Warning– This will be a long post. This will be a loaded post. This will be an honest post. Honesty can be ugly, scary, shameful, and despicable.
I shared my testimony at Church’s “Man up” last week. What better way to get a blog going than sharing the ugliest, most despicable parts of my life?
Now before I get going I want to put another caution out there, especially for those of you who know me. Some parts of this are ugly, grotesque, and flat out mean. I know that. I’m definitely not proud of several parts of my past. However, I think it’s important to be clear and honest about such things for two main reasons. First, hopefully people can see the drastic change Jesus can have on one’s life. Second, if someone is in a similar situation I want him or her to know that ultimately Jesus is the only way in life you can truly and fully be satisfied.
There is so much I could write about. However, I will try to be as brief as as I can, and keep this to a minimum.
I have considered myself a Christian my entire life. I did the standard ask Jesus into my heart when I was young at a Vacation Bible School. I have been going to church my entire life. I even went to a Christian college, although it wasn’t really by choice. If I wanted financial help from my parents, I had to go to a Christian college, easy decision, right?
I was not a Christian. Sure I thought I was. I even would say I believed God was real. I’m sure I heard this name somewhere, but I have no clue where- but I was, what I like to call, a “Check-box Christian.” A Check-box Christian at its core is really more like nominal Christianity, that is, a Christian by name association only. I checked everything off a list. Sure I wasn’t living a perfect life, but I went to church a lot! And if worse came to worse, I’d ask for God’s forgiveness real fast. If I got cancer or some disease, I might die but at least I’d go to heaven. I mean, that’s why we are Christians- so we don’t end up in hell for all eternity- right?
Ultimately my version of Christianity was a me centered, selfish, narcissistic way of thinking that IS NOT the gospel. My version of Christianity was a twisted religion I created that wasn’t biblical.
2012 is really the year where I really started to change. But before that let me share some aspects of my life I am not proud of, and obviously can be a little awkward sharing. I could focus on high school and so many of the sinful, flat out stupid ways I acted. But I will focus on things more relatively recent.
Again, these things are not always easy to share. You will see as you read. You will probably be thinking ‘Gee Jon you were sick and mean.’ I KNOW. I agree with you. I was. There are several parts of my past I could share, but that would make an already long post longer. I am going to specifically focus on my marriage. Many of you that have known me might be a little shocked to learn some of the information to come. That’s because, for the most part, I put on a good outside cover for the world to see.
First, before I go any further, I want to state I LOVE Ashley ( my wife). I definitely don’t deserve her. She is spectacular. She has a compassion for people that is beautiful to see, she has a love towards our savior, she is loving, caring, hardworking… I could go on and on. Seriously, I pretty much hit the lottery with her. I feel we have a strong marriage relationship…now. But that hasn’t always been the case.
In fact, during the first several years of our marriage we would have ugly, destructive fights. I can’t tell you how many times I belittled her, talked down to her, made her feel uncomfortable, and even threatened her with divorce…repeatedly. Some days our marriage would be so ugly, I would think how can make her feel bad. And I would actually try to make her think I was having an affair on her. That’s right. That’s how pathetic I was. I would seriously want my wife (who as stated above is amazing) to think that I was having an affair on her. And the only purpose was to be spiteful and mean.
And this is all from the perspective of myself thinking I was a Christian. Again, I believed in God, I could always simply ask for forgiveness, so I’m good. At least I thought I was.
I felt dis-satisfied in our marriage so a year or so into our marriage I started turning to pornography. It was more of a thing that I did when I was mad, and did it as a way to self-satisfy myself in an almost vindictive way towards Ashley. It was kind of a back and forth battle…sometimes it would be several times a week, other times I’d go months and months without looking at anything. This was probably going on for about two years, from around 2010- to later 2011.
Thinking of the tainted past of my marriage, it gives me a sickening feeling. Seriously, I get a vomiting, nauseating pain. My marriage and life was polluted with filth.
(I will address the topic of sexual immorally more on another day)
I committed to stopping at around the end of 2011 (and I did) however it was a hard struggle because I was trying to do it on my own. What I was missing was desiring God’s glory more than I desired pictures or images, or anything!
Falling in Love with a Savior
Throughout 2012 I had been starting to get a more solid foundation of what it meant to be a biblically following Christian. We had a good small group from a church we had been going to. Although the group people probably didn’t realize it, it had a great effect on me. I will admit though, many times when we were first meeting I was faking a lot of beliefs and feelings.
In fact, not really having a strong accurate picture of the gospel, throughout 2012, I think I asked Jesus into my heart a million times…I mean let’s be honest, we’ve all been there. Not really biblically accurate but it was progress for me.
