The scene was almost surreal. Standing in that deserted rock quarry was like standing on the moon. I stared into the heavens, the full moon glancing through the clouds as they drifted across the night sky. It was 3 a.m. and I had never been so alone in my whole life. I screamed into the darkness. I’m sure my words were barely understandable, but somehow I hoped that God would hear my heart through my tortured cries. I was desperate that He would rescue me from the life I was living and the man I had become.
This was one of the pivotal moments in my life. It came in the midst of my struggle to reconcile the reality of my life with my supposed faith in God. Along the way there had been certain pivotal moments — crossroads in my life, where my choices catapulted me in a direction that would shape my character in ways I never anticipated. At one of these crucial points I read the gospels, which turned my whole world upside down. From there I began to pray in earnest and attend church regularly, hoping to lay hold of the new life Jesus promised to those who followed Him. But no matter how many stirring messages I heard, the joy and peace of knowing Him remained an elusive dream.
If you had met me at work or after church, you would never have guessed how lost and in distress I was deep in my soul. I was friendly and knew how to carry on an interesting shallow conversation. Yet, when I laid my head on my pillow at night, vivid impressions of my life would begin to swim to the surface of my consciousness. A never-ending stream of random thoughts would keep me staring at the ceiling for hours. So much regret, so many fears, insecurities and questions. Who am I, really? What am I living for? Why did my wife leave me? How am I going to raise this little girl alone? What if she turns out like me?
I could not find any answers to the penetrating questions that bored like an insatiable worm into the depths my being. Finally, exhausted and frustrated from my hours of self-inquisition, I would begin to pray and cry myself to sleep. This gave me no real rest, for I had no confidence that my life was pleasing to God, which was really the heart of the matter.
One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. (Psalm 27:4)
This verse summed up the desire of my heart. I really had no clue what it meant, but I knew it was where I wanted to be. As a Christian I was told that this was my destination, yet the reality of the life I lived gave me no confidence that I would arrive at this holy place. Sometimes I would imagine myself standing before Jesus. I knew I would shrink back in shame, but my deepest desire was that I could say to Him, “I love you! I’ve always loved you. I’m so glad I can be with you now and forever.” So this was my prayer: “I’m a wretched man, please help me. Show me your will and I’ll do it with all my heart!”
From time to time I would recall the day of my first encounter with them. I never met anyone like them before or since. They had a very special quality — a peace and kindness that made a deep impression upon my heart. I actually met them at a concert, of all places. They were taking care of the young people who were hurt or had taken too many drugs. I never realized how wounded I was before I met them.
One of them asked me what I was going to do with my life. For the first time, I had no answer. But I had always had an answer. Something was different. Before that time I had been a very self-confident person with pretty grand ideas about what I was going to do in my life. Yet, I hadn’t figured these people into the equation of life. What was it that was so extraordinary about these people? I interrogated one of the women for nearly three hours. She patiently answered all my questions.
I discovered that they were disciples of God’s Son, whom they called by His Hebrew name, Yahshua. They lived together and shared all things in common like the believers in the Book of Acts.1 I had never heard of such a thing, but it sounded intriguing. But in a lot of ways I didn’t really understand who they were. I think because of the environment of a rock concert and the simple and natural way they dressed, I imagined them as some sort of Christian hippie commune. As the hour grew late I finally had to bid them farewell, for I had a life to get back to. I had no idea until later what a pivotal moment this was in my life.
So I returned to my life as it was — fairly routine and mostly uneventful. But I had responsibilities, especially one very big one — my sweet six-year-old daughter. She was the apple of my eye. Her mother had left when she was two, and since then it had mostly just been she and I. Of course, I had to work almost every day to support us.
One of my greatest struggles was seeing the effects that daycare and pre-school were having on my daughter. I could clearly see the hand-writing on the wall of what was before her. It was like we were both standing in a long bread line with everyone else in the world, and I knew the food was poison. It was agonizing to consider what the future would hold for a young woman in this world.
I didn’t realize until much later that God’s penetrating light had shone into my soul on the night I encountered the disciples of Yahshua.2 But as time went by I began to see the false foundations of my life. One by one, my supposed convictions were shown to be without any real foundation or fruit. “Why do I believe this or that?” I would ask myself. “Who told me that? Is it true? How can I know?”
I began to realize that I had been lied to all my life about so many things. And I had swallowed it hook, line, and sinker. The propaganda I had been spoon-fed all my life through the TV and in public school led me down a path towards certain destruction, having a strong influence in the choices I made at those pivotal moments.
But the real rude awakening came when I realized that I was more responsible than anyone for the corrupt man I had become. For whatever influences came to me in my life, ultimately I was the one who made the final determination of which path I was going to take. Like all men, I was blessed with a conscience to help me know right from wrong. However, because of my own selfishness and pride, I would march carelessly on down whatever path suited me the most. I took little thought of how my choices and actions would affect others.
