So after what I now believe was the first time I “heard” God calling me, I moved back to Michigan. My parents were very gracious and allowed me to move back into the house I grew up in until I could “get settled”.
Since other than military life, the restaurant business was all I knew, I went back to work in restaurants. Unfortunately for me, a zip code change did not mean a lifestyle change. For many restaurant employee’s in the late 80’s & early 90’s, drinking, doing drugs and sleeping around, were common place, even acceptable activities. (I can’t speak for that industry today, and I apologize if I am offending anyone by this characterization.) The “pride and confidence”, of my lifestyle caused me to suffer many legal and financial consequences during these “post” Marine years. Drinking and/or doing drugs and then getting behind the wheel of a car and driving don’t mix. When caught under these conditions you will suffer serious consequences. I can tell you this for a fact, as I faced these consequences, on sadly more than one occasion. Additionally, this lifestyle prevented me from being able to maintain any kind of serious or steady committed relationship. Yet one other consequence of poor life decisions.
These things (or consequences) may not seem like much, however, just imagine being in your mid to late twenty’s, having no college degree, no plan for your life, and living at home with your parents; until they became less than “happy” with your lifestyle. At that point their generosity ran out, and I found myself “couch hopping” at friends, and other family member’s homes for a place to live for quite some time. On top of all that, add the consequence’s of having no money because the courts and attorneys have taken it all, and no real “skill set” other than being able to out-drink or out-drug, most people you come in contact with, and you have a horrible existence. I can tell you from experience, this is nothing to be proud of. I knew something was wrong with the way I was living, but I was manipulated by Satan to turn internally to myself for help instead of turning to God. This “help” meant covering the shame, pain, and consequences I was experiencing with more drinking and drugs. Looking back now, it is easy to see how blind the Enemy made me, and how manipulative Satan can be. Due to the consequences and penalties I was suffering, I found myself wandering aimlessly. I was completely lost and had no clue where I was going or what I was doing. I decided that I needed to change my “career path” so I joined the world of retail sales. Not a huge change, but a change none the less. I quickly worked my way into a management position, as I had a knack for managing people and operations.
By 1991 I was able to move into my own place, and landed a position running and managing a local gym franchise facility. It was here that I met a very special woman whom I now believe God put in my life to help me further my path to Him. With her help, I quit doing drugs, (and obviously womanizing) but was still drinking quite a bit. Unfortunately, I was still in control, so I made decisions based on “my” needs and “my” wants first. We moved in together in 1992, got engaged in 1994, and for the first time in my life I was in a real relationship. As happy as I thought I was, I didn’t understand I was still putting “me” first; and God, well “He” went wherever it was convenient. I went back to school, got my Associates Degree, and had several other positive things happening in my life. Unfortunately, I was still living outside God’s law and still had consequences to suffer. In 1996 this special woman and I split up. We split amicably, but for several more years, my life was doomed to aimless wandering and drinking. I went back to womanizing, and other deplorable acts against God.
I don’t remember the year exactly, but a friend of mine helped me get a sales position with a local small family owned business. Again, I can look back now and know this was yet another time God tried to get my attention. They hired me on to do sales of metal working equipment to the automotive industry. At one point, I was on a business trip with the president of the small company I worked for. One morning at breakfast with my boss, his wife, myself and another colleague, were discussing spirituality and the idea of salvation. All the others at the table had accepted Jesus as their savior and I wanted to know what this entailed. They spoke openly and honestly with me and explained salvation to me in the simplest terms. The said that salvation happens different for everyone, but quite often it is a process not an instance in time. The analogy they gave was: “being saved is like building a deck, one board at a time, and some go in easier than others”. I continued to work for that company until 1999. During that time God put several people and instances in my path, giving me the opportunity to choose salvation over sin, and I refused. I don’t think my refusal was not a conscious decision, but rather an Enemy influenced choice to continue living a lifestyle of choosing self over God.
In 1998 I met the love of my life, Donna. She has turned out to be my personal guide and anchor on my path to salvation, and thankfully she never abandoned me or gave up on me. Prior to our marriage we both were making “me” choices and would suffer many hardships and consequences for those decisions. We justified our sinful behavior with our ultimate intentions. We were planning a wedding so living together and engaging in premarital sex were not bad. We were wrong, and today we both regret those actions, as they did not bring honor or glory to God.
Donna was raised Southern Baptist and I was raised Roman Catholic. These theological backgrounds are about as far apart as you can get while staying within the Christian world. We both agreed we would have “God” in our lives and had many discussions about spirituality and salvation. As we “church shopped”, we came to challenge each other to reference the bible and find answers to our questions. We also learned to challenge each other on the concepts on which we were raised. Ultimately, I still was working under the concept that God was “building a deck” with me and He would install “the boards” when He was ready. I never imagined or realized I was turning my back on God.
To be continued…