I’ve debated for awhile about writing about my testimony. I’ve shared it freely with close friends but I’ve given much thought to sharing it publicly with those that do not know me personally. Not that I’m not ashamed at all. In fact, I believe God has used it to encourage many people. I’ve just been praying about the timing.
Today as we celebrate a day of love, I will celebrate the afflictions I’ve experienced and the weight of glory worked in me by the One true lover of my soul.
The Beginning of Faith
I was saved at 9 years old in a youth rally at a school gym. I grew up as nominal Catholic and while I did my first confirmation and went to CCD a few times, we didn’t really attend mass much. I did always have a heart for God from a young age and when I was presented with an opportunity to accept Him as my savior, I took it. My mom bought me my first King James Bible and I soaked it up…even though I didn’t really understand a lot of the language.
My family all came to Christ around the same time and we attended a fundamental Spanish Baptist church. I lived in Mississippi at the time and there weren’t exactly a large number of Hispanics in the area. There were a lot of transient workers so we remained a relatively small church. Our pastors loved us fiercely and we got our solid Biblical foundation during this time.
A few years later, our pastor and his family closed the church and moved to Florida so we found another church. It was an Assemblies of God church but at the time we really didn’t know much about denominational differences. It wasn’t a big deal for us that now we went to a church that believed in tongues and prophesy as gifts for today. It was a bigger and more contemporary church so got we plugged in.
Growing up, I was a good kid and I really had no trouble learning the Bible and living by the rules. My step-father was a military man so I had a good understanding of rules and repercussions. Ultimately though, I went to church because my parents required it. Even though I enjoyed it most of the time, I really had no choice.
The College Years
Being in a military family, I moved…a lot. By the time I was 18 I had moved 6 times. I went to 3 different high schools, which is like social suicide for a teenager. By the time I started college we lived in Tampa, FL. My dad had retired from the military and was now offered a job in south Florida. My parents were moving again but this time I was old enough to make my own decision. I had enough of moving and I decided to stay by myself and finish college in Tampa.
Out from under the protection of my parents, life took on a whole new freedom. I woke up on Sunday mornings and didn’t have anyone hurrying me to get dressed so we could make it to the early service.
I began to do things I never could do before. My parents weren’t overly strict but I definitely didn’t do all the crazy stuff some of my friends got to do in high school. College was a proverbial spreading of the wings for me. I could stay out late, dance in night clubs and (gasp) skip church if I wanted to. So I did.
I never hit that disillusioned state where I questioned God. I completely considered myself a Christian. It was just on hold. I was working a full time job, going to school full time and partying full time. Sunday mornings was my time to recuperate. I still loved God, I just didn’t have a whole lot of time for Him.
After a few years of living this lifestyle, I started feeling extremely empty. I was going out to clubs from Thursday to Sunday. I was hoping to find the girl of my dreams in a halter top, black pants and clog shoes (you girls remember those outfits). Curiously enough, I could never find what I was looking for. I was physically and emotionally spent.
One Sunday afternoon I woke up and said “I’m done. I need God.” So just like that, I went back to church. There was no crazy life-changing event. I didn’t get a DUI driving home from a club. I didn’t get a girl pregnant. I didn’t have some crazy rock bottom experience that made me cry out to God. I just woke up and had enough.
This happened in late December and I decided to visit a large church in the area. I determined to go to their New Years Eve service and rededicate my life to God. So I did and I literally felt a shift in my life. And just like that, I’m back in His house like the prodigal son. This was the beginning of 2002.
I dedicated the year to immersing myself in knowing God. I read the entire Bible in a year. I started studying theology. I was rocked by books like “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis and “The Case for Christ” by Lee Stroble. I got on a huge Apologetics kick. I studied out doctrines that I didn’t even know existed. Calvinism, Arminianism, Dispensationalism, Soteriology, Christology, Eschatology, Reformed, Covenant & Systematic Theologies…I couldn’t get enough of the “isms” and “ologies”.
My faith became my own that year. I didn’t need anyone to teach me. I was learning for myself. My faith was solidified and I had an understanding of why I believed what I did. It became my faith, not one that was imposed on me.
Fancy Meeting You Here
In the middle of my awakening, I ran into an old friend from high school. She dated my best friend years ago so I had never felt anything for her. We saw each other at church and went out for dinner after a Wednesday night service. We shared about what had been going on in the past years and it turns out that we were in the same exact place.
