I grew up as a PK. In case you don’t know the lingo, that’s short for “pastor’s kid”. I was raised in a Christian home with two good parents and was introduced to God at a young age. I don’t remember a specific day when I first “accepted” Christ, but I think it was probably in Sunday school when I was about five or six.
If you know very much about pastor’s kids, you’ll also know that they are prone to streaks of rebellion; especially during the teenage years. I was no exception. Like most teenage rebellions, it had a lot to do with the group of friends I was spending time with. By the end of seventh grade I had been suspended from school a few times for various hooliganish stunts (including the infamous broomstick-javelin incident, and the coconut-from-the-second-floor-window prank).
By the end of eighth grade I was smoking every day (I was a jazz musician, and all eighth-graders know that you have to smoke if you want to be good at jazz!). When my family moved to Colorado after eighth grade, I even sneaked smokes during our rest stops at gas stations. Amazingly in spite of the smoking, I was able to run cross country and track, and was one of the best distance runners in my grade.
I entered high school determined to shed the somewhat geeky image by which I had previously been known. It’s amazing how the “bad” crowd is the easiest to make friends with; eager to embrace anyone who dresses the part. I went out for the cross country team, but quit after the first practice when I realized that the high altitude made it nearly impossible to smoke and run simultaneously. Smoking cigarettes quickly progressed to smoking pot, and for the first time in my life I failed to be a straight “A” student.
Yup, I was a crazy kid.
Throughout this time I still knew deep down that God was real, but I was basically putting that part of my life on hold. My relationship with God took a back seat to having fun. I kept attending the church youth group though. It was fun to show up stoned to play games and sing songs.
The Turning Point
The turning point came during the summer after ninth grade. On a youth group mission trip to Mexico I saw the hand of God at work. I saw the reality of spiritual warfare, and the undeniable results of prayer. For example, our bus broke down and we prayed for it. Sure enough, it started back up. One incident after another became the evidence that I could not deny. On that trip I rededicated my life to Christ.
Running The Race
The change was not instant, but rather gradual. I soon gave up smoking, and took up chewing tobacco which I viewed as a lesser evil. I went out for the cross country team again and this time stuck with it. Not only is distance running a great analogy of the Christian walk, but my own high school running career paralleled my spiritual progress as a believer.
That sophomore year I ran 19:15 for the 5K, all the while chewing tobacco. I went out for track that spring, but again quit after one practice, finding that my chewing habit was not compatible with the intensity of the workouts. Around the same time, God was teaching me a lot through my girlfriend who later became my wife. Her faith and love motivated me to clean up my act, and when I went out for cross country my junior year I was tobacco-free. I ran a 17:11 5K, which represented a two-minute drop in time!
Article in the local paper.
By my senior year I was even more committed to living for Christ, and my running continued to improve. I dropped another minute off of my 5K, and helped lead our team to the state championship. In track I ran a 4:23 mile, and took the 5A state championship with a 9:44 2-mile (at altitude). I knew that God had given me the ability to run, and I was not ashamed to make it known. I was known by many in school as the “Jesus runner”, and was able to share my faith in the local newspaper on a number of occasions. It was the first time I really felt God was using me, and it was a good feeling. I had a great year, winning many awards in academics, music, and running. I knew then that I wanted to give God the glory for my successes throughout life.
Since then I’ve walked through valleys and over mountains in my journey of faith. Of course I’ve stumbled many times, but God’s grace is always there. There have been several life “events” that have caused me to go through periods of spiritual renewal and growth. The first major event was getting married in 1999 to Melissa, my high school sweetheart and love of my life. There are attributes of God that I believe can be best understood in the context of marriage. I now have a passion for marriage, and helping other marriages succeed. (By the way, marriage is a lot of work! But it’s worth it.)
We were just kids when we got married.
The next event that changed my life was the birth of our children, starting with our son Josiah. There are certain things that can only be understood when you become a parent, and again there are so many lessons that God teaches through the parent-child relationship. It’s amazing to think that He loves us more than we could even love our children, and when he disciplines us, it’s out of love. It’s also a great responsibility to raise a child. Notice that most of my testimony took place during my first eighteen years, and my core values were essentially formed by that point.
In March 2001, we were living in a two-bedroom ground level apartment. At 3:00 AM one morning our lives were shaken when a drunk driver came crashing through the wall as we slept. Debris was everywhere, and it looked like a bomb had exploded in our son’s room. Two things were apparent that day: the first was the attack of the enemy and second was God’s hand of protection upon us. Earlier in the evening we had discovered a black widow spider inches away from our infant son. We prayed for protection, not only from spiders, but from other dangers as well. It was only a few hours later that we awoke to the deafening explosion of a car splitting through the side of our apartment building at 80 miles per hour.
Josiah’s room after the crash.
Had the car struck the building two feet to the left, it would have come straight through the wall and over our bed while we slept. Had it been two feet to the other direction it would have fully entered our son’s room, slamming into the crib. In either situation, someone likely would have lost their life. Miraculously the car struck a small corner between the two bedrooms, significantly absorbing the impact. Even as a dresser was pushed against Josiah’s crib, and debris landed in it, he remained asleep during the entire ordeal. Perhaps the enemy had made an attempt on our lives, but there was no doubt that God’s hand protected us. It was one of those experiences that makes one consider the value of life, and as I pondered my life I was hit by the revelation that every breath belongs to God. Once again I was fully aware that my purpose is to glorify Him.
Throughout life, I continue to encounter situations that challenge my faith and strengthen my convictions. One such occurrence was the divorce of my parents in 2002. After 27 years of marriage, my dad left my mom for another woman. Sadly, I could finally relate to the millions of people who have been impacted by divorce.
Another example of life’s lessons came through my brother Daryl, who was also a runner and one of the most active people I’ve ever known.
On November 24th, 2004, Daryl was on his way home from college for Thanksgiving, riding in a small car with two of his good friends. A deer jumped into their path and they swerved–rolling the car. Daryl, sleeping in the backseat, was ejected. He suffered several injuries including a collapsed lung, skull fractures, jaw fractures, broken vertebra, ribs, and other wounds.
He nearly lost his life, but God spared him and miraculously he survived with no brain damage. He is paralyzed from mid-torso down, and after several grueling months of recovery was able to resume his life; now in a wheelchair.
Daryl after his accident.
When I first saw my brother after the accident he was unconscious and machines were keeping him alive. It was very easy to imagine myself in his place. It was my own brother laying there in that lifeless state. It could have just as easily been me. It was a freak accident; the type of thing that could happen to any of us at any time. Once again, I was reminded that we take for granted the gift of life we’ve been given, and I wanted more than ever to make each day count.
So each day I try to remember that it may be my last, and that my purpose is to bring glory to God. I don’t always remember my mission, but as life’s experiences keep giving me new reminders of God’s love, I hope that I will continue to grow closer to Him.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m NOT saying I’ve “arrived” or that I’m a perfect Christian! In fact it’s the opposite.
Over the years, God continues to refine me and reveal areas of my own life where I am not living up to His standards. I suspect this trend will continue, as long as I’m living this side of heaven. And along with those revelations come new challenges, new lessons learned, and a greater appreciation of His grace.
At the same time, I continue to gain a greater understanding of my identity in Christ. While I’m not perfect, I am the righteousness of God! I am a son of God. I am filled with the resurrection power of Christ through the Holy Spirit.
Like most people, I could probably fill a book with stories of what God has done for me. Maybe some day I will.
Here are a few more things that have shaped my life…
I’ve come a long way, and yet have a long way to go; so come run the race with me as we partake in this journey called life.
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