Thirteen years ago God broke me. I was stubborn, resistant, and actively pursuing a life away from him. Christmas night, 1998, I found myself sitting next to my gun cabinet in our tiny living room. I love Christmas, but this holiday had brought no joy. I was now at the “end of my rope” and anxiously attempting to determine what my next step would be. I figured I had three choices: suicide, check myself into a mental health institution, or turning to God.
I was not desirous of choosing God. I had known many Christians, grown up in a pastor’s home, and seen the devastating effects of legalistic, hypocritical “faith”. God was the last choice I would turn to. I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction.
I was not desirous of checking myself into a mental health institution. I knew I was in severe distress: mentally, emotionally, and physically. I was immersing myself in vice and stupidity. But I was afraid of the straight-jacket. I was afraid of checking in and finding I couldn’t check out when I desired. I couldn’t bear the thought of losing my liberty.
I was not desirous of suicide. Actually I came pretty close. I had, at the time, two sons lying just feet away from me in their bedroom. While I was already in danger of losing them due to a failing marriage, I abhorred the idea of them seeing Dad sprayed across the wall. I couldn’t end it all…though the Lord knows I tried…hard.
So this vicious cycle of wrestling with my fantastical nightmares, my worries, my paranoia, my lust for self-pleasure, my selfishness, my fear, my feeble, fragile state of mind, continued into the evening. Weeks prior I had endured nightmares of the Grim Reaper coming into my bedroom to extinguish my life and take my soul to Hell. I would awake to continue to live in the hell I pretended to enjoy.
Finally, God took me to the deep end of the pool. He strapped the dive bricks of my weighty sin to my soul and just let me go. I couldn’t tread water any longer. I was sinking and knew that I wouldn’t make the New Year. As I dropped away from all light and began to feel the icy, grip of a satanic pull…I called out to God. I had prayed before. Mostly my prayers were about my boys: “God, I know I’m going to burn a bright, blue flame…but don’t let my boys go to Hell”. Even my prayers for others were selfish. That night I tried to bargain with God. I knew that he demanded everything…a life totally committed to his way, his plan, his purpose. I tried to tell him that I needed to clean up, to get my act together before claiming the faith as my faith. He would have no part of it. It was his way…and only his way.
Enabling me to do what I could not do myself, he broke me. I choked out a prayer, “God, if you can make sense of this mess, if you could clean me up and make something out of this rat’s nest of my life, I’ll serve you and never turn back”. It wasn’t quite a sinner’s prayer. Somehow in all of that I realized that I was killing myself with my sin, that Christ would be the Savior of my soul and life, and that it would have to be his way or no way at all. I dreaded having to confess to my wife the things I was involved in. I knew my marriage was very possibly going to end, my family disintegrate and life would never be the same. I was wrong in all but the last.
I do not know if I have the time or the space to explain what happened that night. It began with a desperate plea and ended with incredible peace. I had violated trust and it would take time to rebuild. I had wasted 30 years of living and there would be time to make up. I had known a plastic faith but now enjoyed the lavish grace that came from Christ. I would study and soak up and think through page after page of Scripture.
And then I found my life described in Titus 3:3-7:
For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (NAS)
I still love Christmas. I’m still in love with Christ and as the years roll by, (much quicker now than before), I want people to understand this grace that has appeared bringing salvation to all men. I want them to know God’s plan and purpose for their lives. I want them to experience the life-change that is possible, no matter the depths of their sinfulness. I want them to know Peace, as they come to know the Prince of Peace.