Why am I here? That’s a great question. I’ve been thinking for the past few days how exactly I want to “break the ice” with this new venture, “20/20 Faith”. I think the best approach would be to start from the beginning. I’ve struggled with the idea of God for many years up until the last couple of years.
Growing up I didn’t go to Church all the time. My older sister Barbara would take me to Sunday School from time to time when she would go to church but at such a young age, 4-5 years old, I think, but it didn’t mean anything to me except a chance to play with other kids. I knew of God through my parents that believed in Him but never went into depth about who He is, beyond His son came to earth, Died on a cross and that blood washed my sins away provided I believe in Him. I went to Church and a local Southern Baptist Church in El Paso, TX for little periods of time during things like VBS (Vacation Bible School). During that time I chose to get Baptized. I was 9 years old. Looking back I didn’t really know what it meant to get baptized, though it was explained to me. Nonetheless, I went through with it. I continued to go to Church but never really felt “connected”.
GROWING UP BAPTIST
I continued for a few months after being baptized and I even went to Church Camp one time. I remember this being kinda traumatic for me. Southern Baptist (or at least the ones I was around) all seemed to be stuck on yelling at you, hell, fire, brimstone and you’re going to hell if you don’t repent! Yes. While I know repenting is a huge part of our way to God, it seemed as though I could never be good enough. For instance… I was at camp and was listening to a sermon on bad, sinful things that would lead to hell like drinking and smoking cigarettes. Well, me being a little kid just hearing all this it scared the hell out of me, so to speak because both of my parents and many people in my family smoked. After the sermon, I went up to one of the Peachers and asked if this meant my parents were going to hell? I instantly regretted asking as the yelling began. This, needless to say, did not bring me closer to God. At this point, I quit going to Church.
Now, I didn’t grow up in the public school system, I was Homeschooled and my mother joined a Christian Homeschool group where we had group activities with other Homeschool kids. Many of the other Homeschooled kids, not all of them but several, came off “lame” to me. They were attending Church all the time and their parents sheltered them from things my parents didn’t with me like certain secular music and movies. My mom at times would try and start sheltering me but of course, I wasn’t having that and thus started my rebellion to which she saw I wasn’t having it and would let up and let me do as I wanted.
THE WRONG CROWD
Fast forward to around the age of 15, I started hanging out with “a bad crowd” I was heavily into “the Gothic scene” and black was the only color in my wardrobe. I started drinking and smoking. Then I pushed it further. Due to the influence of the kids, I was hanging around I started my journey away from God. We began doing things like trying to burn Bibles, urinating on Churches, openly and publicly cursing God and anyone we saw on Sundays standing outside of Churches around our area of Town. We wanted to be feared and to run as close to the Devil as we could. In our minds Satan was cool. I began cutting my arms, attempting suicide and headed down the path of major destruction. Well wouldn’t you know, I ended up in trouble with the Law and shortly before I turned 17. By the time all that passed and after seeing the effect it had on my parents and my life I settled down, got away from the group I was hanging around and chose to get a handle on myself, so to speak.
Then I met my next “bad influence”. For the sake of privacy, I won’t name names but will refer to him as “The Witch”. Now the Witch seemed to be a “Good Guy”, my parents liked him and I thought he was cool as hell. He told me about him being a practicing Wiccan/ Pagan and this got my attention. He started teaching me about “magic” and telling me that the religion taught about peace and that there was no Devil, no need to repent and it all came down to Karma. I really liked the sound of all this. I was all ears and all in! At this time I wanted nothing to do with God. Nevermind that while I was in trouble with the law and sitting in Juvenile Detention (jail for kids). I was praying daily and read several books of the Bible. I “faithed it till I made it then forgot it”. Since now, I was on a blazing path to the Wiccan Religion, I wanted nothing to do with “The Christian God”. To the point, I asked “The Witch” to help me with a ritual to banish Him from my life. FYI, there’s no such thing and it doesn’t work. Being so excited about my new choice of religion he even helped get my parents on board with me practicing. Boy was this a mistake!
