Sunday, September 4, 2011
I'm not sure where to exactly to start this so I guess I'll start in the beginning, my beginning. I was born December 12, 1988 and on March 19, 1989 I was dedicated to God. I was raised going to church, my mother was a Sunday School teacher. That went on til the summer of 2001 before going into the 7th grade. My father had a severe stroke that left him mostly disabled. He was the provider of our family, at one time he was doing three things to make ends meet but we really worked as a family. His primary job was being a beekeeper and he would often cut wood to sell for firewood. Both of which we all helped with, and by all I mean my dad, mom, oldest sister Jennifer, older brother Michael, and me. My mother was a housewife but like I said helped with the family business. Not long before his stroke, my dad started delivering mail, too, taking the mail from Memphis to smaller post offices and then vice-versa. Until the point of his stroke, we were pretty well off, able to afford everything we needed without worrying to much. We were comfortable and full. After the stroke my father couldn't work, we had to stretch to get by. My mom stayed at home to take care of my dad. Even on Sundays, so we stopped going to church. It didn't really effect me, I wasn't saved then and frankly I liked sleeping in.
The next year, I came to a point where I realized I was in need of a savior. I was laying in bed watching a Christian program with the big muscle guys ripping phone books and what-not, then a guy came out carrying a cross and he began talking about Jesus. I asked God for salvation. I felt the Holy Spirit fill me and the greatest feeling of joy and peace I have ever felt. I wasn't going to church, so I didn't know what to do next. I was in the Last Club, which was the Christian Club at our jr. high, but I was only there because there were a lot of girls in it. Anyways, I didn't change. I couldn't allow God to work on me because I didn't know the difference.
I kept living the same, until I saw a Christian band in 2006 my junior year of high school. I rededicated my life right then. I was dating a girl, Sam, at the time who went to church so I started going with her. I began to learn more about what the Christian life was like and what I was supposed to look like. Which is good and bad in itself. I learned about God, but ultimately I just learned how to "play church." I knew I wasn't supposed to drink (not like I was a big party-er or anything), so I didn't drink. I wasn't supposed to cuss, so I didn't cuss.
That summer, my dad had kidney failure and went back to the hospital. He was fine for awhile, he just had to go through dialysis a few times a week. Sometime after the stroke he had gone back to doing the mail route with my mom's help, we lost the beekeeping business. So he went back to working and went to dialysis. Things weren't necessarily all good with us, but it was far from bad.
Sam went off to college, and I started my senior year of high school. After we broke up, I started going to church at Wilson First Baptist with some friends, some old, some new. Notably, Beau, my oldest friend from Kindergarten, and Ferdinand, my newest friend from the Philippines. It was on a church trip with them, to a Judgment House, that I decided I wanted to join the church and get baptized. From here on out, I really began to grow as a Christian. I was outspoken in our congregation, often yelling out things of encouragement or something funny while the pastor read the news or gave the sermon. I'd consider myself a leader there. There were only five seniors, we kinda all were.
In 2007, my last term of my senior year, my father passed away on February 27. We found out that he had had a heart attack during dialysis but the doctors hadn't caught it. He started getting really sick and went back to the hospital where he was put in ICU. We all stayed there in the waiting room. He began to get better and there was talk of taking him out of ICU and into his own room. So I went back to school the next day. We all thought he was going to get better, but he had another stroke which killed him. It was the most devastating time of my life. I had "senioritis" already, but after that I really did care about anything anymore. But everyone was there for me and my family. I never would have made it through without the help of my church family and my school family. Especially Ferdinand, he's one of the main people that helped me walk with my class.
That summer I went to Fuge with WFBC. It was intense, full of devotion and worship. Than college started in the fall at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. I began to get plugged into the Baptist Collegiate Ministry, or BCM, there. I was heavily active, maybe too much so, in the "Christian events" that were thrown at me with different churches and collegiate ministries. All the while depression was there, I never really realized it, maybe I didn't want to. I kept busy, so I didn't focus on it. That helped for awhile but I still slept way too much and lashed out on people for the dumbest reasons. My grades weren't good, so I decided to take a break after only a year of classes. But I met a lot of good friends while I was there, some of my best friends to this day.
