Knocked Down by Life
By Zsa Zsa Palagyi
The 700 Club
CBN.com- Tom Mann always had a fighter mentality. He states his motto, “You knock me down as many times as you want and I will get up.” He repeats with determination, “I will get up, and I will get up, and I will get up!”
This mindset didn’t develop overnight. A black belt in karate, Tom had to train for years in a number of mental and physical disciplines. But he always had a natural drive to protect himself and control others.
“I believed you could do it on your own. You didn’t need other people. It was me against everyone else. And if I was going to win, it was all on me.”
Tom learned early on that he could only depend on himself. His mother had M.S. and was in a nursing home most of his life. His father was an alcoholic and con artist, in and out of jail from the time Tom was four.
“I never knew from day to day when I was living with my dad, ‘Do I have a place to live? Do I have something to eat? Do I still have my possessions? Or did I lose them all again?”
When his dad was behind bars, Tom lived in foster homes and was physically abused at some.
“I was a piece of property and the state moved me wherever they wanted to move me,” Tom remembers. “People did to me whatever they wanted to do to me. And I had no power to change it.”
The only thing that kept Tom going was love for his mother. He says with tears in his eyes, “She was my strength through the whole thing, and what I went through was nothing, just nothing, compared to what she went through. You know I always thought, ‘If she can do that and rot away in a nursing home bed, I can suck it up, I can go through homelessness and no food and getting beaten and all that stuff because it’s nothing compared to what she’s going through.’”
So he fought his way through the tough times and even excelled in high school. The success numbed his pain, until he got out of the foster care system.
“Something snapped in my head where I went, ‘I’m free of all that. And I made it.’ This anger came out of nowhere. I’d never been an angry guy before, but I was really angry, I mean raging angry.”
In college, Tom used his anger to control situations and protect himself. He admits, “I was still going to succeed no matter what the barriers were. I just felt like I was king of the world. That no one could beat me and I was smarter, faster than anyone else.”
He pushed everyone but his mother away and soon started to struggle with the man he’d become. “I'd look at myself in the mirror and just go ‘I don't like that guy. Just don't like him. I don't like what he stands for. I don't like what he's doing. I know it's wrong.’”
Then, his mother died. “At that point, I just kind of stopped and didn’t care. I didn’t care about success anymore. Mom was the meaning of my life. No more mom, no more meaning.”
Tom dropped out of school and tried to make sense of his life of hardship. He had a theory about God’s role in it. “I’m like, ‘Okay God, if that’s what we’re going to do, if you’re going to make me bear my cross to prove my worthiness to you, you won’t beat me either. Because I am worthy and I’ll prove it to you.’”
Tom joined the Army, where he worked hard and quickly climbed to the top one percent in his class. Just when he thought he’d “proven himself” again, he blew out both his knees playing basketball.
“I went from being the top guy to being defective in a day,” Tom says. “I was at the end of my rope when I joined the Army and now the Army’s kicking me out. I’ve lost everything. I’m done. Just go grab a gun. Kill yourself, there’s no purpose.’ And that’s when Jesus revealed himself and said, ‘All I’ve ever wanted to do is carry you.’ And I think back and say, ‘What an idiot I was. Imagine how much pain I could have saved myself had I known that Jesus.’ And I submitted myself right there and then in the barracks and said ‘Great. Carry me.’ I saw it all so clearly. I had kept him out of my life just like I had kept everyone else out of my life. And so he was the first one I let in, truly let in.”
Tom was medically discharged from the army, but found new purpose and healing through his relationship with Jesus Christ.
“I finally understood who he was, a God who loved me, who cared for me, who wanted to help me and provide for me and protect me. Slowly we worked through my life, of these people and the episodes and forgiveness for myself and all these different things, my failures. ‘Don’t worry about that,’ Jesus says, ‘Go forward. Don’t look back. Don’t live in the past.’”
Today Tom works in full time ministry. He’s married to a woman who loves martial arts as much as he does, but now he just practices for fun.
He concludes with a smile, “I'm a changed man. I don’t have to be angry. I don’t have to fight anybody. I have nothing to fear. It’s a great thing to know a God who loves you so much where he says, ‘My grace is sufficient. Relax. Just take it easy and I’ll carry you along. Just do what I want you to do, just do what I tell you to do, and you’re going to be amazed at what I’m going to do for you!’”
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