A quick survey of First Nations, Metis, and Inuit people brings about the realization of the truth of the situation. The Indigenous people of North America are over-represented in poverty, unemployment, child welfare, education system drop-outs, addiction, sex work, correctional services, and the like. Tent cities line inner-city streets as many of the occupants of these make-shift communities use illicit drugs to numb the pain of the reality of this world. Be careful not to judge, or you will be judged by the same measure.
People called me ‘Indian’, using it like a weapon as they said it like a swear word and I wore it as an insult. In their eyes, I was created to be destitute, to be thrown into the mire, where I would be hated and despised. Indigenous people wear their insults on our heart and soul, believing our identity is a curse. BUT we were created by God in the image of God with purpose and intent. Why then, are we not living out who we were created to be and not who we became in the brokenness of this world?
I didn’t even realize I had the right to say no to anyone. So I just gave in, and a life of crime found me.
The abuse I suffered in foster homes led me to run away. I didn’t realize the mess I was about to get myself into wasn’t any better than the hot mess I had just left. I did what I needed to do to survive, and although I thought I could find a job, I wasn’t able to find anyone willing to hire a twelve year-old runaway. So I turned to a life on the streets. In foster care, my boundaries had been knocked down so severely that I didn’t even realize I had the right to say no to anyone. So I just gave in, and a life of crime found me.
Not long afterwards, I fell into a existence of dependence. Cognitive dissonance tore at me as I performed the deeds that went against my values, beliefs, and culture. I reached for drugs in an effort to numb the guilt, and before long, I was reaching for a needle. Destitute, addicted, dirty, and willing to do just about anything for a fix. I hated everything about my life; addiction robbed me of every good thing. I was skinny and dependent, and often bought drugs rather than using the money for food, clothing, or rent. I hated that I craved the very drug that decimated my presence on this earth. I had fallen into the deep pit of addiction. In desperation, I prayed God would help me find drugs, a place to get high, a vein…then I would pray that he would help me quit. Jesus said the first will be last and the last will be first.
For many years, I believed the only way I was getting off the street was in a coffin or a life-sentence.
If it were not for Jesus, I would still be there today, praying, “if this life of addiction is all you have for me then please just let me enjoy it.” Not long after that He showed me that He had much greater things in mind for me. I was never able to stop using drugs with the usual methods that included attending Narcotic Anonymous, drug detox, or treatment centers. My siblings also tried to help by praying for me, taking me into their homes that were far removed from city-life, out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by mountains and rivers. I had to take a ferry and travel many hours to leave the seclusion, but I still found a way. My brother took me away from everything familiar, but what he didn’t know is that an addict will find drugs wherever they are and it is up to them to choose to get clean. For many years, I believed the only way I was getting off the street was in a coffin or a life-sentence. In my mind, that was all God had for me.
When I was finally ready, I quit using by saying the only two prayers I knew, the Lord’s Prayer that my sister recited with me each night as a young child and the Serenity Prayer that I learned in the thirty or more treatment centers I attended trying to break my addiction to no avail. I quickly came to an understanding that cravings are like birth pains in reverse. They only last between two seconds and two minutes. They also come in flashes of intensity that grow further and further apart, with their force lessening with each passing day. I asked God to help me to forgive, and sometimes, he would urge me to repent. He sent me for anger management, budgeting, cooking, and parenting courses. Then He sent me to school and I got my GED. Once I had that, I took the exam to get into college and succeeded. I enrolled in a management studies program where I passed with honors. Then, one day, I came to the realization that I had become a different person. I had actually become the person I was created to be and not who I became in the brokenness of this world.
I had actually become the person I was created to be and not who I became in the brokenness of this world.
Now, I think of all the good things God has given me since breaking my addiction. A family, a home, a good education, a career, but more than that, a sense of belonging. I belong in my community with my people, living within the context of our culture, and working for their betterment. I had been the last, but God lifted me up to place me among the first.
Many people that live on the street are First Nations, Metis, and Inuit. They are living out the plight of being Indigenous, but they are made by God, in the image of God, with purpose and intent. My prayer is that one day, they too will become the people they were created to be and not who they became in the brokenness of this world.
By Agnes Mastin
Originally published at https://dojustice.crcna.org/article/jesus-saves