Ten years ago I made a decision that was so radical that if you would have told me then that I would have accomplished all that I have had today, I would have either laughed in your face or cursed you for putting such lunacy into my head. If you had told me at that time that in ten years, I would be:
1. Ten years clean (sober)
2. Was a committed husband and father
3. Be graduating with honors from the school of social work
4. 8 years invested in working with abused children
5. Was a submitted follower of Jesus Christ
6. Changed the lives of many people
7. Knew American Sign Language
8. Was friends with people of other faiths
9. Loved others
10. Loved myself
I would have had serious doubts about your sanity.
Ten years ago from this month I stood in a Church, at my friend, Dan Rowan’s funeral, and committed myself to follow Jesus Christ. There were some previous events that led to my decision and though many of my friends sat there thinking that I had an emotional moment and would quickly recant my bold statement, I can tell you that ten years later I am still standing for my faith in Jesus Christ.
A year before I stood in that Church I was at my grandmother’s funeral, sobbing in a pew. I was listening to her testimony about how she had come to faith in Jesus Christ. She said that if she had known she had cancer before she started going to Church, she would have never went, because she would had felt as if she was doing it out of pity. She said that God knew her heart and it was no coincidence that she came to faith in Jesus Christ before she found out she had cancer. But, these words at that present moment didn’t mean much to me. Life as I knew it had ended. The woman that raised me, who was my mother in every way, had gone to be with her Lord. I was listening to her testimony and a thought had crept into my mind, “What if she was meant to die?” It was disturbing to think that her death was meant to happen. I shook off the thought, but it had continued to haunt me.
The summer before I made my decision to follow Christ I was invited to Church. I really “didn’t belong” in Church, but I couldn’t resist the invitation from my friend. I had always wanted to be with her and I thought this was my opportunity. We dated, but God eventually broke that off, which was hurtful, but it led me further into his arms. I remember that it was a very small Church and the congregation consisted of mostly elderly people. I had long hair, smelled like smoke, and had a permanently fixed “I don’t care” expression on my face. But, when those elderly ladies hugged me, something inside was stirred and I was quickly taken back to those precious moments I had with my grandmother. They loved me regardless of what I looked (or smelled) like. I was going to Church all summer in 2001. I hadn’t made a verbal “commitment” to follow Christ, but I was consistently going to Church. Heck, I was still doing all the things I was doing before I came to Church, but I kept coming.
I remember that summer hearing, what I thought were trumpets. It happened at weird times. I remember one time running to the window in a panic to see if Jesus had come back and if it was too late for me. I was seriously fearful, because I knew I was living wrong and I was not right with God. I remember having dreams about Heaven and about Hell. I was disturbed by those dreams, but I continued my filthy living.
On September 11, 2001 I was walking to class (for music) and the students in the foyer were talking; they sounded very panicked. I discovered the horrible truth about the terrorist attacks. The professors told us to go home and be with our families. I went home and coped with the problem, the same way I had coped with many problems. I won’t say here, but I didn’t have a very good method for coping with anything. I was freaked out and concerned about the future. It shook me to question, “what if I had died that today?”
In November a friend of mine was killed as he was walking along the I-35 frontage road. He was tripping on mushrooms and decided to go take a walk, in only his underwear. Someone had spotted him and called the police, but the police arrived too late to arrest him. It was foggy and a car had missed the exit and hit my friend. He was killed instantly. I remember I had just arrived to work the next day and another friend had told me he had died. I couldn’t believe it.
At his funeral I made my decision to follow Jesus Christ. It really wasn’t because of my friend’s death, but it was because of all the previous events leading up to this point. I remember the preacher saying that at any moment God can call us home and it will be then that we are judged. I had enough. I couldn’t stand the death, the life I was living, and the sin in my life. He said if you accept Christ this day as your Lord and savior to stand up. I was scared for many reasons. One reason was because I was surrounded by all my friends (and drug buddies), many who were atheist, agnostic, pagan, or uncommitted Christians living a life of sin. I was worried that I would be shunned, ridiculed, hated, and disowned. But, at that moment in my life I didn’t care. Now, those fears I had about my friends disowning me didn’t happen. I was still doing what I had always done, but I made a statement. It wasn’t until I started living the way God had called me to live that my friends started treating me differently.
