Sunday, February 2, 2014

Encountering God: A Testimony

My mom has told me stories about my birth being just a series of hardships. If you ask her, I was her miracle baby. My delivery nurse didn't show up to the ER and was instead found with a needle in his arm shooting up heroin. None the less I was still delivered, however I was born "dead" according to my mom. She recalls my skin being black and I wasn't breathing. I was in the ICU for quite some time because of this after being revived, I eventually got healthy quickly and was set to live with my parents. 

Not long after my birth I was moving from my home in CO Springs due to an abusive father who was under the influence of narcotics threatening my mom to kill me (at nine months old) and himself in a bathroom. My mom moved me to Tucson AZ to remove me from this environment and start new. At nine years of age with no idea of my past I now had a new brother and father in my life. Everything was great for a nine year old. and then one day, my mom and grandma pulled me away from playing with my brother to let me know that the person I had thought was my dad for as long as I could remember was not my father and that my biological father had died from a drug overdose, and had left two daughters behind as well as me. I remember this being said to me very clearly, and I remember how I felt inside. I couldn't comprehend what had happened, and I felt as if I couldn't feel at all. I couldn't feel sad, angry or distressed for a stranger, so I buried it inside myself, only pondering upon it occasionally.

          A couple years had passed and my mother and step father had divorced. She remarried a man with three daughters when I was eleven, who was always looking out for my brother, my stepsisters, and myself. However I despised him.  I found his flaws out, and I capitalized on them, exposing his imperfection any chance I could to provide myself with evidence for a self-fueled hatred. I also began to challenge him with authority as well as by resorting to purposely breaking the rules for confrontation. He would fight fire with fire so nothing good ever came from these interactions. We both fueled one another to where the behavior carried on for years. I was eventually grounded almost all of the time and didn’t have much of a social life outside of my home and school.

I found escape from my own imprisonment through listening to music. Every chance I had, I would listen to Eminem and just pretend he was my father. He understood the hatred I felt. He could express the turmoil, sorrow, anger, confusion and glimpses of love I felt and long longed for. This role model of mine had never told me to do anything I shouldn’t do, but to be like him I would mimic his speech, and drug abuse. At age fourteen, I was buying marijuana and if you asked me why, I wouldn’t have been able to give you a direct answer. I had hidden a small amount of it in my room, and sure enough my parents found it. This resulted in me being grounded from almost everything. My mom had removed everything from my room except my bed, and a bible. I had flipped through one before in church services I couldn’t wait to be over with, and I started to in my room out of boredom. My mom had also removed my music selection of secular Hip Hop. She had stumbled on Lecrae’s music and I enjoyed it. He has a song “Souled Out”. One of the final lyrics to song mentions “Romans 10:9 is all you have to do” I wasn’t familiar with the verse so I looked it up. When I read the verse “If you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe it in your heart you will be saved” I wanted to try it. I snuck out of my window and went for a walk that night and I remember walking along the street outside of my neighborhood. I stopped and looked up to the sky and said “Jesus is Lord”. Almost instantly, I felt something I never had before. The hair on the back of my neck rose and I felt a change in the atmosphere around me. It was a consuming feeling of peace, however I was frightened so I ran home. A few days later, I began to want to interact with this feeling I felt that night more. I took a walk down that same street one day and began to pray over things I had done that I wanted forgiveness for. I remember when I said Amen, at my feet was a card about the size of an ID. It had a picture of Jesus holding a wounded man in street clothes holding a hammer that drove the nails into Christ’s hands. On the back of the card it said FORGIVENESS with the verse 2 Corinthians 5:17. I was intrigued so I kept the card and went about my day.

 I began to try and make disciples at school but I wasn’t grounded in a family of believers, I didn’t have a church, and I didn’t seek God as often as I should have for guidance during my high school years so I was tempted back to old habits less than a year after my Christian journey started. I began to listen to Eminem again, have sex with girls, became addicted to porn, and started to use cocaine at my job as well as smoke. I felt ashamed of this lifestyle I had now, but it felt unstoppable. Since my friends were enjoying it too, I felt I had given it too much thought and continued on. I eventually began to seek help but this time from a Mormon church where sin wasn’t really dealt with, it was more swept under the rug and we pretended like everything was perfect. I married someone in this Church after six months of knowing her, enlisted in the Air Force, and when I had enough of running from insecurity, hurt and self-help religious practices, I was able to leave the military honorably seven months after being enlisted due to stress and pressure. I immediately began using drugs again and trying new ones, desperately searching for an outlet from the torment I caused myself. My sister in law had told me my wife was cheating on me as well as sending naked pictures of herself to multiple people when I was in the military so I left her. My life began to look worse and worse. I moved in with a friend and hid myself from my wrongdoings instead of dealing with them.

