Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.
John 8:36 (NKJ)
Hi, I’m Eric. On a lucky day in 1973, in Bremerton, Washington, I cost my parents five bucks when I came into the world. Being in the military does have its benefits, I guess.
My parents raised me in the way I should go, but sometimes we don’t all feel like going the way we’re told. In 1979, we moved up to Alaska, and we stayed there until 1989. Then, my parents decided to sell their house, and we moved to Vancouver, Washington.
In Vancouver, during high school, I decided that I didn’t want to be a Christian nerd anymore, and that I needed to party a little bit. So that’s what I began to do. Although I still attended church on a regular basis and participated in youth group activities, I led another, different life. I made lots of non-Christian friends, ignoring my father’s advice, “The friends you choose is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make.” My parents soon gave up trying to keep me in line, because I simply didn’t want to listen.
I dove right into the party world, living for myself. I started smoking, drinking, doing drugs, the whole bit. I didn’t want anything to do with Christianity anymore. There were too many questions that I simply couldn’t answer, and too much fun that I simply wanted to have.
I graduated high school in the top five percent of my class, with practically straight A’s. I started college in 1991, and started dating a non-Christian girl who dominated the next few years of my life. I either spent time with her, or I partied. One or the other.
I came close to death more than once. One night, all tweaked out on drugs, I was downtown Portland and a guy pulled a gun on me. I laughed at him. That’s how much I cared about life.
One night, after a long, crazy night up near Tacoma, Washington, my friend Tom and I cruised down the I-5 freeway toward Vancouver and a Cadillac rear-ended us and sped away. His 1979 Datsun B-210 flipped a bunch of times and ended up upside down on the median. We sustained minimal injuries. We could easily have had the windows open and had limbs fly out and get crushed. We could easily have ended up in the freeway instead of on the median. We weren’t even wearing our seatbelts. My dad picked us up from the hospital the next day and we went to look at the car. It really didn’t look like anyone could have survived. The back window fell out when we touched it. All four tires were popped. It stood only a few feet high. My dad told us that my mother had got up that night, in the middle of the night, to pray for us. God knew that we needed protection.
One day, I rear-ended a new Lincoln Continental that was at a dead standstill. My car was going around 40 miles per hour. I didn’t have my seatbelt on. I broke my windshield with my head. Yet I only sustained a minor cut to my chin (I have a hard head, as you will soon see).
One day, I did a back flip off a cliff into a river. After an eight foot fall, I came down head first and cracked right onto a rock that lay hidden just under the surface. It didn’t even faze me. I bled a little and just kept living.
The drugs didn’t satisfy me. The girls didn’t satisfy me. My friends didn’t satisfy me. My family didn’t satisfy me. Basically, I lived for number one and I lived to get wasted. But God still remained near. And I knew it. The promise from Scripture never left me. “Raise your child in the way he should go, and he will not depart from it.” I knew that if God was true, and his promises sure, that His plan would supercede anything I desired, no matter how much I tried to run away. And believe me, I kept running.
My parents moved back to Alaska, in time, and so did my sister. I lived alone for the first time. Actually, I had lived alone for a while in an apartment and wasted about $7000 that I had received as settlement for the auto accident. But this time I felt that I was actually alone. I didn’t even have any relatives around. Now, I had to survive.
I moved in with Tom, and finally checked myself into a drug rehabilitation center. While in there, I received a note from a guy named Steve. I knew he had to be one of those Christian annoyances, but for some reason I called him anyway. He informed me that he had a place I could stay if I wanted to get away from the drugs and partying lifestyle. I thought about that, and finally said, “Why not?” I felt the end of my rope creeping nearer. Little did I know that the end of the rope was still afar off.
I moved in with Jim and Mark. New rules abounded. No drugs, no women, attend church, get a job, etc. I had to take care of the basics. I couldn’t really find a good job, because I had a terrible job history. I worked temporary jobs all the time. Every year I had at least 10 different employers. Jim and Mark bought my food, payed for my rent, gave me whatever I needed to live, and more. I hit some lady’s car and ran off in Jim’s car and he got his insurance cancelled. I smoked pot in the basement. I broke all the rules and took advantage of these nice people. And what started as a temporary living arrangement somehow turned into many months. Finally, we moved out of that place into an apartment. I lived there for a while, and then said, “Forget it.” I decided to drive up to Alaska in my truck and move in with my parents. I thought a new environment might help me with my problems. I smoked pot the entire way up to Alaska, and used my credit card that Jim had helped me pay off to finance the trip and the drugs. I got up there, and instead of trying to fix myself up, I immediately found the bums in town and maxed out my credit card with cash advances for drugs. One night, some “friends” and I went to the beach and drank a half-gallon of whiskey. On the way to the store, I wrecked the truck and broke the windshield with my forehead (again). I wasn’t wearing my seatbelt, of course. My dad and uncle bailed me out (in the middle of the night) and the cop, miraculously, let me go. They aren’t easy on drunk drivers in Alaska. My cousin almost got arrested for driving too slow. The cop thought she was drunk. In this particular instance, I was a stark raving lunatic. I couldn’t even walk or talk sensibly. I think my dad wanted to knock me out. Anyway, my “friends” stole my tent and other camping gear and left town. I decided to check myself in to a drug rehab program in Portland.
