Quarantine: a state, period, or place of isolation in which people or animals that have arrived from elsewhere or been exposed to infectious or contagious disease are placed.
This word’s been constantly on our minds the past 3 months. It’s crazy to think what we’re living through right now is and will be considered a “historic pandemic”. Multiple deaths have occurred around the world and the death toll is around 205k. We’re required to stay at home everyday and maintain social distancing in order to prevent spreading this coronavirus disease to others another. A lot of us work from home, take on-line classes, or have been furloughed. Many of us have traveled back home to be with our families as well. Churches, gyms, and many other public places that are part of our daily routine have closed as well while social gatherings have been prohibited.
As I adjust to this quarantine life, I’ve been working from home and my days have been consistently repetitive which I’m sure have been the same for many of you. For me, my daily routine has been pretty much the same: waking up, breakfast, work, workout, back to work, dinner, TV/Video games, and then bedtime. My devotions have been inconsistent, but I have been trying to do a better job these days. As I turn 30 years old, I can’t help but reflect/remember the last time I felt this way which was about 7 years ago before I came to KCPC.
Before I get started, I’d like to say a few things. To be honest, this is my first time writing an article like this as I never pictured myself a writer. I’ve always been intimidated by how amazing other people’s blogs are and never had the confidence to write one. However, after my Pastor encouraged me to speak to our community, I decided that it’d be good for me share this story with you all. This is a story that some of you might have heard me share before, but I’d like to share it again for those who haven’t heard. This story isn’t really what helped me commit to be a Christian but more so take the first step in that direction.
The date is October 19th, 2013, it’s like 2:30 AM and I’m sitting in a police station in Cuyahoga County behind a police officer desk who’s typing up my violations report. I had been drinking with my semi-pro basketball teammate Johnny who was my best friend on the team at the time. We had a semi-pro game the next day in Chicago so decided to call it an early night. I had drunk around 4-5 beers which didn’t seem like much and felt like I was ok to drive. However, right when I drove onto the highway, I was pulled over by a cop car. I had never been more nervous in my life as the cop asked me to step out of the car to perform the DUI test. He flashed a flashlight into my eyes and asked me to use my eyes to follow the pen he was holding. After I finished, he had me perform the walk and turn and one-leg stand test. In my mind, I felt like things were going smoothly and that I would pass these tests. However, when the officer had me blow into the breathalyzer and then proceeded to put my hands behind my back, my world stood still. “WAIT WHAT? This can’t be happening. NO WAY”. These were the thoughts going through my head as I was being handcuffed. I had thought my night would consist of passing the test, going home, and passing out. In reality, 6’8 Johnny was folded into the back of the police car with me and we were endlessly driving on the highway in what had to be one of the longest drives of my life. We finally get to the police station and I’m sitting in front of the police officer. He finishes typing up his report and then tells me that I blew a .081 BAC and I look down at the printed reading.
You got to be kidding me. The legal limit is .08 BAC and I had barely blown over the mark. I was convinced that the machine was rigged because what are the chances? I try to reason with the officer to let me off since I was so close. Unfortunately, in the world we live in, the law is the law. I was so upset with myself sitting in that police station and even more scared to disappoint my parents. I had broken up with my ex-girlfriend and was laid off earlier from my job so timing couldn’t have been worse. For the first time, I thought to myself (excuse my language), “Caleb, what the f@ck are you doing with your life?”
At this point, I’d like to rewind a bit to share a little background about myself since I don’t want to just throw a miraculous testimony your way without any context. My name is Caleb Chen and I was born and grew up in Dayton, Ohio. I had bounced around different churches due to church splits/gossip which affected my parents. I never really had a consistent youth group with kids my age to grow together in Christ. Although I was baptized at early age, I never fully understood what living my life for Jesus Christ truly meant. All I really cared about in high school was basketball, basketball, and basketball.
To be honest, I was an OK basketball player growing up. I wasn’t the fastest, tallest, or the smartest player as I sat the bench my freshmen and sophomore year in high school. However, I was the hardest worker and would always hustle on every play/drill. I always wanted to get better and I would ask my dad who is a professor at Wright State University to drop me off at the Nutter Center courts before he taught summer classes. I would hop in open gym runs with grown men and would play almost 3-4 hours every day. Sometimes I got to play against college players and even professionals which motivated me to get better every day. My junior year, I decided to play for a Christian home-school basketball team in order to get more playing time (above). I picked the #0 as my jersey number since my favorite player at the time was Gilbert Arenas, who was known as Agent Zero. That season, I finally broke out and led my team in scoring which really helped build my confidence. I became team captain my senior year and led the team in scoring again. Basketball was my life and I thought all I had to do was just be a good person to maintain my lifestyle.
College Basketball Days 1
After I graduated high school, I attended Miami Ohio University in the fall of 2008 to study at the Farmer School of Business. I had made the Club Basketball team as a freshman and was a starter for almost all 4 years. At this point of my life, I had completely stopped going to church since I wanted to focus on meeting new people and have that college experience. I devoted a lot of my time to club basketball since I loved the game so much and wanted our team to win Nationals. I spent my summers training with Miami Varsity players and tried out for the Men’s Varsity basketball team (Division I) but was cut twice. My senior season was cut short due to severe back injuries and I had to spend months rehabbing my back before graduation.
College Basketball Days 2
After college, I moved to Cleveland, OH to start my first job at a medical device company. I was able to connect with a semi-pro team called the Cleveland AM Pro. Still having regrets on how my senior season ended, I decided to commit to the team. We would practice late nights at 9:00 PM and travel to different cities on the weekends for games. I didn’t have many friends at the time so the only people I hung out with were my basketball teammates. My close group of college friends had moved all over the states. If our team didn’t have a weekend game, I would drive down to Columbus to play basketball/hangout with my best friend Jon at OSU (above). We had won multiple basketball championships together in college/post college and always pushed each other to be better. In short, my weekly routine simply just consisted of work, basketball, and partying with friends. At that point in my life, I felt like I had everything I needed, and in my simplicity, I stopped seeking God in my life.
