I was born into conflict. My mother was a devout Christian and my father a dogmatic atheist. One day he struck my mother, and I felt great fear. My brother was beaten very badly. My father grabbed my brother by his hair and pulled him out of bed, dragged him across the floor, and threw him down the stairs.
In nightmares I can still my brother crying out, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” My mother was in tears, crying, “Stop it, please stop it,” and my father was on top of my brother, beating him in silence. Blinded by torment, I hid myself in the corner, trying not to listen to the agony of my loved ones. I covered my ears. I knelt every night beside my bed and prayed, “Jesus, please save my dad.”
I hated school. I had no friends, felt lonely because I was unable to speak Japanese, and was the only professing Christian. Classmates laughed and mocked me. I began feeling ashamed of my faith.
Returning home was hellish, because seeing those I loved being beaten by my father was unbearable. I had no place to go. My only comfort and escape from the horror was music. Whenever I was scared, hurt, sad, or depressed, I played the piano and found temporary peace. It didn’t last long. But it was a place to which I could flee reality for a time.
Breaking Bad in a Gang
I began to doubt God, and eventually I walked away from him. At age 12, I joined gang members in rebellion. I was a very angry, depressed boy. I became addicted to various sins. I was trying to fill the emptiness within me with all the pleasures of this world. I knew, deep inside, that there had to be more to life.
At age 15, I decided to run away from home. By this point, I had failed all my classes. I hated myself, my parents, my school, authorities, all adults, and Christians. Christians were, I had decided, self-righteous, hypocritical, judgmental people. I remember telling myself, “I will never again become one of them.”
Above all, I hated God with all my heart. I hated preaching that said “God is love and has a wonderful plan for your life.” If God so loved me, why couldn’t he give me a dad who loved me? If God so loved me, why couldn’t he protect me on the streets?
I was a morally corrupt, sin-loving hater of God. I loved the very things God hated, and hated the very things that God loved. With all my might, I boasted of my immorality and wickedness. I was a great sinner.
Police arrested with me when I was 15. I was sent to court. As I was handcuffed and heading to the police station, I had an encounter with God in the police car. I sensed him saying, “Jonathan Hayashi, I have a bigger plan for you. This is not where you belong.”
I ignored the impression, but he didn’t ignore me. I realized that God is real, that I truly wanted to know him. I decided to leave school, my gang, and my girlfriend—and instead began seeking the Lord. At age 15, I became a carpenter without any hope but Jesus. For the first time in my life, I began to read the Bible.
Pastor K. Breaks Through
Soon I met Pastor K. There was something different about this man. He was filled with joy and love. When all other Christians avoided and despised me, he drew near and encouraged me. He treated me as if I were his son.
“Pastor, what is the secret?” I asked.
“Jonathan, God loved me, saved me, and changed me,” he said. “That is more than enough.”
Jonathan, God loved me, saved me, and changed me. That is more than enough.
At age 16, I put my faith in Jesus Christ as Lord, to the glory of the Father. I no longer hated God; I loved him. I even respected authority and found delight in spending time with God’s children.
By God’s grace, I not only forgave my dad but learned to love him. In October 2011, my father came to know the saving grace of God. We still praise God for this miracle.
My life has never been the same since meeting Jesus. Everything changed when he entered and upended my life. I was once heading straight to hell, but Jesus rescued me from that eternal condemnation.
I am an example of his triumphant grace.