A Softened Heart
"God has always been in the life-changing business. He changed mine by transforming the thoughts of my mind and the beliefs of my heart which developed into God-honoring patterns in my life. And He is still continuing a good work...
Most of my pre-adult life was unstable, uncertain, and pretty lonely. Both of my parents were addicts and tried to maintain a dysfunctional family. They often fought and yelled at each other but never verbally or physically abused me. However, on December 28 of 1987 (my fifth birthday), the court system removed my siblings and I from their custody and put us into the custody of D.C.F.S. This began what became a complete separation of siblings and the beginning of a loss of belonging and identity for me.
Up to the age of 18, I lived in 21 placements by D.C.F.S., all of which taught me that it is a dog-eat-dog world and everything you need and want in life has to be fought for. As a young teen, I picked up the habit of drinking large amounts of liquor as a means to temporarily enjoy the displacement of my reality. My habit and my beliefs followed into adulthood where I experienced many circumstances I was not prepared for, such as finding out that the son whom I had raised for almost a year was not my biological son. As a result of not being adequately equipped nor grounded in firm faith in something, my escape was alcohol consumption which intensified. Sin led me to destruction.
Years following, I lost many jobs and relationships that were important. I was arrested on multiple occasions for different charges. All due to my addiction and stubborn self-will, which were rooted in sin.
In a few instances, Christians tried to show me the truth of the gospel, which to me was nothing more than allegories and stories of wisdom to be used sparingly for worldly advancement. Eternity was not on my conscious yet. And God was a relative understanding.
In 2009, after reading, studying, and considering the Bible (and during one of the lowest times of my life), I began bowing to my knees and pouring out to the God who I didn’t really understand. And it didn’t matter if it made sense or not, but I just knew that I needed help and He was the one I was drawn to. God made His Word alive to me and conviction was felt through Scripture. He adopted me into the kingdom and my identity was in Christ. However, though the transformation in my mind began, I still often stumbled or went astray. He was not yet my Lord.
In 2014, I came to Peoria specifically to go through Peoria Rescue Ministries’ program at Victory Acres to continue growing in Christ. During the program, I gained more understanding of God and His Word than my entire Christian life lived so far. After graduating the program, I continued membership at a church and obtained employment and housing. But in the middle of blessings, sin crouched at the door.
What began as a good intention led to selfish ambition which led to destruction. As I slowly began to pick back up old worldly philosophies, I was removing myself from God’s will. Old drinking habits returned, and I lost my job and my home. Once again, I was homeless and now living a convicting life with sin. I returned to my vomit. I attempted to reestablish security and steadfastness with church attendance and service to the community. But it was only “religion,” and I couldn’t find what was missing to free me from captivity.
During this time, the Peoria Rescue Ministries was still a part of my life. They never stopped feeding and clothing me. They never stopped praying for me. They never stopped loving me. Even when my ways were upsetting to them, they never gave up hope. The Mission is truly a safe and loving place to go when running from the wickedness in the world. It was a place to quiet my soul and listen to God.
After a couple years of the Holy Spirit ushering me to submit myself to the Lord and urging me to enter the program at Peoria Rescue Ministries again, I gave in. I entered the men’s EXCEL downtown program at the Mission. The 12-month commitment brought me back to the pilgrimage with the aid of study work and counsel. The process has refined me in fire and stretched me out of my own stubborn will. And that which I was missing before, which was personally knowing God’s love that is expressed in His abundant grace and rich mercy, is displayed and real in Jesus Christ. He also has not given up expressing His overflowing love to me through the persistent love shared by real people at the Mission. My heart is softened and bent on going where God is and leads me. That includes my relationship with the Peoria Rescue Ministries – because God is there.
Today I’m defined, directed, and loved. And the thoughts and beliefs that once managed my life are overcome by a real and personal relationship with Jesus Christ."