During my youth, we faithfully attended church every weekend. I attended youth formation classes and learned to say my prayers correctly, but as I got to into high school, my mind was clearly not on my faith. I definitely started to feel like I was the one in control of my life and boy did it show. By the time I was out of high school my church attendance declined to practically nothing. I may have only gone to Church on Christmas and Easter. My early to mid-twenties found me in quite a bit of trouble, some with the law, but more importunately with God. My only connection with God was probably me coursing at Him for things not going right in my life. God was now so far out of my life that I had absolutely no clue what grace was all about, but on the bright side, I was learning how to pick myself up and take total control of my life without anyone’s help, including God’s. At least I thought that was the bright side.
So now I made it to my late twenties and decided it was about time to settle down. My friends were all getting married and I thought that maybe I should find someone and get married too. I did find someone and hey, she happened to be Catholic. So, in the spring of 2005, we decided to get married in a Catholic church and I thought that we would start attending church a little more regularly. It started out ok, but for me at that time, God was just a deity that resided at church, and He did not come into my home. God was on the back burner. He certainly was not the CENTER of anything in my life. Needless to say, that was just a recipe for disaster for my marriage.
We had one son together, Dominic, and eight- and one-half years into our marriage, we were heading to divorce court. I couldn’t believe it. I was about to become a statistic. Something I thought that could never happen because I thought I was in control. My wife decided to move to Plymouth, Wisconsin and Dominic was staying with me. I was devastated. I felt like a complete failure to my family, to my wife’s family, to my son, and to most importunately God. Yes, even though God was way off in the distance, I still felt like I was a complete failure in his eyes, and it hurt.
I now felt like “I” needed to pick myself back up, but maybe with just a little help now. Dominic was 7 when our marriage started to split. He was resilient, but I felt like I needed to set a better example so, at a snap of a finger, I started to attend church quite regularly. I started to feel a little better about myself but still just didn’t feel quite right. I was starting to get depressed. I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere. I really was at the bottom of a pit. Other than my son, I truly felt like I had absolutely no purpose in life. I was even having serious doubts if God really existed. Not knowing God much at a personal level, I started to carry on conversations with him. Wow, I’m actually praying. I just knew there had to be more to life than this and I prayed just about every day that he would help me understand what was going on. I prayed for knowledge. I prayed for wisdom, that I could just understand the bible. It sounds like I was getting on the right track, but my idea and God’s idea of what a Christ-centered-life was all about was still a long way off, but for some reason, I kept praying. A huge moment in my life was finally, unexpectedly, going to happen.
A few months passed by, and I had found a Christian radio station that I really fell in love with, 89Q out of Wausau. They got to be my go-to radio station. One ordinary morning, I was on my way to work. The sun was just starting to peek out and I had my favorite radio station on. As I got about halfway to work, a song came on that I was very familiar with. The name of the song was “Drops in the Ocean”, by Hawk Nelson. Even though I had heard this song many times, something felt quite differently this time.
The lyrics started out, “I want you as you are, not as you ought to be. Won’t you lay down your guard and come to me.” I could feel my heart starting to beat a little faster. I didn’t have any time to think about what was going on, only to react. Another verse came on, “The shame that grips you now is crippling. It breaks my heart to see you suffering. Cause I am for you. I’m not against you.” At this point my emotions were taking over and I needed stop the car. I wasn’t sure what was going on, but it felt like God was speaking directly to me, and I was sure that I wasn’t alone anymore. By the time the car stopped on the side of the road it felt like a veil, that had been covering my eyes, was instantly being removed. In one tiny moment, the life that I had been living was flashed before my eyes. All my wrong doings where being revealed. My thoughts, my actions, my life without Christ as the center. I couldn’t hold back any longer. At this point tears were now flowing down my cheeks like two small rivers. I felt like I was curled into a small ball cowering in the presence of our Lord. The only thing I could think of was, “My Lord, I am so sorry for having lived my life in a way that is offensive to you.” I could see Him standing over me and could hear him say, “I forgive you.” I could only think why, and how can you forgive me? I’ve mocked you and persecuted you. I was feeling completely unworthy of any forgiveness. Why would you want to forgive ME? I heard four simple words, “because I love you.” I knew in an instant that this is why Jesus went to the cross for me and now the two small rivers turned into rushing waters as I could truly feel his love.
I could see Him with an outstretched hand, and I knew now that I needed Christ in my life every day, every hour, every minute. I knew that I wasn’t in control and I needed the Lord’s help in getting back up. So, I reached out to Him and He lifted me up and I swore to Him that from this day forward, He would be the center of my life. I could no longer let sin be what guided me. It had to be Jesus. “I need you in my life, my Lord, my Savior. I can no longer live another minute without you.” I was truly repenting. What a glorious moment!
This moment in my life happened about five years ago. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about what happened somewhere throughout the day. Any depression that I may have felt before had washed away. I now had, and still have, a hunger to study the bible and to learn as much about Jesus as I possibly can.
That wonderful day on the side of the road seemed to wash my old self away. Like in 2nd Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Now, I need to let the world see what has happened to me. I need to let the world know what I believe. I need to not only feel Jesus on the inside but also wear Him on the outside. I need to rise up with Jesus and never again be mistaken for anything other than a Christian.