He was raised in a small California town where things could have been ideal but never were. He was raised by a mother who did the best she could but was married to an alcoholic, and he saw the way booze sought to destroy.
One day, he’d try to shoot this man his mother had married.
He was sexually abused by family friends while still in elementary school, a vile circumstance that bore a hole in his heart and birthed a darkness he carried for years afterwards.
Growing up, he did all the wrong things. He and his buddy, Jimmy, were best friends, connected through quiet pain and the never-ending search to silence something that never spoke out loud. Drinking, smoking weed, coke, meth, chasing girls…one thing after another like little bricks stacked inside a swaying tower. One time, he met a good girl, the preacher’s daughter. He went to her home and there was her father, the preacher, sitting on his chair in the den, smoking his cigar and drinking his whiskey. His mouth was foul. It told him all he needed to know about Christians.
If the good wasn’t so good then might as well be bad and not lie about it. At the very least, he had fun.
He was poor and didn’t have the money to do the things he shouldn’t have done, so he and Jimmy started to sell weed. Things progressed as they often do and soon he was selling coke by eighteen. He sold a lot of it but used a lot and got hooked. He robbed his mother to feed his habit. He saw a lot of things during that time that he won’t talk about. “There was no good out of it,” he says.
At this time, he was involved with Leah. He thought they were going to be married but then she got pregnant. She changed. Everything he did was wrong. He was all wrong. They had a baby girl, but things didn’t last between them.
He ended up going to prison for four years, almost as if trying to prove Leah right. He could have gotten out in two but did three and a half because he didn’t appreciate their programming. When he got out, he started coke again but turned himself in. He went to prison a second time, this time for six months. He did a year clean, a word that would look better in quotation marks. As his parole officer loosened the reigns, he started back up again.
He was working in the oil fields for most of that time. This go-round, meth was his drug of choice, and he started selling again. He was married to April, a wonderful woman that he still misses and who didn’t do a thing wrong in their relationship. But he walked away from her, and maybe that’s why he misses her so much.
It was two years before he got busted again, a sentence of twenty-five to life staring back at him through the barrel. He beat his case with a lie. He wonders now how he can contribute this to God. How God could ever redeem a situation when the dark parts were only beginning to unfold.
He had to do a year in county, and the day he got out, he started doing meth again. By this time, he had possibly fathered two children in California, but the one woman, the one after April, disappeared and her mom wouldn’t tell him where she went. He’s not really sure if it’s his or not.
He has nine children all together. That one would make ten.
He stayed in town for six months after beating his sentence and decided death or prison were no longer viable options. He decided to move out to Arkansas where his grandmother lived. Fresh start and all that.
He told Jimmy. The plan was to get on his feet, get a place, and then send for his best friend. So he did it. He moved out to a world wholly unlike California and found a place to stay. He called his mom, told her to go get Jimmy. She asked her son if he was sitting down. And then he knew.
Jimmy had passed.
The pain back-talked at him so he took the last gifts Jimmy had given him: some meth and an ounce of weed.
He stayed with his grandmother for a week then moved in with his cousin, Melinda, and her husband, Dan. They were Christians. They wanted him to go to church with them on Sundays. He refused to go and used the time to staunch his pain with the drugs his dead best friend had given him. There was a dichotomy here: his cousin went to church but then she smoked weed and cussed. It was the foul-mouthed preacher all over again.
Eventually the drugs dwindled and the boredom set in. So one Sunday, he went to church. It wasn’t until Brother Eric spoke that he felt compelled to give his life to Christ. He was twenty-five-years-old at that point.
He started serving. He participated in “Church in a Day,” and he went and built a brand new church a few towns away where the old ladies fed his hungry belly Southern delicacies.
He met a girl. Her name was May, but she was still in the world and not a slave to Christ. He married her anyways.
As quickly as he followed Jesus, he stopped walking. He made a detour to follow May instead and started doing meth and coke again. He even started drinking, something he vowed never to do so he’d never be like the man his mother married. The man he almost killed.
They were married for five years. They had one child together.
After May, he had a one night stand with a woman who claimed to be on the pill but wasn’t. Her name was Karen. They end up having a set of twins together. He named the boy after Jimmy.
He was doing electrical work at this point. Things were okay. But then he met one of the neighbors, Doug. He had been drinking and smoking weed, having kicked the harder stuff. But Doug did meth.
He started doing it again, quit working, and started selling it. Doug’s friends taught him how to make it, too.
He realized it was worse than California. In California, it was one big party. In Arkansas, he knew what darkness felt like.
He even lit an apartment on fire, making meth with another guy. A twelve-year-old neighbor claimed it was his fault, that he left a pan on the stove. Everyone knew the real reason, except the cops.
Things fizzled out with Karen, which didn’t surprise him. He never loved her anyways.
His buddy, Mike, invited him to stay with him. And that’s where he met Tina.
Tina had two kids that he now claims his own. But it wasn’t a picture-perfect family. He did drugs with Tina. She came and stayed with him off and on at Mike’s place. They did meth together and eventually moved in with another friend, Terry.
He tried working again. Terry had a moving company.