So, in Portland, I checked in and started living a clean life. This place didn’t mess around. The commitment was a year, and I lived with a bunch of other guys. I’ve never had so many rules in my life. I had to memorize scripture. I had to clean, and cook, and go to church, and man, did I get sick of being bossed around. They forced me to give up my girlfriend (the same one still) and I couldn’t take that. I quit the program so I could be with her. She wouldn’t have anything to do with me. No money, no truck, no job, no rehab . . . . I had nothing. To her, I was a failure. And she had me pegged. She drove me back to the rehab house and dropped me off. She left. They didn’t want me back. So I decided to just forget everyone. I lived on the streets for about two months. Hitchhiking around, bumming money, smoking pot, drinking whiskey or tequila or cheap beer, and going to bars defined my lifestyle. In order to get back into the program, I just had to keep attending church at their church. They had to know that I was making a serious commitment to the program and to changing my life. They finally let me back in with the requirements that I not see my girlfriend at all, and that my attitude improve. I lasted about two weeks and got booted out. Nobody wanted me now. Nobody.
I lugged all my stuff to the street corner and tried calling everyone I knew. Jim and Mark were my last resort. Of course, they took me in. Once again, they paid my rent, my credit card, my bills, and everything else. I continued to take advantage of them, being the self-centered person that I had become.
Finally, my long-time girlfriend cheated on me and dumped me and I started drinking and smoking pot in earnest. Every day, all the time. I became super-depressed, and happiness only came when I could get high or drunk. I can’t really even describe this part of my life. I had no job, not many friends, no church, and life just went on that way. The drinking and smoking and depression and loneliness and tiredness and emptiness just kept getting heavier and more intense.
Then one day, in the midst of it all, I met this delightful girl. It was Thanksgiving of 1997. I had nowhere to go so I went with Jim to his family get-together. His second cousin once removed or whatever you call it, was Don, and Don was a deacon in our church. So we went to this get-together, and being bored as usual with Christians, I decided to leave. But I had been playing cards with this most delightful girl, Don’s stepdaughter. I thought she looked quite appealing, so I called her the next night and asked her to dinner. She said, “NO.” Being used to rejection, I had to just shrug it off. Her excuse? She had to return to Corvallis the next day, to continue her education at OSU. For those of you not familiar with that place, well, their mascot is a beaver, if that tells you anything. Anyway, she said she would email me. And surprisingly enough, she did. We became good friends over the email, and soon she decided to come to Portland and attend PSU, where I planned on attending school.
In the midst of all this, I still kept on doing the bad things, while Jim and Mark continued to put up with me. Not only did they put up with me, but Jim encouraged my schooling, and he also funded it! Can you believe this guy? What was supposed to be a few day living arrangement had turned into what seemed like a lifelong commitment and investment (hopefully a good one) in me. Why? Because God wanted it that way. I sure didn’t deserve it.
Anyway, one day, while visiting my new love in Corvallis, I noticed some dark bruises on my legs. Weird, dark suckers. They scared me. The doctor checked me out and told me that my liver needed help. He said, “A few more years of this and you’ll be dead.” Right then and there I quit drinking. A few weeks later, a run-in with the cops scared me into quitting pot. So, at that one point in time, my life turned around. Jim’s investment finally started paying dividends. I quit everything cold turkey. The drugs, the drinking, the cigarettes . . . . everything. I started going to school. I got a job that I kept for the next two years. I started school full-time and graduated with honors earning a BA in English at Portland State. I married my sweetheart. Jim married us, and Mark agreed to be my best man. Tom agreed to be a groomsman. God decided to turn something nasty (me) into something nice.
So now, without bragging, I can safely say, beyond any shadow of any doubt, that Jesus Christ worked many miracles in my life. He saved me from death many times when I didn’t deserve it. He brought the people I needed into my life at the times I needed them. He healed my bruises. He took away my addictions. He gave me a wonderful wife that I couldn’t live without. And let me tell you, two people have never been better matched. He gave me a caring family. He gave me my mother and father, supportive Christian parents, and a supportive Christian sister. He gave me Jim and Mark, two selfless Jesus freaks. He gave me dear Christian parents-in-law. He gave me two genius Christian brothers-in-law. He kept me from going to prison. He funded my schooling. He fed me. He gave me the guitar I’ve always wanted. He gave me a nice apartment. He gave me a great church. He supplied the finances when I didn’t have them. He gave me the power to overcome. It’s impossible to run from God when you’re one of his. Jonah proved that to us. And I’ve proved it too. His Word says, “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it . . .” My friends, if you’ve ever even thought about following Jesus, then it’s already too late for you to turn back. If He starts a work in you, He will be faithful to complete it. Jesus lives and He heals! Praise be to God!
Guru Joseph is a Jesus-follower, Christian song-bird, and Bible word-lover. He aspires to craft words that are deep, impactful, beautiful Kingdom of God, and Christ-centered.
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