I remember one morning, sitting on the sofa and looking around at all our boxes of stuff, the worn linoleum floor, that old couch, I just started crying. I felt like such a failure. I had failed at so much. Regardless of what I had achieved in the ballpark, all the fame I had and money I made, I felt that I was a complete loser as a man and a human being. No career, no money, no prospects. Nothing.
Tracy saw me crying and put her arms around me.
“What is it?” she asked, although I knew she knew.
“Look at me,” I said. “I’m Darryl Strawberry and I’m living in your parents’ basement. I can’t even rent us an apartment.”
“It's okay,” she said. “We don't have anything but each other. I don’t know how this is all going to work out, but I know it's all going to work out.”
But there was another problem. We were both dedicated to the church and the Word, but we were living in sin. We wanted to have our relationship right with God. It felt like we were starting off on the wrong foot, and neither of us wanted that.
Two people aren’t good together unless each of them is whole and strong. I needed to keep working on myself and getting myself right. Then Tracy and I could start out the proper way.
One day I asked God, “What is it? What is it you want from me?”
He said, “Walk away from everything.”
Oh man. That’s when I realized you better be careful what you ask God, because he doesn’t joke around in his answer.
“Give it all up?” I said.
Yes, God said. Let it all go. He told me I had to strip away everything from my life, all my habits, all my ways of thinking and acting, so that I could find out who I really was and what my purpose here was.
So I left Tracy again. We both knew I had to get myself right if we were ever going to have the kind of relationship we wanted.
I flew out to San Dimas and stayed with [my sister] Regina, in a bedroom in her apartment. She was going through an adjustment period in her own personal life, and had just moved into a new apartment with her kids. I helped her out with that. While she was at work, I looked after the kids. I loved my little nieces and nephews, and it was pure joy to be around them.
I spent six months there, working very hard on myself. For six months I lived like a monk in a cave. Regina and her kids were practically the only people I saw. I barely left my room except to go to church. I read and studied the Bible with the same sort of intense focus I used to devote to playing ball. I read until late at night, and then lay back with the Bible on my chest as I went to sleep, praying,
“Lord, let your word breathe inside of me.”
I surrendered to God. Surrender means doing a lot of things you don’t want to, and not doing a lot of things your desires tell you to. It means standing up to your daily responsibilities, even when you’re feeling so depressed you can barely drag yourself out of bed. And it means avoiding the people and places and habits that led you astray, no matter how badly you think you want that drink or whatever it is. It means, “I’m listening, Lord. I hear you, and I choose not to do those things anymore.”
I swore off all liquor, all drugs, and all sex. I’m not sure which one of those was the hardest. None of it was easy. I wasn’t used to going very many days without wanting a drink, drugs, or sex. I had gotten so used to thinking I needed all those things-needed them to fill the empty places inside me. We live in such a materialistic world. We think we need all these things around us to make us happy. The cars, the flat-screen TVs, the clothes, the bling, the drugs and alcohol. But now, when I put together six whole months of complete abstinence, I found that I didn't need any of them. When you strip all that away, you never miss it. There was no joy in it. God had to take it all away for me to realize that.
I had to teach myself how to pray again. Loving God and living dirty don’t mix. I had to relearn how to get on my knees and humble myself before God, ask his help. I pleaded with him, on my knees on the floor.
“God, please help me to do the right thing today. Please help me not to hurt anybody today. Please give me the strength to do right. Take anything you want from me. I don’t care about the money and fame and parties and success and women. I don’t care about anything anymore except my kids and my loved ones and being the best person I can be for them.”
Of course, God was right there and ready to hear me. Like I said, God has a lot of patience with us. He was there waiting for me while I went through all my wicked ways, knowing that the suffering I was causing myself with all that bad behavior would eventually be so severe that I’d turn away from it and come back to him.
God began to heal me. And he gave me the strength to face up to all the wicked things I’d done. I emerged from the fog of pain and confusion I’d been living in for so long. Away from everything and everyone, I was able for the first time to examine all the choices I had made, and the terrible consequences of them. The realization of how much pain and misery and destruction I’d caused the people who loved me fell on me like a ton of anvils. I had to look at it all and say, “I have no excuses anymore. My father is no excuse. My childhood is no excuse. My self-loathing is no excuse. None of that makes what I did okay. It’s not okay. I was responsible for my actions. The people I hurt are real.”
It was very hard, but I got over my bitterness and anger toward my father, my wives, the press – all the people I had blamed for my own bad behavior. I forced myself to step up like a man and accept responsibility for everything I’d done.
I’d like to say that God finally revealed the Truth to me in a blinding flash of light, but he doesn’t usually work that way. I didn't have a dramatic flash of revelation. It was more gradual. I just surrendered. All those years I’d been struggling, struggling, struggling. Hating myself and wondering why on earth God chose me. I had raged through my life like a hurricane. And now, by sitting quietly, studying, praying, purifying myself, I let the hurricane blow itself out.
I finally found myself, and God. This time, when God called, I didn’t run away and hide. I answered.
Darryl Strawberry and his wife, Tracy, appear this Monday on LIFE TODAY. Taken from Straw by Darryl Strawberry. Copyright ©2009 by Strawmarketing, LLC. Published by Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. www.eccobooks.com