God died for me on August 5, 1994. That was also the day my grandfather died and my sister’s 1st birthday. My grandfather was a Pentecostal pastor and died right in front of me in a cold, sterile, hospital room as I held his hand. I was ten years old, “Where was God that day? Why would God take my grandfather with me watching?” Those were the questions swirling around in my head and no one had any answers. As a result, I very quickly came to resolve, God wasn’t real or if He was I wanted nothing to do with Him. At least that was the narrative that I told myself.
Family life wasn’t much better, I grew up in a home where arguing yelling was the soundtrack, and my father regularly cheated on my mother. My mother was emotionally distraught and as a result, she would take her anger out on me. Needless to say, I grew to hate her for it. As each year passed my bitterness grew more and more. Around 15 years old I began experimenting with drinking, marijuana, and worldly relationships with women. That’s when God placed Mrs. Stutz, my high school English teacher into my life. I got into trouble one day and had to stay after class, as I sat there in detention, Mrs. Stutz began asking me about life, she would then mention Jesus, but I would fervently dismiss any topic of this mythical God of hers. However, for some reason, I visited her every day after school and when I graduated in 2002, I still came and saw her weekly and would call her. She would always bring up Jesus and try to get me to hear the Gospel. I would simply tell her that there was no God and if there was, he died in 1994. In 2003, the girl I had been dating for 3 years became pregnant, when we informed our parents, they quickly rushed us to the courthouse and on February 14, 2003, we were married. After my wife had the baby she was under extreme stress and I was anything but supportive, what did I know about being a husband at 19 years old. We were living with my parents, which made it even more difficult. Our marriage was quickly falling apart. My mother in a desperate attempt to keep her granddaughter in the home and help my wife kicked me out of the house. I had nowhere to go and ended up at a homeless shelter briefly, then moved in with a co-worker which then led to me selling drugs. Those 6 months were the darkest times of my life; I saw many things and a different side of life and people. Luckily, I was able to work things out with my wife and family and we all moved to Florida to start fresh. In 2004, to be able to better provide for my family and make something of myself, I joined the Army and was stationed at Fort Lewis, which was about 50 miles outside of Seattle. Army life wasn’t easy and took quite a toll on our marriage; I ended up falling in the footsteps of my father and cheating on my wife, which led to a divorce. Not knowing what to do I pursued a relationship with the woman I had cheated on my now ex-wife with. A few months later she was pregnant. In the winter of 2005, I sustained a career-ending injury and on November 6, 2006, was separated from the Army with an honorable medical discharge. Not knowing what to do, my new family and I moved back to Chicago, and that’s when Mrs. Stutz and her husband offered for us to live with them until I could get on my feet. We moved in on April 1, 2007.
On April 8, 2007, the girl I was with walked out on me and took my daughter. I was broken, bruised, and barely breathing emotionally. I reflected on my life and realized I was defined by family abuse, alcohol, drug usage and dealing, gangs, pre-marital sex, infidelity, lies, manipulation, in one-word sin. All those years of Mrs. Stutz getting me frustrated with her Jesus talk was now crashing in on me. I asked Mrs. Stutz, “What’s up with this God of yours?” She handed me a Bible and I resolved to prove she was wrong. A short time later I realized that God wasn’t the one that had been dead all these years, I was. The overwhelming truth that poured forth from the Scriptures grabbed hold of me. On April 8, 2007, Easter Sunday, God chose to give me new life and I became a follower of Christ. It’s now been 13 years since God gave me a new heart and it’s been nothing short of a testimony of God’s grace at work in my life. I have been able to lead my father to Christ; my relationship with my mother is growing stronger every day; I have had the unspeakable joy of leading my ex-wife to Christ and the two of us being remarried. I have graduated from Trinity with a B.A. in Biblical Studies and with an M.A. from Knox Theological Seminary. God is gracious and full of mercy and to use a lifetime of hurt, sin, guilt, and mistakes for His glory. He has done this by calling me to be a preacher of His Word and passionate about making Jesus’ last words my first priority (Matt 28:18-20).