At the age of 17 I found myself in the church parking lot pondering the series of circumstances that had brought me to this point. In very quick succession I had been arrested because of my hoodlum activities, dropped out of a prestigious college preparatory high school, 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.
Up until this point 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. I would argue anyone brave enough to broach the subject of God with me into the ground. Or failing that, I would simply tell them off in the coarsest language possible. But now my self-centered lifestyle had finally caught up with me. The only door that was still open to me was at my praying mother’s house.
Mom welcomed me by looking at my scraggy beard and unwashed hair and saying how much I looked like Jesus. But within a short time I managed to strain even her patience. I totaled the family car by driving recklessly and running a red light directly in front of the main police station. When the driver of the other car approached me I expected him to begin shouting in anger. I deserved it and I knew it. Instead, he said, “Praise God, no one is hurt.” Before the shock of those unexpected words had worn off he explained that he forgave me and would not press charges (did I mention we were directly in front of the police station?) There was some kind of power in that act of undeserved forgiveness that took away all my defenses. It was the straw that broke the back of my resolve against God.
That following day, my mom followed her normal routine of attending mid-week church services. But this time when she invited me to join I found myself accepting. How could I refuse, when I had just destroyed her car and then been forgiven for it? I don’t remember exactly what happened at the church service. But I do remember that every word spoken by the preacher that night seemed to be directed at me. The words spoke of security, “You don’t have to be afraid any more because Jesus loves you.” They spoke of victory, “The devil wants to destroy your life but Jesus is stronger than the devil.” After a few minutes of this I was feeling scared and confused. I just had to get out of there. The people assembled in church that day saw a long-haired skinny kid get up suddenly in the middle of the message and walk quickly out the back door. I didn’t care what anyone thought. This feeling was just too much to handle.
And so here I was, alone in the parking lot, finally alone and wondering about it all. It dawned on me that there might actually be a Creator God and even more, that it might actually be true that he cared about me personally. The same feeling I had when I totaled my mother’s car and realized it was all my fault came back on me, but this time it was magnified by a million. “I know I have really messed up my whole life. There is no way to fix it now. But God if you are really there would you please show me that you are real?”
As I prayed that simple prayer it was as if I opened my heart just a crack, and apparently that is what God was waiting for. I was flooded with 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 was in control of everything. In a flash I knew that, yes, I really HAD 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 if I surrendered. I was suddenly different, but I was more myself than ever before. Even my countenance changed. The expression of toughness and cynicism that I had carried on my face for years seemed to melt off. I felt an intense joy because I knew that things were alright. I could not stop smiling. I think I smiled for a week straight from the sheer happiness that was now in my heart.
A few days 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. He had me read a passage from that Bible that said that the Blood of Jesus could make me clean and I felt so unclean at that moment. 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 was totally clean and spiritually alive for the first time. Amazingly, since that day I have not been addicted to alcohol or drugs even though I had been diagnosed by several different respected professionals as an incurable alcoholic/drug addict less than a year prior. I am really amazed and thankful for this miracle in my life. 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 his 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. The same loving Creator who is watching over us and all of human history has a plan and I’m privileged to be a tiny part of making it happen. I now live in Japan where people didn’t grow up in a culture that is based on Christianity. In this nation 99 out of 100 people don’t know anything about the Bible or Jesus. I have Christian friends from all over who have partnered with me and my family to help us reach Japan by telling them about Jesus, reaching young people, 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.