Monday, August 1, 2011

Beauty for Ashes - Mike's Story Part 5

We have reached the final week before "Mike" reveals his identity.   I invite you to join us at Firm Foundation Ministries in Centreville at 10:00AM to hear from "Mike" personally as he shares from his heart about how his life has been changed from the man he used to be.

If you are new to Mike's story, you can find the links to all five parts on the sidebar to the right.  As always, please feel free to share this story with others who's lives have been affected by drugs or alcohol.  Mike found hope and his desire is to share this gift with others who need a reason to live.

Beauty for Ashes

I couldn’t sleep.

I lay there staring at the ceiling.  How many nights had I laid here, wrestling with God – knowing He was calling me to Himself, hearing His promises of a better life, yet unwilling to surrender my desires, my control to His? 

I considered how many times I had woken up in a cold sweat, my heart racing at the visions of people dressed in black and white racing around at thousands of miles per hour all tangled together  - like spaghetti.   I could still picture the parties I had attended, the amounts of drugs I was able to do while maintaining control.  I remembered the countless days and nights I had used cocaine and vodka as a tool to fill the insatiable void inside of me.

Then there was that moment - the night I had reached my lowest point.  I don’t remember what time it was or whether it spring or fall.  I simply remember sitting alone in the darkness of my house.  I had tried everything I could think of to gain power and strength and though I knew I was calling on a whole new realm of darkness and evil, I did it anyway.  I called out to Satan.  I invited him to give me his power and strength – and he was all too willing to take control of me.

Now, I had lived at that level of darkness for so long, I doubted there was any hope for me.  I was an angry and unsatisfied person – and I was fine with that.  Until now. 

Never before I had I been unable to attain the very thing I wanted - until Rachel.  Never before was I held back by a power stronger than my own – until Rachel.   Never before was I told no, that I couldn't have what I wanted – not until this beautiful woman came into my life.

She claimed her power and strength was not hers alone - but from her relationship with Jesus.  That defied everything I had ever told myself.  Christians were weak!  They used Jesus for a crutch and their way of life repulsed me.  Until Rachel.

And now she was gone.  Walked away!  The most precious gift had been within my grasp, and I had lost it.  There still was no doubt in my mind that she was the gift God had promised to me and I wondered what life would be like if I surrendered.  What would happen if I were to turn my back on Satan and follow God instead?  What would life be like without the power and control I now had?  What would it be like to live under His will – instead of my own?

The sun was starting to come up, and I had yet to sleep.  I didn’t care.  I had wasted too many days and nights already – I wasn’t about to waste another moment living in this wilderness of shattered dreams and raw pain.  I had already lost Rachel, and the life I had lived for so long had no value.  The darkness... the hurting was too great.   He, God Himself, had been calling me to come to Him for so long and I was beginning to see the truth - I had nothing left to lose... but so much more to gain! 

I pulled back the curtain and watched how slowly the sun’s rays began sweeping across the land outside my window.  As light found its way onto each hill and valley, darkness was dispelled.  I froze.  The moment was symbolic of my soul.  Just now, for the first time in years, I began to feel the warmth of light creep into my life.  Remaining in this wasteland I called “living” was an option, but with the promise of a life of peace… of joy… of hope on the horizon, why would I want to stay?

I jumped in my truck and headed for the only place I could think of to find peace.  It was the church Rachel had taken me to.  I had no plan, no idea of what I was to do.  The burning in my spirit was consuming me and I had never felt more alone. 

Still, somehow… somewhere deep inside of me, I knew God was speaking to me.  He had laid it out on the table and I knew I had a choice to make.  He was offering me one of two options - live… or die.  The life I had chosen to live for so long was taking me straight towards death.  Few people can fill their bodies with so many drugs and alcohol and come out alive – yet I had, but for what reason?  In those moments while driving to the church, I saw it all very clearly.  My time would be limited if I continued on this path. I knew that without a doubt.  Now, I needed to make a decision. 

The church building came into view.  I turned left and took the first parking spot I could find.  Walking quickly down the sidewalk, I yanked open the double doors and stepped inside.  The chaos, the turmoil, the thoughts racing through my mind fell away for a moment as I drank in the coolness of the air conditioned foyer.  Music was coming from the auditorium and I stood mesmerized by the words as they floated through the air, landing like drops of refreshing rain on my dry and thirsty soul.   I moved towards the auditorium, unsure of what to do – where to go.  A movement in the corner of my eye caught my attention.  It was Doug.  I had seen him here at the church before while visiting with Rachel.   Without a second thought, I turned and stopped him, “Hey, uhmm… can I talk to you?”

