Back in 1995 my entire life dramatically changed. It was the worst week of my life and it was the best week of my life. It was both.
My parents divorced when I was a young boy. After they split up, I lived with my mother until I was about 10. When she decided to move to Mexico, I decided to live with my dad. So I moved from Miami back to Indianapolis. My dad never remarried. He never attended church and was pretty much a typical bachelor. He worked and stayed out late a lot. As a kid, I often remember telling myself that I didn’t want to ever get divorced or chain smoke cigarettes like my father, but both happened.
As an adult, I was relatively happy. I had my share of problems but not more than average. That was until it all fell apart in September of 1995. I soon realized I was doing the important things….backwards!
My true to life transformation starts when I met a lady at a friend’s going away party at a local bar, Memories, back in the early 90’s. We spent that night together and each one afterwards. Shortly thereafter, we had a child. Then another. At this point we decided to get married. We rented our clubhouse and had a small ceremony. We were married by the Justice of the peace. Just a few friends, family, and lots of drinks. I remember it as a pretty good night except it gets blurry after the bottle of Southern Comfort I drank. I hugged the porcelain goddess more than my wife that night. A month later, we bought a house in my wife’s hometown. With all of our savings going for the down payment we moved. I was gone more than I wanted, about twelve hours a day, because I was the main breadwinner, we had a lot of bills, plus it took an hour just to get to the office. We were making ends meet, but just barely. Then it hit…my hell week!
On September 6, 1995 my car literally blew up. Kaboom. The engine was toast.
This was especially frustrating since I relied on my car more than most as I made my living by direct, in home sales. On top of that, we didn’t have the cash to fix it.
The following day, September 7, I lost my job. I literally outsold myself and did something really stupid. I was about to land a couple large video surveillance systems. The contracts were about to be signed. We are talking $80,000 grand in sales and something like $12-16 thousand in commission. We desperately needed it. I suppose my boss panicked because we didn’t have the technical expertise or manpower to install everything. That Thursday, he raised the minimum mark-up from 50% to a whopping 200%! I received the news in a memo that morning. I knew my clients would never go for it, so I tried to switch the sales to another company. Big mistake. My boss found out and I was history. It was mutual both ways but that stunk. I needed those sales and I needed the job.
So no car, no job but I had a friend in the business. So on Friday afternoon, the 8th, I called my wife to let her know I was going to meet with a long time buddy. We were going to discuss my selling alarms for him. My wife was quite understanding. She said go ahead and that if I got to drinking I should stay the night. I hadn’t planned on consuming alcoholic beverages. But I thought about a free night! Having fun. I deserved a night out. It had been a hard week. Hmmm? But something was wrong. She was being way too nice. Especially for someone who always interested in my every move. She had been with the girls all day, all week and was encouraging me to stay out? Her only request was that I call before I head home. I conducted my business quickly sped home, without the call. Guess what I found? I could not believe my eyes. I pulled up in the driveway and saw through the picture window a guy standup. He ran toward the back of the house. My wife looked flustered and surprised. I instantly knew three things: 1) she was cheating, 2) who that pickup truck across the street belonged to, and that I could beat him to the back door and blindside him with an overhand right punch. As I stood next to the door, something came over me. I knew my main problem was with her. I told him to get lost and I ran in the house. I asked, “Who was that? What is that guy doing here?” I will never forget her reply. She says, “What guy?”. My blood went from hot steam to a full boil right then. “What guy?” The guy out there. The guy in that pickup. That guy you were getting all cozy with and drinking beer. That guy I have never met before. The one I passed running out the back door. That guy standing across the street!
I looked down the hallway and saw my one and two year old daughters sleeping in their doorways. They were Sound asleep. Perhaps they had been listening to every word? Maybe they were wondering where their dad was. This hurt something fierce. I could not believe it. But I was in control. Again to my disbelief, my wife started to leave and walk out the front door. I shouted, “Don’t you dare leave right now. We need to talk.” She said he, that guy, had been there because she was lonely. She said she was going out. I grabbed my wedding ring and asked her to stay. She left. My ring flew but somehow I kept my head. My heart stung. I had never felt so distraught and lost.
She came back home around midnight, saying I jumped to conclusions. That it is all was my fault. Then she floored me by saying she wanted a divorce and didn’t love me anymore. I was thinking…what do you mean? We just got married a few months ago. We just bought this house last month. What about the girls? What do you mean you don’t love me? How can that be? Is this relationship a big lie?
In three days I lost my car, job, and marriage. Why was everything being torn from me? I thought to myself, ‘This is a nightmare…I just got to wake up!’.
In the morning, September the 9th, everything was the same. It wasn’t a bad dream. About a week prior, I set a sales appointment for Saturday morning. I am not sure how or why, but I kept it. I borrowed a car, had picked up some paperwork the previous day and got up to Indy for the appointment, right on time…9:30am on Saturday morning. Guess what? No one was there. I figured considering how my week was going. I had nothing better to do so I waited for a while. Then a lady showed up. She said something about the guy I was supposed to meet should have been there. She left. About 15 minutes later, I decided to leave too.
