Fourteen years ago, May 24th fell on a Sunday. It was Memorial Day weekend. I’d gone to a party that Saturday night and was hangin out and drinking with some friends. I decided to run out to my car to get something but one of my friends stopped me because she knew what that “something” was. I’d picked up another habit that my friend called me out on. Aside from the drinking, smoking, cursing, anger, sinful relationships, and straight up rebellion that had been a way of life all throughout high school and the years afterwards, I’d begun to use cocaine here and there with different groups of friends. Each set of friends that I’d get high with thought they were the only ones I’d do it with and that it was [semi] under control. Though it wasn’t quite every day [yet], it was headed that way because I really liked it. A lot. In fact, I liked it more than any drunken feeling, more than any other high, more than another other guy. And the friend who I was with saw that look in my eyes and was courageous enough to say to me what I didn’t want to hear but needed to…
It wasn’t the first time a friend had said something to me. Another one of my girlfriends in a completely different group of friends pulled me to the side a few months prior. It was becoming noticeable. What neither of them knew (or could understand) was that God had been dealing with me over the course of those few months. And it seemed that the more He tugged at my heart inwardly, the worse my actions got outwardly. It was a more than a spiritual battle, it was an all out war. You see, I knew I’d serve the Lord. I knew God’s hand was on my life. I knew I was called to ministry one day. I’d always known. And I knew it was gonna be sooner than later. But I wouldn’t go down without a fight. Well, God was truly at work that night. Though I went back and drank the night away with these friends, for some reason, I couldn’t touch the coke. I felt convicted. And I knew the spiritual wrestling was intensifying and the fight (that God would win) would be ending soon. That Sunday morning, I woke up and for some reason (the leading of the Holy Spirit) I drove straight to my parents’ church. I don’t think I fully understood what was going on in my heart but I knew I just needed to get there. It was that day when I made the decision to surrender and serve the Lord.
Sunday, May 24, 1998
Did I change overnight? No. But I knew that day I couldn’t live the way I’d been living anymore. I couldn’t run from God. And though there were a few times after that when I tried to go back, it just wasn’t fun anymore. At all. It actually became sickening. I knew Jesus was the only way and His Holy Ghost roadblocks were preventing me from attempting any other path. The path that, by His grace, I have been on the last fourteen years. It has not been any easy path by any means. I’ve experienced heartache, depression, betrayal, a failed marriage, divorce, illness, misdiagnoses, medicine-induced weight gain, financial hardship, more betrayal, an emotionally abusive and manipulative relationship (that in many ways was even worse that what I’d been through before), mistakes I brought on myself, mistakes that others put on me, attacks of fear, battles with insecurities, anger, bitterness, shame, and deep, deep pain. But I’ve also experienced God’s nearness and faithfulness in a way that I would never trade, revelations of His love and forgiveness, waves of His mercy, and encounters of His truth and amazing grace.
Did all of that stuff hurt? YES. YES. YES. In a way that I would never wish on anyone. But I am who I am today because of what God, the Great I AM, has done in (and for) me through all these hardships; what He’s shown me, who He’s been to me. He’s saved, healed, provided, restored, forgiven, blessed, encouraged, and touched me in a way that no one else ever could or ever will. If I knew what I knew today back on this day in 1998, believe it or not, I’d do it all again just to know Him the way I do.
It is great! And He is no respector of persons. The love and mercy that Jesus has shown me and continues to show me can be yours in an instant if you’ll just say yes and surrender to Him.