“Sure!”  Doug turned and stepped into a nearby office and closed the door behind me.  I mopped at the sweat gathering on my forehead, nervous, but unwilling to turn back now.

“What can I do for you, Mike?”  Doug’s voice was kind, his eyes full of sympathy and compassion.

“I don’t know what I want, Doug.”  My words were rushed and I struggled to find a way to describe what I was going through.  “My life, it’s… well, I’ve lived…. I’ve lived.”  I stopped and rubbed my eyes, telling myself to just spit it out!  Tell him, Mike!  Tell him about the drugs, the alcohol, the women… the fighting.  Tell him about the darkness that hovers around and in you with every step you take and every breath you breathe.  My heart skipped a beat as a new thought came into focus.  Tell him how you offered your life to the Devil.  Then see what happens!  Because then and only then will you be able to know if there is any hope for someone like you. 

The battle raging inside continued as I looked up.  Doug was waiting patiently, but his eyes told me something.  He knew the struggle I was fighting.  I could see a… a knowing… an understanding inside him of what I was facing.  “I don’t know how to change, Doug.  I’ve lived this way for so long, I don’t know if there’s any hope for me.” 

Doug listened as I poured out my story to him.  I told it all to him, ready and willing to accept at that at any moment that he might say there was no hope for me. 

But he didn’t.

With tears glistening in his eyes, Doug told me how he had faced his own struggles – some similar to my own, as a young man.  He told me of the moment he had come to recognize the love that God had for him.  He told me that this love was so deep, so consuming that God had paid a ransom to buy back those who were bound by Satan’s prison of sin and darkness.  God did that by sending Jesus to die as a sacrifice for sin, he told me.  And as He hung on a cross, the blood that spilled out of his body was the blood that washed away my sins!  All of my sins!  Every single one of them could be washed away!  

Doug told me that I could be free from the crushing weight I carried in my heart.  He told me I could experience a life of light… and not darkness!   He told me that I was loved and that the power that brought Jesus back to life could live… in… me.

That’s when I broke down.  I mean, I literally fell apart!   Leaning forward, I buried my head in my hands while I bawled like a baby.  I couldn’t believe it!  He loved me! Me!  Even after all the things I’d done – He still wanted to have a relationship with me!  My head felt like it was about to explode and my eyes burned while sobs wracked my body and tears streamed down my face.

I was ready.  More ready than I’d ever been.  I closed my eyes and lifted my face towards the ceiling.  “God, I am a sinner!  I’ve been so wrong.  I can’t even begin to remember the times I’ve turned my back on You.  I can’t even start to tell You of all the ways I’ve failed You.  I’ve been living in darkness for so long and I can’t even imagine what living in light must be like, but Doug says it’s possible.  He says I can be forgiven of my sins and have peace and joy in my life… all I have to do is ask.  So, I’m asking You, Jesus.”  I paused, my heart racing as drops of sweat dripped down off my face and landed on my pants.   “Will You, Jesus?  Will You please forgive me for all of my sin?  Will You wash the darkness away and fill me with Your light?”

“I’ve lost so much by living my own way.  I’m so sorry… so sorry for turning my back on You.  I see now that You love me, and I want to love You back.  I want to live my life for You – no matter the cost.”

I opened my eyes and looked at Doug.  He was crying but I couldn’t shed a tear.  While I had been praying, light had entered the room.  I felt warmth and a joy I had never experienced before.  My heart had felt close to bursting so many times when I was searching for a rush, but this… this was like nothing I had ever encountered before.  It was the most ultimate, all-consuming, overwhelming, heart-stopping rush I had ever experienced.  I laughed!  All the searching I had done was for this moment!  This very feeling had eluded me and I believed it could only be found in a bottle. 

But the answer had been so simple.  It was Jesus.

Jesus!  He loved me!  In the short moments when I cried out to Him, He removed the sickness and filth I was carrying in my soul and filled me with the highest high I had ever known!  I stood and left the church a new person!

As I tell you my story today, I am a man who is blessed far beyond what I deserve.  I didn’t get Rachel that day, but I did find the new love of my life – Jesus Christ.  The void in my soul has been filled by Him and now I hunger to serve Him - to be closer to Him. 

I am so unworthy, but He reminds me that He doesn’t see who I was, but who I am.  I love Him with all my heart and soul and I have so much to thank Him for.  The fact that God sent His Son to pay the ultimate price for all my sin amazes me still.  This... this is true love!

But God didn’t stop there!  His blessings in my life astound me daily. 

Three years after I surrendered my life to the Lord, I stood at the front of a church on a beautiful spring day watching her walk down the aisle towards me.  She was beautiful and pure and good – and God had saved her for me.  He hadn’t forgotten His promise and on that day, He gave her to me.  

My Rachel.

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