I didn’t grow up in the church, and for most of my life, I was glad. I was happy about it because the churched people I knew either seemed to be hypocrites or jerks. With that example, I felt better off the way I was.
How was I?
I grew up in a house where for a time, it was more important to procure alcohol than food.
I lived in a place where an older sibling was allowed to run rampant, and destroy much, including the self-image of a small boy, who didn’t know any different.
My parents did what they could in the way of parenting, but it didn’t really feel like much at the time–I didn’t feel safe, or protected, and probably wouldn’t have felt loved if it weren’t for my three sisters, who saved my life.
Because of the…abuse of many sorts piled on me by my brother, I grew up feeling like a victim, and became very adept at playing that part over the years.
My father died suddenly when I was 16, but I was able to watch my mother slowly wither and die over almost a decade, culminating with cancer winning the day when I was 18. It wasn’t pretty, and wasn’t one of those noble movie-like deaths.
I don’t think I ever really grieved much over either of them growing up, at least not in the way most people would. There didn’t seem to be a point.
Over the years following my adolescence, I was introduced to a different Jesus than I’d heard about in my youth by a good friend, who was persistent in her prayers, and in her testimony.
She was neither a hypocrite nor a jerk, and while I didn’t immediately jump into faith, her words and life gave a ring of truth to the story of Christ that I wasn’t at all expecting.
So I began to question, and eventually met someone (another guy about my own age) who I could relate to more personally, and he spoke of Jesus in the same way as my female friend.
My conversion experience took place over a number of years, but what it really came down to was me finally tiring of my burdens, and laying them at the feet of the cross.
And once I took my first step into belief, I discovered that it was actually a marathon, and I had a lot of training to do before I could run it.
A couple of years after reaching out to Jesus, another friend introduced me to the church that would change my life, and set me on the road I’m on today.
If it weren’t for that church, and those three friends, I would not be here today. No Jenny, no David and John.
But here I am.
My first step was belief.
The next was discipleship.
Then healing and edification. I learned that grief was something I needed to experience before I could grow in my faith or healing process.
I learned to trust people with my heart again.
With those things, and the patching of my torn and wounded heart, came my wife, and truly my better half, the beautiful and talented Jennifer Wilkins. My sons David and John.
I found a place where I finally feel I belong, and a church we can grow in as a family.
I am not completed, by any means. I have not “arrived,” at my final destination. I hope not to for a while–there are still a great many things I’d like to do.
But where there once was sadness, and darkness, and pain, there is now healing, and light, and hope.
I still have awareness of the person I was, but the new man is more powerful.
Weakness will come, and opportunities to sin are ever-present.
But there is something for me to grab onto besides the world, now.
It started with a step
(thanks to those who all had a hand in saving my life: Share, Hogan, Kris, Matt, Ron, JoJo, Merill, Allyn, Paul M, and Jen. And many others who shall go unnammed for now, but are still in my heart and always will be. And thanks to Jesus for reminding me of who I am, and who I can be)