By Jomo K. Johnson, USA
I was raised in Georgia, a state in southern USA. When I was seven my mother and father divorced. Yet with my mother, two sisters, aunts, and other relatives, I was constantly surrounded by love and support.
During my elementary years, it always seemed that I was different. When I began eighth grade I attended a new school. I hoped that I would be accepted for who I was, but I again found myself being judged for my speech, behavior and dress.
Around this time I began to associate with the school’s troublemakers. I looked up to one troublemaker, Brandon, because he was not a follower. By following Brandon’s example I was constantly disciplined for dress code violations and behavioral incidents. Through Brandon’s influence I began selling small amounts of marijuana to my classmates.
Soon I smoked a joint with him. That day changed my life. As I continued to smoke and sell marijuana, my friends and popularity increased. My grades declined as I was enjoying my new lifestyle with friends, drinking, smoking and money.
One day in the school lunch line I opened my book bag to reveal my new marijuana supply to some friends. I was unaware that other students were watching. The police were called to investigate. I flushed the large quantity of drugs down the toilet before I was searched. In my bag they found twelve joints of very weak marijuana. When tested, the marijuana was so weak that they concluded it wasn’t real. I was charged with possession of a counterfeit controlled substance with intent to distribute.
When my mother came, I was embarrassed and ashamed. I lied and told her that the marijuana was a prank gone bad. She believed me and came to my defense. But I will never forget the painful scene of my mother bitterly weeping behind me as the police led me out of school in shackles.
My life continued to spiral downward. During the next two years I was expelled from two more high schools. The relationship with my mother became strained as I defied her rules. The constant drug usage clouded my vision of the future. I continued to smoke and sell marijuana. It was only a matter of time before trouble came my way.
Damian, another friend, began harassing me at school by making comments to his friends about some money I owed him. I outwardly remained calm and told him I would pay him in full. But inwardly I was angry about the way he was acting.
He came to my house to inquire about the money. Damian grabbed one of my most expensive shirts. When I stood up to take my shirt back he pushed me and left.
Until that day I didn’t know I had a temper. I felt completely disrespected. I exploded with anger. In no way was I going to let Damian come into my home and steal from me. I grabbed a kitchen knife before going outside, and when he saw the knife he dropped the shirt. As I walked back to my house with the shirt, Damian warned that he would be back.
I tried to calm down but his threats of retaliation replayed over and over. With knife in hand, I went back down the street. I furiously told Damian that if he ever returned I would kill him. The closer I got to him the more nervous he got. He lunged at me. We both went to the ground. As I pushed him off, the knife sliced through his arm and face. I saw Damian lying on the ground with blood pouring out of him. He lost consciousness. I thought he was dead.
Damian and I were both rushed to the hospital. While I received only stitches, the doctors had to perform surgery on Damian. The police charged me with aggravated assault and sent me to the county jail. After four days my family bailed me out.
It would be two years before I appeared in court for my charge. When the judge sentenced me to nine months in jail, my mother broke down in tears. As I hugged her, I softly said to her, “Don’t worry, Jesus will take care of me.” Up to that moment in my life I had never spoken such words of faith. Although I had been to church and read the Bible before, I honestly did not know who Jesus Christ was. Looking back I can see that God was drawing me to Himself at that point.
When I got to jail I was surprised that a Bible study was held every night. I decided to go. After hearing Pastor Alonzo preach God’s word, I felt compelled to confess my sins to God. My life had been in rebellion against my Creator. When no one was in the cell, I bowed to my knees and began to pray. I told God about every sin I could remember I had done. I then asked Him to forgive me.
As I continued to go to the Bible study, I had a new desire to obey God. I began to read the Bible seriously. For the first time I understood what God was saying. I came to know who Jesus actually was and is. I was astonished when I learned that God had actually come and walked the earth as a man.
Even more amazing was that Jesus died for me. I fell in love with Him. God completely took control of my life and transformed me into a new person. There was no doubt about it – God saved me. I made up my mind that from then on I would spend every day serving the Lord.
The next year and a half were wonderful. I got baptized at my church and began teaching Sunday school to the teens. I began to attend a Bible college in preparation for becoming a Christian teacher. I even got a good-paying job at the Bible school. Things were going great for me. My family and friends were amazed at the night-to-day change that had occurred in my life.