So to that point my character had developed in such a way that I could hardly look at myself in the mirror. The most frustrating part of it was that I was supposedly “saved by the blood of Jesus,” yet I didn’t have the power to change. My Christian friends would try to encourage me by saying things like, “Well at least you’re saved.” But somehow this was little comfort to me. Looking back, I think many of them were just as insecure as I was.
At the same time as the frightening reality of my life was beginning to dawn on me, I also began to understand in my heart the real cost of following God’s Son. After another encounter with the disciples of Yahshua, many things began to come into focus for me. They gave me a paper they had put together about their beliefs. I was so amazed by their understanding of the gospel and God’s purpose, and even more, that there was a real life behind their words.
One day, with stark clarity, I realized a simple, yet monumental truth — Jesus meant what He said. In my experience as a Christian I frequently heard in reference to Jesus’ so-called hard sayings, “When it says this it really means that.” It was so confusing to me. How could I ever know what He meant unless I went to seminary or read a thousand books? But in that moment, I realized that when He said, “No one of you who does not give up all his own possessions can be my disciple,” that’s exactly what He meant! It was as if the fog lifted and the sun came out and I could see the light of day. Somehow it made me so happy.
I began to consider all the words of the gospel He preached:
And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:23-25)
If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:26-27)
Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life. (Mark 10:29-30)
And to top it off, I read where Jesus asked, “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” Would He consider me a brother?3
Then one said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You.” But He answered and said to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers? And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:47-49)
It was as if I had unlocked a deeply hidden mystery, which hardly anyone could understand. I was so convicted about the state of my life, yet so encouraged to see the path of life opening up before me in the gospel. It was clear to me that I was called to do more with my life than just working my 9-to-5 job, watching TV, and paying my bills — killing time until time would eventually kill me. I was especially convicted by the words of the Apostle John:
Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17)
I began to confide in people whom I considered believers, saying “Nothing is more important than to do the will of God.” I was so surprised that people would look at me as if I was way out in left field when I said that. But isn’t that what the word of God says? Isn’t that what His brothers do, and who is going to abide with Him forever? Shouldn’t we take that seriously? How can we disregard such clear instruction and still expect to enjoy eternity with Him?
Somehow I knew that those disciples of Yahshua whom I had met took His word seriously. And they had a love that I had never seen anywhere else. Isn’t love the most important thing for a believer?4 I had to know how they were able to love. I wanted to love, but I was a miserable failure at loving as Jesus did. If only I could find out how to love. If only I could find a way to really give Him my whole life.
I remember that moment as if it was yesterday. It came at the end of my deep struggle. I was sitting in my room on the edge of my bed. In my inner man, it was like I was standing on the edge of a cliff, debating whether I should jump. It was the very pivotal moment in my life. I was either going to jump off the cliff, trusting that God was going to save me, or I was going to turn around and take my fate upon myself.
By this time it was very clear that I couldn’t save myself, nor could I settle for a religious experience. I needed real salvation — supernatural power to change. There was so much at stake. I knew that if I really gave my whole life to God, my family and my friends would think I had lost my mind. But if I held back I knew that my daughter and I would be lost. The moment seemed frozen in time.
Then I jumped — thank God I jumped! With all of my heart I jumped. I felt free as a bird set free from its cage. There were no more fears or doubts or questions. My life was now in God’s hands and He could do whatever He wanted with me, for I trusted Him. I wept for a long time. But my tears were bittersweet, for though I sensed my reward would be great, I also knew it was going to cost me everything. I especially wept for my family. For though I knew I could not let my emotions towards them keep me from following God, I still desired with all of my heart that they could follow me in giving all to Him.
That moment on the edge of my bed was the defining moment of my life. As a disciple of Yahshua I have had to face that same pivotal moment of decision many times. Am I going to trust Him and my brothers who have His Spirit, or am I going to be proud and take my fate upon myself?
A few years after I was baptized and became a disciple of Yahshua, I was standing in a big field with several hundred of my brothers and sisters. It was the time of the evening prayers. When I looked up into the heavens I saw the same sky I had seen all those years ago in that rock quarry. I was overwhelmed to realize that God had heard my desperate cry and had really transferred me from the kingdom of darkness and into His marvelous light. I was no longer alone, no longer alienated, and no longer afraid.
It’s been seventeen years since my daughter and I came to live with Yahshua’s people. Our Father heard my prayers and preserved her from the ravages of growing up in this world. She too is a disciple of Yahshua. She married as a virgin and has a beautiful daughter of her own now.
I have been blessed with the most wonderful wife and soul-mate you could imagine. We have four precious daughters and a little baby boy. They are growing up as part of a holy (set-apart) nation. They have a great purpose for their lives and every opportunity to lay hold of that birthright that belongs to all who put their trust in Him. All honor and glory goes to the One who loved us first. The desire of His heart is to have a people who love and trust Him and one another. I am so thankful for God’s kindness and faithfulness, and with all my heart I want to give Him His heart’s desire.5
He desired me and I know He desires you.