I was raised Catholic and there is a part of the Apostle’s Creed that tells us Jesus descended into hell, before rising again. Now as a kid this got the imagination going pretty good as to what exactly hell was like. However, it was also comforting to know that Christ was not afraid to go there.
Before I actually landed on the streets, I lived in my car for a year or so working as a part time sports reporter. Well there was a glimmer of a second there when I thought I might turn things around again; I picked up another part time job delivering newspapers to boxes in the north end of the Florida Keys.
I also started to reconnect with the community of Islamorada, whom I had been avoiding over the embarrassment of living in my car and putting on 90 lbs. I moved into a sort of men’s housing project for a brief time as well.
But I was still having some great deserving issues, much like the prodigal son, who spent his time living with the hogs, and it was simply not to be. I promptly lost the delivery job, then the reporting job, then the car, when it got towed and I ended up in jail.
Several times before I was officially on the streets I heard the term, “the downward spiral.” A pastor even mentioned it once in a service I attended.
My anxiety was very high at the time, and I knew things were falling apart, but I believe God sent me that phrase to help me. I began to think, what spirals down has a chance of spiraling up again. So part of my psyche held on to the idea, I was going through something, but that it would not last forever.
When I was first homeless quite a few people from Islamorada would come and see me, and I actually think I scared them a little bit. Several of them remarked that my eyes were becoming dimmer and covered with sadness. One preacher told me that the angels of heaven and the angels of hell were fighting for my soul. Believe it or not I did not find that too comforting.
The Buddhist’s describe several different types of hell, including one called the hungry ghost’s realm. Well I don’t remember at what point it happened, it may have been after I came out of a nasty jail stay in Sebring, Florida, but at some point every person I looked at seemed to be dead inside.
This is a little hard to share because it may seem crazy. Nobody I looked at seemed to have any light in them, just kind of a deep, deep sadness, like they were all a bunch of hungry ghosts going through life.
Quite a few spiritual teachings say the world is a perfect mirror, so these zombie looking folks may have been reflecting my own internal deadness.
Six or so years later and part way across the country in Mansfield, Texas things started to change. All those years alone gave me a chance to sit with much of my grief and shame and let it go some.
One nigh in early Spring I had a very disturbing thought and it was this: “Christ lost.” The way my mind made sense of the zombie looking folks around me was that the apocalypse was coming and me and everyone around me was on the wrong side of things.
Well a couple of weeks later I was sitting on a bench in front of Chili’s around one or two in the morning. They had an outside speaker that played music and I used to hang out there quite a bit when the restaurant closed.
Anyway, at one point I looked over at the other bench and there was a blue light apparition of Christ. He didn’t say anything, he just sat there looking calm and peaceful. It brought me great comfort and I knew that he didn’t lose; I am not sure there was a battle anyway.
Now I have a Master of Social Work degree and that apparition could have been a projection out of my own mind, but I don’t believe that really; the peace that moment brought me fills me with gratitude every time I think of it.
After he disappeared a song started playing on the speaker I was very familiar with by an English group called Big Audio Dynamite. The chorus goes like this:
“When you reach the bottom line, the only thing to do is climb, get yourself up off the floor, don’t know what you are waiting for.”
I have been climbing, or on the upward spiral ever since. By that summer the life magically seemed to be coming back into folks and they started looking lovely and human again. The same thing was happening to me of course.
Christ said the kingdom of heaven is within, well so is hell folks. The point here is don’t be afraid of, and in denial of, your interior hell realms. Dive right in, examine things; Christ is right there with you, so do not be afraid. After you swim through your grief, your shames, and your fears, you will find yourself on the right side of heaven again.
I love you with everything that I have, that is my motto, my mantra, and the truth of the things. Friend me on facebook if you like. Also push on the name Hobo John at the top of the page to read more stories from my hobo adventure.
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