I was born and raised in the church, a 4th generation apostolic, Pentecostal who’s great grandparents on both my mom and my dad’s side of the family were preachers, pastors and church planters going back to the early 1900s. But this faith, this truth, this doctrine that got passed down and passed down and passed down to me was something that as I hit my college years, when I turned 18 and left home for school, I left that behind me as well. Over 75 years of heritage, gone within a few weeks as I quickly fell into the college lifestyle that the world offers of partying, drinking, drugs. I turned my back on God and ran from him in the opposite direction and I started living for myself. Without getting into every detail, let’s say it’d be easier to list the drugs I didn’t try and count the days I wasn’t drinking or partying. I was also a drummer that played in a number of rock bands and I lived the lifestyle that went along with the stereotype. I got to the point where I even questioned God’s existence because it was the only way I could justify the way I was living.
Looking back, even though I was ignoring God and running from Him, He loved me still as I think about events in my life during this time that have His fingerprints all over it. He kept people out of the way of my car as I drove drunk, night after night, not even remembering doing so. So many times finding myself in situations that could and should have altered my life for the worse, perhaps even ended it for good, yet He protected me and worked behind the scenes on my behalf. By His limitless grace, it took me 6 years, but I somehow managed to graduate from college and a few days later my son was born. I married my son’s mom and she stayed home with him while I worked, but instead of focusing on the fact I had a healthy wonderful son and a wife willing to stay home and care for our him and a job that gave us health insurance and paid the bills, without God, I was depressed and started drinking even more. I looked for ways to relieve the stress of a life lived apart from God, a life without inner peace and joy, but it wasn’t found as I chose to play poker and softball with my friends and continued my pursuit of being a rockstar. I ignored my wife, took her for granted, my priorities were all messed up. I never once said God, “I’m not going to live for you, I’m going to serve Satan and take what the world is offering me,” but slowly and surely this is what happened.
The devils work was so silent and so subtle, before I knew it my faith and my marriage were gone. My wife gave up on me and our marriage, so I turned to whiskey. Instead of drinking to have a good time, I was drinking just to fall asleep at night, to hide the pain and hurt I felt of a failed marriage, to hide the loneliness and emptiness in my life, just one more drink and I’ll feel better, one more drink and this day will be over, one more drink… But God didn’t give up on me. He continued to call for me and love me and while I ignored Him, He answered the prayers of others who cared about me.
I spent New Year’s Eve 2008 drinking and doing drugs and when I woke up on New Year’s Day I had scars on my knees a mangled hand and no clue what had happened for a good portion of the night before. I remember waking up that day as if it was yesterday. It was as if God reached down and woke me up and flicked me on the side of my head saying, “What are you doing with your life?” I thought about my son, about how if I kept going the way I was going, one of these mornings I wasn’t going to wake up, or I wasn’t going to make it home. After 12 years of taking my own path and ignoring and rejecting Him, God woke me up that morning and called me home. Praise God, I heard him and answered His call! I woke up New Years Day 2009, not even remembering how to pray saying, “God, just let me make it until Sunday, let me get to church so I can start making things right. I’m sick of the way I’m living, I’ve been doing my own thing for so long now, if you’ll just take me back, give me a chance, I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but I’m going to try.” I was tired, beat down and empty. I’d been wasting my life away and yet through it all He still loved me, and He called me home.
I made it to church that Sunday and it was as if the Pastor had prepared each and every sermon He gave from then on specifically for me, week after week after week as God used him mightily. I haven’t had a drink since that night and over the next year God continued to clean me up, restored to me the joy, peace and blessings He promises to all who live for Him. There is nothing that this world offers that compares to living for Jesus Christ. He’s continued to lead and guide and bless my life, called me to ministry and given me things I wouldn’t have known to ask for, doing above and beyond what I could ever imagine. I know I’ll never be able to repay what He’s done for me in my life, but I will spend the rest of my days trying.