Shortly after the funeral we went to a Sevendust concert. Sevendust is a hardrock band and the fact that they were in Waco doing a show was iconic. Waco didn’t really have headlining hardrock bands come through, so we had to go. We stood very close to the stage. Lajon Witherspoon, the lead singer of band, was wearing a shirt that had Jesus wearing the crown of thorns. He pointed to the shirt and said, “Yeah Waco! You know what I’m talking about?” I was floored! This man was making a statement of his faith. I was so shocked that he openly said he was a believer in Jesus Christ. After they finished their set, I went around the side of the coliseum with a friend and we waited for some of the band members to come out. We actually met the drummer, Morgan Rose, and he chatted with us and brought us backstage. We stood around for a minute and had the band meet us outside after the show. We were all hanging out and the one of my friends pulled out a joint (marijuana cigarette). Lajon was smoking with us and we thought we were rockstars. Lajon said that they were going to a local bar after the show and he would let us in with him so we could hang out some more. I thought to myself about him being a Christian and smoking marijuana and somehow that conflicted with me. When we arrived at the bar we saw him and he let us come back with him and the band. We were hanging out and the limo driver was buying us all booze. We were getting lit. I remember sitting at the table and I asked Lajon, “Did you mean it when you said that you are a Christian?” He said, “Yes.” I wasn’t even questioning his drinking and smoking, but I was excited and I wanted to know more about his faith. I started asking him how he became a Christian and other questions. He paused and had a look of remorse and regret on his face. He said he would rather not talk about it. I was puzzled. He was convicted as I was about the things we were doing, but both of us were still just living sinful lives. It got me thinking about the choices I was making and how others see me as a follower of Christ. I was thinking that maybe I should give up partying and other things.
A very short time later we had a benefit show for my friend’s family. After the show we were all hanging out at the sheds where the bands practice. We were partying, smoking, drinking and talking. My friends were talking about Dan being in heaven and that they must have very large guitars and heavy metal must be really heavy in heaven. We were trying to see Dan in a better place and cope with him being gone. There was a lot of talk about what happens when we die. Some people just walked away and joined other circles of conversation. I remember at that very moment my conviction about Lajon, our behavior, and our profession of being Christians. I made my decision right there in front of all my friends that I was going to stop doing drugs. My friends were really nice about it and said that was cool. The “stuff” was being passed around (stuff as my friend’s grandma would say) and I remember taking it and passing it to the girl sitting to my right. I didn’t really know her and I think it may have been my first time meeting her. She said, “No thanks, I don’t do that.” I laughed at her and I said, “What are you religious?” She reached for her neck and pulled out a cross that was hidden behind her shirt and said, “Yes, I am a Christian.” I was amazed! I told her what God had been doing in my life and my conviction to stop partying and giving my life to God completely. God really used that situation to stir in me a passion to understand him more. These were crazy “coincidences” and I needed to know why it was happening to me.
A few months later I had been sober since that time and I stopped hanging around my friends as much. I was going to Church every chance I got. When I would hang around my friends, I couldn’t help but talk about the love of Jesus Christ. Some people would really get into the conversation, but others would get annoyed. I started getting told to stop talking about Jesus because I am ruining everyone’s high. I told them that I couldn’t help it. It just comes out of me. Eventually I started back sliding a little. I would say dirty jokes and curse. I remember a good friend of mine looking at me like I just slapped him and said, “Dude, what’s up with all that Jesus talk and now your telling dirty jokes and cursing?” I thought about what he had said to me. I remember spending time with the Lord after that and I came across this verse: “He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”- Luke 9:59-60. I though it was harsh for the Lord to say that. I asked him, “Why did you say that to him?” Jesus told me, “I not only said it to him, but I am saying it to you now.” He explained, “Your friends are dead and their weight is pulling you down to the grave. Let them worry about themselves and follow me.” I knew that if I was going to follow Jesus I was going to have to lay everything down. So, I made the decision to stop hanging around my old friends. I had to follow Jesus. Everything in me was saying, “Go!” My friends didn’t understand. It hurt them very much, but I knew what I was doing and the life I was choosing. Living the old life was causing me horrible pain and hurt. Christ gave me freedom and his love is unrivaled!
My best friend at the time said that I was going to Church, leaving my friends, and “following God” because of my girlfriend. All I have to say about that now is, “It’s been ten years, she’s gone and Jesus is still here.” Jesus will always be here. I have no intentions on leaving my Lord. I am captivated by his glory. It’s amazing! I am often alone and I think about where I was and where I am. I can’t help but get emotional about it. God has worked miracles! I can’t deny what he has done! He’s simply amazing and he knows me intimately. I want to know him more intimately!
It’s been ten years. I wonder what the next ten years will bring!
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” –Philippians 4:13