My Christian life looked perfect. I was an avid churchgoer and college student. I was a good son and hard worker at my job. But a year and a half into my walk with Jesus, I began to struggle with sin. Because of this sin, I began to question whether God had truly saved me.
I also mistakenly believed that God owed me what I desired. I desired good Christian friends my age and a wife. Leaving my old life behind left me almost friendless, and the church members were mostly middle-aged married couples. I had been three years without a date. I wondered why God had not given me what I desired.
Deep down I harbored feelings of bitterness and discontent. Sub-consciously I thought, “Okay God, if you’re not going to give me a wife that I can have sex with, I know where I can go.” This thinking led me to soft-core movies which led to pornography which led to full-fledged fornication.
During my struggle I kept my sin secret. I didn’t talk much to my pastor or my professors at school. I was ashamed to admit my struggle with sexual sin. I thought most Christians didn’t have this problem. I was too proud to let anyone know. How could I, a Bible student and Sunday school teacher, be wrestling with these things?
I prayed to God with tears that He would have mercy and restore me to Himself, yet my desire to sin became stronger and stronger. The combination of sin and pride led to heavy guilt. As the sinful desires and practices continued, I concluded that I must not be saved. I then willingly slid back into my former life-style of sex, drugs, and alcohol.
I reunited with old acquaintances. I drank heavily. I sought sexual relations. I smoked marijuana and decided to distribute the drug in order to keep a supply and save money.
Everything else fell apart. I stopped going to church. I abandoned the teens that I taught in Sunday school. My grades at school suffered. The relationship with my mother wasn’t the same.
As I witnessed the result of my sin I became more depressed. I could not escape the fact that I had turned my back on God. I was afraid of his anger but was unable to bring myself to Him. My lifestyle was getting very dangerous.
Then I met Kristine through a chat room on the Internet. After chatting for hours we met. After drinks, she invited me back to her apartment. I accepted. After more drinking and smoking marijuana, I ended up staying the night. I spent more and more time with Kristine.
I continued to sell marijuana. I was also a full-time student and employee. And Kristine wanted me with her constantly. When I was with her we always drank and smoked. When I was away she became jealous and accused me of using her. I began to be late for work while missing my classes and assignments. The more I smoked the more paranoid (fearful) I became that the police would catch me. I was facing up to seven years in prison if I got caught with drugs. But my biggest fear was that of God Himself. I was sinning against Him and was afraid of His punishment.
The stress got to me. I binged on drugs and alcohol at Kristine’s apartment. After missing two straight days of work I knew that my employment would be looking for me. I was in danger of losing my job and having my sinful double lifestyle exposed. To make matters worse, Kristine argued with me and told me to leave. I drove away with no place to go.
I had to pull my car over. My heart was filled with a deep dark sadness. The tears began to explode from my eyes. I wasn’t able to handle what was happening to me. The weight of the world, the heaviness of my sin and the mass of my shame was crushing me. At the age of twenty-two I made up my mind to take my life that night.
I rented a hotel room and made plans to meet God. I had to escape from my emotional pain. I purchased a large quantity of sleeping powder and alcohol. I drank heavily while ingesting (taking) the powder. I wrote a short suicide note and placed it on the desk. With tears in my eyes I fell to my knees and prayed. Fighting back tears I slowly passed out.
To my surprise, I woke up the next morning. God spared my life. I called my mother. She came and took me to the hospital. After my system was emptied of drugs, I was admitted to a mental health facility where I stayed for one week.
During my recovery I received massive support from co-workers, teachers, friends and family. I was moved by their compassion and care. I felt a great sense of gratitude. I was thankful to God for sparing my life. The anti-depressant medication helped me to think more positively, while abstaining from marijuana and alcohol enabled me to behave more rationally. Yet, despite the great toll that my ordeal took on me physically and emotionally, spiritually my heart had not yet been completely broken.
This article is condensed from his book The Prodigal Saint which is available free online at http://phillyopenairchurch.com/Resources.html.
Jomo is currently attending seminary while working with a church-planting team in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
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