Remi Adeleke has done it all: scam artist, drug dealer, Navy SEAL, and actor. But it’s not so much his resume that fascinates me as what God has done in his life and what his life teaches me about how I can grow as a person. I’d encourage you to listen to Remi tell his story at the following link:
Let me share some of the things I learned from his story.
1. Control isn’t the solution; it’s the problem.
Remi faced a lot of challenges growing up. His father died when he was a young child. Then at age five, he immigrated to New York from Nigeria and faced poverty and cultural adjustments. He speaks of looking for someone or something to teach him how to be a man after his father died. The only options being held out to him were negative ones. It’s interesting to me that he chose a coping strategy that attracts so many people – control. He speaks of a powerful urge to control everything in his life. If he wanted something, he always felt as if it all depended on him to get it. He would go through a wall to get what he wanted. It feels like a solution but it’s actually the problem. Radical trust in yourself cuts you off from those who could otherwise help you. Remi says as much. He speaks of his difficulty in trusting people and, in fact, trusting anything outside of himself. That made him vulnerable. It left him susceptible to urges to steal and deal drugs to try and get what he wanted.
2. God cares for people who don’t care for Him.
I love the honesty Remi shows in speaking of being drawn to the military. He talks of it almost as a compulsion. At age 19, a drug deal had gone very badly and it scared him with the seriousness of what he was involved in. Six months later, it was as if God drew him into the military. If your approach to life is trying to control everything, there’s nothing like military service to teach you what it’s like to submit control of almost everything in your life to those in authority over you. If you have a problem trusting other people, there’s nothing like military service to force you to trust people with your life. Again, Remi credits God with these opportunities. It’s a testimony to God’s compassion on him long before Remi was seeking Him. God cares for people who don’t care for Him.
3. Asking Jesus for help is the first step to getting better.
The military could only help Remi so much. Feeling the isolation of a lonely posting in Alaska, he spent much time reflecting on what was inside of him. Often we’re too busy or distracted to really think about life. As Remi had more time than he wanted to think, he was filled with shame about who he was and regrets about how he had treated people in the past. Even with the discipline of his training and the structure of the military, he couldn’t escape from who he was. With neither Bible knowledge nor church instruction, he cried out to Jesus for help and experienced a transformation. He was drawn to faith. He was drawn to other Christians. He was drawn to a new life of hope. Unfortunately, all was still not well.
4. Surrendering control to Jesus is the path to true freedom.
Just as God had drawn him into the military, now he felt God leading him out of it. But if he felt that his new life would be easy, he was wrong. Financial problems and then marital problems ensued. He got angry with God, still trying to control his life according to his terms. God taught him another way. A childhood fascination led him to try his hand at acting. An audition for the Transformers movie led to a one-day part. Then that one-day opportunity was turned into a principal role. Remi Adeleke still isn’t a household name. And perhaps it never will be. But it’s important what he learned from it all. He learned to give up control. He trusts God now. He speaks of not wanting to force things anymore. He’s ready to turn his back on acting, or return to the military, or go into ministry, or whatever else God wants because now he understands that God’s plan is better than anything he could ever plan, himself. Within His plan is everything we’ll ever need – even though God’s plan may not make sense to us while we’re in it.
Do you struggle with letting go of control? Is it hard for you to trust other people? When you face challenges, are you tempted to try and go it alone? Remember that God cares for you even when you don't care for Him. Call out to Jesus for the hope that only He can provide. And learn the freedom that comes with surrendering our lives to him. As Proverbs 3:5-6 says,
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
In awe of Him,