Sunday, March 8, 2009

My Testimony - "The Shipwreck"

I had previously said that I would eventually share my testimony, today I felt like God was telling me it was time. This is gonna be a two parter because, for one it’s long (I know you’re shocked) and two, there are two very distinct parts of this testimony. This first part is what God used to help me understand who I had become and where I was at. The second is what God used to tell me who He wanted me to be and where he wanted me to go.

For the last five weeks Element has been going through a series called Wild Goose Chase, (you can listen to the series’ podcast on Elements home page HERE) based on the book of the same name by Mark Batterson (Lead Pastor, National Community Church, Washington D.C.). If you’ve never read it, great read…pick it up, it’ll be life changing. Anyway, today’s cage was the Cage of Failure. Not moral failure (like sinning huge), but as in failed plans or divine detours. Where I am now, is NOWHERE close to where I planned on being one year ago, or even five months ago. As Jeff put it, “God will frustrate your plans” and boy will he.

My testimony actually starts when I was first saved, something like twenty years ago, when I was eleven or twelve. From that point on I knew I was a “Christian”, but I had NO idea what that meant. I never lived anything like Jesus, didn’t even have a relationship with him. Thought the Bible was the equivalent to a large novel (same as War and Peace). I learned to read it as a penance for when I did something wrong, so I grew up thinking that it really was just a collection of stories, not the inspired word of God that He uses to communicate everything to us (I know that now). I was so disconnected to what Christianity was that I actually faked tongues in youth service once, because I thought we were supposed to do that. Bottom line, I had a much skewed view of Christianity and a very surface level presentation of it.

In October 1995, I met my wife Dana and we married on August 13, 1996. We soon had two wonderful boys, James in April 1997 and Andrew in May 1999. Four years after we married, I’m ashamed to say it was shortly after our fourth anniversary, I became involved with another woman. The details aren’t really important, just that I betrayed my wife, emotionally, physically and spiritually. I had failed as a husband and father. Dana went home to Alaska taking my boys with here. I knew as soon as she left the mistake I had made, but I had no idea of the impact that would have in the coming years. I eventually called Dana, said I was sorry and asked her to come home. By the grace of God she did. After she came home, my physical affair ended, but mentally I continued it in my head. As time passed, I wasn’t able to include the “other woman” in my fantasies as easily. So I started looking at pornography on the Internet. At the time it didn’t seem like a big deal. It wasn’t often, once a month or every couple months. But I was only doing it when Dana wasn’t around. It took me 4 ½ years to realize and accept that I was doing something wrong and that it was hurting our marriage. I again had failed as a father and husband. I should say that I truly did love my wife and there was no other reason for me doing it except I was selfish. I had EVERYTHING I needed and wanted at home, but I thought I deserved more - SELFISH! Toward the beginning of 2005 I quit, with a few relapses, but I quit. I started to focus all my attention on pleasing Dana. But my focus was still not right. Recently I told her all this and she said she didn’t know about the porn at the time, but she did feel the gap it caused in our relationship.

Fast forward to January 2008...I thought things were great in our marriage. I was due to separate from the military in June and we had everything planned out. Then Dana mentioned re-enlisting (seven more years and I had a retirement). She said it was the best thing for our family, so reluctantly I agreed and re-enlisted on February 13, 2008. On February 16th Dana told me she wasn’t happy and wanted a divorce. I was devastated. All I could think was I just re-enlisted, now my wife may leave me and I’m stuck in the military and I was the one that didn’t even want to stay in. Eventually Dana agreed to go to counseling, we got orders to move to Cheyenne, WY, and things seemed to be getting better. We arrived in Cheyenne on July 27, 2008. Things were good, until September 9th. That was the day that everything fell apart. Dana admitted she still wanted a divorce and never really intended to try. A lot of stuff came out that night (needless to say she confessed a lot of stuff to me that she did, which hurt more than I can say...I'm sure it's close to how she felt in 2000). What she told me was devastating, but it’s not my place to confess it for her…just know that it changed everything! ALL of our plans were dead in the matter of one night. This was my shipwreck (Mark uses this in the WGC, it is a reference to the detour God gave Paul in Acts 27). This was the event that God used to show me who I was. This was the detour God was going to use to change the course of my life and set up some divine appointments with people he would use to help me “get it”.