Most people that know me, KNOW me. I’m not shy about sharing my past and who I’ve been. Although, it’s hard to squeeze 36 years into a few casual conversations. So, for the first time I’m going to attempt to come clean for any and all who may care. We all have stories… this one’s mine.
My life began and there was confusion… immediately. To this very day I have no idea who my real father is/was or how many siblings I have/had. The story is ever-changing. But once upon a time, there was me…
I was born in Mtn. View, Missouri to a mother who had intended to have a daughter. Strike one.Five months later my older brother died tragically in a house fire began by lightning. Immediately I became the second rate replacement child, Strike two. I spent most of my young life being raised my my grandparents and my aunt and uncle because my mom couldn’t cope. At age eight, the sister I was supposed to be was born. My services were no longer required. Strike three. I’m out!
Though my childhood was far from ideal, the Lord graciously equipped me to be a loner… and I was. My dad (not birth father) was a truck driver and would be gone for a week or more at a time. During that time, I could walk to my friend’s house a mile and a half away and stay there for a couple of days without ever really being noticed. Although from time to time I would be almost indifferently asked, “Where were you?”
Somehow during this time, I managed to attend church almost every week. Sometimes it was the Assemblies of God church that my aunt and uncle attended (or that he preached at for a time), but most often it was the little white Southern Baptist church near the train tracks. In either case, I genuinely enjoyed it.
By age thirteen I found myself convicted under the preaching of the first Reformed pastor I ever know, Brother Larry. In true Baptist fashion I walked the aisle after feeling my knees kicked-out from under me and knelt at the alter. Immediately I felt the loving arm of my grandma around my shoulder, holding me, praying, and crying. It was all very surreal.
Not long afterward we made the convoy-like trip down to the stream for me to be baptized. The event began with a potluck and one of my clearest memories thereafter was sitting in the backseat of my friend’s parents’ car and reading wrestling magazines on the way to our destination. All said it was a pretty good day.
Two years later my parents, or most likely, my mother had a falling-out with one of the families in the church and we moved to the Christian church down the road. While there I was an active member of the youth group, but like the rest of them I was a teenager attempting to find myself. I cannot even begin to guess how many teen conferences and such would end with members of the youth group confessing who they had sex with just before the event. On a really interesting day it was with someone else in the group! And thus were the ’90s…
During this time, I attended church more as a social gathering than as a place for worship and spiritual growth. Though most of the blame fell firmly on me, I can’t help but think that church is due a bit. Our existence was consumed with teen conferences, lock-ins, concerts, canoeing, camping, and everything but the discipleship we all needed.
Eventually I began doing the things I was best at. Beating people up. Petty crimes. Attempting to charm pretty girls to think I was way cooler than I was. This was my life six days a week and church happened on the the other one. Even when my name would show-up in the newspaper, no one ever said a word. Of course, nothing was ever said about the “hanky-panky” in the church van or on youth trips either… We were all relatively left to our own devices.
At age 18 I was kicked-out of the youth group and essentially kicked-out of the house. The day after I graduated, I found a job at a local grocery store and an apartment complex with a manager that didn’t do background or credit checks… thankfully. I lived in an apartment with two other guys and a cousin that never went home. We survived on a strict diet of professional wrestling, late-night adventures, and primarily stolen groceries. Oh, the times…
Amongst our favorite activities were polluting the Mormon (LDS) missionaries that lives adjacent to us. At final count we got six of them in enough trouble that they were sent home.
It was also at this time that I began convincing myself that my destiny was to be a pro wrestler myself. I was 6’3″, 215lbs, and had a 335lbs bench press. By all accounts I was impressive as a grocery clerk… not so much as a wrestler.
It was here also that I met my friend’s sister… and was annoyed to do so. Years later, we’re quite happily married. But when we met we were both seeing other people and were very, very messed-up. She was a very attractive drunk and I was a very unpleasant (and very violent) jerk. Almost twenty years later she’s very attractive and sober, and I’m still an unpleasant jerk, albeit less violent.
We were married in and attended the same aforementioned Christian church until 2008. It was around this time that the Lord began to open our eyes to some things that we could no longer ignore. False teachings had began to creep-in and eventually it simply came time to leave.
I had continued to do battle with myself for the first several years of our marriage in a losing cause. Every time I would think I had finally changed, I proved myself wrong. Fortunately, the Lord blessed me with a wife who didn’t give-up on me, although she had every reason to. She carried the burden of our marriage for both of us when the easy thing would have been to just give me the finger and send me packing. I’ve always been very, very good at hurting people, and sadly I know I hurt my wife far more than I’ll ever know during the early years of our marriage.
Then came the night… In early 2011 while sitting at my drawing table late one night, the Lord drove me to my knees and quite literally crushed my spirit. Over the span of a few hours, what seemed to be every horrible, thoughtless, vile thing I had ever done came back to visit me. It was as though I could feel the pain of what I’d caused so many others, but most of all my wife and children. I stayed curled into a ball on that cold floor, sobbing uncontrollably until nearly 5am. I had believed all along that even though I did some bad things, I was still a good guy. That night I learned that I was the dregs of humanity!
Then, at once it all stopped… A calm fell over me and I felt peace for the first time in my life. All I wanted to do was to wake-up my family and hug them, but I didn’t. I vividly remember just saying “Thank you.” and passing-out from exhaustion.
After years of living a lie, I awoke feeling like I’d been given a second chance. Shortly afterward the Lord made clear that even though it was impossible, He wanted me to go to seminary. My wife and I sat in amazement of the reality of the acceptance letter that should have never came…
In January of 2012, with no place to live, no money, and no sensible plans to speak of, our family set-out on faith and made the move to Kansas City and to Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Shortly before we arrived I received a call saying that our apartment was ready and just that quick we went from being homeless to… home.
God has clearly had his hand in this entire adventure as time and time again we have been taken care of when situations appeared bleak. Above all else, the Lord has shown Himself through taking a marriage that should rightly have been long-over to creating a marriage that that is rock solid!
Today I have a wonderful home, with amazing kids, and a wife who means more to me than I can even begin to articulate, great friends, a terrific church, and a bright future in the ministry. All that I lack is the guilt and self-loathing that was taken from me that night on the floor in my drawing room. God is so good… and so very patient.
As the Doctor says, “We’re all stories in the end. Just make it a good one, eh?” This is my story and it’s only begun. What’s yours?