For years I danced back and forth between atheism and agnosticism. Usually ending up on the side of atheism and in my mind (or out loud if I was drinking) ridiculing the people out there who claimed to have found a savior in Jesus Christ. It was easy to do. I would use flawed logic, intellect, and skepticism as I implored folks to prove it. Smirking as I saw you pray or read the bible. "Where's the proof" I would say. Or when times were tough, "where's your God now"?
Of course I didn't know there were people in Las Vegas (and beyond; I would later learn) praying for me on a regular basis. Nobody would ask if they could pray for me; the answer would not have been in the affirmative.
Like most instances of change mine came during difficult personal tragedy. Over about a sixth month period Andrea and I lost a child, lost my Grandma, lost a close family friend, and lost Treffie. I was hurting and angry. The things my family went through proved to me that God couldn't possibly exist. But like true Christians should, people continued to be there for me and not ask but tell me they were praying for my family and I.
Meanwhile I continued to try to push those same folks away by diving into a life of sex, alcohol, and self loathing. If you've been to Vegas you'll realize there may not be an easier place to do this then in Sin City. And if I lived in Sin City I was determined to be the biggest sinner the city would ever know. It didn't matter to me how badly I hurt those people around me. If I had to hurt, so they should they my flawed logic went.
But a funny thing happened on my way to an early demise. I began to feel hope. Hope in the people around me and that there may be something out there bigger than me. A couple of years earlier I had read a book called The Case For Christ by Lee Strobel that made a solid argument for proving that Jesus was the unique son of God and had very much walked the earth. Typically, I wasn't ready to admit I was wrong (no Cole male ever is ready!) so I continued doing what i wanted when I wanted and how I wanted while secretly reading everything Lee Strobel had written.
Then in early February of 2011 it happened. I accepted an invitation to Central Christian Church. It was surreal as I found myself walking through the door wondering what a broken sinner like me was doing walking through the doors of the biggest church in Las Vegas. I couldn't believe how many people were there. Were there really people in Sin City that believed in God?
Then the band started playing music. It was the first time I heard the Chris Tomlin song "Our God". It felt like that song was written especially for me and was not only speaking to my ears but directly to my heart. With the exception of holding Matthew for the first time nothing had so instantly brought me to my knees. As a rookie attending church I had no idea at the time that it was the first time the Holy Spirit spoke to me. I was confused, scared, and curious all at once. Then a man walked on stage and said, "Welcome to Central. We want you to know that Central is a place where it's ok to not be ok". I literally chuckled to myself as I thought, "that's because you've never met me".
But something was different after that day. The hope I had felt over the last few months was turning into something more as I again dove into The Case For Christ. Then in my bedroom a few weeks later I was again visited by (I had by then learned) the Holy Spirit. As I was texting back and forth with a friend and tears streaming down my face as I searched for a few more answers I lifted my hands and acknowledged Jesus as the unique Son of God, my Savior, and leader of my life and I asked for forgiveness. I was baptized a couple of months later.
Two years later I acknowledged to Andrea that I wasn't the husband she deserved. During that very late night conversation we allowed the whole house of cards to fall. With anger in her eyes and hurt in her heart she forgave me. The struggle continues for us both. Day to day neither of us knows how the hurt, guilt, and anger will effect the other. We suffer wounds that only God (and perhaps time) can heal. (This journey is a whole other blog) we are still trying to figure out where this journey is leading our relationship.
Every day remains a struggle. I continue to hurt those around me on a daily basis. I continue to selfishly put things other than Jesus first in my life. I still struggle for worldly desires that Las Vegas makes so readily available. Fortunately through grace I'm able to wake up and strive each day to be a better version of myself than I was the day before. I've learned to forgive those who have hurt me and more importantly I've also given myself forgiveness for the bad things I've done to others
But I'm no longer alone.
How big is my God? I only have to look in the mirror to know. My God is Mighty to Save. So thankful.