John 10:27 “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.”

Everybody has a story. I never thought mine was anything worth listening to, until I realized it was being written by God.

As a child, my parents brought me to a denominational church where I heard about Jesus, but none of it was very real to me. By the time I was in middle school, I stopped going. I figured church was boring and wasn’t for me.

Fast forward to the year I graduated high school, when I was constantly partying. It started with just alcohol, weed, and pills. But I needed something stronger to fill a void and chase a high so it soon progressed into harder and harder drugs. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I lost myself. I can’t say when it was that I realized I was in over my head. The novelty and excitement gave way to a lingering dark cloud of depression and anxiety, and that became normal to me. People close to me were overdosing, and with that came funerals — and feelings of guilt.

In hindsight, I can see that it was none other than God’s hand on my life keeping me alive. Through a difficult couple of years, I was able to get clean from most of the drugs. But the emptiness inside didn’t go anywhere. I was at a point where I was just smoking weed constantly, but I was thankful that most of the harder drugs and the partying lifestyle were in the past.  I thought I would probably never stop smoking weed.

I was working all the time, but my job wasn’t giving my life any meaning. I never graduated from college, and I had no sense of direction. Still, any feelings of emptiness or inadequacy would just go up in a cloud of smoke. Once I would get high, I wouldn’t have to process any emotion — I could just push my emotions aside. This whole time, I never really thought much about God. Apparently, He never stopped thinking about me though.

The Holy Spirit began to draw me to faith in Jesus Christ before I even understood what was happening to me. I started to feel convicted of the fact that I wasn’t a good person. Romans 3:10 says, “As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one.” This wasn’t a feeling like anything I’d ever felt before. It wasn’t a “depressed” feeling or guilt over anything I’d really being doing specifically— just an inner knowing that I’m not good. Normally, even when I’d mess up or do something bad, I’d convince myself that I’m a good person deep down and could justify anything I’d done. This wasn’t the same. I really felt something.

One day before I went to my retail job, my sister and I got into a really bad fight about clothes. She had worn something of mine, and I had gotten so mad.. The feeling from before came over me again, but  this time with the thought, “If God is real, and there is a heaven… I’m definitely not going.” I began to think of the way I lead my life, and I really felt that if God is real, he would be just in a decision to send me to hell. I felt terrible the whole way to work, but I didn’t say anything to anyone about what happened.

At work, I went to ring out a couple of customers — two women shopping together. “I like this,” I commented about one of the shirts they chose. The conversation that followed was one that changed my life forever. They revealed that they were sisters, and they were buying the clothes for each other. They told me how they always used to fight with each other about clothes, and how bad they would feel after and how it’s not worth it. They told me how their other sister was stuck in Puerto Rico with no power after Hurricane Maria and they didn’t even know if she was okay. Normally, I would have brushed this off as a coincidence, but I knew this was no coincidence.

As soon as they walked out of the store, I ran to the backroom with tears in my eyes. When a co-worker questioned me about what was wrong, I told her what had just happened. She asked, “Do you believe in stuff like that?” “That was God,” I told her with certainty.

There, I had it, God was real. Now all I had to do was get myself together, “be good,” and do the right thing. I soon found out that it was easy to say but impossible to do. I found myself doing the exact same things I promised myself I was going to stop doing. My sister and I kept getting into fights. I was so angry all the time!

That night I poured my heart out to the Lord alone in my bed. I’m pretty sure I cried for three hours straight, calling on the name of Jesus. I desperately told Him how I know He’s real, that I messed my entire life up, and that I can’t be good so if He wants me to be good, He has to do it for me.

In the morning, I heard a voice like a loud whisper saying, “Wake up,” and an overwhelming sense of peace came over my body. Ephesians 5:14 says, “Wake up sleeper. Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine upon you.” Everything was different. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that Jesus is the Lord. The Bible became real to me, and reading it was amazing. It was like I was hungry for the Word and I hadn’t eaten in weeks. Even the colors seemed brighter. I couldn’t keep quiet. I was telling everyone I could that God is real!

Putting faith in Christ as my Lord and Savior was the best decision I’ve ever made. I knew the condition of my soul had changed, but it’s not like everything all of a sudden becomes perfect. At first, I put the weed down, but soon enough I had started smoking again. I knew God was still with me, but my sin started to eat at me more and more every day.

Initially, I began to rationalize it, thinking, “It’s just weed. It’s not as bad as it could be. God still loves me.” But, I still felt convicted. The whole time, I had been asking the Lord to help me stop, but part of me still felt like it was bigger than I could handle. One day I took a nap and had the most vivid dream. In it, I was walking around but I was extremely tired as if I were asleep. I kept going up to people and asking, “Can you be awake but asleep at the same time?” There was no mistaking that the dream was from God. When I woke up and started reading the Bible, a couple of verses literally jumped off the page at me: “For God does speak- now one way, now another- though no one perceives it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on people as they slumber in their beds.” Job 33:14-15

We have to be honest with ourselves. Are we awake but spiritually asleep? Is there anything
holding us back from getting closer to God? Is there unaddressed sin in our lives?

After church on a Sunday shortly after, I went home with a heart full of conviction. Monday morning, I went to work as usual, but all day I was so heartbroken. I had to keep going off by myself to cry. I realized when I was ignoring what I knew the Spirit was saying to me, I was sinning against no one other than a holy God who loves me so much that He died for me so that I may have eternal life. John 14:15 says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” That really hit home. By His grace, I was set free.

We can’t change ourselves. Nevertheless, God is faithful, and He will do it.