My mother and I moved to Jacksonville, Florida, when I was eight. There, I met my biological father for the first time. It felt strange at first, but I soon grew used to him.

Not long after, he moved to Miami but visited often to see me and other family members. I idolized my father because his presence always drew attention, especially from women.

As I grew older, my mother permitted me to visit him in Miami. These trips were much anticipated treats, because my father always gave me money and material items. He allowed me to do things my mother would disapprove of, like drinking alcohol and attending strip clubs. He even encouraged me to be sexually active. Now, I don’t mean to condemn my father. At the time, he was doing what he believed to be right. And I knew what I was doing was wrong, so I am just as much to blame.

Growing up in Jacksonville had its challenges, and I wanted desperately to fit in. This created multiple strongholds in my life, including rebellion and deep insecurities.

Playing football became my main source of hope. It provided me with stability, as well as instruction from coaches, acceptance from teammates, attention from girls, and the opportunity to attract college recruiters. In fact, I was blessed to receive a two-year football scholarship to Savannah State.

College was an awesome experience for me, but it could have been greater, had I taken it more seriously. Unfortunately, I was suspended for stealing on campus before I completed my first collegiate football season.

I can see now that God continually extended His hands of grace toward me, but His appeals of love went sinfully disregarded in the courtroom of my heart. His claims of redemption were denied as insufficient in my thinking.

It did not take long after my journey back to Jacksonville from college for me to become engulfed in a promiscuous lifestyle of sex and drugs. In just five months, I went from an athletic build of 215 pounds to a sickly looking 177 pounds.

Everyone could see that I was falling apart, but the depravity of my spirit blinded me from seeing my own condition. Not only was I wasting away on the outside, I was dying on the inside. I was a man separated from God, reaping the consequences of my sin.

My situation got so bad that even crack cocaine users began encouraging me to get off the corner and go back to school—but I wouldn’t listen. I was spiritually deaf and blind and could not hear or see God’s appeals through others.

On August 23, 2001, everything changed. I was arrested for constructive possession of cocaine. That was bad enough, but I also received two additional charges, one for armed robbery and the other for murder. I was stuck between a rock and a hard place—but what I didn’t understand at the time was that God would use all these circumstances to bring me to the Rock of Ages—the Lord Jesus Christ.

I continued to resist Him, until one day God, through the preaching of His Word, revealed to me my need for a Savior. And through the faith that He supplied, I responded.

God met me at a most vulnerable time, when despair was all I could see. Through His Spirit, He awakened the deadness of my spirit and breathed life into me. I continued to struggle with my desire to be delivered from the charges I was facing, until I finally realized that my pardon had already been supplied. It was through a higher court in another kingdom.

My earthly release, although desired and to this day still anticipated, is only temporal. My spiritual redemption is eternally set and secure in Christ Jesus. My desire is to reap both, but I’m learning to be content with just the latter if it is God’s will.

Learn from me: don’t chase the world’s riches and end up eternally bankrupt, separated from God. Grab hold of God’s hands of grace that are extended to you right now. Receive His Son, Jesus, as your Savior and embrace the person God has chosen you to be. Love the fact that you are different, because it’s through our differences that God’s tapestry is revealed to all humanity.