I compose my life story today on a computer located in a federal prison. I am entering my third year of incarceration, and although I am hundreds of miles away from my wife and children and have lost my dream job, friends, and some family members, I am thankful. God has used this “time out” to save my life, restore my marriage, and bring me into a relationship with Him. I am grateful He chose me to be part of His family.
For years, I ran from God. It’s not that I didn’t believe in Him; I have for as far back as I can remember. I grew up in a Christian home where my parents taught me to believe in Jesus. I never questioned the truth of Him. I believed it, and that was that.
What I lacked, however, was a personal relationship with God. Neither did I understand Scripture or how it could be applied to my life.
I’m thankful for my early introduction to Christ, but like many families, ours had secrets. My father’s hidden drug addiction eventually exposed itself and destroyed our family. We moved frequently as my father entered various rehab facilities. It was a consistent pattern until they divorced.
I was 13 when our family split. My older brother and I stayed with our father, while our younger siblings moved out of state with our mother. My father continued to struggle with his addiction and would disappear for weeks at a time. My brother and I essentially supported ourselves.
We hid the reality of our lives from our mother as long as we could. Amazingly, we managed to stay in school and excel in sports. But right before my 10th-grade year of high school, my mother made an unexpected visit and found my dad strung out on drugs. She put her foot down and forced me to move to Florida with her. My older brother stayed and finished his last year of high school, and then he went to Georgia Tech.
Arriving in Florida, I instantly clashed with my mother’s roommate, a godly woman who wasn’t about to tolerate the nonsense of a rebellious teenager. But I, being accustomed to living independently, wasn’t about to allow any authority to govern my life, especially some woman I barely knew. This made for a lot of conflict in a cramped house with two adults and five children. Eventually, I moved out, choosing to live with a new friend from school whose family welcomed me into their home. I resented my mother deeply, feeling that she had abandoned me by siding with her roommate.
I lived it up with my friend until it was time to go to college. I remember sensing the Lord calling me to ministry at that time. I ignored the call, however, and pursued my love of baseball instead. I attended church occasionally and was often convicted of my life choices, but I never surrendered my life to Jesus.
An injury during my junior year of college ended my hopes for a baseball career. My desire for success was mainly motivated by my need for my father’s approval. I thought if I were successful, maybe he would choose me over drugs.
Once again, I heard God calling me to join Him. But then I was offered a “dream job” at the top medical device company in the world, and I ignored His voice, just as I had before college. I packed up my truck and moved to California to pursue money and a prestigious career.
I worked hard and excelled at my job. Within a year, I had earned a promotion. Sales came easy to me. I loved talking to people, and due to moving so much so early in life, I could adapt to my audience quite well. Who knew something good would come out of all that moving?
I made a lot of money very quickly and chased after worldly pleasures with increasing intensity. I bought into the lie that money and prestige would lead to happiness and fulfillment—but the more I acquired and the more I pursued, the more depressed and empty I became. The fulfillment of those pleasures never lasted. I ended up squandering all the money I made on frivolous, materialistic garbage, none of which I own today.
After two years of “living the life,” I became angry, and self-hatred emerged. I had so much resentment toward my parents over my childhood. I also resented myself for living the way I had for so long. I knew the choices I was making were wrong, yet I continued to make them.
During this season, I thought little of the Lord and lived only for myself. I moved from job to job, seeking the happiness I felt I deserved. I started smoking pot and immersed myself in damaging relationships.
And then, it happened—I landed the job of all jobs at a Fortune 500 powerhouse. It was the boost I needed to come out of my state of depression and anger. Working with the world’s most renowned brain and spine surgeons was stimulating, and the pay was outstanding. It seemed I had found financial security. Endless opportunities lay ahead of me.
And then I met Jena. Life couldn’t have been any better! We fell in love and were married within six months. Two months later, we were expecting our first daughter, and shortly thereafter, our second. I had gone from 0 to 100 in no time.
I had everything—money, a dream job, prestige, a beautiful family. Yet, I continued to feel empty, angry, and utterly lost. For reasons I could not name, I began sabotaging the life I’d worked so hard to obtain.
At home, I fought with and neglected my wife and made her feel inadequate and unwanted. It is the single worst regret that I have. At work, I compromised my integrity and became involved with what I liked to call “gray areas.”
