On June 27, 2011, at 5AM, God made himself so very real to me. I share this with you in hopes that you do not have to get so close to the edge as I did.
My journey started when I was 13 at a small church that some of my family attended. One Wednesday night I felt the call, and I did as the pastor asked. I prayed as he led us in prayer and asked Jesus to come into my heart. And I knew he had.
Being a new Christian, I made a common terrible mistake. I made many assumptions and listened to only what I wanted to hear. Worst of all, I assumed that I understood God and what had been done for me.
I went from being a Christian to persecuting them. I challenged their faith and tried to convince them they were wrong.
August 17, 1995, less than two months after my eighteenth birthday, I shipped out for Navy boot camp in Great Lakes, Illinois. I boldly stepped into the unknown only to awaken to a man I didn’t know screaming orders at me. What had I done? I doubted if I would survive the next eight weeks. I figured out very quickly that if I wanted to survive this, I only had to do what I was told. And I did. I learned a valuable lesson.
I deployed on the USS Enterprise headed for the Mediterranean while I was assigned to VFA-81. I acquired a nasty habit for profanity. Yes, the adage is true about sailors and cursing. That wasn’t the only bad habit I picked up. I started taking a drug called ecstasy.
One night at a dance club called The Paradome in Jacksonville, Florida, I ended up taking enough ecstasy to scare me. I saw things that I can only describe as evil. I cried out to God and promised that I would stop taking ecstasy. And with his help, I did. I was honorably discharged from the Navy on June 17, 1999. I started a new chapter in my life.
God saw fit to send me a Christian wife. I fell in love with her, but I still had my assumptions. I thought I could convince her that I was right and she was wrong. I thought a lot of things that weren’t true about her. I thought I was justified when I left her. I lied to myself about her.
God saw fit to send me another Christian wife. I fell in love with her and we had a child. When my daughter was born I knew that she was a gift from God. I started going back to church and trying to understand God’s word. I wanted to find the truth, but I still had my doubts about who to listen to. I knew that God’s word was true, and I also knew who to talk to and who to listen to. But I didn’t understand. I was baptized with water on November 29, 2009.
I was asking God to show me the way, and to tell me what he wanted me to hear. I thought I knew what God was going to say and assumed that I was right. I assumed that I knew the way.
God saw fit to send key people to me. At first I listened and learned, but I returned to my wicked ways because I misunderstood what was being taught to me. I started to look for the faults in them. I lied to myself.
Five weeks ago I started on a terrible downward spiral, eagerly heading to my destruction. I questioned if God was even real. I questioned everyone and trusted no one. I was convinced that there was no God, because if he existed he would have told me so. I was looking for fault in God. I was losing touch with reality.
I couldn’t sleep; I couldn’t find any enjoyment in the things I liked to do. I tried one last time to talk to friends and family about God to see if they could prove he existed. I kept saying that I was done learning about God from man. If he existed, he would have to prove himself to me. I jumped into the car and just drove. I was mad at God and everyone who believed in him. I drove until I arrived at my inlaws’ house. My mother in law’s late husband was a pastor at a local church. I thought if anyone knew the truth, then she would, and I knew she wouldn’t deceive me. But I didn’t listen and I continued to doubt. I thought that because I didn’t understand, no one did. They did not judge me, and told me what everyone else had been telling me all along. They took me out to get something to eat.
I drove home broken, and I was responsible. But I still doubted, and I still didn’t understand. I got home at 3AM to find my wife asleep on the couch. I kissed her and went to bed. I couldn’t sleep, and I couldn’t find anything to watch on television. I was restless and tired. I stopped changing channels and left the TV on for background noise. I closed my eyes. There is a show that has been on the air here for many years. The show stars a painter explaining different techniques to achieve a beautiful painting. My attention turned to the show, and the Holy Spirit came upon me in what I can only describe as a flood. I was finally ready. I submitted to His will.
I felt despicable and ashamed to be in the presence of God. He let me know it and feel it. And he allowed me to understand it. He showed me exactly what I had become. He told me not to assume that He was as fickle as I was. He also told me that we ARE His children, we ARE spiritual beings that He CREATED, and we are all in this together. He told me not to tear other people down, but to build them up. He showed me he loves all of his children, and to look and listen for him in all things. He told me to study and learn. I finally understood what God wanted me to. I heard Go Tell It On The Mountain play through my head over and over.
I stand before you a true confessed man of God. I am not ashamed, and I am not afraid! I proclaim victory! My name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life! Hallelujah!
Thank you Father for showing me the error of my ways and for telling me the truth even when I didn’t want to hear it. Bless all of the people you used to help me along the way. Please open the eyes of the lost, and let your will be done. I praise you Father, giving you all the glory only You deserve. In your beautiful precious son Jesus’ name. Amen.