a nerd, bigger than most, and fatter than almost all… I wasn’t a jock by any means or into sports but I was willing to change and give them a try by playing a bit of everything because all of my friends played, but I never really got a joy out of playing sports. My parents never went to any of my games so that kinda’ sucked. It wasn’t until I started getting awards for academic achievements that my mom started going to my ceremonies.

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With my childhood friend Steven Vallejo and his dad Joe after one of our games in Cudahy, CA.

Fast forward to Junior High School and it was even more awkward, I’m still a nerd and just didn’t seem to fit in, but I was willing to change. I managed to fit in the New Wave crowd for a bit, I didn’t like smoking weed so I kept away from the stoners. But after a fight where I got whooped by some dude smaller than me, I realized that I craved something else, a different kind of attention, and I was willing to change to get it. I began to actively seek acceptance from the local street gang in Huntington Park where I’d been living. But they wouldn’t accept me as I was, I had to again be willing to change, so I did.

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Here with David Rodriguez who was my best friend in Jr. High, his brother Anthony and friends.
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Not long after having joined the neighborhood gang. Left my cousin Alex aka “Chino” who was tragically killed a couple years later in Lynwood, and my homeboy Kali to my right.
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One of the few portraits/ pictures of me and all my siblings. This was taken at our home in Huntington Park shortly after having been paroled from the California Youth Authority. Left to right; Danny, Erika, Annette, Becky, and Me.

I changed so much, that I’d forgotten who I actually was. I entered what seemed to be a revolving door that led me in and out of jails and institutions over and over again from the age of 13 through 24. I’d also become very close with the cartels and began working with them, but they wouldn’t accept me as a cholo, so I needed to dress the part, and talk the part… I had to fully live into my Sinaloan heritage, once again I had to be willing to change in order to be accepted by these guys and do business with them. That whole situation ended really bad with me having to flee to Sinaloa as a fugitive on the run, on LA’s most wanted, and because federal agents were now actively looking for me I had to once again, make serious changes… even my name.

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At my niece Amanda’s baptism.

Living in Sinaloa and then Ensenada, Baja California was not easy… it was extremely hard, so much in fact that at times I felt like returning to the U.S. and telling the agents at the border who I was and that I was a wanted fugitive… but I didn’t, so I had to change and adapt to a new way of life. When I decided to come back to the U.S. again many years later, I had to forget all the changes I’d made while on the run in Mexico and get back to the old me… but I was having a hard time figuring out who I was. I had to be willing to change yet again.

My past finally caught up to me and I ended up in jail again, but this time they weren’t playing, the system was done with me and they were trying to give me life… again. At the peak of my downfall, recidivism kicks in and I get stuck in another revolving door in and out a few more times, until I come to “thee” moment… that defining moment that God used to draw me in and not let me go. At that point, when I came to saving faith in a prison cell, I encountered one of the biggest battles ever… an identity crisis, because you see, being a Christian in prison isn’t looked upon as being cool… but I was tired, I was done and desperately wanted to submit my life to Christ. I gave up the gang, changed up and pissed a lot of people off in the process… I had to be willing to change again, but I didn’t know how… I started using my real name, started reading God’s Word and it started coming alive to me and in me. Things were changing rapidly… but I was struggling with my identity. I’d been used to changing so much of myself in order to please others I’d forgotten who I was along the way. But in Christ, I started to discover who I really was. I was a son of the living God, grafted into Him by way of faith, forgiven, restored, and being formed into His image slowly but surely, day by day seeking to serve Him and only Him. 2 Corinthians 5:17 showed me that because I was in Christ, I was a new creation, “The old has passed away; behold the new has come.”

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Preaching at Emmanuel Reformed Church in Paramount, CA. 2017

As a Christian, things didn’t change much. I found myself… a ghetto raised Latino in an 80+ year old church that belonged to 392-year-old Dutch Reformed Denomination. Although the church I was a part of was extremely diverse in many aspects, it in no way reflected the denomination as a whole which remained predominantly white. As I grew in my faith, my theology grew too, I was passionate about studying and getting as much theological and biblical doctrine as possible, I was like a sponge trying to absorb as much as I could and discern things on my own and for myself, and as I did, I found myself not really fitting in. I found myself not really agreeing with many things my beloved denomination allowed, tolerated, or was known for. I was nurtured there, cared for, encouraged, spurred on and challenged… so I remained true, faithful, and dedicated to help give my 2 cents as well as a voice to those like me. But something changed though, and that was that I was no longer willing to change anymore, especially any changes pertaining to my understanding of what the Bible taught about delicate issues such as gender and roles, marriage, and immigration. I needed to be like Jesus!

1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”

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Left: California Youth Authority in Santa Cruz, CA. ’90 Right: Newly Ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament at Reformed Church LA in Lynwood, CA. ’19

2 years ago I was invited to serve on a team of 12 that was tasked with trying to find the best way forward for the Reformed Church in America. There’s talk of a split… and it makes us wonder what the potential outcome will be. What will happen at General Synod, will we stay, will we leave, will we be forced to go elsewhere… one thing for sure is this, I will never again change for anyone or anything, especially as it pertains to my understanding of what is expected of me by my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. God didn’t save me from multiple life sentences, gunshot wounds, and stabbings to forget where I came from or not use that as an advantage to reach and teach folks that come from similar backgrounds as mine. I am no longer willing to change! I must preach and teach the Gospel, my walk MUST match my talk. It’s been a difficult 2 years thus far as we navigate and truly wonder what the outcome will be. I know there are folks who’ve already made up their minds to leave the RCA as well as those determined to stay and fight… fight that their understanding of holy scripture would be accepted and lived out by all, I don’t want to fight. I want to make disciples, I want to plant more churches, I want folks to know who Jesus is, what our mandate is and how we serve Him as both our Lord and Savior. I want to try to live a holy life, called to die daily to my sin, serve others selflessly, be hospitable, and to keep peace, unity, as we preserve God’s Truth.

1 Peter 2:21, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”

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I’m all about unity and peace, but I’m more about purity and truth… and my love of God will NOT allow me to ever change my my ways to please anyone, never again! I do hope and expect  to continue to grow as a Christian, and to change only as He sees fit, as He molds me… as God forms me and shapes me to be conformed to the image of His son.

My life is much different now than when I was growing up, I’ve matured, I’ve found out who I really am, and most importantly Who’s I am. I am a son of the Most High God, adopted into His family, chosen by Him out of sheer mercy and grace, forgiven of my sins, and spiritually regenerated and made new… do you know who you are? Are you a square peg trying to fit into a round hole? You don’t have to keep feeling that way, submit your life to an audience of One and all will be well.

1 John 2:6, “Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”

 

 

 

One thought on “Square Peg Into A Round Hole

  1. Life changing testimonials Rock and are always a blessing to read, and best to actually see. Paul and I were so blessed to hear yours at CR brick building a couple years ago. Chobi thinks it’s awesome you’re a chaplain for the LA Dodgers 👍⚾😁

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