Born on Long Island, we moved to Southern California when I was 7 shortly after my stepfather passed away from cancer. He was only 29 at the time and my mom was 28.
Life in California was dramatically different from New York. Our economic situation was somewhere between poverty and middle class. And probably by any standard my family was pretty messed up, but I’m pretty sure I’ve forgotten most of the really bad stuff.
We weren’t without religion, but it was more to keep us out of trouble than anything about God. Myself and my brothers and sisters always seemed to be doing something wrong, so God was powerful overseer that kept track of all our mischief. My stepfather was God’s angel of death for us (a role he embraced with great zeal). It didn’t seem to teach us much though because during my teenage years I was always in trouble. I don’t think it’s useful to talk about all my mistakes, except to say, I think I wanted to do the right thing, but instead I made some really bad decisions.
I was married at 20 (young by today’s standards), and by 21 my first daughter was born. At 23 I had two little girls and a wife depending on me. I guess, with the pressure of responsibilities I was driven to searching for the bigger answers in life. I wanted to be able to guide my daughters to a better path than the one I stumbled around on.
With the help of a neighbor, I began studying the Bible in search of those bigger answers. Eventually, at 24, I gave my life to Christ and began following a completely different course. At 28, while working full-time, I entered Bible College. By 32 I graduated with a Bachelor of Theology degree and started a Master’s program.
When I think back on those days, it was really crazy. Husband, father, employee, Bible College student, Bible Study leader, Sunday School and Children’s Church director, and church planter. All of the things I was doing were full-time jobs, but, at the time, I didn’t realize I couldn’t give them all full-time attention. I just kept pressing forward because I wanted to “serve” God, and that’s what God wants from us, “everything”, right?
At 33 I was called, and accepted a Sr. Pastor position of a local non-denominational community church. Even after reaching what I thought God wanted me to become, I continued to press the very edges of the envelop. Besides my Sunday morning and evening sermons, I lead a young families Sunday School class, taught a church leadership class, lead a weekly Home Bile Study, visited people at home, in the hospital, and in nursing homes, I spoke to professional and college sports teams, officiated at community events, and did family counseling. And yet, after all that, I still thought there was more I could, and should do for God.
I don’t think I have to tell you where this all eventually ended up. You guessed it, a very difficult and destructive divorce. All the things I thought I was doing for God was my own ambition and selfish desire. At the time, I remember just trying to survive the complete collapse of everything I had built. I had let down my daughters, my church community, friends, and most of all (I thought), God.
But, God didn’t give up on me, and I know now, He never will. God has used every person and every experience in my life (good or bad) to show me who He is, and what Christ means to us all. I had spent my life building a ministry to show God what I could for Him, and when it all collapsed, He taught me that’s it’s really about what He does for us.