Damaged but Not Destroyed
The Hit You Didn’t See Coming
The massive uppercut lands, and my head snaps back. Time slows, and I float to the mat, my too-short life passing before my dimmed and blurry eyes.
I see myself and my brother Gabriel suited and booted in matching fancy clothes. Gabe is just eighteen months older than me, and as small boys we got a lot of twin treatment. But as ten- and eleven-year-olds, that closeness is fading. Now we spend more time chewing each other out than twinning.
I see our family together just yesterday, joyful and laughing at the Tulsa State Fair. Gabe and I each won a set of boxing gloves emblazoned with American flags. We were so happy. Why couldn’t we have stayed that way?
I see two brothers bickering and pestering until their mother can’t stand one more minute. I see her help each of them tie on their boxing gloves and climb onto her bed, which magically morphs into a Vegas-sized boxing ring. Physical fighting is sternly discouraged in the Todd household, so this is extraordinary.
I see a microphone descend from the lighted catwalk (ceiling fan) above the ring and hear the announcer and referee (Mom) explain the rules:
1. No hits to the face.
2. No hits to the privates.
3. And . . . fight!
I hear the crowd roar and see myself, a frustrated baby brother whose time has come to shine. I’m quick and aggressive and more than ready to rumble, and I rain down blow after blow on Gabe’s body: arms, chest, sides, even legs. Meanwhile, my brother—who is much bigger than me but also slower—stands motionless as a mountain, immobilized by the fury and speed of my attacks.
I hear the ref’s whistle bring round one to a close, and I step back to catch my breath. I’m winning. I’m paying my tormentor back for everything. I’m going to absolutely destroy him! And I might want to be a professional boxer when I grow up, because, wow, I’m incredible at this.
“Mooooommmm!” Gabe wails. “He keeps hitting me!”
“Well,” the ref replies, “try hitting him back. Now, fight!”
I see a menacing change in my brother’s eyes. Something switches on, or maybe off. I see his arm wind up, like the Popeye cartoon on TV. I’m not sure what part of my body he intends to hit, so I’m waving my gloves all around my torso, trying to be there for the block.
The last thing I see before the lights go out is the American flag patch on his glove coming straight at my pretty face like a patriotic freight train. Wait. Wha—
Right in the kisser.
TKO. (That’s “technical knockout,” for those who aren’t into boxing or MMA.)
Ain’t no hit like the one you don’t see coming.
Sure, there are physical hits like the one I took from Gabe. But mostly I’m talking about hurts that hit deeper—much deeper. Hits that don’t heal with an ice pack. Hits that leave bruises on your soul. I’m talking about relational hits. Emotional hits. Ego hits. Financial hits. Family hits. And even spiritual hits.
Those hits—and how we can heal from them—are what this book is about.
But before we talk deep . . .
Allow Me to Introduce Myself
*clears throat, in my best imitation of JAY-Z*
My name is Mike.
My government name is Michael Alexander Todd. I’m the second oldest of five boys born and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, by two amazing parents, Tommy and Brenda Todd.
At the time I’m writing this book, my high school sweetheart, Natalie, and I have been married for twelve years. She is my good thing, the apple of my eye, the sugar in my Kool-Aid, the engine in my Ferrari (if I had a Ferrari), the best thing that ever happened to me, the finest woman to ever walk the earth, the wife of my youth (I’ll stop there and leave the rest for Relationship Goals: Part 2; see below). Nat and I started dating when I was fifteen, which, now that I have children, is way too young. Out of our love, we have four incredible kids under the age of ten: Bella Monét, MJ (Michael Jr.), Ava Rae, and Gia Joy.
When people ask what I do, I say, “It’s complicated.”
But if you want to hear it, here it go.
I’m a retired drummer and semi-accomplished music producer who ran sound at a church in the hood of North Tulsa, then got tricked into youth ministry and four years later was handed the church by the founding pastors, then watched our community of about three hundred mostly older African American church members snowball in a matter of a couple of years into a multiethnic, multigenerational, multiplying megachurch with influence around the world.
If that feels like a lot, it is.
But it’s even more complicated than that.
In August 2017, I preached a sermon series called Relationship Goals that went viral. In the first message, I illustrated one of my points using Ping-Pong balls and water, and for some reason, two million people watched that clip within forty-eight hours. Two years later, I released my first book, Relationship Goals: How to Win at Dating, Marriage, and Sex, which went to number one on the New York Times bestseller list and has now sold almost a million copies. That’s absolutely freaking crazy . . . until it happens, which is the theme of my second book, Crazy Faith, a handbook for doing extraordinary things with God based on what I’ve learned from my crazy journey with Transformation Church. It was also a New York Times bestseller.
But let me give you a little perspective. I dropped out of community college. (Shout-out to TCC! Nutrition 101 took me out.) All these crazy things happening to me? Nothing short of a miracle. For young Mike Todd, church and English class were the two most boring things in my world. God’s funny, because now I’m both a pastor and a New York Times bestselling author. I’m proof that God uses foolish things to confound the wise. All of this is Him, y’all. And I’m so grateful.
But please don’t get the impression that it’s all fun and games and cash and fabulous prizes. The first time I ever saw stars and birdies circling my head was when Gabe’s mighty uppercut connected with my ten-year-old jaw—but it was certainly not the last. I’ve been knocked to the metaphorical mat many times, and I fully expect to be hit again in the future. And most of the time, I probably won’t see it coming.
Have you ever been hit like that? Some of you are like, Nah, this face is way too pretty to put it in harm’s way. I agree! You’re beautiful. But I’m not talking about physical hits. Let me be H.O.T. (humble, open, and transparent) and tell you about a few of the hits I’ve taken over the years so we can get on the same wavelength.
The Dumb Hit
First let me tell you about a dumb hit. It’s dumb because I did it to myself. As a young adult, I foolishly bought a luxury car that I could pay for but I couldn’t afford. You know what I mean? I could juuuuuust manage the monthly payments, but I couldn’t afford for anything to break.
Well, guess what happened. Something broke.
During the time my fancy car was in the shop, I let my insurance lapse. I mean, no one was driving it, so why pay for protection I didn’t need? (It made perfect sense at the time to my still-developing early-twenties brain.)
After suffering through weeks without my precious ride, I finally got the call that she was ready to be picked up—on a day when Oklahoma winter was doing its thing and there was ice everywhere. I was so excited to finally get my car back, I decided not to wait for better weather. (This also made sense at the time.)
On my way home from the shop, I was ready to exit the highway when I saw a car spinning out ahead of me. By instinct I slammed on my brakes, which caused me to slide into the next lane. The car that was already occupying that lane smacked into me, and we both ended up on the side of the road. But when I started to get out so we could exchange information, that driver sped away on the icy shoulder to the exit.
It wasn’t until I was climbing back into my beautiful, expensive car (which now needed even more repairs) that I realized I wasn’t insured.
“Fifteen minutes could save you 15 percent or more” popped into my head. I called Geico right then and got insurance.
A couple of hours later, I called the claims department.
Taking my report, the claim adjuster asked, “Did you have insurance at the time of the accident?”
I answered, “My insurance was current on the day of the accident.”
Yep. I lied.
And here’s the thing: All lies are sin, but not all lies are a crime. That lie was a crime called insurance fraud, which was a felony.
It took five years for that lie to catch up with me, but it caught up with a vengeance. By the time all the paperwork and bureaucracy and hearings were done, I had mostly cleaned up my act and was a youth pastor.
Like, at a church.