To share my testimony, first I really need to share a little bit of family history which starts with my Grandfather. He was a man of character. When he became of age he joined up with the military and was deployed to fight in World War II. He fought in one of the more well-known battles, the battle of Iwo Jima. During his time in the war he lost most of the other soldiers in his platoon, all but 2 others. Crouching down in a bunker he came to decide he was going to live his life different if he survived though it. He survived. Once he made it back to a safe place, he wrote my Grandma a letter letting her know things need to change when he gets back home. And she was on board. Once he got back home he went to college at Harding University to become a Pastor. He made good on his decision to change the way he lived from then on. Grandpa was the type of person who lived on very little, yet helped changed the lives of very many. He continued in his ministries for over 50 years until his health eventually retired him from preaching.
Now my grandfather had 5 kids with his youngest being a little girl who years later became my mother. She was dedicated to bringing me to church since I was just a baby. She never missed. Even on vacations, I thought I’d find a break from church during the drive. If it was Sunday, she’d always find a way. I remember for the first decade of my life she would tuck me in with a prayer. She would pray with me, say goodnight and then go to my sisters room and do the same. Dinner always started with a prayer. Her life since as early as I can remember was dedicated to living for our Lord and Savior…
She was and still is a great mother to me and a great example (thanks mom). At the age of 12 I decided to get baptized. Things felt right. I remember the day I was baptized it felt like I was starting fresh. It was a great feeling, even though my sins that were instantly forgiven through my baptism were not as severe as they would soon become. It seemed like the month I got baptized was the month the evil one decided, “okay, I’m going to wreck him”. It seemed like within that next two years I was introduced to many sinful things. The evil one created his own path for me and my ignorance and immaturity lead me down it. Sophomore year came along and I was now far away from serving our God, I still believed there was a God if someone asked, but I was not living it. This is the year I will make smoking cigarettes among other things a daily habit, an hourly habit in some cases. I used to think for the longest time marijuana wasn’t that bad, but I realize, although science has found positive uses for the drug, this drug distracted me further from God than anything else. It’s rare to see someone high on any drug praying to God, reading the bible, or doing good deeds for others. I’m not saying impossible, just uncommon.
I lived like this for years and got into a certain type of lifestyle. One thing I loved to do was steal. I don’t know if I was motivated by the money or the crime itself (can i get away with it), probably a little bit of both. Popularity and more friends came with living a lifestyle far from God; this was the evil ones trick to get me stuck in this lifestyle.
Out of high school I got involved with a woman who was horrible to me. I’m horrible to her. We live a lifestyle accepted by the world and she becomes pregnant. Our fighting pauses for 9 months and starts up again. During those 9 months I cleaned up a bit and started going to college. Once my first child was born I was already well into my 1st year in college. Our fights started up again. We were not prepared for this responsibility. Our fighting got out of control, it’s easy to say she got out of control; it’s not so easy to admit I got out of control. But yes, I was out of control. One day we were fighting in front of our 3 month old little girl. My baby’s eyes were so big, she was so afraid. That night she ended up taking the baby with her for the night somewhere else. This has already happened a number of times before. For the first time in years, I fell to my knees and prayed. Please God, this fighting isn’t good for my daughter to see. I’ll be kicking and screaming the whole way but please bring my girlfriend a man who will be respectful to my daughter. I cannot and will not leave them. I love my baby girl so much. However, it would be better if we raise her apart. One month later she left me for another who she later married. I considered whether the relationship this other person was new or ongoing, but regardless, I felt I got my first glimpse of God through an answered prayer. To see my daughter more I had to take my ex to court. This was the worse year of my life. After this I continued seeing my daughter, and with the rest of my time I just floated around, working and accepting life as it was.
