My Testimony: A night with Johnny Cash.

I moved away from my home-town to get away from the life I had created.
My young wife and I wanted to start new in Minneapolis, MN.
A cold tundra in the winter and hot inferno in the summer.
I thought if I could move far enough away that the flies of alcoholism
couldn't find me.
It wasn't quite far enough.
It wasn't my surroundings, friends, circumstances or genetics
that had gotten me where I was...  it was me.

I had followed myself to this new location.
I found new friends, circumstances and surroundings to blame.
And from then I had loneliness and bitterness and darkness
creeping into the equation.
Demons latching on and dog-piling on like flies on a carcass-not quite dead yet,
but resembling the smell.
Every time I tried to swipe them away
they just flew straight back to the open wounds.
I'm not sure what came first the bitterness or the anger or the self-loathing.
These were some of the things that drove a wedge between
myself and my wife.
My God.

I can remember one particular night I had drank myself into a mess,
as I had learned to wallow in the misery of Johnny Cash.
Little did I know at the time, he had written a lot of his songs as a man crying out to God.
That's where I was...

Crying out.

"LORD, HAVE MERCY ON ME!!" was the kneeling drunkard's plea.
On my knees.
Crying out for mercy.
I didn't even know what mercy was.
I think God must have spoken to me that night
because I can remember it so well,
out of so many other nights like it.
I remember the feeling.
I remember the ugly wall paper.
I remember the fluorescent lights.
I remember the neighbors fighting upstairs.
I remember the racket outside on a Friday night.
I remember my wife being gone.

I remember God's grace.
I didn't even know what grace was.

I went on trying to ruin myself, my marriage and my relationship with this God that I barely knew.
I got better at being angry, spiteful, bitter and hateful.
I got better at lashing out, fighting, and yelling.
I learned how to be wicked.
All of it was consuming me.
I was consuming it all.

I don't even remember a turning point.
But at some point a slow burning was ignited.
Maybe it was that night with Johnny Cash.
Jesus continued to reach out to me.

My wife and I decided to move back to our home-town.
This time was different.
We didn't have to move again because God was moving our hearts.
Not only was I seeking Jesus, but we were seeking Him together.
We were yoked together in tandem.
When one of us had a hard time and wanted to resist the persistence of God,
the other pulled us along seeking His will for our lives.
We began to want to go to church, read the bible and pray.
We began to want to make a better life for ourselves.
We could no longer deny the love of Jesus.

Nothing came over night.
I didn't instantly stop cursing and smoking and drinking and hiding pornography from my wife.
My God and My Protector stood with me and fought with me
one battle at a time.
He has been my shield, taking arrows for me whether I was fighting the good fight or cowering in the corner like an underfed stray dog,
biting at the hand that is trying to nourish.
Whether I had deserved His protection or not.

For me, there was no huge explosion of forgiveness.
It was more like a falling down and picking up.
And a sitting down and a picking up.
And a getting knocked down and a picking up.
It has been more like a crescendo of forgiveness and mercy and grace.
Steadily growing louder; banging on the chords of love and mercy and forgiveness and grace.