wardlow

I wake up in a cold room on an air mattress to complete darkness. It’s the third week in a row with no electricity and Thanksgiving week at that. There is a TV sitting in the floor in front of me with a few toys scattered about. But what is next to the TV is a fresh reminder of what choices can do, the exact gravity over your life they hold. It is an empty toddler reclining chair. It reminded me of what I had done. I had always remained so far away from God, but at this moment, I cried out to Him for help. I made the choice and asked Him to come into my heart for the first time with complete confidence.

The truth of the matter is that I had chosen to land myself in the situation you just read. I chose to do drugs and drink and have an affair. I confessed to what I did, then I chose to walk out of the door. I was completely absorbed by my plans, what I thought I should do. You see my wife comes from a family of believers. She has been guided her whole life to love God. Her parents are amazing believers who have taught their children well. I, on the other hand, had only one person trying to lead me to Christ.

My stepfather, David, was a great man. He was hard working, wise, and very intelligent. At the time I didn’t realize what a great teacher I had. He raised me from the time I was three years old and taught me dad stuff. He took an interest in teaching me physically and emotionally. Now understand, we didn’t always have a good relationship. I can only remember a handful of times where we genuinely got along, but hindsight proves that this was my fault. He committed suicide one night while I was at work. I rushed home to find police cars and every neighbor we had in our driveway. My sister was at the house when he shot himself. She actually found his body and called the police. Our mother was out of town working and at this point was trying to get back in town as quickly as she could. All I could do was watch, helpless to be of any use here.

This one event changed everything.

My family was torn apart. There was hatred and resentment on all sides. None of us thought to choose God, instead of choosing our own ways. This part of my life proved to be destructive for everyone. My wife lived with me, put up with me, and loved me day in and day out. We had a child in 2012 and we named him after my stepfather (kind of). We called him Solomon. It was a way of respecting my teacher. In 2014, I had an affair with someone I worked with. I lost my job of course, where I was paid a decent rate and living comfortably. As I said before, I chose to walk out of my home and leave my wife and child.

I. Lost. Everything.

That brings us back to the cold room. I am overwhelmed with guilt. I am ashamed to talk to anyone I once knew. I am afraid of how the future is going to work out. Most of all, at that moment I remembered my boy sitting in that chair and playing with his mother. They are both smiling and enjoying the moment about as much as two people could enjoy something. This was a piece of heaven that, until just then, I had chosen to leave behind.

The next choice was the big one. I had been going to this church that a coworker told me about. She actually gave me a book about a program called RE ENGAGE. It was every Thursday night at a local church in Memphis. I had seen someone choose to give their life to Christ here in this building and it was moving. You could see the emotion in their face when they talked about the past versus what they had chosen to do now. I wanted that joy, that peace, that forgiveness.

Up until then, I had chosen to believe that I was somehow unworthy of God’s love. How arrogant I was to believe that I didn’t deserve forgiveness. That is the point, I chose to let God have my life, and after that, I realized what it means to be a man of God. My choices were to end up serving God’s purpose from here on out.

I had the honor of being baptized by my wife and on top of that, have my marriage healed by Jesus. The word amazing doesn’t quite describe the grace my wife has, or the capacity for grace, rather. Could you imagine being her? Working mom, husband walked out on her and she begins to pick up the pieces. Alone. Then in comes the deadbeat husband with a plea to try one last time, proclaiming that he has had a heart change, and wants to try to let God help them. Could you imagine how skeptical she would be? How hard it was knowing that it could be true but not knowing if she could trust it? She chose to trust God. Shortly after, he revealed what he was doing.

We have seen miracles simply happen now. My mother and sister both were baptized at this same church. By my own hands, no less. It was then that I realized I had made the best choice in trusting Jesus. I saw how free life could be, how great it was truly meant to be. I know now that His Spirit provides freedom from having to give in to this world and the things in it.

These days we are living our lives. We are healed, whole. We know now that if we give God the control in our relationships, then we will bear fruit, more fruit, and much fruit. We have been given the great responsibility to work in the RE ENGAGE ministry now for a second year. More and more people have begun to hear this story and to be encouraged by it. Many of our friends and family have begun to take notice and come to Thursday night classes with us, as well as attending service on Sundays.

We renewed our vows on June 12, 2016. It was the final representation of God’s ability to make ALL things new. It all came down to a choice.

After having true heart change, a peace comes to you. You are able to look at life’s circumstances differently. That peace that you hear about comes from trusting in God and being faithful. It is something so powerful: that choice to trust; that choice to have faith; that choice to fight for each other. I have been given many gifts as a result, a stronger, new marriage being the center piece of it all. He is so faithful and He gives us the ability to come home to Him of our own free will.

Jerry, 31
Memphis, TN
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