 I then met a girl who I connected well with. I began to go to her work with her and help her do her job on a paper route late at night. We began to smoke together and party together, and soon after started dating. I moved in with her and within 5 months she got pregnant. I was having trouble keeping a job and being able to support myself, her and a soon to arrive baby.  I began to apply in tech jobs and finally found a job I could manage to maintain. During this time, we both morally agreed that the drugs had to stop. We both quit our habits however we still smoked. We eventually got married and still something didn’t feel quite right. I was still feeling like something was missing in my life and my family’s life. I was going into my job one night and I decided to pray in the parking lot of my work. Just for forgiveness like I had done close to six years prior. After praying, I noticed a phone booth on the outside of the building. I saw something on top of it though. As I walked closer to it, I started to realize what it was in disbelief. It was the same card that I had found when I prayed the first time! Amazed, I went home and showed my wife. We immediately sought out a church. We began our journey as Christians dealing with worldly patterns we hadn’t been able to sever ties with.   We were able to quit smoking and drinking within a month, which we were struggling with for almost a year up to that point. We saw sudden changes in us through God’s empowering grace that we never imagined possible. I had trouble with telling lies to my wife, some small and some big ones. I remember making a leap of faith by confessing the truth about these lies to her, and she made a profound response to me and our marriage by forgiving me. We began to grow stronger together as a couple, and our relationship with God was becoming incredible.

Things began to happen to us that we couldn’t begin to explain. We were both attending small groups through our church, and the topic of fire baptism came up one night. I mentioned I had never seen it happen before, let alone have it happen to me. The group of friends who surrounded me began to lay hands on me and I was overtaken by a feeling of sudden warmth and a pleasant tingling sensation. I could feel this warmth all around myself and I began to giggle uncontrollably, I was a little concerned as to what was happening to me, but I was just filled with an incredible joy that every part of me felt weightless and delighted. I remember the group leader saying “He’s being gentle with you” and I remember trying to respond to him but I felt like my tongue wouldn’t say what I wanted to say, it wanted to speak something completely different. This experience with the Holy Spirit lasted about five minutes. After this finished we sat around for a little bit more until it was time to go home.

During this time in my life, my wife and I had been financially struggling especially with two children in my twenties. We started looking for a house to rent, and after about a month of searching we came across a place on Dove of Peace drive. My job had been cutting hours at the time but we prayed if the house would work out for us. When God had let his peace dominate our decision to get the house, we did. Moving into the home was a venture into the unknown for us, and we financially were barely able to pull it off. Even on the months we felt like we had nowhere to turn, financial support would seem to appear out of nowhere from various friends, or opportunities. We have been blessed more time than we could count at this point and were just filled with praise for God.

I began to wonder about my future. I didn’t have a career planned, I didn’t have any college, and my GPA from high school barely granted me a diploma. I was very pessimistic about what I would do and become. One night my wife woke me up in the middle of the night and told me about a vivid dream she had, she told me that God had shown her a plan for her future in an incredibly abstract way (check out her testimony). A few days later I had a similar dream experience. I was dreaming I was sleeping in my bed. I remember in my dream being inside a house exploring it. I had a feeling of curiosity and anxiety to begin with.  When I got to the bedroom of the house it was dark and there was a figure by the bed that was dressed in a white gown that illuminated in "false light" I remember the eyes being completely white, and black on the face around the eyes as a raccoon would. I was paralyzed in my dream and I began to shake. I was becoming conscious at this point but still much more in a dream state. The thought to call on Jesus by default crossed my mind which I have never had to do in a fearful situation before. I'm my dream I specifically said Jesus help, Jesus deliver me from evil maybe 2-3 times. Still in a dream state but starting to wake up, a man of white hot flames around the legs and a face engulfed in a blinding light was visible as clouds parted to expose him. Immediately my paralysis stopped and the dark figure wasn’t around anymore.  I have never felt so peaceful. In this moment I realized that nothing I had apart from relationships with people matter. I’ve known that before but I felt it this morning. The peace of God. After I awoke from seeing Jesus, my wife and I exchanged dreams. In the midst of talking we both had our attention drawn to a clock on our wall that we never really paid much attention to. On the clock the words “pastoral dwelling” stuck out to me. I felt the same warmth I had felt from my fire baptism and I knew what my purpose was because God had given it to me. My wife Sarah and I soon after receiving our calling, enrolled at GCU. I was a bit skeptical that I would get accepted because of my High school GPA, but we both were accepted. Yet another miracle God had worked in our lives.

The thing about God is, he is a loving father, not a distant god. He is readily available to anyone who desires to know him. My experiences are not something exclusive to me. This can happen to anyone and everyone. He will equip you with a life that you never dreamed possible. I know this because he did for me, and he did this for my wife as well. I am tangible proof that God is real and alive! And you are too!
God Bless 

1 comment:

  1. This is such a powerful message Storm. I had never heard your testimony before! I love seeing such amazing things that God has done, and amazing people that he has chosen to follow him. You have a bright future ahead of you and in your hands. I can't wait to see how He blesses you and your family further.