I’ve heard many stories of people who have had a radical encounter with Christ that drastically changed their lives. Christ saves from the depths of hell to seat us with Him in Heavenly places. Hell, however, looks different to some than others. It seems that the most compelling testimonies tend to be of how God saves from drugs, alcohol, and prostitution. He takes broken lives and restores them; He makes them whole. My story seems to be the opposite. This is the story of how God wrecked my life.
If you bypass the middle-school years, when everyone is plagued by awkwardness, my life was successful. I was a very gifted kid. I had straight A’s in High School, even through my Dual Credit courses, and I was (and still am) 6’10”. Yes, I played basketball. In fact, I began to be recruited by various Division 1 colleges for basketball beginning in my Sophomore year of High School. Thanks to my parents, I was a morally sound kid. And, I had my ticket to Heaven already.
I had one dream in life: family. The dream of having a stable family in a loving, secure home drove my life. I wouldn’t do drugs or drink alcohol because I had seen how those addictions could ruin families. I was determined to remain a virgin because I wanted my wife to be my first. I was an excellent student because I knew I needed to be successful in order to provide for a family well. I was a respectful person, because I wanted a family that would be loved and cared for by the people around them. All I wanted was the American Dream. I didn’t have to be rich; I just had to have love in my life. It was a noble dream.
I graduated High School in 2010 and went to Central Connecticut State University on a full-ride scholarship for basketball. Because I was very gifted in math, engineering was the route that I had pegged for myself since I was young, but I didn’t know what kind of engineering I should do. So, I googled “what kind of engineering makes the most money.” Mechanical it was! I wouldn’t say that greed was my motivation, but rather security. I was well-aware of the tendency for people to become consumed by money, and I was guarded against it. But why not be more secure than less?
At the end of my first year of college, I had a 3.93 GPA. Oh, also, I had the Pell Grant, which means that I was actually getting paid about $2,000 a semester to go to school. To top it all off, there was a beautiful, nice girl up in Connecticut who I could tell was interested in me. Everything was bliss. I would graduate college with thousands of dollars already in the bank, a starting salary of around $60,000, and even if not this girl, I was sure that I could find a good wife. My life was on cruise-control.
What I didn’t mention yet, something that was also taking place through my first year of college, is that I began reading Scripture. It wasn’t because I wanted to learn anything, or actually come to know God in a real way. It was simply because, having been raised Protestant, I wanted to argue my doctrine against Catholics up in the Northeast. A desire to prove myself right, accompanied by free time (while my teammates were partying) lead me to slowly read through the New Testament.
On the first day of my second year of college, I read the book of James. More importantly, I met Christ. People often aren’t satisfied when I tell them that I read James, but don’t tell them what information in James really hit me. But the fact is that it wasn’t information. Something spiritual happened in my room that day that bypassed my mind. I met Christ, and I was immediately overwhelmed and in awe. I had no words, simply adoration. There were no clear thoughts, simply desire. I met Jesus and nothing else in my life mattered anymore.
You see, I didn’t hit rock bottom that day. My day was normal; a successful start to a new school year. I didn’t meet anyone who told me I needed to seek Christ in my life. There was no conscious decision to make a change. I was still on cruise control, driving towards the American Dream. Then in a moment, It was as if I saw in the rear view mirror a glimpse of Christ. I couldn’t take the time to slow down or find a convenient U-turn, so I jumped out of the car entirely and began running the other direction.
Why would I chase after a family? I can have Christ. Why security? He’s the only one who truly offers security anyway. Why grades? I want to know Him deeply through prayer and Scripture. Why be a people pleaser? I seek the approval of God.
I can’t tell you the excitement that gripped me for weeks. I couldn’t focus in class. Engineering was dull compared to the Kingdom of God. I invited my closest friends from college to join me in turning to God, but they turned me down. I stood up after my classes, wrote my number on the whiteboard, and pleaded with people to talk with me about Jesus. He began to drive my life. I didn’t know where He would take me, and I didn’t care. He was worth any cost.
I deleted most of my Itunes library (5,000 songs) because they distracted me from Him. I stopped reading Middle Earth literature (I had read the whole lore more than once), not because it was bad, but because I’d rather spend my time seeking Him. I had a conversation with that girl and explained that I couldn’t consider a relationship with someone whose life wasn’t centered on Christ, because I knew that such a relationship would take my focus off of Him.
To walk you through the last seven years of my life would be far more than I should write here, but it’s been wonderfully disastrous. I’m 26 years old and I’m single, broke, and living in a basement at the Bible School where I work. I have no plan for how I might ever buy a house, provide for a family, make it through an emergency, or survive once I can’t work for money. I “wasted” my potential with both basketball and engineering to spend my time with kids in a broken world, and share Christ with any who are willing to seek Him. I don’t know my future plans, but I hope they land me in China, Syria, or wherever my life can best be poured out for Christ to prove to the world around me that whatever the cost may be, He is worth it.
Photo by Jake Weirick on Unsplash