I know what it feels like to give up.

As I shared in the previous blog, along my own journey, I laid down my sword. I stopped fighting for myself, for my family, for what had been entrusted to me. In a short span of time, we left our home in Swaziland abruptly, moved back to Colorado Springs, and lost our son Michael.

I stayed in a stupor for a few years afterward, unable to muster the strength to carry on, let alone to walk in the fullness of life.

I simply gave up.

During those years, Lisa used to beg me and rebuke me, “Black, when are you going to pick up your sword again? We need you to fight!”

I was 23 years old when my girlfriend called to tell me she was pregnant. Initially I felt shock, followed by numbness, and then the most evil of my thoughts—of abortion and of running away—crossed my mind. Eventually, my upbringing kicked in.

My Spirit Man awoke and said, “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord,” (Joshua 24:15).

I knew at that moment—against the warnings from loved ones– I would marry this girl and raise my son as a man of God. That day, I laid down my life of living for myself on my own terms. The drinking, drugs, late night parties, and all the mayhem stopped right then.

Psalms 127:4 says “Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth.” The day my girlfriend called me was the day I picked up a sword to raise Godly children— children that I would shoot out as arrows to the nations of the earth.

This sword looked like Bible study every morning, prayers every night, church every Sunday, and a life submerged in the things of God. The problem was that the sword I carried was also cloaked in religion.

Religion is a killer. Religion is about performance, moral perfection, and trying to do something you were not meant to do. When we raise our kids with this version of faith, or try to save our marriages with religion, we fail every time.

Freedom says, “Your wounds and sin are there to teach you. Learn from them. Allow them to show you to who you truly are in Christ.”

I learned that much too late in life…

Considering most of us adults are essentially children ourselves, it is a mystery to me that God has us raise children. After all of these years of raising six kids, Lisa and I are such different parents with our 13 year old, Noah, than we were with our other five.

Because an over-disciplinarian had raised me, I raised my kids in the same vein for years.

I was much less patient, less kind, and I really had little idea of what I was doing. On top of that, my first marriage was full of dysfunction, adultery, and fighting.

My three boys from my first marriage were raised in a space of confusion and chaos. Even though I was able to get full custody of my boys when they were young, and save them from further damage, the enemy had already gained a strong foothold in each of their lives.

Even still, I carried my sword and fought for my boys every day.

When I was twenty-five years old, I went on my first trip to Thailand, a country in the 10/40 window of unreached people groups. The man who took me had ministered there many times. He brought me through warehouses full of slave girls, ranging in age from seven to mid-twenties. Each of the girls was forced to service men over twenty times a day. I learned quickly that this pandemic of child slavery happens all over the world, and it broke me to my core.

One night I was walking down Patpong Street in Bangkok, where the sidewalks were filled with girls of every age lined up like animals. I knelt in the sewage and cried out, “God, how can you let this happen? What is the answer for these young girls?”

He was silent that night.

The next morning, I left Bangkok a changed young man. I knew I had picked up another sword but still could not find God in the midst of all I had seen. As I looked out the window at the city, the Lord whispered to me, “I have a little girl in the U.S. that has the keys to unlock freedom from prostitution and slavery for these little girls. Go and find her!”

For years afterward, when I preached, I finished my message by asking if the little girl who had the keys for the children locked in sex-slavery was in the crowd. Hundreds of young girls would come forward, praying and crying out for these slaves. Many would say, “I believe I am one of the girls who has a key!”

Meeting my current wife, Lisa-Marie, and adopting her two girls gave me even more to fight for. My three wild boys and these two gentle girls were quite a mix! Our two families had to learn to become one. It was a brilliant journey but fraught with challenges.

Lisa and I both had to learn from square one how to parent and fight.

Years later, one of my own adopted daughters, listened to an old tape of my preaching and ran to Lisa, exclaiming, “Mommy! Mommy! I am one of those little girls that Daddy is looking for to help the girls in Thailand!

God had given me a daughter that would fight the fight with me for these little girls!

Sometime after we lost Michael, Lisa’s pleas got through to me. Something in me woke up more powerfully than it had ever existed before. I not only picked up my sword to fight for my own children, or for my many spiritual children around the globe, but I picked it back up to fight for the little girls in Thailand and the many other places that need righteous people fighting for their freedom.

Have you laid down your sword? Who do you need to fight for?

If you would ever want to discuss this or anything at all, please reach out to me at gary@theblacktribe.com