I was a beggar. I found bread.
Back in the early 80's, at age 18 I probably reached the heights of personal debauchery. The interesting nuance was that it went deliberately undercover. I was suave and religious. Being a Catholic, I went to mass everyday. But God knows, this was just another pawn I use for leverage. At the Benedictine School, my A's in Religion were trophies of irony. I would take holy communion with a predetermined plan to sin twenty minutes thereafter.
Hell was a death away. And so my regular attendance was actually more of a bribe.
I was a popular scholar and a social leech. I smoked two packs of Marlboro a day, partied like a beast, while silently smoke-screening my poverty.
Renchi was a senior stud. He was all the man that you hoped to be. Good looks, brains, finesse and spot-on braggadocio. One day I saw him uncharacteristically alone reading. This took on a troubling frequency as he lost his boisterous gait; There grew a saintly bearing that I couldn't quite understand. He turned different, with a most unusual air of splendor.
It was September 10, 1980 when I got pulled out from mendicancy. Renchi hosted a small forum to disclose the capstone of his own searchings. Setting the context of his life within the meta-narrative of Scriptures, he went on to present what I thought I already knew from years of catechism.
What truly struck me was the simple distinction he made about the ineptness of any human effort to define life and that of the foolishness of the message of the Cross, being able not only to define it but supply its essential resource.
The holy pitch was insulting my intelligence but somewhere deep in my soul, it was forcefully addressing with clarity my deepest puzzles. The way of Christ can only be accessed by faith not from any form of religion but toward the Person of the incarnated God, Himself. I cannot quite fathom why my surrender ensued without a fight. The beauty of what I beheld, overpowered all my cumulative defenses.
I am Christian not because I searched and found the jewel. While buried in dereliction, my homelessness was all too visible to our compassionate Deity. Just as Renchi was shown his utter dearth, my hunger was exposed while being ushered to a royal feast.
How can one resist bread after a life-long diet of crumbs?
Photography: Renchi Arce in Art and Soul / Vocation: Storyteller at Vineyard Community of Faith / Former status: Beggar / Current Status: Adopted son of the King of Kings