One of those friends was Ryan. We got an apartment together because he was breaking from school, too. So I started working and what not, just living it up. He changed, I changed. I never fully quit drinking the whole time I was playing church, the last time I drank before living there was around when my dad died. It's not something I did much anyway, so I didn't think it was a problem. Until that summer in 2008 when a dear friend died at the age of 16. She was one of the most Godly people I had ever met, someone I loved and cared for, someone who saw my heart like no one else.
I was broken down farther. Depression kicked in full force, random break downs and the like, Instead of turning to God, I turned to all kinds of substances. I started drinking heavily and smoking weed. Plus, like any sin, I enjoyed it. It was fun. It brought me life, or so I thought.
Ryan and I started butting heads so I moved out, still doing what I was doing. I really started partying hardcore. I moved in with my brother and some of his friends in the fall of 2009, they were all about partying. In December I started attending Remix at First Baptist mainly because of the free food (sorry JR) but I also have friends there.
February 2010, I went with them to a weekend retreat out in the woods where I heard God truly speak to me for the first time. During one of the worship services, people started crying out, thanking God for everything He had given them. They started saying family and I had to get out of there. So I went outside where I really wrestled with God. Here I was out in the wilderness, asking God "why?" Why had everything happened the way it did? "You are God," I said, "you can take away this pain I'm feeling. Why can't I just get over this." That's when God gave me an illustration, the first of many.
Sometimes, life leads us into the forest. The forest can be a beautiful place and is serene as light falls through trees and scatters on the ground. But sometimes, that forest leads us into a thicket of thorns and you can't go anywhere else but through it. Those thorns will grab, hold, and tear into you. You get caught up when you can still see the beauty around you, ahead of you, and behind you. You focus on the thorns, trying to get out of them, and not letting them overpower you, when all you have to do is allow God to guide you through.
It's funny because after I came in to my little group, we had a sheet a paper with a few quotes and questions on it. One of those quotes was from Robert Frost that said.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Funny, how God works.
I'd like to say that this was all it took, but it wasn't. I continued going to church there, but still I tried to play church. Rather than seeking His Kingdom first, I tried to first be the perfect Christian before seeking Him. We can't fix ourselves, He's the one that does that.
So I was "good," for a little while playing church, I quit smoking, drinking, and partying for a little while, but I started right back up in the summer. And didn't stop until I sought God out first.
The new semester was starting and Ferdinand was coming to Jonesboro, he had been going to Blytheville where he recieved his Associate's at ANC. He was going to Central, I guess because his older brother Fred went there. I started going with them. I knew some folks there, I had gone there a little bit before.
Around this time, I had a dream. In this dream, I walking home when there were seven tornadoes that threw me in all different directions before slamming me to the ground causing me to be immobile. I awoke with a since of urgency, I came to realize that I was getting blown around by al the things of the world. I was an angry, lustful, covetous person who wasn't honoring his parents or God with his life.
During the next service, I broke down. I realize I had not been living right. I made the decision to change, I couldn't keep living the way I was living. I truly began seeking God and I've been forever changed. I began to get plugged into church and a Journey group there. I've been forever changed because of it. I've sought out God and He's done things I never would have imagined. However, I'm thankful for everything I went through. Even when I was chasing a life full of sin God decided to use that. Before I went down the party life-style, I really looked down on those sorts of people. Out of those experiences, my eyes were opened. God loves and cares for all people no matter what. We are not to judge but to encourage. You'll never know who God will call next.
These past few months, He has blessed me with a lot. He's given me Godly friends that are always there for me no matter what. He's done away with my depressive thoughts. I know longer have the need or want to live like I did. I haven't touched alcohol, drugs, tobacco, and greatest of all pornography in months. That was my secret sin, nobody knew about, I couldn't tell anyone about it. I was too ashamed. Since I was 8 years old in the third grade I had been addicted. I could never shake it, til now.
My greatest blessing came in my Spiritual Gift and calling. Through everything I've been through, I've been able to help others and have been able to be a friend and a counselor. It's been affirmed by those around me that I have a gift of exhortation. God willing, my next step is getting back into college so I may become a counselor where I may help others.
Forgive me for the length, I doubt very many people will read it for that reason. That's fine by me, but if you did I greatly appreciate it. My only hope is that someone may find a blessing through it, not for my glory but for God on high. Just remember if God can save and use a wretch like me He can do the same with you. Paul writes in 1 Timothy 1:15-17, "Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
God loves you and He'd love to hear from you.
So would I. If you ever need anything, whoever you are, I'm here for you.