She was raised in the church like me but had gotten away from God. She told me how after she broke up with my friend, she tried the party scene. She dated some guys, lived the life she thought she wanted and finally got to a place of emptiness. She was just getting her life back on track and seeking God. Serendipitous indeed.
You might guess where this is leading. After months of hanging out and spending time together, we started dating. I had never felt like this with any other woman. We were completely connected. She loved Jesus as passionately as I did and she laughed at my jokes (which always melts my heart!). It didn’t hurt that she was incredibly gorgeous.
I was absolutely sure she was the one for me. Everything happened pretty quickly but I was more sure about this than anything in my life. A few months later I proposed and in July of 2003, we got married.
The Naïve Newlyweds
The first year of married life was awesome. I married my best friend. Isn’t that the dream? Everything we did was fun. We were able to enjoy the most mundane activities. We made up games that we played. We had our own language that nobody understood. We laughed…a lot.
Then life happened.
After graduating from college, I started working with my best friend from church. He started his own web design business and I came on initially to work as tech support. As time went on, the company grew and my responsibilities increased. So did my hours.
I started working 50 and sometimes 60 hour weeks. I’m an introvert so I would come home and need to decompress by myself. My outlet was video games (namely Madden football).
We started attending a smaller church and at 25 years of age, we were invited to be on the leadership team. We were honored but unprepared for what we would experience. We got insight into the not-so-pretty side of “church”. We knew about the people having affairs. We knew about the people that were spreading rumors about leaders. We saw when our pastor would go weeks without pay because no one was tithing. It was intense.
I found out that marriage wasn’t the walk in the park that I thought it would be. I realized that I was tremendously unprepared in how to be a husband. I wasn’t a bad guy. I treated my wife well. She was my best friend after all. But I found out that a best friend and a husband aren’t the same thing.
My spiritual leadership was weak. She constantly would say “Baby, will you pray.” I knew the Word, I just didn’t know how to lead my home. I didn’t have very much confidence in myself. That lack of confidence would also lead to indecisiveness. I was so terrified to make a mistake that many times I would just opt to not make any decision at all.
My emotional leadership was weak. I told you my wife was gorgeous. The only problem was that I assumed she knew that. I failed to tell her every day how beautiful she was. She would literally ask me “Baby, do I look pretty today?” I would give her this look like “What? Of course.” I was almost offended that she asked. Clearly, I thought she was beautiful. I married her for Pete’s sake!
My physical leadership was weak. Because of my own insecurities, I struggled with intimacy. Even while married I was looking at pornography. I had a completely beautiful woman available to me and I would secretly get on my computer after she went to sleep. I didn’t know how to initiate intimacy. She would always be the one to initiate. Until one day she stopped. So we stopped.
All the while these things are happening and I was completely oblivious to how it was affecting her. One day she sits me down and says that we need to talk. She tells me that she is not happy with her life. She is not happy with her job. She is not happy with church. She is not happy with our marriage.
Honestly, I didn’t know what to say. I said, “How can you say that you’re not be happy?” She asked me, “How can you say that you ARE?”
We were both very non-confrontational people so all of these issues were never addressed head on. By the time she got the courage up to tell me this so bluntly, she had already given up. I realized this later.
This put me into “fix it” mode. That’s what guys do. There is a problem, we find a solution. We got her a new job. We stepped down from leadership and shortly thereafter, left our church. We looked for other churches. I stopped working as much and made more of an effort to show her romantic love. I did all the mechanical things that should have led to making things right.
But the damage was deeper than the things on the surface. I couldn’t fix that with some surface changes. I didn’t understand that at the time.
This all happened in our third year of marriage. Everything began to fall apart and I wasn’t equipped to “fix it”. Everything I did just seemed to make things worse. As a last ditch effort, we went to counseling. I learned a lot but she had already shut down and didn’t receive anything from it. We couldn’t find a church that we both like so she stopped going.
Then she stopped wearing her ring.
I was devastated but I was still in something of a stupor. I didn’t feel real. I couldn’t believe it was happening. Her shut down made her devoid of emotion. She didn’t show anger or frustration. I didn’t act like she hated me. She just stopped caring. That’s what was confusing and later on what hurt the most.
As things worsened, the tension in our home was overwhelming. We said about 10 words to each other each day. It was unbearable. At night, I would slip under the covers and say good night and the whole painful cycle would begin the next day.