I delved as deep as I could. I was intrigued at the thought of “Black magic” and studied as much as I could. Key point: Let it be known that this NOT what the Wiccan/Pagan religions teach but rather where I took it and was my own abuse of knowledge. Even though “magic” as I was told had no color and it was how it was used that determined good or bad(Black or white), I was drawn to the dark side. I on how to try and call forth demons, and many other negative practices. My life was heading down the wrong path again.
After about 2 years “The Witch” and I had a falling out and I slowly drifted away from that religion. The excitement had worn off. I became more… Agnostic, if you will. I didn’t try to talk to God or anything else. I just was. I was a lost soul wandering the earth and didn’t care. I got married at 20 (huge mistake) and divorced by 23. During that marriage though, something miraculous happened. Much of that marriage I lived in Alabama but a year before the decision for divorce happened we moved back to my hometown of El Paso, TX. My Dad was is in bad health, had a stroke, was ridden with Cancer and was placed on in-home Hospice. Despite my ill past with my Parents, I was always close to my Dad. We got to El Paso The first week in December 2005 and my Dad was in good spirits and seemed to be doing well. I carried on acting like there wasn’t a thing wrong with him until a few days before Christmas when his health started to go downhill at warp speed. By Christmas Eve, I knew he was about to pass away and it hit me hard that he wasn’t going to be around long. Christmas day he couldn’t sit up, had no conscious control of his body, no ability to speak and appeared to be nothing more than a zombie. Something told me that day “this is it”. Well having not prayed to God in years, I decided to give it a shot. I knelt next to his Hospice hospital bed in my parents’ living room and began to pray, saying “God I know I haven’t prayed to you in a long time but if you’re up there please hear my prayer. I know my Dad is dying and I know he has to go but please let him stay, just for today.” Well, wouldn’t you know it? God responded to me. No, it wasn’t in a loud, thunderous voice, just a low authoritative voice, in my head, saying “OK. He can stay, just for today but tomorrow he has to go.” There was no doubt in my mind that I heard God. I just knew it was Him. The day continued and my Mom, my sister Barbara and I all slept next to his bed that night and at 5:30 AM on the 26th, my Dad took his last breath. This was hard, really hard on me but somehow I was oddly at peace due to my talk with God. I understood. It was then that I started opening up to the thought of having a relationship with God again. I even went to church again, once, but felt no real “connection” with God. It was another Southern Baptist Church and due to my Childhood, maybe that was why I don’t know. Again I fell I quit pursuing faith and just put it on the back burner. I had prayed a few times, asked God for forgiveness, chalked it up that he and I had “an understanding” and left it at that.
MY DAD’S PASSING
So let us fast-forward again. Almost a year after my Dad’s passing, at 23 years old, I was going through a nasty divorce. Though I should’ve, I didn’t turn to God and things in my life turned upside down again. I wasn’t even fully divorced and got into a relationship with my 2nd “future ex-wife” in February 2006. I was lonely and wanted someone by my side. I even ignored my gut when everything told me “stay away”. Well, everything happens for a reason. We Got married in March 2008, had 2 beautiful boys, and I was raising her son from her previous marriage. Really long story short, I had another bad marriage but this time it lasted till 2017.
I JOINED THE ARMY
During the course of that marriage, I Joined the Army in March 2010 and started going to Church while in Basic Training, mostly to get away from the Drill Sergeants, as most of the other’s there did. My ex-wife was Episcopalian, so I figured I’d give that faith a try. I started praying more and more but again, only till the end of Basic Training. I prayed in hard times but that was about it. We attended some of the marriage retreats held by the Chaplain at my first Duty Station and I had a couple of times when I felt myself growing closer to the Lord but wouldn’t you know it?! I fell off the wagon again. I just couldn’t get my faith “in check”, so to speak. My Military career was taking off and I started to fly through the ranks till I made Sergeant (E5) and landed at my final Duty Station. Little did I know just how bad things were about to get. Our fights got worse and worse till I decided it was time to try and make a change. Then the day came, I couldn’t take it anymore, and we decided to get a divorce. This almost killed me, literally! All I’ll say is luckily the Lord saved me and kept me from being harmed at all. Things spiraled out of control with my Active Duty Army career and before I knew it, I had ETS’d (left at the end of my contract) and was sworn into the Army Reserves. I started praying once again but with a much more sincere heart and on a regular basis and not just when things were bad. My ex-wife was no help with the kids and I knew the Lord would be by my side as long as I asked. Needless to say, this divorce ended much differently than the last. I got physical custody of my kids and set off on the road of being a single parent. I continued to pray. Still, not as often as I should’ve but far more than the past and with a pure heart. This time I was starting to see that the Lord was working in my life. He didn’t spare me hard times but through those times he never left me. Part of what got me through this was learning to play Bass Guitar. Music has always been a huge factor in my life and always helped keep me sane. Little did I know God had blessed me with a gift that I would end up using to honor him. More on this in a minute.
