10 years ago today, my life changed forever. Back then, I was an angry person. I was depressed. Sad. Lonely. The night before, it dawned on me that I had lived my life pursuing anything and everything. Because of this, for the first time, I felt like I had nothing else to live for. Then God showed up as a light in my darkness. At around 1am on November 9, 2007, He began stripping my life of everything and with nothing left but Him by my side, I chose to pick myself up and follow Him. As we walked past the rubble that was my life, things began to change. I’m no longer a slave to anger, depression, loneliness, …. FEAR. 10 years ago today, I became a child of God.
November 9, 2007, 1:19am:
This is a day and time that I will never be able to forget. I’ve often wondered if I even should. You’ve probably seen in movies where something crazy happens and the character takes in everything around them and then,… it all goes black.
Everything went black for me on this night and it was a mere seconds that felt like hours before my eyes could see clearly again, albeit through a cloud of smoke and dust. I was so far past drunk and the impact from my truck colliding into this large tree washed a sudden sobriety over me in an instant. Not that this likely means anything to you, I was filled with twelve- 12 ounce bottles of Bud Ice beer, which has a slightly higher alchohol content than your mainstream beers.
After stumbling out of my truck and witnessing the wreckage from every angle, I saw headlights from across the nearby intersection approaching. I don’t have a clue as to how much time had passed between then and the time that I began to see a flurry of red and blue lights surrounding me. The only thing I remember until I was escorted in the patrol car to the police station was an EMT helping me to the curb to sit down with an officer and go over the events that had just transpired. Luckily, if I can even say that, one of the officers was the Police Captain, who’s wife had worked for my dad for many years and knew me and my family well.
I don’t remember getting in the patrol car, but I recall that we pulled around to the back of the police station where I was escorted inside to a counter with a young lady I recognized from school, who was there to take my information and the few personal belongings I had in my pocket. From there, I was taken to a room where they took my fingerprints and I think they skipped the mugshot, because I don’t remember doing that. After all of that was done, they immediately put me in a tiny jail cell where I sat for maybe 30 minutes before someone came with a tray of the worst food I’d ever seen.
At this point, I was really hungry, but the only thing I could muster was to take a sip of the juice that came with the tray.
I remember after drinking the juice, the tray sat on the little window sill for at least a couple of hours before someone came and picked it up. The girl I knew from high school was sitting across the room from my cell and never really looked my way, but she did come up to me eventually to say that an officer called my dad and informed him of the situation, to which he said he would come by later that morning to pick me up. Because of this, she said that everything was good and that I’d be able to go home in a few hours and she recommended that I try and get some rest.
All I remember from this point forward was getting in the car with dad. (I don’t even remember the first time I saw him or even walking the halls to the front of the police station to leave). He was surprisingly calm as he talked to me on the ride back to his house, though I sensed a great deal of shame and sadness in his voice. Conveniently, we were to pass by the junkyard where the wrecker had taken my truck on the way to the house, so he made a point to stop and let me get my personal belongings out because they were going to total the truck. Seeing my most prized possession, a white 2001 Ford Ranger 4×4, in such a demolished state was heartbreaking for me. Who knew when I was ever going to get another car.
After we arrived home, he told me that I looked exhausted and I was still very sore from the impact, so I should try and get some sleep before my mom comes to visit me later.
Weeks went by and the next thing I remember was being over at a close friend of my mom’s house for Thanksgiving. All the lectures had been given and everyone was past their initial shock of what had happened, but were still somewhat skittish around me. They all loved me and they were like family, but it was still awkward and uncomfortable to have to be around a big group of people.
So many things happened after Thanksgiving that year, like moving all of my stuff into a mobile home only to pack it all pack up several hours later when my buddy and I went to put some groceries in the fridge and, well,…
a swarm of hundreds of cockroaches came rushing out as the door to the fridge opened and the light came on.
He said he refused to let me stay there and offered to let me crash at his house, and sleep on his floor for the next few weeks. After those few weeks had passed, an old friend that I had lost touch with bumped into me at my new job at Wal-Mart, and those weeks of hanging out every day led to us getting a little two-bedroom apartment together.
Keep Holding On
Another month or so went by, and despite drawing closer to God and beginning to see a huge shift in my priorities, I began feeling lonely and depressed again, which caused me to start looking for ways to feel better. I was making enough money at Wal-Mart to take care of my share of rent and utilities and still have enough left over for food and cigarettes, until my roommate started showing his face around the house less and less. With his gradually diminishing presence also came less and less instances where he was coming up with his half of the living expenses. Long story short, we began to get behind on rent (the landlord was my dad’s boss, which is how we got the place to begin with), and I began to have to answer for that. A $2,000 loan from the bank by my dad got me caught up after I was asked to move out by the landlord, but before that happened, my friend started bringing a bunch of people over every night, of which I was not on good terms with, so that led me to stay locked up in my room most nights while they partied and caused a ruckus into all hours of the night.
