This is a warning for those that would read the following story. I must warn that elements of my life have been offensive, even repulsive. The image that I paint of my past is not pretty, but realistic.
I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior on October 30, 1994. It was the best day of my life because I was born again (2 Corinthians 5:17). I have eternal assurance through Jesus Christ. Before my conversion to Christ, I lived a life for myself. Truly it was a life of disparity and depression. I didn’t know who I was. It seemed as though daily my mission in life was to figure out who I was, why I was created, what my mission was in life, and to bury my feelings of depression and disparity caused by not having those answers by whatever means possible.
I abused just about every drug that you can imagine. On a daily basis I would smoke marijuana. I smoked marijuana more than I smoked cigarettes. Literally, the first thing I did in the morning was get high before going to high school. At lunch I would get high as well. It was allot easier when they (school administration) would let us go out to lunch but when they ceased to allow us I tipped my cigarettes with ground marijuana and smoked them between classes. I knew that by the time anyone smelt something funny I would already be smoking tobacco. Plus, it was too daring, smoking pot out in the open like that, and no one suspected anything because they couldn’t imagine that anyone would do it right in front of them. Sometimes, I would make tea from marijuana and drink it in the cafeteria to get high. After school I would get high with my friends and, sometimes, if they weren’t around, I would get high by myself throughout the evening. I smoked pot as often as tobacco users smoke cigarettes. Even in the middle of the night, if I couldn’t sleep, I would sneak out my window (because I lived with my parents at the time) and get high. I used a variety of other drugs as well; alcohol was another norm for me. I used several prescription drugs in conjunction with alcohol, pills such as Xanax and Rohypnol. Occasionally, I would experiment with LSD; unfortunately, I used meth quite often as well. I wanted to be as numb as possible. I hated high school. I was really bored with it. Life didn’t make sense just for the sake of living it, especially with all the uncertainties that I had.
My conversion to Christ occurred after going through an experience in which I almost died, actually, after a couple of experiences wherein I almost died. One evening, in particular, I hung out with a couple of friends and went to a movie. The pot that I smoked that evening was out of my friends hash pipe, which was constantly being used to smoke opium as well. That evening I had also done a couple of lines of meth. Needless to say, I was very intoxicated. After watching the movie with my friends, I felt a pain in my chest, not so much a pain but more of a pressure like someone was stepping on my chest. I blew it off thinking that I was too young for something bad to happen to my health. I felt as though I was invincible at that time so it really didn’t affect me that much. I went home and ate and I didn’t think anything else about it.
The next morning, Saturday morning, I was rearing at the bit to go to Tulsa’s little head shop, Starship Records and Tapes, and buy a proto-pipe, which I did. While I was there, I also bought a pinch hitter (a small pipe used to smoke marijuana while concealing one’s actions; for instance, this pinch hitter looked like a cigarette). On the way home in my car, I smoked my new pinch hitter. While smoking the pinch hitter, I felt a pressure on my chest, immense pressure like someone was stepping on my chest, just like the night before. I now believe this was God’s way of dealing with me at the time. This time, however, the pressure was alarmingly intense. I also felt numbness in my left hand, which was actually throughout my body but for some reason it was particularly focused on my left hand. Additionally, I noticed that my heart was racing. To add to the terror already then present, my heartbeat was also very weak. My heartbeat was beating very rapidly, fluttering if you will, beating very softly. In the midst of all these things, I noticed that the colors that I normally observed were growing strangely bland, almost grayscale; everything appeared to be very abstract. Simultaneously, I panicked as a shooting pain began at my sternum and moved swiftly to my shoulder and then down to my hand. I didn’t know what to do; strangely enough my car was overheating as well. Perhaps I didn’t realize what gear I was in due to my alarmed state. I got out of my car and laid down in someone’s yard. I had hoped that through lying down my heart would regulate itself, that I would calm down. However, it did not. As panic increased, I began to walk hoping that the rhythm of walking would somehow stabilize my heartbeat; it didn’t. I went back and forth between lying down and standing up and walking. I did this for a period of about five or six minutes. I then realized that what was happening to my body was beyond my control. I came to terms in that moment with the fact that I may very well die.
Feeling completely out of control, I decided that as long as my body would respond to my brain’s commands to move, I would keep going. I would keep moving as long as my body would. In that spirit, I went to my car, drove home, sat through an agonizing stop light, and finally made it back to my father’s house. My life to that point had been a cover-up. Not that my parents were bad people, or that they would have dealt with me unforgivingly over what I was doing, I just didn’t want them to know what was going on. I went into the house, didn’t say anything to my family, and took an aspirin (I guess I was trying to latch on to something, anything, for comfort and an aspirin was all that I could think of at the time). I then walked to the couch and laid down in the living room where my father was watching TV. Looking back it seems strange that I went to the living room in my father’s presence; why wouldn’t I have wanted to go to my room and be isolated where I could hide what was going on better? The truth is, I thought I was going to die. If I died, I wanted to be in the living room with my father, the only source of stability and predictability that I had known up to that point in my life. Thankfully, however, I lived through the experience. In that moment, I remember being overjoyed by the fact that I was alive and had a second chance.
