My life had been a wreck for as long as I can remember. I was very angry, and I always felt a sense of abandonment, not because I didn’t have a loving mom, but because I hated life. At an early age, I began using drugs to fill the void in my life. You see, my dad was rarely around. When I would see him, he would use the Word to pound scripture into my head and use it to justify his behaviors. Therefore, I knew of God and of Jesus at an early age, but there was not an intimacy between us.

I grew up with drugs and alcohol as big parts of my life. It was used all around me from family to friends. Oftentimes, at family reunions, the adults and kids would all go separate ways, and as we came together to eat, we would make fun of each other, knowing we were all high. Drugs came in many forms, form marijuana to crack, LSD and even freon. Yes, huffing was a way to get high when nothing else was available.

I remember vividly a specific time when I wanted to get high. My cousin had his girlfriend over and I was bored. I asked my cousin if he had any smoke. He didn’t. He decided to go into his parents’ room, who were sleeping, to see if he could find any. He couldn’t and we turned to freon. Next thing I remember, my uncle is waking up because my cousin fell into the fireplace mantle. The next day, my cousin and uncle got into a fight, and two days later my uncle was dead. I held onto guilt for a long time over that. A few months after my uncle’s death, my cousin and I got high and talked about that night as we read the Bible.

I decided that right out of high school I needed to get away. I joined the Marines. Otherwise, I knew I would either end up dead or in prison by the time my 19th birthday rolled around. In the Marines, I really learned about alcohol. I drank all the time. Again, I was trying to fill a void in my life, and yet, I would always find that same void in my life when I got sober. I received a medical discharge from the Marine Corps, but upon leaving, I went through 13 treatments of Electro Convulsive Therapy (ECT) and an additional 8 after getting home. My memory was gone.

Drawing close to God only to pull away again time after time, my life was still a wreck. I hated my life. I was in and out of hospitals for many years after getting out of the service. My five years in was a fleeting memory. Suicide was an ongoing thought with several attempts. Who was I? What was my life worth? I couldn’t put my life in order. I felt as if everyone I was around, I just brought down.

I got married and had a couple of years of sobriety under my belt. I started going to church. My daughter was born in 2001. I thought, surely, I can get my life straightened out. One day after taking a shower and bathing my daughter while my wife finished showering, I was getting my daughter ready to leave. After getting her dressed, I put her in her crib. She started screaming that ear-piercing scream that babies have. I took her blanket and held it over her head for a split second. Once I realized what I was doing, it scared me. I sought help for my anger. Once again, I was hospital bound. I wasn’t trying to hurt her. I just wanted the ear-piercing scream to be quieter. Soon thereafter, I was headed for a divorce.

Life falling apart once again, I looked to the bottle for my comfort. I couldn’t figure out what was happening to my life. I was trying to get help only to end up getting a divorce and eventually giving up rights to my daughter. One day, I was with a couple of friends while living in Wyoming. We were drinking and getting high. I was driving and was doing 45 mph in a 25 mph zone. In my rear-view mirror, I saw those colorful red and blue lights behind me with that wonderful siren sound. I was in trouble. I was going to jail. Immediately, I began to pray to God asking for help, (I had done this many times before) promising I would go to church and do whatever I could just as long as I didn’t go to jail. The officer told me to go straight home, and that if he saw me out anymore that day, he would arrest me. The next morning, I was headed to church. I went up for altar call and began a stint in a discipleship program. Again, there was that joy I had known at earlier times. However, the joy would only last for a short moment as I decided I was too close to God and I was sure He would abandon me.

I met someone shortly afterwards who seemed to need a savior in her life. Could I be her savior? My life was nothing compared to what she had been through. After a short while, we were married. I ignored all the red flags. She was abusive, she really hated men for the most part and she had been in relationships with women most of her life. I really thought I could be her savior.

One day, I decided I was done. Done with her, done with my life, done with everything. I had a rope and went down to the river to end my life. Siting in the tree with the noose around my neck, I heard the voice of a child near the river. My immediate thought was that I wouldn’t want a kid to find me hanging there.

I began to pray, asking God to please give me an animal I could help. Growing up, I had helped with the rehabilitation of animals. As I got down from the tree, noose in hand, I was walking back to my truck. In a nearby field was a hawk just sitting on the ground. I walked up to it and noticed its wing was in bad shape. With the rope I had with me, I sat down by the hawk and it stepped up onto the rope. I walked all the way to my truck without the hawk trying to tear at my arm. Not knowing what to do next, there was a group of individuals that asked me what I was going to do with the hawk. I didn’t know and they assured me that they would make sure it was taken care of. I handed them the rope with the hawk and left.

I finally ended that abusive relationship and moved near my brother. I rode motorcycles and partied like the old days. I got into trouble and still didn’t care about what would happen to me. I rode my motorcycle drunk many times. I used drugs. I continued my destructive path in life. I met my current wife while I was using and partying. I would disappear for days on end with a newborn child at the house. I didn’t care about life once again. That void was still there. I would allow my understanding of God to fill it for a short time and then I was off again.

My wife and I have been married almost 12 years now, and we are doing wonderful. What happened? God has continued to work miracle after miracle in my life. I was always trying to be the perfect son, the son who deserved the attention of his father, the son who needed his father. I tried my whole life to get my father’s approval, and even now as he is dying of cancer, I still have not received it. I know he loves me. I know that he is proud of me even if he says it in very few words. I know that I have a Savior who has died for my sins. I am not perfect. I am going to mess up. My Father in Heaven accepts me and loves me for me. Scars, mistakes and all. He created me in His image. He sent His Son to die for my sins: HIS SON TO DIE FOR MY SINS. I am a sinner and He is my all in all. That void in my heart has been filled. If only I would have stopped running all those years ago and just listened to Him call me, I would have known that He is the one who can fill that void.

My boys now say that when I talk about God that I sound like a preacher. Lol. Why? Because my heart yearns for Him. My heart longs after Him. I love God with every part of me. I find my rest in Him. Do I mess up? Well, of course. Just like every single person does, but I don’t stay down. I get up and ask for forgiveness so that my life is right. Jesus said to eat of His flesh and to drink of His blood. I chew on His Word and absorb it as much as I can. This is where that void in my heart has been filled. This is where I find a peace that surpasses all understanding. He is the One on whom I cast my anxieties. The peace and joy that I have are above anything I have ever deserved. The grace and mercy of God is beyond words

Psalm 34:8 “Oh taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” ESV

Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” ESV

Romans 5:8 “but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” ESV