Before I knew it, those gray areas would send me to prison.
Understandably, Jena had kicked me out of the house and told me she wanted a divorce. I sought legal help and began ending the best part of my life. Thankfully, God intervened and profoundly redirected us.
It was March 2018, and the process server was attempting to serve Jena with divorce papers for the third time. Before he could do so, however, I was indicted by a federal court for my actions at work. Somehow, when she learned of the indictment, Jena’s heart softened toward me. God was at work.
We called off the divorce, and I came home. Our marriage wasn’t perfect; in fact, we struggled until the day of my sentencing. But we were still a family, even if we were barely hanging on by a thread.
Five months later, I stood before a judge at my sentencing hearing, full of fear and uncertainty.
You hear people talk about “God moments”—well, on July 25, 2018, I had one. In a single moment, I finally understood my need for Jesus to be not only the Savior of my soul but the Lord of my life. All I had ever heard about Jesus came together. It was like a lightbulb turned on in my heart and mind. I gave my life to Jesus right then. The peace of God immediately enveloped me.
As the judge read my sentence, I prayed for God’s mercy and that He would use me and my situation to reach someone for His glory. Whatever punishment I received would be worth it, even if all I impacted was one person. My wants and desires didn’t matter anymore, and I rested in the fact that I was right where God wanted me. I left that courtroom a changed man, confident the Lord was in control and would be with me and my family all the way.
The Lord didn’t waste any time orchestrating events and placing people in my life to help me grow into the man He wanted me to be. First, He brought an inmate from Haiti into my life. His name was Paul, and he had an unbelievable knowledge of God’s Word. Paul inspired me not just to read the Bible, but to unlock its mysteries.
I became hungry for God’s Word and developed an insatiable desire to dissect it. My mother sent me an excellent study Bible, and the race was on. Paul and I studied the Word and prayed together daily until my transfer to Miami Federal Correction Institution. There, God placed chaplains and my new cellmate, Bill, into my life.
A Texas businessman who loved Harleys, Bill was entering his final year of a 15-year sentence. He guided me through prison life on the compound and taught me the unwritten rules. He kept me out of trouble and from falling into relationships with the wrong people. We became good friends.
Bill and I helped each other face the difficult and unpredictable days of prison. My best memories are our discussions on faith and the goodness of God in our lives. I tell Bill he entered prison with no children or grandchildren, but he left with a son, a daughter, and two beautiful grandchildren. Bill is like a father to me.
Interestingly, Bill is also the person God used to lead Victorious Living’s publisher, Kristi Overton Johnson, into prison ministry. Bill and I often marveled over how God used their visit in 2013 to launch this magazine into prisons across the nation and abroad. It brought purpose to his pain.
Currently, I am in my final year of prison. While I wait to go home, I continue to seek God and His will for my life. I have so much to learn, but He promises that as I seek Him, He will reveal more of Himself (Proverbs 8:17). I don’t want the controls any longer. My way led me to prison and almost destroyed my marriage and everything most precious to me.
God has been restoring that relationship. Through His Holy Spirit, He is teaching me how to love my family. I’m learning how to communicate with and encourage my wife, and most importantly, I’m learning how to listen. I find myself loving Jena more each day.
I owe her a monumental debt for giving me another chance and working so hard to keep our girls grounded and protected during this prison sentence. She has made incredible sacrifices to keep our family united.
The Holy Spirit is also teaching me why I sabotaged my marriage and work. I have abandonment issues that stem from my father’s drug addiction, his regular absence from my life, and the depression my mother experienced while trying to cope with his issues. My fear of being abandoned and rejected led me to destroy anything right in my life. It’s why I pushed Jena away—if I could make her leave me, I wouldn’t risk being abandoned by her. It’s messed up, I know. I have so much more to learn, and I trust that God will teach me.
I have no idea what the Lord has in store for us, but I am not afraid. Philippians 4:13 promises me that I can face all things with Christ. He will strengthen me. He will help me fulfill the call He put on my life, even before I was born (Jeremiah 29:11; Psalm 139).
God has a call on your life, too. I hope you’ll answer yours sooner than I did. Trust me, doing things your way never works out. It leads only to dead-end situations. But thankfully, even there, God’s grace will meet you. Just like it met me.