I began a journey of searching for the truth after that experience. The experience that I went through warranted an answer to the question, “what happens after this life?” “Is there a life after this life? Or is this it?” I’ve always been a rebel; I’ve never been a conformist. I’ve never gone along with the crowd; I’ve always forged my own path. I’ve never been afraid to be the brunt of a joke, to laugh, or to speak my mind. In keeping with that nature, I really wasn’t ready to conform to the religious practices of my forefathers, if you will. I was ready to find the real truth, regardless of what form it took. I began to read the Bible in search of answers. Honestly, it was pretty uneventful at first. However, I was persistent, not that I brainwashed myself but I was willing to find out, search out the truth of the scriptures. I think that brings out an important point. Many people have read the Bible and haven’t gotten anything out of it. I wonder how much effort those same people have put into it. I wonder if they’ve sought God with their whole heart. The Bible says that “…if you seek Me with your whole heart you will find Me” (Jeremiah 29:13). I continued to read the scriptures and I continued to pray night and day petitioning God desperately saying, “… if you do exist please reveal yourself to me.” I would do this every night sincerely in heartfelt prayer (James 5:16b).
The answer to my prayer came in the form of a practice I had long ago abandoned. As a child I had gone to church with my grandparents on a regular basis. In the spirit of that long-ago forsaken tradition my grandmother and grandfather, knowing that I had been reading the Bible and was interested in the things of God, invited me to go to church with them. I said yes, not because I was interested in church all that much but because I wanted to eat my grandmother’s food afterwards. I set through a service at Victory Christian Center in Tulsa (I don’t think it’s necessarily the church, although one does need to go to a Bible believing church that believes that God is real and that He is working in the now). I listened to Pastor Billy Joe Daugherty preach. To be truthful, I don’t even remember what the message was about. The entire sermon I analyzed his words and thought to myself, “where’s the proof? When am I going to hear something that’s going to change my life?”
After the service Billy Joe Daugherty invited people to come fourth and receive Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, something that I’ve always admired about Victory Christian Center. I didn’t go forward because I didn’t believe and I didn’t want to commit myself to something just because I was afraid of death., an insurance policy which may or may not come in useful, or so I thought at the time. We left, and my grandfather talked to me about the message. I asked my grandfather “how can those people go forward and pray to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior without having any proof?” “I really wish that I could believe as well,” I told him. Then my grandfather said, “no man can come unto the Father unless the Spirit of God draws him” (John 6:44). My reply, obviously, was “well that’s great, but I wish He would draw me.” This seemed to anger my grandfather. As a result, and in defense of his faith, or perhaps just moved by the Spirit of God, he told me to open my Bible and read Romans chapter 10 out loud. At this point, we were sitting in an Albertson’s parking lot at 81st and Yale. I sat in that Albertson’s parking lot and read Romans chapter 10 out loud. I didn’t understand half of the things that it was saying. Verses six and seven were particularly confusing to me:
But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) (Romans 10:6,7).
The confusion ended when I got to the 9th and 10th verses which read, “… if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9,10). After reading this portion of scripture, I felt an indescribable presence come over me. What I didn’t know at the time was that it was the presence of the Holy Ghost. Through that presence, the presence of the Holy Ghost, I had this “knowing.” I knew that I knew that I knew without a doubt that Jesus Christ is Lord, that He’s the Son of God that came to save the world. Simultaneously, it literally looked as though the Words on the page were lifted up off the page. It literally looked like the text that I was reading was three dimensional. Another way of describing it is to say that it literally looked like the Words on the page were on fire. Indeed, the scriptures say that “the Word of God is living and powerful and sharper than any two edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12). The Word of God is alive! It is teeming with life! At the same time I understood the message that I was reading. It was amazing! It was so clear to me! What had happened was that the very presence of God in the person of the Holy Spirit, which at that point in my life had been foreign to me, came upon me to confirm the message that I was reading. This is something that he does for all believers. Jesus said, “…if I be lifted up I will draw all men to me” (John 12:32). Jesus Christ was lifted up and is alive and well today. The Holy Spirit is confirming the gospel, the good news, through signs, wonders, and miracles (Mark 16:20). As I read the scripture, as I realized what was happening to me, I understood that there is a purpose in life through Christ, who loved me and died for me. I started to cry but hid the tears; I didn’t say anything to my grandfather. I was overwhelmed by the situation.
I left that Albertson’s parking lot with my grandfather and went to my grandmother’s house. At that moment, and still shaking actually from the experience in the parking lot, I began to tell them what happened in the parking lot. I confessed Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior in front of my grandparents. My grandmother looked on with disbelief because the child that they had known, who had been a drug addict, who had a shaved head and wore combat boots, who skipped school every day and was the darkest image of the lost, was now professing Christ as his Savior and Lord.
I left my grandparent's house and in the driveway I opened the Bible expecting that something just as radical as what had just happened in the Albertson’s parking lot would occur. My faith was at level ten, assuming that you can put a measurement on faith. God, I believe, gave me a special grace at that moment, as an new believer, as a newborn in Christ, and gave me a scripture. I opened my Bible and the first scripture that my eyes fell upon was II Corinthians 5:17, 18 which says, “…if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;" I left the house rejoicing that day, telling everyone that I was a new person, a new creation in Christ. I went on to tell all of my friends about my relationship with Christ and as a result was rejected by many of them and excluded from their circle of fellowship. It’s just as the scriptures say, “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake” (Luke 21:17). I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. I would gladly trade all the friendships in the world for the salvation that is in Christ Jesus. I told my friends and my family about what had happened. The scriptures say if you are not afraid to confess Jesus before men then He will not afraid to confess you before His Father (Matthew 10:32).
I have made many a mistake along the way. Although I don't walk on water, a drop out drug addict who was told at one point by a coworker "you won't live to see twenty" went on to attended two years of Bible school, complete a Bachelor’s degree through the University of Oklahoma, finish a Master’s degree in counseling at the University of Oklahoma, have a beautiful wife and a beautiful son and daughter, and have peace, just to mention the obvious... Jesus has given me more than I deserve and I must share His impact on my life with others so that they too will tell a similar story because of Christ's impact in their lives.