I once heard a man say:"Without a test, there can be no testimony." I would have to say that I have passed the test when it comes to whether or not a person has been tested...Sometimes it seems as if my life has been one test after another.
Satan made an attempt on my life when I was very young. To this day, I bear a scar on my face from when I was almost electrocuted to death at the tender age of six. I'd been playing with a lamp you see; the kind that has the little knob that only turns one way instead of the back and forth push pin thingy...I'm sure you know the kind.
Well back then I did'nt. Trying without success to turn the stupid knob with my little fingers, I decided brilliantly to use my teeth. My right cheek touched the naked metal of the bulb socket and, well, as they used to say in the aviation industry--CONTACT!
The sudden bolt of electricity knocked me onto my back and, amazingly, the lamp went down with me, still locked onto my face, still flooding my little body with deadly electric energy. I can remember vividly the lightning flashing inside my head, behind my eyes it seemed. I can still see my own two hands frozen in the air above me, locked into talons. Surely it was no more than a second or two but we all know how an instant can seem like an eternity, depending on the circumstances.
My mother, in the next room, saw strange flickering light and heard a funny noise and came to investigate...and thank God she did. To this day if she tells the story she gets emotional; especially when she gets to the part about being irritated and being ready to get onto me for "getting into stuff" and realizing that the funny noise was her six year old son trying to cry out while riding the lightning!
When I was nine satan called me out into the street.In trouble at school and terrified of my father's violence, I chose to flee rather than face the music at home, but for me the music was a death dirge, so I chose the unknown.I stayed gone two days and nights. Nine years old. Two days and nights. Where did I go? What did I do the whole time? Well that's another story, but in this I have the testimony that God placed an aura of His grace around me during that time. He made me invisible to the demons who walk about on city streets seeking to devour what children they may.
We hear repeatedly of children running away or otherwise disappearing only never to be seen again. We hear just as often of their remains being found...why did God allow me to return to my family safe? So that I might glorify Him in this testimony.
Sadly, this was only the beginning of a series of runaways. Each time I ventured farther and stayed gone longer, to the point where I knew at sixteen how to hustle and survive on the streets. My testimony is that God kept His hedge of protection around me every time. I might've had to sink bathe in a McDonald's bathroom or sleep in a furniture store van, but He kept me safe! Unfortunately alot of street survival involves criminal acts so this was another window satan opened in my life. (Actually, my criminal training began much earlier, at home, but thats another story.)
By age sixteen I was just as acquainted with a cell or a dayroom as I was with the street. When I turned adult age I already had a record. Street life and crime had become a way of living for me. A month after my eighteenth birthday I was a fugitive with two warrants out for my arrest. God said, "Come on boy, you need a time out.", and on a hot day in August of 1994 I was arrested. That day was the first day of eleven years worth of time out.
Long ago I lost track of the amount of times God came to my aid while I was in prison, though there are several instances that stand out in my mind; one in particular and, to me, the most significant.
I had not been in prison long, I was nineteen. My attitude was horrible. I was angry; at the system; at the world; at God. I lashed out much at the officers. This led to me being placed in Administrative Segregation; ad. seg.. The time out within the time out. Virtually twenty-four hour lock-down; out once a day for a shower, three times a week for an hour of recreation.
I have heard some speak of this as a cakewalk, a vacation, but I assure you, the reality is brutal. There is something about solitary, about the physical isolation of one's self, that can break a person. I've seen beefy, tattooed men, who I thought were strong-minded men, reduced to mindless gibbering fools. Wasted away to a fraction of their former selves. Broken by the single cell.
Three years.They let me out of ad.seg. when I was twenty-two years old. There are so many stories I could tell about my time there, like the officer who got shot in the forehead with a blowgun dart, or the youngster who got beat near to death by the officers and dragged out the back door; never to be seen again...but the most important story is how God showed Himself to me there. I call that the time of darkness. Those three years were the darkest period of my life. It was there that I learned to truly cry out to God, and He heard me, and answered me. His light broke through the darkness and He revealed Himself to me.
I had been searching, seeking, crying out, begging, praying to a God I did'nt know or understand. My religious upbringing had been uninspired and sporadic at best so I had no knowledge of the God of the bible, or the redemption story, or the person of Jesus Christ...but I had become a seeker. You best believe that single cell had me seeking and crying out to Whoever was listening! Thing is-I had become one of those seekers who are hostile towards Christianity. I looked everywhere but the bible for God. I had listened to the world's rhetoric and allowed my heart to become hardened to the way of Jesus. I practiced all the -izms. I studied every religion I could think of. Nothing satisfied. I cried; I begged...Show me! If you're out there, show me. Then I met a person. God sent a man. Another inmate, in seg, just like me. But a believer. One who was educated and versed in apologetics, who could articulate the faith and guide me through scripture...Light in the darkness.
With God's help, I made it out of that place whole. I still had a fair row to hoe even after seg.-I ended up doing six more years before being released, and I would love to say that I was a model inmate that whole time but I was'nt. The main difference however was that I knew whose protection I was under. I knew that my life had a purpose, and partly, it was that I bear this testimony: That He is real and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him: "..without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." Heb 11:6 (NKJV) And that His miraculous grace truly is amazing for it is the only thing that has gotten me to this point. I also further testify that He is restoring to me the years that the locust has eaten because I have been out of prison just about seven years now. In May I will complete an 18 year sentence with eleven years in and seven out. Eighteen years-done. Praise God!
I am a family man, beautiful wife and three sons. When most men I know, my age, are acting run down and worn out, I feel like I'm just warming up. How much more can a man be blessed? What will tomorrow bring? Blessed be His holy name..."The threshing floors shall be full of grain, the vats shall overflow with new wine and oil. I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you. You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you..." Joel 2:24-26(ESV)
I end with this: "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11.
My prayer is that these words mean as much to you now as they did to me in my time of darkness. May our Father be glorified in this testimony, in the name of His Son, Jesus, amen.