Martin Luther spoke about the doctrine of justification saying that Christians are simul iustus et peccator, “The same time righteous and sinner.” I think this phrase sums up my life very well.
When did I first trust in Christ? That is what a testimony is about, right? I don’t really know. I was born in Midwest City, Oklahoma September 22, 1972. I remember when I was four years old swinging with Todd, my best friend at the time, asking him if he believed in Jesus. He said “No.” I then told him he was going to hell. He responded, “Then I do believe in Jesus.” Ahhh, my first convert! You do have to be a Christian to make a convert don’t you? Well, either way, that is one of my earliest memories and at the timeÂ I believeÂ I knew Christ the best a four-year-old could.
My mother and father were “unequally yoked.” My mother was a Christian, while my father . . . well, he just did not talk much about his beliefs (he did not talk much about anything). I can remember from an early age sitting in my mother’s bed while I listened to her read the Bible. She knew the Gospel and loved Christ. She was not overbearing, but was very outreach minded. I had three sisters, two older and one younger. She loved us and gave us all her attention. Her greatest desire was for all her children to love the Lord.Â Because of my mom, we were a very close family.
My father was different. Stern, disciplined, and, at times, terrifying. Those are the best adjectives that I can think of to describe him as I grew up. He always provided for the family and, even though he rarely would give up terms of endearment,Â we all knew that he loved us. I looked up to him like any son does a father. He was my hero. I wanted him to be proud of me. The problem was that I just did not know what would make him proud. He never mentioned Christ, did not read his Bible, and was prone to stay out drinking many nights which drove my mother crazy. I remember praying for his salvation every night, having great hopes about what the Lord would do. My mother and father went through many separations and nearly divorced a time or two. But my father would always come back on his knees with promises to change. I think he really wanted to, but just could not sustain the motivation.
I, myself, don’t remember theÂ depth of my spirituality early on. I do remember praying quite a bit. From about ageÂ eight to twelve, I had a serious weight problem. My family, sisters, mother, and father, were all very beautiful. People from everywhere would talk about my mother and sisters. Although my older sisters wereÂ three and five years my elder,Â their guy friends wouldÂ befriend me for a chance to get close to them.Â Many times people would say to me, “You are Angie and Kristie’s brother? What happened to you?” I would laugh it off in their presence, but go home and cry at my bedside praying to Christ to make me skinny like them.
While I was insecure about such things, I had many close friends who I grew up with. These friends began to “go steady” with girls when I was about eleven or twelve. I remember one party that my best friend had.Â It was a “couples” party. I was not invited because I did not have a girl to go with. I tried to take heart and press on, hoping that one day I would get a girl friend and be “cool” like the other guys. At one time, I took the school yearbook and began calling girls randomly, asking them to “go with me.” They all said no except one girl who asked. “go where?” I did not know what to say so I said “Skating.” She said no as well.
Such was life for some time. I don’t know why I did not follow my mother’s teaching and simply not worry about it, but I was determined to gain dignity in the area that was causing me so much emotionalÂ pain and public ridicule. In eighth grade, things changed. Looking at myself without a shirt in the mirror one day, I said to myself “Things are going to be different.” I began jogging every day and working out vigorously. Within three months I had lost 58 pounds. People did not recognize me. I was a different person.
Immediately I began to pursue that which I never had – respect in the eyes of my friends. Girls. That is what I need. I need them all to like me. I need them all to like me more than they liked everyone else. This was my ambition. Along with this came sacrifice. I know that my mother had taught me differently, but I was determined enough. I neededÂ to be looked up toÂ by othersÂ like my sisters were. Maybe this was why my father did not like me that much. Well, now I could let him know that he had a cool son. The sacrifice involved telling Christ that I would be right back, that I just have to do some things. I remember actually telling Christ that I was sorry, but I promised to return.
Parties, drinking, a little drugs when necessary. These provided the avenues to clear my nagging conscience of what I knew was wrong – sex. My main goal was to sleep with girls. How many girls could I sleep with? This was the primary and most definite way to gain acceptance with my friends and solidify my place as one who “does all things well.”Â High School led into college and the pursuit did not stop. My grades were terrible. I barely made it out of High School and I was kicked out of college after one year for having a .66 grade point average. I did not really care. It was not the drinking or the drugs that were addictive, it was the acceptance and the heroic status that I was attaining to. I would think of othersÂ who were notÂ walking the same path asÂ meÂ and say to myself The only reason they are not doing what I am doing is cause they can’t. This went on for years.
During this time, I was still dropping by the Lord’s throne from time to time. I would approach with my head down with no intention of stopping what I was doing. I did not really know what to say. Two of my friends were in the same boat as I. We grew up in Christian homes, loved the Gospel, felt bad for what we were doing, but just could not help it. (Ironically, we all had mothers who loved the Lord and fathers who were not influential spiritually.) I did the best I could to be Christian in the environment I was in. Many times, drunk at a bar I would get in fights with people over evolution. Yes, I am serious. I would tell them (with a slur) how stupid they were and how I was going to kick theirÂ . . . umm . . .Â “back side” for not believing in God. Needless to say, I did not win any of them over.
When I was twenty-one I became a personal fitness trainer. What better way was thereÂ to get girls than in this profession?Â In my mind, I could help peopleÂ and further my agenda. At least I was meeting God half way. Â
My poor mother. She did not know how to handle this. In fact, it was not only me who was heading down this path, but all her kids. “What did I do wrong?” That was her question to us. We were making her emotionally unstable. She tried everything. She would kick me out of the house and then a week later threaten me if I did not come back. Then she would try a different tactic. She would seemingly calm down and try to be my friend, but then she would hear about something I did and kick me out again. I thought she was crazy. She was confused.
As the college years passed and my perception of my legendary status grew, I began to feel empty.Â When I did not wake up in a foreign place with a friendÂ sharing a “morning story” of debauchery, I would sit in silence, trying to forget about the one “who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” I was shaming Him. The more I shamed Him the further away I ran. But the silence always gave way to His presence and I would cry out in an accusing manner, “Lord, you made me this way. I can’t stop. I want to . . . at least I want to want to. But you are going to have to do something. I am not Job! I can’t take temptation.” This went on for a while. The sadness grew in intensity.Â I would cry out toÂ Him atÂ 2am while I was drunk.
I had achieved what I was after. I had gained my dignity. But I found, in the end, it was only a mirage of satisfaction that left me more empty than I had ever been before. I was simul iustus et peccator with an emphasis on the peccator. My life did not only fail to look Christian in any sense, but most would have thought that I was a close friend of the anti-Christ. But they didÂ not know aboutÂ the conflict within.