I am sitting in the lobby of the Palmer House hotel in downtown Chicago writing this post.
We are in town for the Chicago Marathon. This will be my 40th marathon in 39 different states. After tomorrow, I will only have 12 states left to accomplish a goal that I set nearly 10 years ago. My plan is to run a marathon in every state plus Washington DC and as I get closer to the goal, I find myself reflecting more and more on the journey that I have been on over the past 10 years.
This morning I had an opportunity to do a 5 mile shakeout run with Team World Vision. I had the privilege to run with Steve Spear who is the National Endurance Director. In 2013, Steve ran across the United States and raised over $500,000 for clean water! Needless to say, it was an honor to run with him and to listen to some of his stories and to share my story with him about why I run.
There is no reason that I should be here getting ready to run the Chicago Marathon. There is no reason that I should have a formed an incredible relationship with Cory Scheer over the past 8 months who I will run Chicago with tomorrow. There is no reason that I should have 10 years’ worth of marathon memories.
Prior to today's date, 10 years ago, I was living a life of self-destruction. My marriage was over. I was an addict. I had wounds from an abusive childhood.
I was tired of living and honestly wanted my life to be over.
However, the reason that I am here today is because of a decision I made and I want to share with you why the past 10 years have been the best 10 years of my life.
Today marks 10 years from when the life that I had known was gone and the life that I know now began. An old life was over and a new life was beginning.
Today is my 10 year spiritual birthday. For some of you reading that last sentence, you might not understand what that means. I encourage you to keep reading because this post is not about convincing someone to do something. This post is about celebrating what God has done in my life and to encourage someone who might be going through what I was going through 10 years ago.
A few days ago we wrote a post about October 2nd being a circled date on the calendar. If you have not read that post, we would love for you to by clicking here.
October 2nd, 2006 was the day that everything that I had tried to hide, run from, cover up, and forget collided and my life would never be the same. October 2nd, 2006 was the day that the double life that I had been living would be revealed. My relationship with the woman other than my wife would be exposed.
I was a liar. I was a cheater. I was a fraud. I was an imposter.
I never would have told you on our wedding day that I had plans someday to cheat on Shayla. I never would have told you that I was getting married to get divorced.
But this is where I found myself on October 2nd, 2006.
Let me ask you a question.
Have you ever heard a door shut when the person who shut the door has no intentions of ever coming back?
I have. When Shayla left that morning after getting the truth that she was so desperately searching for, the door was being shut for the final time on our marriage.
Or so it seemed.
Everything changed a few days later.
Everything changed on October 8th, 2006.
Shayla's parents arranged to be in Kansas City to move her things out of our house. The house that we built together. The house that we laughed in. The house that we cooked dinner together in. The house that was ours.
It was also the house that heard our fights. The house that saw me passed out after a day of drinking. The house that was silent because we didn't want to talk to each other. The house that was broken.
Shayla's dad had asked me if I would be around Kansas City while they were in town to move her out. I was and we agreed to get together. For most of you reading this, you are thinking two thoughts.
- Why would you want see your father-in-law days after he found out that you crushed his daughter's heart by choosing to step out of your marriage by being in an affair with another woman?
- Why would a father-in-law want to see his daughter's cheating husband?
There are so many reasons that could answer question 1 but to simplify the answer it would be because I longed to see my daddy. I was a broken son who didn't have a biological father to turn to. In that exact moment, Shayla's father, who I considered my father, was the only person who believed in me.
I had no one else. I was on an island by myself.
The answer to question 2 is one that still blows my mind. Shayla's dad knew that I needed to be loved and he was willing to jeopardize his relationship with Shayla to be there for me.
Who does that?
A man of God. That is who does that. There is a story in Luke 15 about a prodigal son. It is a story about a son who wasted everything that was ever promised to him. He found himself without anything left. He found himself much like I found myself after the truth had surfaced in our marriage.
But that's not the end of story! The father welcomed the distant son back home. He ran towards his son with open arms and it didn't matter what had happened. It didn't matter that he wasted all that he had. He was going to love the son anyways.
It didn't matter that that son-in-law had cheated on the daughter.
I lived the story of the prodigal son. Ted Goertzen lived the story of the forgiving father. My father-in-law showed me what it means to be loved when you feel unlovable.
It's the next part of the story that gets me excited. It's the next part of the story that makes me pound the table. It's the next part of the story that I am saying "I'm all in".
One word changed the trajectory of our marriage. It changed the trajectory of my life. It changed the trajectory of my eternal destination.
On October 8th, 2006, I prayed a prayer that admitted my sin and acknowledged my need for a savior. I gave my life to Jesus.
I went from blind to being able to see. I went from death to life. I WAS MADE NEW.
Shayla's dad simply explained to me that no matter how hard I tried to do good things, I would never be able to make up for the bad things (sin) that I had done in my life. He shared the simple message of Jesus.
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
The message of the gospel is that we will never be good enough. We will never do enough good things. We will never be able to do it on our own. That is why God sent Jesus to this world to live a sinless life. Jesus was killed on a cross and left for dead in a grave. However, 3 days later, Jesus rose from the grave. The tomb is empty. He defeated death so we can defeat death simply by believing in Him. We can be made new! It's a beautiful thing that I cannot fully explain except for the fact that it happened to me and turned my life around.
You might be reading this and think that it is all a fairy tale and that the Bible is just a bunch of old made up stories. On October 8th, 2006, Shayla's dad didn't try to convince me that the Bible was true. He didn't even read any Bible verses to me. He shared with me that if I would give Jesus an opportunity, He would change my life. He told me that I could be a new person…a new creation.
I am not writing this to convince you about a specific Bible story. I am writing this to tell you that I was a different person on October 8th than I was on October 7th. I was a new creation. I was reborn.
I was confronted and challenged with Jesus and I had a decision to make. I could either accept Him or reject Him. I will ask you the same question.
What are you going to do with Jesus?
Do you want to leave him on Sunday mornings in a church building? Do you want to leave him as a fairy tale like the tooth fairy or the Easter bunny? Do you want to ignore that feeling deep within your soul that causes you to question the purpose of life?
Today could be the day that you decide to follow Jesus just as I did 10 years ago. My life has not been the same since. It is the most important day of my life and today I celebrate that God took a broken man with nothing left to live for and breathed new life into my lungs and generations will be changed.
It only takes a simple prayer with an open heart to let God’s spirit breathe new life into your lungs.
Jesus, forgive me for my sins. I invite you to be my Lord and Savior. From this day forward, I will follow you. In Jesus Name, Amen.
If you just prayed that prayer for the first time, welcome to the family! There are angels rejoicing in heaven right now. We would love to walk beside you and help you take your first steps toward following Jesus. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Life is not guaranteed to us tomorrow. What we can do is surrender our life to the one who gives us life beyond the grave and live the life that God intended for us.
October 8th can be the most important day in your life too. Let's celebrate.
'For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.