What was life like before you met Jesus?
Before I met Jesus, I was living life with a very large hole in my heart - like a missing puzzle piece. That emptiness told me that I was not worthy of love, not good enough to be loved, that I had too many secrets to be lovable, and that if anyone truly knew me, they would abandon me. So, my life was filled with my efforts to prove I was good enough to my parents, to my wife, to my kids, to the outside world, or at my job. But I just continued to feel that emptiness inside. I had learned early in life that if I did good things I received praise, so I became the good child and then eventually a perfectionist adult. In this way of living, I was constantly judging myself as not good enough, even when I received praise or friendship. I would dismiss it as they are just being nice, but they really don't like you or want to be around you. While at the same time working very hard to make sure they thought well of me; I was the nice guy. I went to church with my parents and younger brother while growing up, but we never seemed to fit into the church. I learned Bible stories and who Jesus was in those stories, but never was drawn to a relationship with him. I just learned that I am a sinner, God hates sin, therefore God hates me. So, I disconnected from church and just went through the motions of "being the good kid in Sunday school and confirmation" but even confirmation class reinforced that I was not good enough when I got beat up on a retreat. I was done with church, God, and Jesus after that. I had a couple of good friends in high school, but they did not have a relationship with Jesus either, so I didn't have any influence to be drawn to him. As high school progressed, I got a girlfriend, and that infatuation and attention fueled my need for connection. I became the clingy, obsessive boyfriend that craved her attention more and more. It ended up driving us apart in the end. That left me feeling even more empty and worthless. In college, I wanted to fit in, so I lived the indulgent college lifestyle - only doing what felt good at the moment - but, the hole was still there. Also, at a very young age, I was exposed to pornography and that sin became a hidden part of my identity apart from Jesus. So, in addition to not feeling loved, I had the added guilt and shame of my secret life. I met my wife, Pam, in college and we did a very poor job of living a Godly life. Our marriage barely survived the first couple of years. Financial stresses, relationship stresses, trust issues, broken pasts, and my codependency and neediness nearly drove her away. But after we learned we were expecting our first child, we decided to begin attending the local Methodist church. The pastor was young and welcoming to us and I liked the people we met there and made some new friends that at least went to church. Our first child was lost to a miscarriage and since I was not grounded in Jesus and his compassion, I did a very poor job of comforting my wife. However, we did heal, and God blessed us with our first son. Our second came 2 years later, and our daughter 2-1/2 years after. We were able to put on a good show for the public, but at home, things were tough, money was still tight, the stress of raising little kids, and our dysfunctional personal relationship took its toll. I was still convinced I just needed to work harder to fix this - I could do it. But no matter how much more money I made, nothing seemed to change. My wife cried out to Jesus to be her savior before I did, and her sharing this with me did plant a seed but I did not know it at the time. Looking back, it was just as 1 Corinthians 7:14 says: "For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife"
How did you meet Jesus?
It took 5 more years for me to reach the end of myself and realize I needed Jesus as my savior. I was on a business trip to Minneapolis, and I was alone in my hotel room - depressed, hopeless, and hurting. I saw the Bible in the nightstand by the bed. I don't remember what I read, but I do remember crying and asking for Jesus to save me. Matthew 11:28-30 says "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." But I did not experience an earth-shaking encounter, there was nothing. It has taken more than 15 years to get my attention and turn my head toward Home. During that time, I was a part of the Methodist church, serving and participating, but not being driven to have that relationship with Jesus I needed. There were promptings along the way, people would come in and out of our lives that had a fire for Jesus, so that kept the flame lit inside me. I participated in several alter calls during those years looking for that confirmation that I was finally accepted. Over the last 4 years, the fire began to heat up in me - both to call me and to convict me. Our marriage and family went through some very tough times, and I realized I only had Jesus left to reach out to. I committed to prayer, confession, and Bible reading during that time and I finally found the connection I had been longing for so long.
After being saved by Jesus, what is your life like now?
I now have the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guarding my heart and my mind In Christ Jesus - Philippians 4:7. My prayer life has matured to be an ongoing conversation with Jesus - in good times and in difficult times. My wife and I have put Jesus at the center of our marriage, and we just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary with a vow renewal giving glory to God and thanking Jesus for the work he has done for our family and is doing in us. The biggest change for my benefit was to begin attending a Bible-teaching church, I could hear the Word and have it explained to me. When I heard the story of the Ethiopian eunuch, I could so relate to him - Acts 8:30-31 "Do you understand what you are reading? And he said, “”How can I, unless someone guides me?”" My understanding of God and Jesus has changed so much since I have been able to hear scripture read and explained. I have come to know the truth - that sin separates me from God. Jesus came to restore me to God through my belief in him. These two passages sum it up for me John 8:34-36 “Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." And John 6:40 "For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day."