Despite this slow change in thought and values, I still was not placing God first in my life. Or really only in my life. I definitely had a growing desire, but I was still having Him compete with other idols in a sense. Food, sports, Aiden/Naomi, reading, relaxing, etc…
I remember a key specific moment when I had an even bigger wake up call. The day after the Superbowl 2013. I very vividly was thinking about some of the conversations and events taking place the day before with my friends from college (we always meet back up for the Superbowl). We have frequently made fun of “Gracies” as a joke between all of us. A Gracie was someone at Grace College (Where I graduated) that was really into God. Keep in mind, I considered myself a Christian but not a Gracie. Gracies would adamantly talk about God, never miss a chapel, and hold their hands up while singing. We called chapel “praise fest” and laughed about all the Gracies. This was a part of many of our conversations which also include other inappropriate topics and conversations that I am ashamed of.
I was reflecting about all these things when I suddenly thought, do I really believe in God? It seems like a rather simple question, but as simple as it is, it is something ultimately everyone must answer themselves. I thought to myself, this is a weird thought, of course I do, and I have my entire life. Then another thought popped into my head, if God was there yesterday (and he was, so rather if I could visibly see him) would I have acted the same way? With this thought I became ashamed. If I truly believed that the Bible is the word of God, and I do, how could I blatantly not follow it? How could I justify making fun of Gracies? How could I laugh at “praise fest” and arms being held up? If the Bible is real, and God is the creator of everything how could I mock people worshiping Him? Is there such a thing as being too radical for our savior who created us? I think not.
What happens next is ground breaking…nothing. Like normal I kind of shelved this change of thought…although…it was in the back of my mind. Did I act radically different? Not really. After all, if I really followed Jesus’ words in the Bible…well everyone would think I was weird. People thought Jesus was weird and compared to “normal” he was weird. Normal people seek revenge when harmed, Jesus says be kind to them. Society’s thought- Um…strange…be kind to people that hurt you, come on Jesus, that’s a little too out there for me. Normal says hate your enemies, Jesus says love them. Jesus told us to pray for those who persecute us. Society’s thought- What? Crazy! If we want to find our lives we have to lose them… Society’s thought- Uh Jesus you’re losing me. So much of what Jesus did was considered weird; he turned away thousands of people at times in the Bible. Yes Jesus could draw in thousands of people, but they also left when they heard He was the bread of life. Society’s thought- Eat his flesh and drink his blood! Is he telling us to be cannibals…what???
Jesus was perfectly fine that many people viewed Him as weird.
As much as I acted like being perceived as weird wouldn’t bother me…it would…My desire to fit in, to belong, to be considered “normal” overpowered my desire to follow God. So I continued with the status quo.
Then I got sick (just as update as you read this…I am completely healthy). I didn’t really know what was wrong, but I was in a lot of pain. Sometime in March 2013 I started having extreme chest pain. It would get so bad sometimes I would be unable to move. I am so thankful for this pain. This pain, as severe as it was, made me, once again, re-evaluate my life. I honestly thought I was going to die. If I was to die, and meet my Savior face to face what would he say?
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
What road was I on? I believe he would say to me “I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23). That had to change. I began reading the Bible and several books. Not only was I learning, I was enjoying it, like never before. My faith and trust in Jesus exploded.
Over my quest to learn more I came to the realization that being “saved” is not just believing, after all, even the demons in the Bible believed in Jesus and they certainly weren’t saved. Being saved is following. Sadly the Bible tells us when we die many will think they will get to heaven but will be turned away. If I was to follow Jesus, what does that entitle?
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
Basically be willing to deny myself everything I love and be willing to die daily- for Jesus, because His love is greater than anything. It’s greater than sexual temptation, it’s greater than food, greater than sports, and it’s greater than EVERYTHING.
I am at a loss of words for the grace and mercy shown towards me by our loving creator. In my sinfulness, he sought me out.
Ephesians 1: 3-14
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
Before I was even born, God sought me…a sinful and flawed man. What love, what grace, what mercy!
Regardless of our physical and emotional problems in the past, no sinful person is out of reach from the saving grace of Jesus!
I have no doubt I hurt Ashley. Falling in love with Jesus has completely changed my life and saved our marriage. Just a few days ago I received a text from Ashley while I was at work. She was up bright an early thanks to our son who never sleeps. Aiden wanted to watch family videos of when he was a baby. This is what the text said:
“Some of these videos are so hard to watch…a lot of them I can remember having to fake being happy 😦 our relationship was such a disaster. Thank you for the way you love me now. I love you. But most of all that you for leading our family to Christ…you have no idea what a gift this is as your wife 🙂 I love you.”
I am thankful Ashley stuck with me :), but most of all I am thankful for a loving God that has the power to radically transform lives and hearts.
Conclusion and Looking Forward
March, April, May of 2013 my love for Jesus soared. I mean, I didn’t just believe in Jesus, I knew Him. I loved Him. I would do anything for Him. I wanted to be radically obedient to Him.
But I never would have guessed what He would be telling my family and me to do…
But…that’s another story for another day.
More to come later 🙂