Broken down, let go, walked out on and now stood up. Can it get any worse? As I pulled out of the parking lot, I saw a man in my rearview mirror. He was walking across an open field heading to the front door. I figured this was my man. So I turned around and waited for him. He apologized for being late and said something about talking with the neighbors. I did my usual thing. I surveyed the building, made my presentation, and worked up a quote. He told me he’d speak with the board and get back with me. So I turned around and started to walk out of his office. Then he said, “How’s it going?” I replied the usual answer most folk give, ”just fine”. He said, “I really mean it, how is it going?” I said, “I have had better weeks”. He said he did want to hear about it. So I told him all about my terrible week. I explained all about my car, job, and marriage.
He smiled and said that all my answers were right here, pointing to a Bible. I wanted to laugh, but I wasn’t in the mood. I wanted to blow him off, but I had no where I wanted to go. He said he could prove it. So Pastor Kenny Trautman read some of the Good Book to me. I listened. I really listened. The passages he read convicted me. Those Holy words convicted me of my wrongdoing; my errors; my selfishness; my rottenness. I started crying like a baby. I couldn’t help but think about my problems and most of it was my fault. It was as if a damn had broken loose.
After a while, Pastor Ken asked if I wanted to accept Jesus as my Savior and the answer to my ills. I thought about it for a second. I knew this was right. I was never more sure about anything but in a different kind of way. I was thirsty. I was about ready to drop dead in the middle of the desert. Somehow I stumbled across this oasis. A never ending supply of cool, clean water was there for my consumption. How could I possibly say no? I wanted to believe and I did. I said what I now know as’ the sinner’s prayer. I repented. By faith, I drank….the Living Water. I believed what he said about Jesus Christ. That exact and precious moment I was born again. I became a Christian!
My problems hadn’t gone away. There was no angelic harp music ringing in my head. God did not directly speak to me audibly. But He did speak, no doubt there. Something was different. Everything was different. I could see light at the end of the tunnel. The light of Christ was lit in my heart. The Bible said Jesus would always be with me and never leave me. I had an awesome sense of peace. My problems were not unbearable because Jesus was helping me carry the load. Pastor Ken offered to counsel my wife and I. He gave me a Bible, some Christian music, and a booklet on a Christian Marriage. I stopped by an old church on the way home to read the marriage booklet he gave me. I realized we were doing almost everything wrong. We were going across the grain of God’s Word. I figured that if we made the necessary changes, our marriage could get back on track. After reading the booklet and saying a prayer, I looked around the yard of the church and saw a statue of Jesus. I think it is called the ‘living heart’. His arms were open and His heart was showing and magnified. But something was wrong. Someone had broken the hands off this statue of my new Lord. This bothered me. Why would someone do that? Why does God permit some delinquent to vandalize a replica of His son? I pondered this for a while. I then came to the realization that God loves us and for us to truly love Him, He gave us a free will. Otherwise, we are some type of robots. So we have a choice; love or indifference; obedience or defiance; His way or my way. That night, God laid something on my heart. We are to be His hands here on earth. He has decided to work through us and sometimes in spite of us. All for His glory, for His honor. (I later found both of this thought supported in Scripture).
I made one other stop on the way home. I went to the mall and bought a gold cross for me and a pair of gold earrings for my wife. Upon arriving home I shared the news, “Guess what happened to me today?” I thought she’d be happy. I told her I wanted to forget about last night. That in many ways I had been a jerk. I could hardly believe her response. She was very cold. Very callous. No remorse. Hardly any emotion. The closer and harder I tried to show love and my commitment, the further she went away. Like to opposite magnets. After a month, she left for her mother’s. A week later, I was served with divorce papers.
She never wore those earrings, at least that I know of. I always wear the cross. Actually, it is a crucifix. It is very important to me because it is a symbol of what God did for me that day. A symbol of our commitment to each other, like a wedding ring. I always wear my cross because I never want to forget that He loved me first when I least expected it. Though there may come a time when my faith may waiver, I have the utmost confidence that He will never leave nor forsake me. It is written.
One I was alone, I decided to move in with my Dad and let her have the house. I had no desire to stay there anymore. He had an extra room and I needed a place to stay. God was working in a big way. The day I was moving in he got a call. A call from the Kidney center. After several years on a waiting list and on dialysis, they had a kidney for him. My father was getting a transplant. I dropped of my stuff and headed for the Hospital. When I was putting my clothes in his spare bedroom, I came across his old Catholic relics. A crucifix, a Bible, and a hymnal. They probably hadn’t been used in 30 or 40 years. I grabbed them and headed for the hospital. I prayed like I never had (because I never had…not as a believer). The surgery went smooth and his recovery was awesome. There we no complications and the results were truly amazing. He felt better than ever. As far as I know, he never had one problem with that kidney. Certainly, it was God. My father needed help. I needed help. God works all things out for His glory. God strengthened him physically and me spiritually. I was hungry. Hungry for Him. I read the Bible with an earnest desire for understanding. I listened to solid, Biblical preachers on the radio whenever I had a chance. I attended church each week. I prayed daily. My dad’s gift was a transplanted kidney, mine was a transplanted heart. I sought God with all my heart. My new heart.
