I was born and raised in San Diego along with an older brother by a single mother. We were taught to be honest, hard-working and self-sufficient. The subject of religion or God was never really talked about. Life was about earning a living, having a family and treating others as you would like to be treated.
My childhood was somewhat unstable due to the fact that we moved around a lot. From the time I was born we lived in San Diego, Arizona, Oklahoma, Northern California, and even lived in the Philippines for two years when I was 10 years old. Raising two boys on her own was difficult for my mother but she did the best she knew how and we always knew we were loved. Both of my parents were using drugs and alcohol from the time I was a baby and my mother sold drugs from time to time to make ends meet so I was exposed to a lot of things early on that I probably should not have been.
I enjoyed school and always got good grades and managed to stay out of trouble for the most part. Having an older brother who got into trouble a lot helped me to decide what not to do. It wasn’t until my senior year of High School that I decided to start using drugs and alcohol. I did this partly because I had started my senior year at a new school and it was an easy way to gain acceptance from the peer group that was around, and that is what you are “supposed” to do senior year right? My older brother partied a lot and our house was the “place to be” for a while. Using drugs and drinking gave me instant friends (of course, the sincerity of those friendships would not be understood until later). By the end of my senior year most of the people I spent time with were involved with drugs or gangs and had spent some part of their life incarcerated. These weren’t what I considered to be “bad” people but people who had poor decisions and they didn’t make the best role models.
About a year after graduating high school I was living in my Grandmothers house and working full time. On the weekends I would drink and get high and I had pretty much accepted that that was the life I wanted to live. I saw family in my future but to me drugs and alcohol would always play a part in my recreation. My Aunt Rose was living next door to me at the time and she would always invite me to church and tell me about Jesus. I basically thought she was nuts and didn’t really care to hear about it. I saw her as weak because she needed some higher power to get through life and I didn’t need that.
She was very persistent in inviting me to church every week, although I would not relent, I simply didn’t see the point and was content with my life. One particular weekend, my Aunt Rose told me that the high school ministry at her church was having a special guest, a Christian rap group called “Christian MCs”. This I was intrigued by my love of rap music to go, and I thought maybe my crazy Aunt would finally stop bugging me about this Jesus person! So I went and listened to the concert, which was good, and of course it was followed by the gospel message. I felt really out of place there and didn’t plan to go back.
Around June of 1993, a new girl named Jennifer was hired at my job and I developed an instant attraction to her physically. In talking to her I found out she was a Christian and she started inviting me to church. I started going to church with Jennifer, my aunt, and her son, my cousin Trevor on Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings for the purpose of impressing Jennifer and getting her to like me. I hoped that my “hard work” would pay off in at least a physical relationship, if nothing else.
In July 1993 an outreach called “Harvest” was in town and would be at the local sports stadium then called Jack Murphy Stadium. Jennifer was going, so guess what? So was I! My aunt and cousin attended as well. There were several speakers from various local churches talking about God, Jesus, and the rest. I was just thinking, “Blah, blah, let’s get this over with so we can go!”
The final speaker was Pastor Greg Laurie from Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa and he shared a message about the Prodigal Son:
The story is about a man who grows tired of living according to his father’s wishes and decides to take his inheritance and strike out on his own. His father gives him what he asks for and sends him on his way, wishing him well.
The man soon squanders his inheritance and is working as a servant feeding the pigs of a farmer. He is so poor and hungry that one day he found himself tempted by the pig slop, and eats some! Of course it’s terrible and he thinks to himself, “Even my father’s servants eat and live better than I am. I will go back to him and beg for a job as one of his servants, as I don’t deserve be his son.”
He heads for home, and his father sees him from far off, recognizes him, and rejoices at his sons return. He commands one of his servants to slaughter a calf to roast in celebration and runs to his son. He greets him with a kiss on the cheek and an embrace, placing his signet ring on his finger and some fine clothes, signifying his restoration to full sonship.
At that moment, everything the speaker was saying became clear to me and 3 things which never occurred to me suddenly became obvious:
1. There was a God.
2. He loved me dearly and wanted to restore me to sonship.
3. My sin was keeping me from Him.
Seems like bad news, until Pastor Greg shared that God had made a way, through His own son Jesus, for me to be forgiven and reconciled. Greg offered that anyone who felt called to give their heart to Christ could pray with him and receive the free gift of salvation.
I was literally on the edge of my seat, wanting to go down to the football field and turn my life over to God, but I was hesitant, too embarrassed to make a spectacle of myself. Suddenly, my 12 year old cousin Trevor leans over and asks, “Do you want to go down?” I said, “Yes!” and instantly got up. He led the way down to the field where hundreds were already gathered and I prayed with them that God would accept me on behalf of Christ and restore me to son ship and eternal life with Him.
And He did.
The last 13 years since then has been an adventure, to say the least, but that is a subject of perhaps another blog.