My Testimony

Posted: January 18, 2022 in Uncategorized

I grew up in a very rough part of San Bernardino and was raised by a single mom. My dad was was married to another woman and my mom was one of his many mistresses. He was never around and I have no memories of him. When I was eight years old he unexpectedly died from a heart attack. My mom was on welfare my entire childhood and we were very poor. Part of us being poor was because we just didn’t have money to begin with and even more poor because what money we did have, my mom spent on drugs. Most of my moms friends when I was growing up were members of biker gangs. With that came witnessing lots of drugs being used and sold, grown adults fighting, some of the worst language humanly possible, extreme racism, and a slew of other terrible things that no person, let alone child, should ever see, hear, or experience. 

While My mom did try to instill in me some sort of understanding of right and wrong, it was based on this twisted lifestyle that my mom chose for herself. What she might have have said was good and right, was actually incredibly wrong and bad by pretty much anyones standard except someone living the way she was. Even if she had actually given me good advice or tried to install some value that was actually good, I completely ignored because of how she lived and acted. I completely checked out and did my best to figure out everything on my own from a very young age. The problem was that I didn’t know anything and I had never met an adult that I wanted to imitate or model my life after. I largely just did whatever I felt was right at the time with no moral compass or regard for anything or anyone but myself. 

When I became a freshman in high school I really took a step in the wrong direction. I began sleeping around, heavily drinking to the point of passing out, and was involved in violent fighting. Most of my friends were selling and using some of the hardest drugs that were available. I was drinking and driving, partying at drug houses, and constantly in bad situations. I was rarely going to school and when I did, I was doing the absolute minimum to get a passing grade. After high school things got even more out of control. I was 17, living in my own apartment, and managed to land a good paying job. Having my own apartment at such a young age and having money led to even more partying and more bad decisions because I had the means and a place to do it.

I don’t share all of that to dramatize my upbringing, but to try to explain the circumstances and events that shaped me into who I had become. At this point I was 21 years old and was quickly working towards ruining my life. I was getting belligerently drunk on a regular basis, drinking and driving, twenty thousand dollars in credit card debt, sleeping around, with no regard for how it was effecting my life or anyone else’s life. What is worse is that I was actually really happy with my life. I thought I had it made. I had a good job so I had money, I had nice trucks, I had a nice house, and felt like I was living the good life. 

Then I met a girl and she invited me to church. Without hesitation I told her that I would love to go. Not because I wanted to go, but because I was going to do whatever I had to do to hook up with this girl. I went to church with her that Sunday night and heard things that had never crossed my mind. I had never thought about whether there was a God or not, certainly not about what that God might be like, or what God required of me. I never thought about how the world was created or what would happen to me when I die. I had never thought about sin, what it is or if I had ever committed one of them. The Pastor spoke about God as our father. Not just any father, but a perfect father. A loving father, a father who made promises and has kept every single one of them, and that God was calling me to come to him. He went on and on, reasoning from the scriptures about God being a perfect father and about Jesus. He spoke like he cared and said that if it was necessary he would stay all night to make sure that no one left the church without understanding that God is our perfect father. 

I had never heard a man speak with such conviction, with so much tenderness and care, and I had never heard anyone talk about God like they knew and loved him. As I went home that night my mind was all over the place and could not stop thinking about God and the words the Pastor spoke. I began going to church every Sunday and to several different bible study’s during the week. It was so amazing. As I began telling all of my friends and co-workers about how I had been going to church, they all just laughed at me. One by one they laughed and made comments about how I must be going for a girl. While they were right that I had first gone for that reason, that wasn’t why I kept going. I was going because I loved it. It was all I could think about. At the time I didnt understand what exactly I loved about it, why I was going, and really didn’t understand anything I was learning. A few months into going to church I had lost contact with the girl who had originally brought me to church, then my work schedule changed and I was working at night and couldn’t go to church anymore. A few months later I moved and got a new job that allowed me to start going to church again. At this point it had been about 6-8 months since I first went to church but you wouldn’t have been about to tell. I was still getting drunk all the time, sleeping around, and basically living the same life I had always lived. The only difference was that I thought about God every day. I wanted to know Him but didn’t know how. For the first time in my life, I knew the things I was doing were probably wrong but had no real desire to stop. I bought a 99 cent bible from Walmart and began reading it every day for hours at a time. I had never read the Bible and had no understanding of it whatsoever. I couldn’t figure out why there was an Old Testament and New Testament. I couldn’t figure out why the first four books of the New Testament sounded very similar but were different. I was so lost but at the same time could’t put it down. I found a new church where I had moved and did my best to try to meet people but it was very hard. I went to church on Sunday’s and Wednesdays, sat in the same seat, got there early and stayed late, tried to strike up conversations with people but not a single person ever engaged me. It was as though everyone knew I was a terrible person, that they somehow knew all the things I had done in my life including the things I had done the day before, and they stayed away. I felt very judged and alone. 

For two years this went on. I was reading my bible for hours every day, going to church twice a week, and praying every day. The problem was that I didn’t understand what the pastor was teaching, I didn’t understand what I was reading in the Bible, and I couldn’t reconcile all that was going on. I could tell from my bible reading that Christians are supposed to be a family and  spend time together, but I still didn’t have one Christian friend or acquaintance. It has become clear from reading the bible that the way I was living was wrong and that I was sinful, but I wasn’t sure how to stop sinning or how I would ever have the strength to do it. I didn’t know how to pray so I just did the best I could, thanking him for the day, for the food on my table, asking for him to bring people into my life who could help me understand the Bible, and what it means to follow Jesus. 

I moved again for work and began going to a new church, After months of going there and doing the same thing I had done at the previous church in an effort to meet other people at church, I became even more discouraged because nobody would talk to me. I had completely given up. Then stepped in a guy named Amil who invited me to sit with him and his friends. They were all very nice, took the time to get to know me a bit, and invited me to sit with them the following week. The next week I was walking down the aisle looking for them, expecting them not to be there, but found them looking for me! It was such a small thing, but such a big thing. This is what I had been longing to experience for over two years! Just to sit with other people and not feel like I was there alone.

In many ways, that day became the first day of the rest of my life. I ended up not seeing that Amil again for many years but I know that God had used him in a profound way. In the weeks following that day I made many friends at church, brothers who called out my sin because they loved me, and preached the gospel to me. For the first time I was beginning to understand the scriptures. I realized that I was a sinner and that I was guilty before a holy God. I repented of my sin and turned to Christ, putting my faith in Him, believed that Jesus had died for my past present and future sins, and was baptized. There were some things about my life that changed in an instant. Almost as thought I had become an entirely new man. As I continued reading the scriptures, I realized that is exactly what happened! Things were changing in my heart that were indescribable. People don’t just entirely change overnight by trying harder but that is what was happening. I knew that the things that were happening in my life were only possible if God was causing them to happen. God had given me the Holy Spirit to convict me of sin, to lead and guide me, and be Gods permanent presence with me. While there were many things that changed quickly, there were other things that took years to change. I am still sinful, I am stubborn, prideful, and I have a bent towards taking things into my own hands to create the outcome I want. Those sinful things have hindered my walk with the Lord and have caused me countless hardships and tears. By Gods grace I continue to rely upon the Holy Spirit to help me flee from sin and put sin to death. While I wish I could stop sinning, I believe it to be Gods grace in my life that I can’t completely stop sinning because it gives me a minute by minute reminder that I need Jesus and that I can do nothing without him. 

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