Photo by Erin E. Photography
I grew up in the Bible Belt in a dry town in Appalachia. My parents never drank and I lived a pretty sheltered life. I’m very grateful for the foundation my parents provided and the church we attended, where there was a passionate love for the Lord. I knew who God was and I knew what Christ did, but there was not much emphasis on a relationship with God. Instead, God was to be feared, just waiting to punish me.
That lack of relationship made me more vulnerable when I moved away to college where the university motto was “question everything,” and there were lots of opportunities to get in trouble. When I started, I didn’t have one friend. I joined a fraternity but didn’t really fit in. I drank a lot and there was a lot of promiscuous behavior. I lost sight of what I knew was right. I didn’t go to church and my spiritual life seriously declined. My prayers became a list of wants and needs, no gratitude. I prayed from a place of entitlement, where there were no “thank yous” but lots of “why me?”
But God did not abandon me. When I graduated, I moved in with three guys: an atheist, an agnostic, and the other, I just don’t know. I got a job and one of the guys I worked with had a resounding joy… in fact, I thought it couldn’t be real. He was being sued and had recently suffered serious problems but he was still so joyful. I didn’t understand it.
He tried to get me to go to church with him time and time and again. Finally, I agreed—mostly because I thought it would help my chances with the girl I liked. Wrong motives, but God made good of it. This was a different kind of church; the preacher’s messages really resonated with me and there was a real emphasis on our individual relationships with Christ.
So, I joined a small group at church and became great friends with the leader. He eventually started these dinners on Thursday nights where there are now about 80-100 people in attendance on any given night. My Christian community went from one person to a huge community of light. In this community, I experienced the grace and love of Jesus. I then became involved with a ministry to help inner city children. This has made a huge difference in my perspective and taken my relationship with God much deeper. In working with these children, I have experienced God’s presence in a way that I never had. Before, I always felt like I had to do something for God in order to earn His love. Now I have a relationship with a God that doesn’t want to slap me on the wrist, but with a Father that just wants to spend time with me.
God intervened for me. I truly believe that God put that joyful guy at work in my life to begin turning me around. He didn’t work there long and really had no real reason to be there. God put my small group leader in my life and gave me a community of light. He led me to a group of children that allowed me to experience true joy and taught me how to be generous, grateful, and humble. He used these kids to show me that there is never anything I can do to earn His approval, praise and His love. The fact that I am His son is enough. God never gave up on me. After four years of wandering in a wasteland I came away with nothing, but by God’s grace I was led to another place. A place overflowing with hope. To God be the glory for all He has done for me.
A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.