Semi Pro Days 1
Isolation: the state of being separated from other people, or a situation in which you do not have the support of other people
It’s been one-month and I’m officially stuck in my apartment like a prisoner. I had my driver’s license suspended for six months so I couldn’t drive anywhere. We didn’t have Uber or Lyft back then, but it wouldn’t have mattered since I had spent most of my money on lawyer/DUI fees. I could only get rides with my neighbor to the grocery store and teammates to basketball practice. The worst was that I would have to run about 3 miles to get to the gym to get my lifting/basketball shots up and then run/walk back at night. Even worse, I was having no luck with job interviews and beginning to lose hope. A few of my friends would come visit from time to time but for the most part I was lonely. I didn’t have a community that would check up on me. As I’m isolated, I started to rely on drinking heavily by myself, playing video games, and watching movies and pornography to fill my emptiness.
Sorry, last pause I promise. Does the last sentence sound familiar to some of you as we are in this time of quarantine? As I look back, I know some of us are facing these same temptations to this day including me. According to a Forbes article released this month, an editor made the following statement.
“It looks like Americans are collectively channeling their inner-slacker attitude. People are consuming more alcohol, smoking weed, playing video games, eating a lot of junk food, binge-watching Netflix and adult films more than ever before.” It will be interesting to see what happens as the weeks and months pass by and we’re still on lockdown. Could this trend of eating, drinking, smoking weed and watching television and porn continue? Or will we take the man on Twitter’s advice and try to do something constructive?
Just something to think about. Alright let’s get back to the story.
I get a call from my dad and he asks me on how my interviews are going. I tell him honestly that I haven’t been doing that well. I’m expecting him to just lecture me and tell me I need to get my life together. However, my dad responds “Ok. I’m on my way.” These words stunned me as I knew my dad was still in the middle of the semester and had to teach classes at Wright State. “It’s ok. I can take a Sabbatical”, was how he responded. Next thing I know, my dad is living with me for the next few weeks. At first, I was annoyed because I was so used to living by myself, but I realized it was nice to have my dad around. We started out building my LinkedIn Profile, editing my resume, and practicing interview questions. We would then go to the grocery store and gym together. He would even drive me to basketball practice and wait for me until practice was finished. In my head, I keep asking myself, “Why is he doing this? He doesn’t have to help me. I’m supposed to take care of myself.” However, my dad did everything with no complaining or grumbling and I continued to focus on my interviews.
One day, I get a call from a medical device company requesting that I come in for an interview. I had been applying there for quite some time after connecting with the HR lady on LinkedIn. My dad and I are excited, and we drive to the company for my interview together. It’s 9:00 AM and I’m super nervous since I didn’t get an offer from my last interview, but my dad re-assures me that everything will be ok. He tells me to relax and be confident in myself just like we had practiced. As I get out of the car, I realized I forgot my watch at home. My dad takes his off and gives it to me and says, ‘Here son, take mine.”
I’ll never forget that day, as I put on my dad’s watch walking into the headquarter building. As I’m sitting in the lobby, I’m trying to pull myself together emotionally before I walk into the interview. Finally, the hiring manager walks out and I put on my interview face and shake his hand. The interview was a total of 4 hours as I had to interview with 6 different people and tour the facility. Meanwhile, my dad is waiting in the company parking lot praying for me. Finally, the interview ended, and I walked back out to the parking lot to meet my dad. I tell him the interview went ok as I probably connected well with 4 out of the 6 interviewers. He tells me great job and we then drive back home. A few weeks later, I get a call from the same company offering me the job. I tell my dad immediately and we’re both ecstatic with joy.
For the next month, my dad would drive me to work every day. It was a 50-minute drive from where I lived at the time and I’ll always remember those snowy mornings. He would wake me up at 6 AM every morning to make sure I go to work on-time. After a month, I finally got the city court’s permission to drive only to work and back. My dad could finally go back home to teach and be with my mom. Before he left, he encouraged me to look for a church community who could support me and look out for me. I told him I’d think about it since it I hadn’t committed to a church in a long time.
As this story ends, I want to emphasize that this testimony didn’t turn me into a “Christian” overnight. That’s another story for another day. However, it did lead me to take that first step to seek the “Fatherly Love’ that my dad gave me during this time. Something told me that God’s love was real in a world so selfish. I saw this encouragement from my dad as a calling to use my life in a more meaningful/impactful way. On my 30th Birthday, my dad shared this verse with me.
The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him. Proverbs 23:24
As we’re in quarantine, I want to encourage all of you to use your time wisely and find your calling in Christ. I know it’s hard and I struggle as well. I have unfruitful and sinful days just like I did when I was isolated 7 years ago. I’m still a sinner just like anyone else and sometimes wonder if I’ve made any growth at all. However, one difference between these two isolations is that I’m not alone this time. I have a community/family in Christ that’s got my back and is always praying for me continually because the Lord knows I need it. I have a community that is striving for accountability and growth through Bible studies, devotions, and encouragements. Is it perfect? No. Can it get better? Of course, but let’s do it together. Let’s make the most out of our times in quarantine to grow and use our sharpened gifts for Christ when we get out. Wouldn’t it be awesome if we came out of this quarantine as righteous brothers and sisters in Christ? I know our Father in Heaven will smile and rejoice at that.
I’ll see you all soon. Your Brother-in-Christ, Caleb Chen