Faustino Ajanel | 16
“If God is for us, who can be against us” (Romans 8:31). As a little kid, I would listen to my father telling me that verse when we felt that the world was against us. It fostered hope for us when we desperately needed it. When I needed comfort, I would pray to God. Yet I failed to praise God when he showed me love and blessings. Throughout my childhood, I never attended church. I grew up in the mindset that believing and praying was all that I needed to receive God’s blessings.
In high school, I thought that I had the perfect life. I was one of the top students in my school and got accepted to my dream college. I was one of the top runners who helped win four consecutive cross country league championships for my school. I was in a relationship with a girl that I loved. At that point in my life, I felt that I had my life all together. Looking back, I realized that I was not truly happy. Despite the many blessings God had given me, not once did I give a prayer glorifying God for his love and grace. I failed to admit that God had a role in the blessings that I had. Just as God gives, he can take away.
My first year at Bowdoin felt like a disaster. For the first time, I felt vulnerable and alone. Throughout the first semester, I tried to prevent my long distance relationship from collapsing. I became overwhelmed with coursework, and I lacked the confidence to meet new people. I would wake up sad and pessimistic every morning. Each new day meant dealing with the same problems. The proud and confident person I was in high school became a sad and broken one. My arrogance and pride prevented me from asking for help. I never told my parents or siblings what I was experiencing that first semester. They thought that I was enjoying college. When we talked over the phone, I would tell them that I was enjoying my classes and meeting new people. After each phone call, I broke down in tears. Not only was I lying to my parents and siblings, I was also lying to myself. As I walked around campus, I pretended that I was happy. But in reality, I felt that my heart had begun to break apart.
When my anger from the pain turned into frustration, I started to have ideas of harming myself in order to deal with the pain. Eventually, a few people noticed how strangely I acted and persuaded me to talk to a resource on campus. Although I had someone to talk to about these things, the problems still existed. The issues did not go away and eventually pushed me to become suicidal.
I became more hopeless as the days passed, and I could not find joy in life. Eventually, my hopelessness turned into despair. I felt that my life was not going to get better. Waking up meant another day dealing with stress, arguments, and faking a smile just to make things look okay. Every night, I tried to finish homework that I struggled with. I tried to save a failing relationship. I tried to tell my mother, father, and sister that I loved being in college. But I got tired. I gave up on trying to make everything work. My feelings of despair and guilt eventually led me to turn my thoughts of suicide into action.
I started researching and experimenting with overdose. I attempted to commit suicide with painkillers. As I took each pill, I did not feel guilty about my decision. I felt that my place in this world would not be missed. Yet, I stopped taking the last pill that would have ended my broken life. I cannot explain what prevented me from taking the last pill. Was it the will to live? Was it the hope that life could get better?
Over the next few weeks after attempting overdose, I decided a different approach. I wanted to end things in a quick and painless way.
At 3 o’clock in the morning, I walked outside of my dorm and headed toward Maine Street. As I walked down the street, I looked to see what I thought to be my last night under the stars. Looking up at the stars, I imagined seeing a different world where I did not feel hopeless or angry. However, I stopped thinking about the what if and began to focus on what I decided to do. I was determined to jump in front of a car. As I approached Maine Street, I saw a car passing by. I started to process the idea that I was about to end my life and began to apologize to my family, my friends, and my little sister. I was selfish, arrogant, and broken for most of my life. I made myself believe that I never needed help. I never asked for help. I had this false illusion that I had complete control of my life. When this false sense of security broke, I needed help. I needed someone to grab onto my hand before I made the leap to my death. Thankfully, I had help that night. After the first car, no other car passed through Maine Street. I walked from College Street down to the river. After standing for about an hour on the road, I gave up on committing suicide. At that time, I was ready to end my life. However, God seemed to have other plans.
This past September, I started to feel depressed once again. My uncle passed away, and I saw how my mother cried in disbelief that her younger brother was gone. In my neighborhood, a father took the lives of three beautiful children. A peer I graduated with got shot near my high school. After experiencing these tragedies, I began to ask questions about life and death. My anxiety over these questions were finally calmed once I started to rebuild my relationship with God.
As I became more curious about God and what it means to have faith, I attended Fall Conference at Toah Nipi which was a life-changing retreat. Throughout the conference, we talked about brokenness and redemption. During one of the breakout sessions, I told one of my friends about my past. About my tough childhood in which I grew up in a poor and unstable household where I could only spend time with my parents once a week. About how I felt alone and depressed during my first year at Bowdoin. About how I became so broken to the point where I thought the only exit was on Maine Street at 3 o’clock in the morning. And at that time, I told him that I did not know who I was.
After the retreat, I felt a huge burden lifted from me. No longer do I feel discouraged, alone and empty. Instead, I feel something warm. Love. The love of God. Let me tell you about this love: “Not that I have loved God, but that he loved me first and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for my sins” ( 1 John 4:10). Because of my faith in his love, I have become a new person with purpose in life. With God’s forgiveness and love, my heart no longer feels broken.
A verse that has resonated with me and my relationship with God is from James 1:12 that says: “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” By trusting, believing, and loving God, I know I am victorious because the Lord is with me.
Although life in faith still has many trials, I can hear my father telling me the verse that reminds me that God is without equal: “Si Dios es por nosotros, Quién contra nosotros” (Romanos 8:31). Without faith, I was broken and lost. I felt that I had a hole in my heart that could not be filled. It was my thirst for God, my maker. Now I am grateful for God’s grace for me, someone who was once lost in the world, but now is found. My journey as a Christian does not stop here. With the new life that God has given me, I hope to use the gift that the Lord has given me. I hope that my love of teaching math will one day translate into teaching the good news of salvation, love, and new life in God.
Faustino Ajanel, Bowdoin Class of 2016. Mathematics and Education. Los Angeles CA.
Faustino has responded in obedience to God’s charge which commands him to be strong and courageous