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This is a true story. The name is changed to retain anonymity.
Flunking out of the first grade did some damage to the youngster's fragile mind. Stephen's behavior as the class clown was said to be a way to compensate for his smaller size.
"Hold him back a year," said the experts on Child behavior. "He'll grow over the summer. That's the key to his fitting in with the others."
His Father's disgust over having such a wimpy son was evident. Dad would say things like,
"Men don't cry!"
"Don't ask questions!"
"Quit yer belly-achin!"
Father's lessons taught that the key to being accepted was toughness and maybe size.
By age 12 Stephen believed what he'd been taught. Real men are; unfeeling, hard, strong and smart. He couldn't make himself taller, so the determined boy began lifting weights. After a couple years, his young body rippled with bulging muscles. He took hold of the key of body size. Dad was still not pleased.
"Hard work is what you need, not wasting your time with those dumb weights."
The word "dumb" struck a chord, so he took to reading with a vengeance and began to excel academically. By age 16, he was intellectually passing up his peers and found himself knowing things Mom and Dad didn't. Latching on to the idea that being smart might be what he needed, he took hold of the key called intellect. But as the results came in, the miserable fellow could tell he was no more loved and accepted than he'd been previously.
Martial Arts were very manly. So he took up Tae Kwon Do, and excelled at it, reaching Brown Belt level. His demeanor took on an air of macho toughness and he added it to the other two keys. Like most sons, he wanted to make his Father proud.
It was confusing to Stephen as to why he had few friends. No one loved him, though some would pretend. He was tough and manly, like he was supposed to be. Intellectually and academically he bested all the other kids. And he was heavily muscled.
"What's wrong with me?" It was a constant, haunting question.
The family attended church every Sunday and the boy learned the Bible well. Seeing the attention and acceptance other boys garnered by being baptized, he figured maybe that's what he should do too. He said the magic words to save his soul and got dunked. He now had the key called religion. His folks seemed pleased at first, yet why did he still feel so empty inside, loveless and wanting? After graduating High School, the 18 year old struck out on his own.
Watching television one day Stephen became intoxicated with an advertisement for the US Army. "Be all that you can be."
"As a Soldier, people would have to love and accept me," he thought. It was a sure way to gain social standing and acceptance.
The next fours years the young man began to feel like he fit in with his Army friends. Life was getting better, but time would show this improvement to be superficial. In front of a mirror the man shouted at his own image.
"What's wrong with you? No one loves you."
After his discharge, he had the key to social standing; he was an Army Veteran. And he added it to the jangling ring of keys to success.
"Love. That's what you need," he spoke to the man in the mirror.
Finding a wife was easier than expected. Only she was unfaithful, and slept around with other men. She didn't love him either.
Way down in a dark valley of despair, Stephen could no longer face himself in the mirror. It was official. He was a failure. He had a ring full of keys that did nothing but jangle and make a lot of noise when it came to filling that empty place within.
Satan came one day and told the depressed man that taking his own life was the only way he'd ever find the peace his heart longed for. There was no one who would accept him for who he was, and without love, life is just not worth living. He knew it was true, at least the last part of what was spoken, so the rest of it must have been true also. But then from somewhere inside he heard a voice reminding him of a scripture he'd read long ago as a young boy.
"Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 7:33)
"Jesus, if you can make me so that I will be loved and accepted, and happy for once, I'll do anything. I'll follow you and do anything you ask."
A Tsunami of peace swept over the new man. His heart began to warm with love. Over the next few weeks his entire way of thinking changed. Stephen became convinced of God's love. And he began to love others regardless of how they felt about him. Whether they loved him didn't matter so much any more, because Stephen had love in his heart.
Through the years, the Lord Jesus showed the Christian man where to use each one of those keys he had collected earlier, bringing success to every area of life. God gave him a wonderful new Christian wife.
He now had the "All these things" the Lord had spoken of, and he learned a great truth. "All the other jangling keys are worthless without Jesus. He is the Master Key."
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