He worked hard. He trained up guys. He was shown gratitude in the form of a pay cut. He went to work for another guy, another moving company that did him the same way. He decided to start his own moving company.
He ended up having his business for twelve years. He and Tina quit doing meth. They got focused. They made money. They had two kids together. They lived in a nice house. They bought four cars. Things were relatively better, except for Tina cheating on him.
But it was par for the course and the course was exceptionally greener nowadays. He took all the jobs, even the small ones and built the business up to support five crews. Most importantly, his kids didn’t want for anything.
And then he lost everything.
It started with the pills. One of the guys who worked for him offered him a “hydrocodone without any aspirin in it” one day when his shoulder was hurting again. He felt great and was able to work pain-free the rest of the day. The next afternoon, his shoulder was hurting again, and the guy offered him another pill. He opted to buy a few, and when Tina started to complain about her shoulders, having thrown around cases of soda at the Murphy’s gas station she managed, he offered her one of his newly purchased pills.
They spent a rare weekend off together, both of them sick. Summer flu, he thought. But then another weekend rolled around and they were sick again. At this point, he’d spent thousands of dollars. He was in withdrawal and knew the only way to get off the pills was three days of pure torment. He decided they needed to start doing meth again to numb themselves from the pain of detox.
During this time, he got arrested for not paying child support and stopped taking on moving jobs. He was on and off again with Tina, splitting time between their relationship and getting arrested for various reasons. He got a tooth abscess, and the doctor put a trach in. He started coughing up blood. They had to split his chest open to get to the artery to stop the bleeding. Everything went black and then everything lit up again. The earth under his feet was rolling and pitch black. There were streams of lava all around him. He realized he was dead and in hell. He begged God not to leave him, to let him get back to his kids. As soon as he called out to God, the demons came, and he tried to fight them off. Everything went black again, and when he opened his eyes, he was back in the hospital room, his soon to be ex-wife standing over him.
It didn’t change much. He ended up living with his buddy, Billy, after leaving Tina. Everyone did drugs there, himself included now. He started selling again and firmly planted his feet on the path of self-destruction. He told Billy, “I’m standing here, looking at the abyss, and I just want to fall in.” And Billy would say, “Let’s just do some more dope.” The “so you forget about that” was implied.
One of the guys he sold to was working with the cops. He got put in jail and had drugs sent to him in the paperwork the cops gave him. The paperwork was fake unbeknownst to them but the high was real. For the first three months, he got high all the time.
They ended up sending him down to a rehab program in a Texarkana prison. The volunteers came in sometimes to share the word of God. He never went. After dinner, they made the church call, but still he wouldn’t go. Until one day, he decided to.
He went to one of the volunteers, Emmitt, the Jehovah’s Witness. They had a lot of discussions about Emmitt’s beliefs, about what the Bible said. He was always the last one to leave, and one night he was sitting alone in one of the pews. He looked at the picture of Jesus on the wall, and said, “Okay, now we can talk.” He gave His life back to Christ.
He ended up working for the chaplain. The other prisoners came in sometimes, and he saw it on their faces – the way he used to feel on the inside. He talked to each one, told them where he was in his walk with Christ, where he had come from. Some of the guys started going to church, looking for Jesus.
One of his prayers was that he would find a place to stay after his parole date. He prayed and prayed and soon, it was two months after that date. He wanted to stay at the New Life Recovery House, a halfway house that was near his kids. He put in application after application. He had his mom call them but no answer.
God firmly shut the door on that option. But then he thought of Mary.
Mary owned the sister company to the moving company he used to own before he lost it. He was close to her husband, another Emmitt, before he passed. So close that they would loan him money to pay his guys between jobs. The last time he saw Mary was during the dark place when the pills had a hold of him. He had called Mary and Emmitt up to borrow a substantial amount of money, this time to get high, not pay his guys. He never paid her back.
That was four years ago. What if she didn’t pick up?
His mom called Mary. She said she’d help.
Two weeks later he left the rehab program at the prison.
He looked at it from all angles: he had prayed to God and God gave him a house, a room he didn’t have to share with anyone else, no ankle monitor to wear, access to a vehicle. He had a job because Mary hired him on as one of her movers, and he was even closer to his two youngest than he would have been at the New Life Recovery House. And across the street? A church. He started going every Sunday.
He was grateful beyond measure.
He looks back sometimes, on everyone and everything that played a part: the guy his mother was married to and his drunken heart; the pastor with his glass of whiskey; his best friend, Jimmy, and the destructive blood running in both their veins; April who a part of him still loves and Karen who he never truly loved in the first place; how he got out of California on a lie and what it’s like to go from rags to the riches he traded for pills. His children who he loves immensely and the God he loves the most.
He thinks about all of it, not shutting the door on any of it but quietly wearing it all like the young boy he used to be.
The above is the testimony of a friend of mine that he asked me to write. He wanted to share it but would like to remain anonymous. Our prayer is that it gives others hope that God will redeem even when we turn our backs on him. There’s no such thing as a perfect Christian, but there definitely is a perfect God who is always available to hold our repentant hearts.