I was raised in a Christian home, homeschooled, and well protected from the world. Church was the priority of our lives—if the doors were open, we were there.
As a child, I memorized the Bible. By the time I was 10, I probably knew more Scripture than some preachers. It seemed the more Bible I knew, the more respect I earned. I’d grin when people predicted I’d be a preacher some day. I was that kid—the one everyone in the church expected great things from. I loved the attention.
And then I discovered skating. After some debate, my parents agreed I could try hockey, and I hit the ice.
I loved skating on ice—the feel, the freedom, the rush. Before long, if the doors at the rink were open, I was there. Hockey season came around, and I had the time of my life. I didn’t quite fit in with my new crowd—my upbringing had earned me the label, “Jesus freak.” But that was okay.
To be a great hockey player, I needed new skills, so my parents found me a good coach. I learned a lot, but I wasn’t advancing in the game. My feet were fast but my hands were slow and I was small. My coach suggested I consider figure skating.
Now, that was a laugh! I was a tough hockey player, not a dainty figure skater. But my love for the ice won out. I told the figure-skating coach that, as long as I didn’t have to wear tights or sequins, I’d give it a go. So I became a figure skater, and a good one. It was nice to be seen again.
At 20, I decided to leave home. Frankly, in my quest for self-elevation, I’d hurt people, stepped on feelings, and pushed my way to the top. I was teetering at the edge of my pedestal, and it was time to find a new crowd to impress.
I moved to Northern Kentucky and found a skating partner, new coaches, and a whole new world. Training intensified. I’d never been pushed this hard, but I was making progress. Surely, I was headed toward success.
Boy, was I wrong. I struggled to land jumps in competition, my footwork was sloppy, and I constantly let my coaches and partners down.
I had advanced to Junior Level in the United States Figure Skating Association, had placed second and third in several regional competitions, and was featured in a few small shows, but this was not the career I had imagined. I was frustrated beyond belief.
Why was I having so much trouble? I worked twice as hard as anyone else. National judges said they expected to see me in the Olympics. Coaches and other rinks recruited me to skate for them. So why was I not attaining my dreams?
Looking back, I can see that, while I was working hard, I was also moving deeper into self-gratifying attitudes and actions. I lived for me and the applause of man. I desperately needed to be liked and to be seen. And living on my own, I had no one to tell me what to do.
I still respected—or maybe feared—my parents enough that I did find a church home, but honestly, I only did it so they wouldn’t nag me about going. When they came to town, I hid the booze, fumigated the apartment, changed my language, and made sure my friends knew there was no party at my place that weekend. I wore my good-Christian-boy mask like a champ. Of course, Mom and Dad saw through the facade. They knew things weren’t good, but they still loved me.
Before long, I was managing the rink I skated out of. I loved everything about it—from working on the Zamboni and sharpening skates to teaching and skating myself. I was consumed with the ice. Skating had become my god.
But then I began experiencing injuries that took me off the ice for extended periods of time. Since I couldn’t skate, after work I’d go out drinking with the crew. Some mornings, I had no memory of how I’d gotten home.
Eventually, my injuries took me off the ice completely. Two pulled groin muscles, a separated pubic muscle, a fractured pelvis, and professionally speaking, I was done. I stayed at the rink, but I was miserable. Every day found me more bitter. I wanted to be a pro. I wanted to be the best!
But no. There I was, struggling just to live. I hated life. I didn’t care anymore. My work suffered, and I began losing students. Taking advantage of those around me soon cost me friends. And then, I lost my job.
No work meant no money. Now I’d not only lost my hopes and dreams, but even the ability to buy myself food. I was broke and begging for someone to help me out.
One snowy March morning, I spun out and slammed my car into a guardrail. It wasn’t a horrible wreck, but it was the proverbial last straw. Not more than five feet through the doorway of my apartment, I could no longer hold myself up. My knees buckled, and I hit the ground. I looked up into heaven and cried out, “God, I don’t know if You want me anymore, but I want You. I’m tired of living for myself. I just want You to hold me and not let go.”
It might sound clichéd, but I literally felt the peace of God flow over me. I vowed that I would no longer live for myself, but for Him. I poured all the alcohol in my apartment down the drain, determined that I would never again be drunk with wine, but I would be controlled by the Holy Spirit.
I asked God to take over, and He did. One day, I ran into the father of a young man I had coached. He asked if I needed a job. A couple weeks later, I was a third-shift employee at his company, overseeing a tool crib for aircraft maintenance.
The job was a godsend. I spent my nights inventorying and calibrating tools. My work area was completely my own. I spent my shifts listening to sermons, the Bible, and testimonies from programs like Unshackled out of the Pacific Garden Mission. As long as I got my work done, I could listen to whatever I wanted.
I had a lot of free time now, so I got involved at church again. I told God that wherever He led, I would go. If He opened a door, I’d walk through it. If there was a wall, I’d stop. He began opening doors of opportunity.
In 2005, a new family came to my church. I walked up, stuck out my hand, and introduced myself. The dad said he had a daughter my age and asked me to invite her to class. So I did. Her name was Sarah, and she eventually became my wife.
When my company relocated, I moved with them. My home church was now more than an hour away, and being involved became difficult. I needed God to show me what to do next. I knew He was leading me to ministry, but how or in what capacity, I did not know.
One day, I asked my dad, “What can I do now to make sure that in five years, I’m ready for whatever God wants me to do?”
Dad’s advice was simple yet profound. “You’re worried about tomorrow when you should be worried about today, Andy. Just be where God wants you to be now, and chances are, you’ll be where He wants you tomorrow. Do this the rest of your life, and you’ll always be right where He wants you.”
This became the pattern of my life. I worried less about the future and turned my focus to discovering what God wanted me to do today. I immersed myself in His Word, looking to Him for answers. I found a new local church and got involved like I’d been in Kentucky. Eventually, the pastor asked me to be their maintenance man.
I left the job at the airport and began maintaining the house of God. This brought more opportunities for ministry, until one day, the pastor approached me about becoming the children’s pastor. I’d been taking online and correspondence classes as well as attending a local Bible institute, but I’d never dreamed I’d have the chance to pastor so soon.
I served there for eight years. I also worked with college students, young marrieds, and retirees. It was the best training ground I could have hoped for. To add icing to the cake, God blessed me and Sarah, now my wife, with three beautiful children. Then, God opened the opportunity for me to pastor a church in Northeast Ohio. We’ve been here since 2016, and we are blessed.
God is still working on me to chip away the rough parts. I’m constantly reminded of my sinful nature—but that always thrusts a spotlight on His grace, mercy, and power. If God can take the rebellious, self-centered drunkard I was and turn me into His servant, He can do anything.
Through all those years, there was one thing I could not escape. Genesis 1:26–27 says that God made all mankind in His image—including me. But when I was living for myself, I knew I was not presenting a good image of God. I was a liar, and God is not. I was selfish, and God is not. I was a thief, and God is not.
I was created to bear His image, and today, I am honored to do so. I don’t do it perfectly, but when I fail, I know I can give my broken efforts to Him, and He will use me for His glory. †