I was the fourth of five boys--all born before my mother’s twenty-third birthday. My father began drinking alcohol when he was twenty-one years old and never stopped until he died at the age of forty-two.
“[My father] was a mean drunk who cursed and beat us.”
I have no idea what a normal father is supposed to be like. Mine was a mean drunk who cursed and beat us throughout our childhood. Our main goals were to endure and escape.
Drugs and Alcohol
The words fast and hard defined my upbringing, probably because by the time I was twelve I was shoplifting, drinking alcohol, and smoking weed. Three years later, I found myself in jail, which later turned into two years of probation.
"Going to jail was one of the major turning points of my life."
It was a wakeup call. My two older brothers were already in prison, which was a clear warning that I was heading their way. What I didn’t know was how their lives would abruptly end. My oldest brother was murdered in 1987 and the next oldest was murdered ten years later in 1997.
What I did know was that I had to change my lifestyle. That was the moment I decided to clean up my act. Since I did not know the LORD, the best thing I could do was self-reformation (Proverbs 14:12). So I reformed. Jail time was one of the many blessings the LORD employed to put me on the road to change (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
Four years later, my father died. The next year, I married a co-worker, embarking on my dream to have a different kind of life from my childhood. At first this worked. My daughter and son were my love. It was a good life, but began to feel something was missing. I began to sense a deep void in my soul. Though self-reformation was helpful, it was not satisfying.
“I sensed a deep void in my soul.”
By 1984 I was working in a machine shop where someone told him about Christ. Though I had known about God because I had been made to attend church as a child, religion was not appealing to me. Frankly church was just a good place to get some good weed.
But then the Lord imposed Himself on my life. I was regenerated. This life-altering event solved the perplexing riddle of my soul and set in motion the call of God, which has since defined my life.
I began to fall in love with the Bible (Psalm 119:16), becoming my constant companion. Within a year of attending my new church, I was teaching Sunday school, working with the youth, singing in the choir, and doing evangelism work in my small community of Monroe, North Carolina.
In 1986 I moved the family 135 miles south to Greenville, South Carolina, to attend a Bible college. I was determined to follow God and pursue formal training for ministry. But our plans are not always God’s. What I didn’t perceive was yet another life-altering event--one that would most dramatically shape me to the ministry the LORD had already prepared for me.
It was April 08, 1988--the end of my sophomore year in Bible college--when I walked in the door of our home and saw that the piano was missing. As I desperately ran through the house, it became apparent what had happened. My wife had chosen her adulterous lifestyle and taken our two children with her. It was the single most horrifying experience of my life.
“Within fifteen hours I lost 10 pounds--and that was just the beginning of sorrows.”
I lived the next nine years in isolated desperation. Alienated from my legalistic church community, I realized that every dream I dreamed for a life with a normal family experience was shattered.
During this season I was physically and emotionally shaped by the mighty hand of God on how to live in the crucible of suffering. I went to college to become educated in the Bible. I was driven into the wilderness to become educated about God. (cf. Mark 1:12-13)
Out of the Depths
It would take me twenty-five years before I could write about the experiences of those dark days. For four years, I read and re-read the book of Job. I knew the end of the story--how the Lord re-blessed Job (Job 42:10), and I desperately wanted to experience this from God.
The problem was the 41 chapters before the last one. Apart from salvation, this season of my life was the most transformative of all. I was resigned it was a season that would never end. This assumption added to the pain which was all-encompassing and beyond anything I had ever experienced.
But during those years, the Lord taught me many things, motivating me to write the small book, “How to steward God’s most feared blessing” hoping that the Spirit of God would use His work in my life to comfort others in some small way.
Unmerited Suffering Brings Uncommon Grace
Although I didn’t recognize it immediately, my uncommon suffering and God’s unmerited favor were the perfect ingredients to do a vessel-using work in my life (Philippians 2:12-13). All of those things were working together for his good, God’s glory, and the benefit of others (Romans 8:28; Genesis 50:20).
The LORD has unrelentingly bestowed His two most profound gifts on me—the gift of salvation and the gift of suffering (Philippians 1:29; 1 Peter 2:21; John 12:24), and my desire is to serve him by creating biblical resources for others who are hurting and by providing training and consulting for those who want to help others.
“My passion to share the life-changing message of the gospel was born out of a broken heart, restored by God and redeemed for His fame.”