And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die. Revelation 12:11 NLT
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And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die.
Revelation 12:11 NLT
Not me. Never. Not going to happen.
Those are phrases I used as a kid, phrases I meant with all of my heart. They were applied to things I saw happening in other people’s lives, and I promised myself I wasn’t going to be like them. I wasn’t going to:
- Get divorced or even have a bad marriage
- Become an alcoholic
- Be a bad father
- End up in debt
Like I said, I meant all of those things. Watching my father in drunken rages should have been enough. Seeing the impact of my parent’s divorce should have been enough. Spending most of my days afraid to even talk to my father, let alone try to spend time with him, should have been enough. Growing up poor should have been enough. But, as I’ve learned the hard way, nothing without Jesus is ever enough.
I was twenty-seven and not far removed from my most recent combat tour to Iraq. I had all but destroyed my family. My wife didn’t want to even be around me. I had a newborn son. We were swamped with debt. There was no peace in my home; in fact, there was nothing but misery. All of my “not me’s” and “nevers” had come to pass. Almost. I wasn’t divorced, but the writing was on the wall. Life was over, and it was my fault. I had become everything I swore I would not become.
When you wake up in the morning, and you want to die, getting out of bed is pretty difficult. Somehow, on the morning of November 1st, 2007, I managed to pull myself out of bed and drive to morning P.T. (physical training) formation. I led my soldiers through a typical workout, drove home to take a shower, and then reported back for duty call. I could barely move because I was so distracted. My wife and I had passed each other in the halls that morning between my formations. Not a word had been spoken. That’s the way I remember it; we might have fought.
At work, I finally gave up. Not just on my marriage. I was done with life. I put someone in charge and left work. That’s how much I didn’t care. I drove home, fully intending to get drunk, pull out the phonebook, find the first lawyer I could, and tell him or her to draw up papers giving my wife everything. After that, I would just re-up to make sure that my wife and sons would be provided for. That was Plan A. Plan B was to drive straight through town, find the first bridge I could, and drive into it as fast I could. My life was over. What was the point?
Instead, something urged me to give it one more chance. I had a wild idea to go to a church. I hadn’t set foot in a church in years, and I certainly had no love for preachers or Christians. I thought, why not? Don’t pastors do marriage counseling or something? Resolved that this was the last shot, I stayed straight instead of turning to go home. The problem? I didn’t know where to go. I knew of one church in town, and it was a mega church. I shrugged, thinking they’re all the same, and headed there. You know the problem with some really large churches? No one is there during the day, and I couldn’t even figure out where to go in that massive complex. I’d passed a church on the hill getting there, but I saw another one up ahead (seriously, there are a ton of churches in my town; I’d just never paid attention).
I pulled into that little church, and that same mysterious urging that had led me to a church screamed at me to leave. Imagine my depression. I was done. Time to go for Plan B since I was already almost out of town. Looking left as I came out of the parking lot, I saw a sign that read, The Rock. Not quite to the point of fully committing to Plan B, I drove up the hill and pulled in. A man, Erick Knight, came out and met me in the parking lot. I asked if I could speak to the pastor, and he told me he was the associate and spoke for him when he wasn’t around. He thought I was there for trouble, but I told him I just needed help.
Inside, I poured my heart out to this stranger. I asked him what I could do about my marriage, and he came back with, “Where would you go if you died today?” and “Have you ever trusted in Jesus Christ as your savior?” For some reason, though I was annoyed by his off-topic questions, I listened. He took me through some Bible verses. He told me about sin and showed me that I was a sinner. He told me about a man who is also God that died for those sins. He told me how he arose from the grave and promises eternal life to those who believe. At least, I think he told me those things. That mysterious urging was in the room with me. It was the Holy Spirit, showing me who I really was, showing me suffering for eternity for my sin, but then showing me an innocent man dying in my place.
I snapped back to reality when Erick asked me if I believed. I bowed down in that little office that morning and called upon God to save me, and He did. I knelt a broken man. I stood a new man. I was changed, and I knew it. I rushed out of there as quickly as I could and drove to my wife’s job. I didn’t care if she hated me; I had to tell her! When I got there, she looked at me with a look that should be illegal, it was so deadly. Somehow, I managed to get her outside and tell her, awkwardly, that I’d been to a church. That got her attention. I told her I’d gotten saved, I think, and started to cry. This woman who hated me with a passion, came forward, hugged me, and said “we’re gonna be okay.” Saved as a teenage girl, she had wandered from God, but about two weeks later, she turned back to him with her whole heart.
Since that day, we’ve given marriage advice. I’ve been a marriage counselor and recently conducted a wedding. I haven’t touched alcohol, and I’ve got four boys that all know their father loves them. I’m not a great husband or father, but I’m growing. I still haven’t figured it all out, but I’ve learned that with Jesus, it’s enough.
*Note: My parents are still together, and have been for many years. I have a great relationship with my father, as well. He gave up alcohol nearly 30 years ago, and I am honored to be his son!