Years passed and my daughter grew and I could only hope she didn’t see the things her mother and I put her though in her earliest of years. When I wasn’t with my daughter I was just living in the world, and of the world. I had gone through a couple more relationships before I met the woman I would marry. I met her and we dated for about 6 months. One night I called her and she tells me that she, her aunt and cousins are sitting on the floor because of the possible risk of a drive-by. I remember visiting one night sitting on the porch with her cousins and brother drinking. You would hear shots being fired within a 3 mile radius probably every 20 minutes (this was normal i guess). Worried about her safety I asked her to move in with me. (As if living with me was the solution) After Michael, her son, turned 1 she moved down to Tucson. We lived together in apartments for the first couple years, those years were extremely tough. We had our share of good days but our bad days were nothing easy to deal with. We both had a lot of pain from life taking its course and pain can lead to anger. About 3 years into our relationship I proposed, she eventually became pregnant and we became married. Then we started going to counseling. The counseling didn’t help much. Now we have two people with a kid each from a previous relationship, a child of our own and problems from the past. We had a dying relationship with no love or respect. We tried so many things to fix it, in retrospect, I believe we both wanted the same thing, but just didn’t know how to do it. We continued, counselling, trying different things, reading relationship content, you name it. Our relationship matured some as we got older but it was still in the dumps. Good days, followed by the bad, and then good again. Just a typical crazy cycle.
Then one day I get the word, My grandfather passed away. You know, the grandfather who paved the way for us to live with God in our lives. My Mom, Dad, sisters and I flew to Minnesota soon after to attend the funeral. For some reason, I’m not that sensitive at funerals. Maybe its confusion, I’m not sure. If sadness hits me, it hits me before the funeral, not at the funeral. I don’t cry. Sometimes i feel I need to look down so people won’t think I’m inconsiderate. But often, its more confusion than anything. Anyways, we fly to Minneapolis, then drive for 2 or 3 hours though the snow to Nevis, a little town in the middle of snow. Lots and lots of snow. We get to my cousins, and stay there the night. The next morning we get ready and head to the church. I walk in and begin shaking hands with family members I haven’t seen since childhood. I find myself a seat and begin looking at this screen.
It’s a slideshow of my Grandpa, many of the pictures being of him and my Grandma who passed on about a year earlier. There he is, in the picture, about 85 years old smiling, glowing, sharing time with my Grandma on her birthday. She looks sick, frail and pale. He’s still there, glowing, so happy to be with her. A lump begins to form and I want to cry. I’m doing my best not to begin crying in fear of making a scene. Without this incredible man making his decision in a bunker 70 years ago, where would my family be? Look how he is to his wife, my Grandma. Pictures continue on the slide show. There he is again; he seems so satisfied with his life, so happy, so fulfilled. This is a man of great faith in God, who never backed off on dedicating his life to serve. I can now barely hold it together. I’m a wreck. Now people are taking turns to talk. I heard stories about a man who had very little, a preacher’s salary, would give his card to someone in need and tell them, “use what you need”. They would use what they needed and bring it back to him. Another family new to the U.S, didn’t have much. He took them in and helped them get on their feet. The boy of that family, now very successful, got up to speak about the strong faith my grandfather had. Through this whole day my heart took on a change. On this day I became forever changed. I am going to be the husband, father and Christian I am called to be. I found Jesus through the life my grandfather lived. Even after passing, he was still a light into my dark world (thank you Grandpa). I now want Jesus in my life too.
