At the age of 17 I found myself in the church parking lot in Redding, California pondering the amazing series of circumstances that had brought me to this point in my life. I had been through a lot for one so young and my outlook on life was already more jaded that many men over twice my age. In the past year I had, in rapid succession, been arrested because of my hoodlum associations and illegal activities, dropped out of a prestigious charter high school that I qualified to enter only a year earlier, and then gone through two expensive drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs; a 40-day in-patient hospital program in San Pedro and a 30-day stay at a treatment center in Idyllwild. The results were the same after each; the head of the program pronounced me incurable and recommended that I be institutionalized.
I had avoided church for years and scoffed at anyone who tried to share the Gospel with me. I felt that I was certainly brighter than any of those weak-minded people who fell for the Bible and I enjoyed arguing with (or just telling off) anyone brave enough to broach the subject of God with me. But eventually my extremely self-centered, passive-aggressive, rebellious lifestyle caught up with me and with all other doors shut, I finally went to my praying mother’s house asking for help. She showed so much undeserved forgiveness that even I could not refuse her appeal to go to church with her “just once.”
And so here I was, alone in the parking lot, and wondering what it was that had just happened. I had finally gone to church with my mom but as the preacher began to speak I had felt the whole room begin to close in on me. It was as if every word was directed at me. Suddenly I realized that there might actually be a Creator God and even further, that He might care about me personally, right here and right now. I left the building in the middle of the meeting suddenly before the preaching was finished, even though it felt that all eyes were on me, because I just had to escape. Now outside, finally alone and able to think, I found myself praying to God and asking Him directly, “If you are real then please show me.”
As I prayed that simple prayer it was as if I had opened my heart just a crack, and it seems that this is all He was waiting for. I felt a peace that was greater than anything I had ever experienced before. I suddenly knew beyond a doubt that God was there and that He would take control of everything. In a flash I knew that, yes, I had really made a mess of my life but that Jesus was giving me a second chance and that He could and would do a lot better than I had. Suddenly my countenance changed. I felt intense joy because I knew that I was doing the right thing. I could not stop smiling. I think I smiled for a week straight from the sheer happiness that was now in my heart.
Later, a pastor read the book of Romans with me and explained the meaning of life from God’s perspective. As we read together about all men being hopeless sinners and about God sending Jesus to help those who would accept Him I experienced physical sensations which were not pleasant. I realized later that I was actually being healed of my drug and alcohol addiction. When we read about Jesus paying for my sins, I was more than willing to admit that I needed to humbly ask God for help. By the time we had finished reading and the pastor had prayed with me, I felt totally clean and spiritually alive for the first time. Amazingly, since that day I haven’t been addicted to alcohol or drugs even though I was diagnosed by several different respected professionals in more than one hospital as an incurable alcoholic/drug addict just less than a year prior. I am really amazed and thankful for this miracle in my life and I don’t know why God chose to give it to me – I just know He did.
Since that time, the Lord has led me on an amazing journey of faith. I have a new friend who guides and encourages me daily. Before I became a Christ-follower I never imagined that one could have an actual relationship with the Creator of the Universe. And I never imagined what an amazing future He had in store for me. I have never regretted the decision I made that day to turn the control of my life over to the Holy Spirit. I can say with certainty that if it weren’t for God’s amazing love for me and awesome restoring power I would have been lost long ago. But now I have a beautiful family, a wonderful church and my life belongs to an awesome God who really deserves all the honor for any good things that come from my life. I also discovered something else – a purpose for my life. I now know there is actually a loving Creator who is watching over us and all of human history. He has a plan and I’m privileged to be a tiny part of making it happen. I live in Japan now where people didn’t grow up in a culture that is based on Christianity and 99 out of 100 people don’t even know much about it. I have Christian friends from all over who have partnered with me and my family to help us reach Japan by telling people here about Jesus, and planting churches.
If you are a Christ-follower and you want to help, let’s talk. Or if you have not yet made a personal connection with this Jesus that I have been talking about then I’d love to hear from you too. It would be my privilege to introduce Him to you! You can reach me at the email here on this site.