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A Life Transformed

When I look back at my life, I just think in so many ways that I was the typical American kid, really, until I wasn’t any longer.

Early on in childhood, playing sports, that was what life was really all about. And I have a lot of great memories of childhood, but one of the things that stands out the most is stress at home and pain at home. And just a whole lot of pressure to perform; to be the best at baseball, the best at football.

I got a scholarship to play baseball at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. And what I realized was a lot of that anger that I had building up inside from things that happened in my childhood, just allowed me to start doing things and experimenting with alcohol and with drugs and with things like that…and I ended up going from having a scholarship my freshman year to being cut from the baseball team my senior year. In the years after college, my life really spiraled out of control as I went from using cocaine and was using it all the time, to selling, and the spiral just deepened and worsened, and my life got more and more out of control. I knew that if I kept going the direction I was going I would end up either dead or in jail. And I wanted meaning, I wanted purpose, I wanted structure in my life, and so I joined the Coastguard.

I thought that my big problem was outside of me, and if I can just get away, then I can fix myself. And when we hit port in Alaska, I’m out on the town doing the exact same things: drinking till I can’t remember things anymore, chasing after women, living that lifestyle, and it started to cause real anxiety, real panic. I started realizing, I can’t change. But it was at that first unit, that the Lord really started making Himself known to me through the first Christian I really ever recalled meeting in my life. And it wasn’t that he just talked to me about Jesus, it was that he had a genuine joy about him, and I wanted that in my life. Towards the end of 2009, I’d been listening to sermons online, trying to put the bigger pieces of the Christian message together, and I still thought Christianity was about being a good person. And I really started trying to change myself. But, by the time New Year’s rolls around and I get back down to Richmond Virginia to celebrate New Years, I dove back in head first to all of the things that I’d left Richmond for the Coastguard and things that I thought I’d gotten free from and broken away from. What I realized the next day is, I am no different. And I just felt trapped like, ‘This is all pointless; these sermons are pointless, these books are pointless, following Jesus is pointless, because I’m not changing.’

When I got back home to my apartment in Maryland, from that trip to Richmond after New Year’s, I pulled up a sermon by a guy named John Piper. I just thought, ‘Maybe it will make me feel better, maybe it will make me feel like I can get back on my feet and try again.’

I didn’t even know at the time what was in John 3:16, but I just saw, ‘Here’s a sermon on John 3:16…’ As he was describing how you respond to this verse—you’ll either live forever in hell under God’s judgment, or you’ll live forever with God in heaven—it was right in between those two comments, and me thinking and knowing in my mind that I was going to go to hell and deserved to go to hell, I could just feel time slow down and like the crushing weight of my sin, I could just feel it pressing down on me. And then in the next moment (snaps fingers), the pressure, the weight of my sin just fell off and it was replaced by the belief, the truth, that Jesus is Lord, and I had been saved. It was in an instant that my heart was just filled with joy and with hope and it was almost like God was just showing me, ‘John, you have been trying for years and years and years; you’ve been looking for joy, you’ve been looking for hope; but look at what I can do a minute.’ And that’s like what He did, He gave me a new heart in a moment. And these desires that I had to drink and to do drugs and to chase women, it’s like, the things just fell away, and woke up the next day brand new person.

When I saw what God was willing to forgive me of and the grace He was willing to extend to me, it changed my heart and helped me to see everyone around me in a new light.

I’m just so grateful for what God has done in my life and to just be able to share that forgiveness with another person.

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