A Troubled Teen Transformed
My parents divorced when I was very young, and I grew up without a father. My mother worked to support my sister and me, so she couldn’t always keep an eye on what we were doing.
At a very early age—ten years old—I began smoking cigarettes, which I stole from my mother’s boyfriend. At first it was just a cigarette here and there, but eventually I was smoking a pack a day. The next year, I started smoking marijuana and dabbling in a lot of other things. The year after that, I began standing outside liquor stores and asking guys who were going in to buy beer for me and my friends. I was headed down the wrong road, and quickly becoming an ornery kid—that one who mothers warn their kids not to hang out with.
By the age of thirteen, I was pretty mixed up, but that year an event took place that would have a positive impact on my life: my mother got saved and started attending the Apostolic Faith Church in Denver, Colorado.
About that same time, I went to a Christian rock concert at a church and met a guy who told me, “Your heart is like a shoe.” He explained that we can stuff all kinds of things into our shoes, but the only things that will make them “happy” are feet. Then he said our hearts are similar in that only one thing can satisfy the hole in them, and that is Jesus. This made sense to me, so when he said, “Let’s go pray,” I went.
For the next two-and-a-half years, I tried to serve God in my own strength, and did not succeed in any way.
That night I prayed to accept Jesus, and really wanted to serve God, but I experienced no change in my heart. For the next two-and-a-half years, I tried to serve God in my own strength, and did not succeed in any way. I faithfully attended the church where I had prayed, going to the Friday and Saturday night worship concerts as well as the Sunday morning services. I was there doing my part and telling people about God, and I thought I was a Christian, but something didn’t feel right. After the services, my friends and I would go outside and talk about how great it was to be in church. Then we would light up our cigarettes and stand around smoking and cussing.
I was also smoking a lot of pot during this time. It was the first thing I did in the morning, and every night before bed, I would scrape out my pipe from the uses of the day so I could get high one more time. Meanwhile, I was supporting my habit by stealing from my mother and grandmother.
One day my mom said something that hit me like a ton of bricks. She said, “I don’t know how you can think you are a Christian when you do such bad things.” I became angry at her for questioning my Christianity, and decided that if her church and my church couldn’t agree on what it meant to be a Christian, then I didn’t want any part of either of them. After that, my behavior spiraled out of control.
Three months later, I had another run-in with my mom. I had started driving and she was concerned that I would drive under the influence, so she asked a very pointed question: “Have you been smoking marijuana?” I had a pipe in my jacket pocket at the time, yet I immediately reacted with indignation, and became bitterly angry, wondering how she had the audacity to question my integrity.
God used these two incidents to speak to my heart and bring heavy conviction down on me. He dealt with me over how I could lie so convincingly and with such feeling, as if I believed the lie. Through this, I realized that my life was at a fork in the road, and if went any further down the path I was on, I could be eternally lost.
A day or two later, I was cleaning my room and came across a cassette tape of an album by a Christian group. I put the tape in the cassette player and went out to the living room to sit down and listen to it. The song that played was about a girl who had walked away from God and the hard times she went through before finally surrendering and getting her heart right with Him again.
God heard my prayer and met me. He came down and as fast as the snap of a finger made a change in my heart, turning my life around.
While sitting in my mom’s chair, I prayed out loud, “God, why me?” Wrapped up in those words were many thoughts such as, “I’m just sixteen and I’ve already made a mess of my life,” “I’m sorry,” and “I’m done with this.” God heard my prayer and met me. He came down and as fast as the snap of a finger made a change in my heart, turning my life around.
I didn’t realize the full impact of the change until the next day. I was driving my mom somewhere and made a confession to her. I said, “Mom, you asked me a question the other day and I lied to you.” The pot pipe was still in my jacket pocket, so I took it out and began to dismantle it right then while driving. I said, “I was smoking pot before, but now I have surrendered my life to God.” I started throwing the pipe out the window, piece by piece, and my mom’s jaw dropped. Confessing to her was very difficult, so this was evidence that something inside my heart really had changed.
About a week later, some friends came over to the house to hang out. When they arrived, one of them handed me a cigarette. Without thinking, I lit it and took a puff. I had smoked for six years and tried to quit many times without success, and anyone who smokes knows that feeling of needing to have one. There was nothing to it, though. I just thought, This is gross! Then I realized it had been a week since I had smoked a cigarette or even thought about it. The desire for cigarettes was completely gone.
It has been twenty-eight years since God made that miraculous change in my life. Since then He has blessed me in many ways. He has given me a beautiful family—a wife and two daughters—and has been faithful to see us through every difficult situation in life.
In the past when I would think about the friends I hung out with before being saved, I would wonder how I was so fortunate that God chose me. After all, I was no different than any of my friends. Now I know that God chooses everyone. The ground at the Cross is level. God is continually calling after every person. My life is blessed solely because I turned it over to God. Everything good in it is because of His blessing. God is not any different today than He was in 1988; what He did for me, He will do for anyone who answers His call and surrenders.