I go home and my first commitment was to begin going to church, not periodically, not once a month, but every Sunday. Start learning how to be a better husband regardless of how I am being treated. This was a hard thing to do. And so it begins. I continue going every Sunday, taking my kids so I may raise them in the way they should go – and working on being a better husband to my wife. Things are beginning to go better it seems. And then a storm hits. Unresolved issues bring flurries. We begin fighting and fighting leads to persecution. I’m fighting back but trying to control the words and the way I present my anger and hurt. A lot of shots were taken at my faith, “You are just a fake Christian”, she says. Our marriage is in turmoil and it will stay that way for now. Days continue and I continue. As time passed I decide I wanted to place membership at the church. To do this I had to attend 3 seminars. I attended 2 of the seminars and the last seminar was coming up soon. This is when the fights and challenges really took a turn for the worse. I almost decided not to do the 3rd seminar because I was dangerously close to filing for a divorce. How can you divorce your wife and commit to the church in the same month, I asked myself. One Sunday later before church she decided to say this to me, “You are not taking the kids to church” This is something I cannot fight, otherwise it will turn into a child tug of war. I am outraged. I am so angry. I remember going to church with my oldest daughter. She ended up letting the kids go before I left. During the time of communion, i felt I couldn’t take it because I had too much anger and hurt in my heart. Instead I went to the bathroom and began to quietly cry out of control. Have you ever done that? The lump in your throat just grows out of control. One man came in the bathroom and looked like he wanted to walk right back out, perhaps to give me some privacy, but then he stopped. Instead he decided to stay and be there. He talked with me and I told him my problems the best I could. He heard about things my wife said and done, a total rant, and the first thing he could tell me is, “Forgive Her”. (Thank you John). We talked some more and eventually I made it back to the main area to sit with my daughter. The songs just stopped and the lesson was just starting. Guess what the message was about. Forgiveness! A full lesson on the importance and power of forgiveness. Wow. Alright God, I’m listening. (Thanks Don for this message & others) So after church I begin driving home with my daughter. I ask my daughter, “You know when I went to the bathroom?” She replies, “yea…” I ask her, “did you hear me?” She looks at me a little weird and says, “Uhhhh…no.” Then I say that’s good, and I left it at that.
I get home and sure enough, its round 2 with the fighting. It feels like round 2,000 its been bad for a long time now it seems, but I’m still trying but this time it’s different. So I go in the room and she begins to fight with me. This time, there’s one thing that Satan wasn’t prepared for when pulling the strings in our marriage. I’ve decided to give up, not on my marriage – but on living for me. I am done. Lord, I’m doing this your way. Instead of fighting I begin to ask questions, I begin to listen. She takes a shot at me, I tell her, it’s the evil one causing this in our marriage and I forgive you. She takes another shot even more angry and these words hurt. I stay the course and continue being the husband God calls me to be, a forgiving, loving husband. This isn’t easy to do. This continues for a while. I feel beaten to a pulp. I tell her, I forgive you – and I truly mean it. She scolds back, this time with a hint of remorse, “How can you forgive me!, how?” I know God wants me to be a forgiving husband. And I forgive you, I do love you. She replies, “For the first time in our relationship, I feel you truly love me”. I remember breaking down after this because I realized I’ve failed miserably as a husband and then tears of awe because all these years I tried it my way, I was so blind. And then when I try it God’s way a mountain of a problem in our life was moved. Spiritually, I felt like God was patting me on the back, cheerfully telling me, “Now you see Cole, now you see.”
Although a mountain was moved, there were still more mountains to overcome. We had issues to get over and problems to discuss. But it felt possible now. With God’s help a breakthrough was made. So many great things happened since that day, including my wife’s choice in starting her journey as a renewed Christian. She was baptized on Feb. 1st 2014. Since then we’ve been regularly attending and growing in our faith together. Life is no longer just this thing we do, full of anxiety, hardship, and work. For me, life is exciting again. It’s full of challenges, hope and love. If someone were to ask me, why do you believe in God? The answer is no longer – cuz I just do or because I was raised that way. My answer is because without God, I’d be a divorced man with no hope. I feel truly blessed with the wife and family I get to share my life with. Although I wasn’t always there for him, the moment I was ready to accept him and his ways, he was there, and he always was there – he transformed my life, my marriage and continues to do so. He has been so faithful and loving to me even after living a life of sin. I don’t deserve this type of love and yet he still gives it to me, our God is full of Grace… And my eyes are forever open, and I am never going back… Thank you Lord for all you’ve done and all you do.