March 14, 2014 by Chris French
I wish I was able to say something along the lines of, “I grew up in the church,” or, “I have been in the same congregation since I was born,” etc. Unfortunately for me, my story is far from that. While I did grow up in a somewhat religious environment, I think it is safe to say I never really knew God. I have never really seen my father in church, though my mother raised my brother and I in a Baptist congregation. While we tried to go most Sundays, it was largely restricted to Sunday morning services, and we didn’t always show up. I liked to think that I knew God, but what I really knew was that church was a place I could go to see my friends. I was even baptized in the Baptist church, though I clearly didn’t know why. I went to summer camps, church services, and did youth activities, but if we’re being honest I was living for me, which you will see is a recurring theme in my life, until more recently.
As I grew a little older (around 16), and began to work to pay for the things I wanted, I really found out what living for myself was like. I began to pay for my bills and the extras in life, which made me realize that I could get by in this life thing on my own. In my mind, nothing was stopping me from living for me and doing what I want, when I want. Not my family, friends, or even God. I thought that all I had to do was keep working hard and going to school, and I would get through this life thing on my own. The more things I did on my own, the farther away from God I got. You could have asked me at any time if I believed in God, and I would have happily said absolutely. However, I definitely wasn’t living accordingly and I surely wasn’t willing to change what I was doing regardless of what God wanted. Looking back now I realize how clueless I was. But I kept going for myself.
I remember feeling extremely guilty every summer. My family and I would go to my grandparents’ home in California, and they live completely for God. What a great example they are, but it’s too bad I was too blind to realize it. Every summer they would take us to their church and send us to a conference for a week, where I realized year after year that I should work on at least having a relationship with God. You might not relate to any of my story if you grew up in the church, except for maybe this. After that week of summer camp, I felt so good about having a God that cared about me and loved me. I walked away every time knowing that my God loved me and sent his son to die for me, and that I had to change my ways. Too bad that feeling lasted about as long as the camp itself. After a week, it was all back to normal.
As I got even older (around 18), I moved out of my parents’ home, began college, and provided everything for myself, and moved farther away from God. I was now old enough to do everything on my own, and hang out with other people who did the same. I realized who the cool kids were and exactly what I had to do to please the world that I live in. I began to work in restaurants, which were filled with other people just like me who were completely living on their own terms as well. I developed a lot friends, had a lot of fun, and made what I thought was plenty money to live how I wanted. So what did that look like? I was basically spitting in God’s face with every action I took. I got off work late at night with all of my friends who also worked with me. We would stay out all hours of the night, and couldn’t do anything fun without having a drink. Not just one, either. So we had our fun, while spitting in His face.
All throughout college I continued down this path. I found only two things that could satisfy how I wanted to live, which was girls and alcohol. I found myself in a lot of dead end relationships with other people who were living on their own as well. My heart was broken a lot, and I tried to fix it with drinking and going out more, and finding new relationships to fill my time. It took me a lot of time to figure out the things that weren’t working. It took me until I was about 23. That’s when I began my MBA program back home, and met the wonderful woman that I can so thankfully call my wife today. During the first 8 months or so of my MBA program I was still living for me. I even took on a management position in a restaurant/bar to gain some management experience. I was hanging out with more people who didn’t realize what we were missing in our Savior, and even got to drink for free while doing it. It was a terrible thing. About eight months into it, I started hanging out with my wife, who suggested I forget about the girl I was talking to (I didn’t realize her trickery in this at the time). This led to me and her hanging out and we started dating. This is when I saw what a family in Christ looked like. They went to church every service and their home looked a lot different than mine.
I think I was trying to impress her family more than anything, but I started attending some of her church services at Goodwood Church of Christ in Baton Rouge, La. I met a whole bunch of people that I love and realized what I had been missing the whole time. As I attended more and more, I realize that I was no longer searching for something to fill my void. I realized that there was a reason for me being here. This is when I started getting into the Bible to find out more about the God that I had claimed to believe in for so long. WOW. I found out what a loving, compassionate, and almighty God we serve. I realized how much happier I was in life in general, and I knew it was because I was living for God. But it wasn’t until I moved to Tuscaloosa for my Ph.D. program that I came to truly know Him. I moved here and luckily found out about our congregation here at Northport. I found people who loved God and would love me too. I had a ton of questions and realized all of them were being answered by the Bible, not by people. And I realized that there were things keeping me from Heaven, including not being baptized for the right reasons. I found out that it could keep me from heaven and immediately sought after it. I approached Chris about the subject, and knew I had to be baptized for the right reason, or I wouldn’t get to spend eternity with the great God that we serve. That night I came forward, it was September 26, 2012. I asked Chris to baptize me with no warning (I’m still sorry about that Chris). My life has never been the same. I have a completely different outlook on everything. You really know you’re living a great life if you serve Him through it. I fall short a lot, but it sure is awesome knowing that He forgives me. I’ve come to know what love really looks like by developing my relationship with Him and getting into the Bible. I hope you have too. It was easily the smartest thing I’ve ever done in life.