We stopped talking about things and basically acted like distant roommates until one day I couldn’t take it anymore. I suggested that we separate to see if anything would change. Clearly she didn’t want to be in my presence and I felt it tangibly. She agreed to the separation.
Since I was able to work remotely, I decided to move out and come down to South Florida and stay with my parents. The plan was to communicate every week and see how things were progressing. After about 3 months, she told me that she was happier than she had been in years. Shortly after that, she said she wanted a divorce.
For the first time in my life I understood what it meant to be “all cried out”. I cried myself to sleep every night. I cried for hours where no tears even came out. I was broken in every sense of the word.
One of the strongest emotions I felt was shame. I felt that my wife was completely justified for leaving me because I wasn’t a real man. Who wants to be with someone that can’t even make a decision? Who wants to be with someone who can’t even tell that his wife isn’t happy? Who wants to be with a man that can’t even initiate intimacy in the bedroom?
I annihilated myself. I blamed myself for everything. I took all the weight of ownership. I absolved her of all responsibility in the marriage. How can she be expected to live like that? I didn’t hold up my part of the covenant.
The verse that says “God hates divorce” constantly ran through my mind. I started to personalize it and felt like God hated me. How shameful to go through divorce, when God hates it. I knew He was disappointed in me. I knew I was disqualified from ever serving Him in a significant way.
I reached my absolute lowest. Then I dug a hole and crawled in it.
Weight of His Wind and Mercy
Right before I moved down from Tampa I had lunch with a client. It was unusual but God put it on my heart to share what was going on in my life. I told him that I was moving down to stay with my parents and I was just going to see what happens. Immediately he says, “I am willing to pray and fast with you about this.” I don’t know this guy from Adam and he’s just extended himself to partner with me in this so I say, “Okay, I guess.” I wasn’t sure how serious he was.
Over the course of the next months, this guy calls me every weekday morning before work. He would pray with me, share a word with me and walk me through things. He would make me pray real prayers. I would start, “Dear God and Heavenly Father, I come to you right now and pray for…” STOP, STOP, STOP. “Stop praying so holy,” he would say. “Are you hurting right now? Then pray like you’re hurting. God doesn’t need your formal prayers. Just be real.”
So I was real. I stripped away the frilly dressing and learned to pray real painful prayers to God. I would ask Him questions that I once thought we irreverent. I would get angry and tell Him that I didn’t understand why this was happening to me. I had never prayed like that before.
My friend walked me through owning my part of the relationship and the realization that this wasn’t completely my fault. I identified exactly what I had done wrong and how that affected her as a woman, then I allowed myself to see the things she did wrong. I realized that this wasn’t completely my fault and it wasn’t fully my responsibility.
I was getting it in my head but I still needed the transfer to my heart. One day I was reading the Bible and I just broke down. I said, “God, I need you to be more real than just words on a page.” I fell to the floor and for the first time in my life, I felt the tangible presence of God surround me. I felt like He wrapped His arms around me and I just laid their and cried in His arms.
An Ocean Of Grace
Once the divorce was final, I felt a sense of closure. I was now able to move forward and see what God had for me. The next year God took me through the process of learning about His grace and love.
I was a good kid growing up. I was faithful and other than that short period during college, I never really made any “real” mistakes. I never needed His grace like other people did (or so I thought). So for the first time in my life, I opened my heart to His grace because now I really needed it. And He poured it out.
He taught me how to love myself. He began to take me on a journey of self-discovery. Through things like personality tests, I started to understand more about myself and how I am wired. Then He began to teach me about my identity as His son. It was a deep work of healing and restoration.
He taught me to receive grace and then how to give it. He taught me how to receive encouragement and then how to give it. My eyes opened to a whole new aspect of His love that went so far beyond studying the Bible and theology.
My Story, His Glory
This year will mark 4 years since my divorce. I have been single since then and in that time, God has been doing an incredible work in my life. More than ever I feel whole. More than ever I feel restored. More than ever I feel confident.
From that place of confidence, I feel like God has graced me to share my story with others. This is a big part of why I started this blog. I want to share what God has given me. It is the most precious gift I could have received. It is the gift of sonship. I have been adopted as His son and because of that, it defines who I am.
My desire is to see lives changed as people come into an understanding of their identity as sons and daughters of the living God. I want us to move beyond just head knowledge of the Word in the book and into the heart knowledge of the Word in our hearts. I believe that as we live from that place of knowing who we are in Christ, we will receive grace to live lives of significance for His glory.
From my mess comes my message and from my test comes my testimony.