A CHURCH HOME
Around the end of 2017, I started feeling the urge to find my kids and I a Church Home. Somehow I just knew God was trying to kick me in the butt as to say like “Son, you need to get right for you and those boys. Be the example, so they may know me as too.” Well, down the road from our house was a new Church. I had watched it be set up for a few months now, Savannah River Baptist Church. One day I was driving home and at the last second, I turned in the driveway to the Church. There it was again, God pushing me. I talked to the Pastor and the boys and I attended a few services but again, I didn’t feel “at home there”.
Being that I was out of Active Duty I had taken a job working as a local truck driver. Every day, on my usual route I would pass this billboard for a Church called Gateway. Again, I firmly believe God was at work. One day while I was waiting to get my trailer loaded, I decided to visit the Church’s website, to see what they were all about. I watched a little bit of a sermon online, looked at the service times and decided the boys and I would give it a shot. At the time I still had my Step-son living with me. Two Sunday’s later in March 2018 we walked into our first service at Gateway and it was amazing! We got my two youngest boys checked into their Sunday classes. Then we walked into the main auditorium and it was unlike anything we imagined! Awesome was all I could say. My Step-son turned to me and said “Dad! It’s like we just walked into a rock concert!” The lights, music, praise being sung so loudly by the entire congregation was unlike anything I had ever seen and the people on stage were leading the church in a worship experience of epic proportions! I instantly knew we had found what we were looking for. What God wanted us to find. From that point on I decided, “this is it God, you have my attention and my whole heart.” Being about a year and a half into learning the bass and getting better all the time, after an awesome service, THAT I UNDERSTOOD, I instantly approached the guy that was on stage playing Bass to tell him how awesome I thought it was and that we’d like to join and I be a part of the Worship team. We continued going to church and about 2 months later I had auditioned for the band, been to church volunteer orientation and had become a member. Next thing I knew I was on stage. Serving God in this way truly touch my heart and made me feel more connected than ever before. I continued to service through music and get more and more involved in the church.
GOD WAS WORKING
God was working in my life in awesome ways. About 3 weeks after we started going to Gateway I landed an awesome job with great benefits and wouldn’t you know it? The guy that trained me just so happened to attend the same church. God truly is awesome. Nonetheless, I started to reach another low point. However, this time I knew God was fully by my side and listening.
October 2018 would change my life for the better for good. I was serving during Wednesday night Students service, in the band, of course. Wednesday nights are just of Middle and High School kids. When I met her. Her being Ashley, my now wife. She was so HAPPY and such a great personality and smart beyond belief. I talked to her some at Church and then one day happened to get a friend request on Facebook from her. I instantly accepted. We connected on so many levels, our values and morals were the same on so many topics and morals but moreover, my kids totally loved and adored her. Again, I knew God’s hand was in this. So a month later I proposed, and she happily said YES! Another month went by, and we were married, and she has grown to be the best friend I’ve ever had. She has helped me tremendous amounts with growing my relationship with God and has helped open my eyes in ways I never imagined. I truly know in my heart of hearts that God sent her to me.
So here we are… after much talking, prayers and soul-searching, God has yet again revealed more of his path and plan for me. Thus, we have 20/20 Faith. I believe after all I’ve been through its time I start doing my part and spreading the Word of God. I knew there’s a world of people that need him in their life and if I can help at least one come to know Him, then I’m that counts for something.
It is my hope that you will join me on this journey and you too have your eyes opened to the glory of God’s amazing, unending, reckless love. So I leave you with this, Always pray, listen with your heart and know that no matter what, as long as you accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and God into your heart, He will never leave you and you’ll know where you’re going.
Until next time, much love and prayers for you.