It was around this time that I started looking on Facebook for girls I’d known over the years to try and find someone to spend time with. I was depressed and pretty much a bum at this point, no doubt, but I was also more hopeful than I’d ever felt that I could dig my way out of this depression and start fresh. I remember during the days when I wasn’t working (which, without a car, I had a borrowed bicycle to get me back and forth the 3-4 miles to the other side of town), I remember sitting in my living room and had given up on braving the cold weather to go outside for a smoke, so I started smoking inside. It must have been God, but when I wasn’t watching the movie SuperBad on repeat (I had that whole script memorized!), I found myself watching that less and less and watching a movie called Facing The Giants more and more. This was a movie that was made by a very large church out of Albany, GA, that later made the movies Courageous, Fireproof, and War Room (all great movies). The message of this movie could not have come at a better time and during one part where the female lead was trying to get pregnant and kept getting negative results, she finally gives in and says, “I will still love you, Lord.” You have to really see the movie to get the full context, but it was a swell of emotions and events leading up to the point where she, like I, realized that no matter what is going on in my life, I have to keep trusting God that He will provide and He will turn my chaos into a new creation.
Going back to Facebook, I had already updated my profile, because I was finding myself so excited to be on a new journey of faith, and had put something in my “About Me” section that said something like, “I have come to a really big crossroads and have lost everything, but I have re-committed my life to Jesus and would love to share my story with anyone who is willing to listen!” The sad part was that I was starting to search Facebook for girls that I could hang out with and hopefully try and have a relationship with that,… well, let’s just say that my intentions at the time were not good. There was a really pretty girl that went to a private school out of town, who also attended our church a lot during high school, but had moved away to college. Her name was Hannah Williams (same last name as mine), and I looked her up on my old-school Razor flip phone, which was on the crappy mobile version of Facebook before apps were a thing. Because of bad internet connection, she was the first result in my search, but the picture wouldn’t appear. I saw where she was attending the University of Georgia and so I added her and I think I sent a message just saying hey and seeing how she was doing, to try and warm up to a conversation.
What Are The Odds?
Little did I know, I got a response within less than an hour. She had accepted my friend request, but this time, when I checked my notifications, the picture appeared and it wasn’t the Hannah that I knew. What I would eventually find out was that this Hannah (which, in case you haven’t put the pieces together, is the Hannah that I would end up dating/marrying), never accepted requests from people she didn’t know, but had seen my “About Me” section and was curious about my story, so she reluctantly accepted and reached out to me. For the next few weeks, we talked for 5+ hours on the phone every night and had quickly gotten to know everything there was to know about each other. The rest of that story is really history, but let’s just say that this was the point in my life where God had decided that He was going to start leading me to a better life and showing me how to truly live for His glory, instead of my own.
What I wanted to get across with this story is that, as I look back on the past ten years, I have come to realize that nothing is impossible with God. Whatever it is that we are going through, He is there in our midst. He is waiting for us to say “yes” to Him and to surrender all of our earthly, simple desires in exchange for a life of meaning and purpose beyond anything we could ever dream or imagine. This realization has shaped me as a person, but it has also helped me to understand that I have to live my life in such a way that honors Him, whether it be in my friendships, my marriage, my business, or whatever else I do for the rest of my life.
Living and pursuing things of this world will not gain you any sort of true happiness. More money, the newest phone, the fastest car, none of it. Will it make you happy for a time? Yes! But I am living, breathing proof that there is a satisfaction and a peace that you feels so much better and outlasts anything you can achieve here on Earth, and it is found in laying your burdens at the foot of the Cross of Jesus and following Him.
My goal was to not make this an overly-spiritual message or a call to salvation, but I can’t fail to acknowledge that I would never have made it this far in my life if it weren’t for God. My hope is that you will start intentionally looking for what it is you are truly after in your life and to realize that, while you may end up with a new Tesla and millions of dollars in the bank and traveling all over the world, or whatever it is that makes you feel happy, but without making the heartfelt decision to put God at the center of everything, it’s all worthless in the end.
Today is a very sobering day for me and I’m grateful to remember how far I’ve come with God’s help. If there is anything I can do to help you reach a point where you want peace and grace and mercy and forgiveness like I’ve experienced, I am an open book and always willing to listen or help in any way I can!
Until next week, I hope you have a great weekend!