He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.
Oh, the joy of resting in the presence of God. But what does it mean to be in His presence, and what is His presence all about? I grew up in the church. My mother and father were regular churchgoers, while my maternal and paternal grandparents served faithfully as pastors. When I was around four years old, I remember coming home from AWANA’s (this was a highly regarded children’s ministry featured at my church) and telling my mom and dad that I wanted to accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior. So we gathered together and prayed for just that. Until I was nine, things seemed pretty hunky-dory in my life.
However Everything Was Not Perfect
When I was nine, after my parents divorced; my mom, sisters, and I left my hometown of Monterey, California and moved in with my grandparents in Northern Colorado. (Side Note: In my opinion, it is crucial that parents make a commitment to stay together for the long run; no matter how things may appear. There is not a thing or an individual that can break a commitment that was built on the solid foundation of Christ Jesus, and we must remind ourselves that HE IS THE ONE WHO BROUGHT US TOGETHER.) What was my experience as a child affected by my parents divorce? It honestly tore apart my entire foundation and ripped me to shreds. And as a result, a dichotomy developed within me as I lived a duplicitous lifestyle. You see, in front of my grandpa, mom, or church; I was one person and acted a certain way…but at school or behind closed doors, I was another person.
The world began to have quite the allure on me. I began to see the shiny things that rust destroys as having more value than the Christ and what He had done for me. It started out small. I would lie about doing my homework. I started to meet people at my small elementary school in Loveland, Colorado who introduced me to worldly music – rappers such as Tech N9ne and Eminem. I began to get worse. My thoughts and values of Christ began to decrease even more. From fourth to fifth grade I tried smoking cigarettes, and was introduced to pornography. I began to use curse words. As I moved into middle school, my vision and view of life had been completely warped by the world. I still believed in Jesus, but only by name. I had the mentality of, “If I get hit by a truck, I’m gonna say – ‘JESUS SAVE ME!!’” – because I had not been living for Him. It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God – but of course, I wasn’t thinking about that back then. As I continued my downward spiral; drugs, weed, ecstasy, and drinking became new vices. Things progressed to the point where my parents kicked me out! By my senior year of high school, I was a living out of a motel…walking 9 miles a day to work and school.
My Heart Was Still Broken
Thankfully, I graduated from high school. Truly, it was only by the grace of God. However my heart was still broken, thus my circumstances continued to progress in a negative fashion. To worsen matters, I moved into a party house and started using even heavier drugs (use your imagination and think about heavier drugs). As a result, I lost my job, and just kept partying and getting deeper and deeper into darkness. I ended up rejecting God in totality – I didn’t even believe in Him by nomenclature. I rejected Him with both my head, and my heart. I thought if God loved us there wouldn’t be so much pain in the world. This went on, over the summer after I had graduated. At the end of the summer, my mom bought me a plane ticket and flew me back home; to my grandfather’s house in the small town of Loveland, Colorado. There we had a graduation party, and at this party is where I felt surrounded by love. People from my upbringing, older folks from the church, and many others surrounded me with love, prayer, and even money. I don’t think I had ever counted that much money. It was very impactful; but only in retrospect. This leads me to an interjection:
Sometimes, It Takes Time For Us To See The Fruit Of What We Are Doing. The Seeds We Plant Can Take Years To Bear Fruit – But Continue To Do What God Guides You To Do, Because You WILL Reap A Harvest.
The next day, my uncle Jimmy, a pastor and missionary in South America, took me on a hike to what is called “The Devil’s Backbone” – a great trail at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Northern Colorado. There, high up overlooking the valleys, hills, and moraines, he sat me down on a rock and said,
“You know Bret, when Adam and Eve were in the garden, they ate of the fruit that was forbidden and were separated from God. That is why Jesus had to come, in order to rescue us and restore us to God.”
I looked up at him, nodding my head, saying almost dejectedly, “Yeah, I know”. But inside I was screaming, “IT’S NOT TRUE!! GOD DOESN’T LOVE US!! GOD ISN’T GOOD!”
The following day in church there was a constant battle going on in my head, “Maybe what the pastor is saying is true! Maybe he has a point?” “NO!!” I would reply, “It can’t be true!!” You see, I had been involved in the New Age (although I didn’t know it by that name at the time). I thought that by uniting, the human race could free themselves from their enslavement – through meditation, spirit guides, and “tapping into” what God would ultimately reveal to me, was the occult. When I got back to the party house (in New Mexico), I had brought an 8th of weed back with me, as well as a scrapbook of pictures that my mom had put together of my high school graduation and the graduation party. The guys at the party house did not care about anything my uncle had told me, or about the pictures; they just wanted to offer me cocaine and smoke my weed – which they did. And then they left.
The House Was Empty For Three Days
Three days without drugs…three days to ponder. I cleaned the house, and my mind began to clear. On the third day, in the morning, I remember so vividly, walking around the corner from the kitchen into the hallway, and having something like a lightbulb moment, just like in the cartoons. Today, I call it a spiritual synapse. A rush of reality, into my being. A rush of the presence of God, the creator of my soul calling out to me – REVEALING Himself to me. And I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt – instantaneously – that God loves me, He cares about me, and the reason He died on the cross is/was because He loves us. And that’s the proof of His love. We were enslaved to sin; that’s why there’s so much pain in the world, and corruption – we were separated!!..And He’s bringing us back to Himself.
And Then Came Redemption…
A wave of tears poured over me as I ran into my room, threw myself onto my knees in front of my futon, and confessed that Christ was Lord. I asked Him to be my savior and to forgive me for my rebellion and rejection of Him. I got up and grabbed my old Bible out from under the stuff in my closet. I went back in front of the futon, got back down on my knees, dusted off the Word of God, opened up to proverbs, and asked Him to give me wisdom. The next morning waking up was probably the best day of my life. I remember reading in Amos, how the plowman will overtake the reaper, and just thinking, “Wow.” All of that stuff. The rebellion. It’s going to happen. People are rebelling against God!! And then the process of cleaning the house began. I have to say, that that process is still going on today. He has had His steady hand with me, gently guiding me into things that honor Him, and away from the things of the world that wage war against the soul.
Today, my prayer is, as the psalmist said, that He would “Divert my eyes from toys and trinkets,” and, “invigorate me on the pilgrim way.” In fact, let’s just end with this reminder, to all of us today:
Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes;
and I will keep it to the end.[a]
Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
and observe it with my whole heart.
Lead me in the path of your commandments,
for I delight in it.
Incline my heart to your testimonies,
and not to selfish gain!
Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things;
and give me life in your ways.
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