I have applied for a 12-day visit with Iris Ministries in Pemba, Mozambique this winter. They asked that I write a “Personal Christian Testimony” for their verification process. So I adapted a longer version of my “life story” that I had just written for folks in Naked Faith. All of us in Naked Faith will eventually share one, but I was the first to go. Someone commented afterward that these stories might become great artifacts to share with our children when they’re older and wondering, “What was my mom or dad like when…?” Anyway, the shorter version leaves out a lot of details but I think it also allows a more poignant place for asking questions:
Although I remember experiencing God for the first time as a young boy (around 4 yrs old), and later saying some version of the “sinner’s prayer,” it wasn’t until my later adolescence that I began to see God’s love for me personally and follow Jesus.
My liberation came one Friday night when I was 18 yrs old. The beautiful girl I had been infatuated with told me in no uncertain terms that there could be no “us.” So I got drunk at a party and headed into our city’s downtown with some other drunk friends.
From there we foolishly started a fight. The alcohol and anger made us braver than we ought to have been. Before I could even connect a punch, the man had already hit me straight in the face two or three times. I crouched on the pavement waiting for my friends to jump in, but no one did. The next thing I knew, I was driving back to my parent’s house.
My parents were sitting in the family room with some friends having a quiet conversation when I walked in. Blood was caked all around my face—my eyes and nose and mouth swelling up. We just stared at each other. They were speechless. I tried to escape to my room. They followed, but something in me had broken.
I couldn’t believe how depressed I was after that, sometimes feeling too much, other times just feeling numb. It was difficult for me not to fantasize about using drugs or alcohol during this time of detox. Mercifully, I was too far gone socially to face my friends or to anesthetize. I felt betrayed. And I was heartbroken.
Over the next several months my spiritual search began again, though I wasn’t involved with church yet. Mainly, I came to feel purposeful about my life and wanted some help discerning what that meant. My mom was instrumental in the beginning at getting me to accept new spiritual experiences, like going with the entire family to a prophetic conference in Anaheim and then, eventually, registering me for a new student weekend at a Christian college (kind of like a spiritual retreat or youth conference).
The last 14 years or so of my life have been about trying to practice the courage Jesus showed me when I finally came to myself. I’m learning to trust my Father, even as a poor man. I’m learning to love my enemies. Even in a society living on fear and blind to “the things that make for peace.” I’m learning to love my wife and children and to lean on Jesus’ body, believing they are there, even if it seems that no one else is. Nowadays, I can’t even imagine living without the Father and the testimony of the Spirit. I stay awake sometimes dreaming about what He might do in us. And I’m still in love, loving our life together, and following Jesus.