It took four cities and three years to learn how much I need the Bible.
God saved me on Feb 26, 2009, after a Prayer, Worship, and Communion service at The Rock Campus Church (formerly known as “The Rock” campus ministry) at the University of Missouri. God used Matthew 6:25-34 to convict me. I was convicted that I wasn’t actually a Christian. God also showed me that he was sovereign over my life and better than all the things I thought would bring me joy. God used his word, the Bible, as a major part of how he gave me new life in Christ.
Fast-forward to June 17, 2015: God has grown me in significant ways, I married my best friend (Ali), I was working for a local church, and I was expecting my first child in October. Feeling slow and exhausted, I went to a Quick Care in a Hy-Vee to get some pills to feel better. They sent me to the ER and I was immediately admitted for some sort of heart condition. God used his word, the Bible, to teach me about his sovereignty and his goodness, and my last memory was telling my sister that I trusted in his word.
Again, fast-forward ten weeks.
St. Louis, MO: Waking Up Grateful
Slowly regaining consciousness from a ten-week coma was traumatic. Reality seemed false and hallucinations seemed tangible.
I quickly realized that something was wrong: I couldn’t move on my own, breathe on my own, eat on my own, lift my arms on my own, and I couldn’t speak at all. My heart couldn’t even beat and pump on its without the electronic pump inside my chest, but even though everything was immensely difficult, and at times impossible, I was overcome with gratitude for being alive. Tears streamed down my cheeks knowing how loved and blessed I was by God.
Friends would visit us and we would eventually pray together. Often times I was burst into tears as they prayed. Their prayers gave me strength.
Also, I listened to music. Specifically, I listened to “How Deep” by King’s Kaleidoscope on repeat. I was grateful.
I didn’t have the strength to lift the Bible, but God provided me strength through prayer and God-centered music.
Columbia, MO: Living Off Experience
Twelve days after leaving rehab in St. Louis, Ali, my wife, gave birth to our daughter, Eden Cielo. So, was I still grateful? Oh yeah.
For me, I was still chugging along with feeling grateful. I was statistically supposed to be dead, but God kept me alive for a purpose – even if that purpose wasn’t clear, I was still certain that he is sovereign and perfectly good.
My focus was to stay alive and keep going to therapy. I did not focus too much on investing in the church. This was because friends and acquaintances were consistently sick and I also could not attend most Sundays for the sake of my health.
But, if I’m honest, my focus was on my well-being and not the well-being of others.
Sure, I was grateful but I was operating and living off the experience of “coming back from the dead.” I got strength from living off my experience; I was not getting my strength from God and his word.
Chicago, IL: Starving and Alone
My family and I moved to Chicago because an intense and fantastic doctor badly wanted to do my heart transplant, and after being denied from multiple hospitals for having “a poor quality of life,” I jumped at this chance. We were not formally accepted by their entire team yet, but we took a leap of faith and moved to Chicago within a month of getting his voicemail.
For about four months, we got involved in a mega-church located in the north suburbs of Chicago. It was far away and no one lived near us, but their building was accessible. But, before long I was accepted and listed on the heart transplant list.
On May 22, 2017, I got the call that a heart was available and a match. Granted, it took two days to finally go in for surgery… but on May 24, 2017, I received a heart transplant.
After months of inpatient and outpatient rehab, I could finally rejoin church life. But, after a couple months, my wife and I left that church in favor of a church closer to our home that matched all our convictions and needs for community. And, it was a great decision.
At the end of our time in Chicago, which was a year and a half, my focus was on staying healthy and beginning to seek out biblical community. Neither of those things are inherently wrong or sinful, but I still was not pursuing God through his word. But, that would change in June 2018.
Raleigh, NC: Being Fed the Word
On June 17, 2018, we attended Imago Dei Church for the first time. Pastor Tony Merida preached John 2:1-11, and I sat in my wheelchair convicted of two things: my sin of not truly living for Christ and my sin of not seeking God in his word, the one and only authoritative source for all of life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).
In one sermon the Holy Spirit renewed my passion and dependence of the Bible. In that sermon, I was convicted of my sin and I was reminded of God’s grace for me. It is a day that I desperately needed. I just didn’t know it.
It took four cities and three years to know I need the Bible. During those three years I was focused on my circumstances, but in one sermon I was reminded that my primary focus should be on God, his promises, his perfect and complete revelation, and his call to make disciples.
Wherever I go from here (if we have to move somewhere else), I know this:
God is unchanging and my need for his word is too.
I’m grieved that it took three years, but God loves me still. And I’m grieved that I focused on temporary and circumstantial things, but God loves me still. I’m grieved I took the Bible for granted, but God loves me still.
He is good and gracious. I knew those truths, but now I read it every day.