My father had many complications from diabetes, probably the result of many years of hard living. About seven years later, my he passed away in his sleep. I now wear my dad’s gold necklace holding the crucifix. That gold chain is a reminder of the gift my ‘Father in heaven ‘gave to my ‘father on earth’ that day. It reminds me that God is in control. Nothing happens without His knowledge and permission.
Though I tried to reconcile my marriage for almost a year, my ex-wife would have nothing of it. She was obstinate and indifferent, unwilling to work things out amicably. I was her scapegoat and she wasn’t letting go. On top of everything else, she spent the money I gave her for the house payments and support on something else other than the mortgage. Before I found out, the mortgage was several months behind. Without any savings and everything else; foreclosure and bankruptcy were inevitable. If nothing else, at least she was consistent in not wanting to reconcile.
She drug out the divorce and tried her best to get everything to her benefit at my expense. At first, I didn’t care. But after taking a beating, I hired a good attorney and at least got things done by the State guidelines. I had ample reason to be upset and vindictive, but God forgave me while I was in the wrong. He expected me to forgive her all the same. So I did. Day after day, until I got it right. That took a while. It is still not over because it is a continual process.
All the same time, the Lord was strengthening my spirit. I grew and grew. But it was really hard. I remember picking the girls up at my old house and feeling like a stranger. She treated me like an unwanted visitor. She put the girls in the middle too often. But through it all, I’ve yet to miss a support payment or a scheduled weekend with my daughters.
While I was a new Christian, I still had plenty of dirty habits. The Lord laid it upon my heart that I should stop drinking to get drunk. So I did. After a while, He laid it upon my heart to quit smoking. With His strength and a strong commitment, after thirteen years, I quit smoking cigarettes on January 1, 1997. I worked on cleaning up my mind. No doubt I still have to battle immoral thoughts and inclinations, but the Holy Spirit helps me. I have stumbled a number of times, but I have yet to fall. Instead of choosing between good and bad, I am now more often choosing between good and better. As I have grown closer to the Lord, I see my sin more clearly. Sometimes it looks like more filth than before, but that is an illusion. It is just magnified as I am closer to Holiness.
The Lord was definitely speaking to me through Pastor Ken Trautman. The sermons were awesome. I knew I needed to align myself with likeminded singles. So when my brother’s girlfriend told me about a church that had an active singles group, JRM, I went. Though it was hard to make myself a part of a new group I knew I needed to be there. After a short while, I made some friends and attended most events regularly. Shortly thereafter, I joined East 91st Christian Church. I attended every Sunday morning and evening. I grew. I became involved in the ministry. One of the best things I did was go through a program called DivorceCare. I learned a ton. One of the most important things was not to jump right back into another relationship. They taught that it takes time to heal so that we don’t repeat the same mistake by falling in another bad relationship. I committed myself not to date for a year. I sure wanted to but I didn’t. God rewarded me. After a few years, I met Jill. We dated for almost two years and I proposed. I thank God that she accepted. God restored everything I lost. Like Job, he didn’t just restore what I had. He added and multiplied to it. Everything is better. He turned the bitter lemon juice of those three nasty days into sweet lemonade on my spiritual birthday (September 9, 1995). It tastes oh so good!
I wrote this testimony for a couple of reasons. One reason is that I wanted to document what God did for me. I also wanted to share my story. I am sure God tried to get through to me before. Perhaps this story might trigger something in you. Jesus is patient and a gentleman. People wonder why God permits sin to run rampant. Why evil exists. I believe it is because He loves us. He waits patiently but He can not wait forever.
20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.
Rev 3:20 (NIV)
Have you possibly ignored Christ’s knock at the door of your heart? Listen. He is there. Sometimes it is steady soft rapt and other times He bangs His fist like He did in my case. If you can’t hear the knock, it is not because He is not there.
I suspect you’ve got the TV up too loud, maybe you are jamming to the radio, or perhaps you’re too busy. Do yourself a favor and seek Him. Quiet your heart.
Get away from THINGS.
26 From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.
27 God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.
Acts 17:26-27 (NIV)
God is close. He is at the doorstep but sin has blinded us. It has filled our ears with wax. Call out His name! He will show Himself.
7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
8 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
9 “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?
10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?
11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
Matt 7:7-11 (NIV)
I sincerely hope this letter has helped you in some way. If it has been a blessing, please let me know. If you have any questions, do the same.
Because of Him,
December 1, 2003.
The bottom line: Born once, die twice or born twice, die once.