Prayerful RetreatHow often do you have a “prayerful retreat” with God?
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This is my story. In September of 2004 after 24 years of involvement in the occult I decided to end my life, but Jesus had other plans. The things that have happened to me since then have been unbelieveable. I hope my story of redemption is a blessing to all who read it. Intro: How had it all come to this? Just six months ago I felt as if I was living the life that I had always desired. I had money, power and all the drugs an addict could possibly want. But in that small time span it had all come unglued. I watched my entire life spiral out of control. The money was all but gone, the power Satan had given me was dwindling and the drugs had come to an abrupt end. Now all I was left with was depression, hopelessness and withdrawal. The truth was that of these three demons I couldnt tell you which was worse. The one thing I was sure of was that everything I had believed about myself and my life was an absolute lie. I was living in the illusion of a world that was completely shaped by the hand of Satan. The worst part of this was that I had willingly gone along with the whole thing. I had given myself over to the prince of darkness and ultimately lost my self-identity as well as my grasp on reality. I couldnt even stand to look in the mirror any more; it was just too painful. It had taken so little effort for me to destroy my life and now I was still faced with how to end it. These were the final days, the last pages in a story that was twenty-four years in the making. A long journey home I tossed my backpack down beside the train tracks and headed for the Tressle Bridge I could see in the distance. I had been walking for what seemed like hours. My only goal now was to get to that bridge. Tears stung my eyes as I thought of the stop I had made earlier to send an email to my estranged wife, who had found refuge from the pain I had caused her with her family in Germany. I had come to Berlin, New Hampshire to die but I could not tell her this. I had caused her enough pain already. So I created another lie and wrote that I had left Wilmington, North Carolina and moved up north and was doing fine. What else could I say except good-bye. It cut me to the core as I sent that email, believing that it would be the last time anyone ever heard from me again. When I finally reached the bridge I laid down like an insomniac who was finally able to rest. I couldnt move; the weight of my sin sat heavy on my chest and I struggled for breath as if I was drowning in a sea of filth and degradation. I just wanted my life, as I knew it to be over. Such serene beauty surrounded me. It was early fall in the New Hampshire mountains and the trees were taking on their fall colors, but everything was mask by the darkness that had held me captive for twenty four years. I searched the dark recesses of my mind trying to decide if there was any reason to continue on in this life. I didnt have to search for a reason to end it all. There were plenty. What I was looking for was just one reason not to kill myself. I sat and rocked back and forth for the longest time. So many images rushed through my mind. People and places that I had not thought of in years flooded my thoughts. Finally I did the only thing I knew to do. I cried out to my master, Satan, I cried, what am I going to do? The reply came all too quickly. The only thing you can do for me now is die, were the chilling words I heard Satan say in a cold disapproving voice. I was broken. This was the master I had given my life to. I had been loyal to him for the larger part of my life. I had brought him many disciples, and it had cost me everything: my wife, my job, my home, my family and now in my hour of greatest need he deserted me. I didnt speak back to Satan. Suddenly, I saw myself as the 13-year-old goofy kid that never quite fit in. It was as if a veil had been lifted and I could see clearly for the first time in almost a quarter of a century. I was transported back in time to the person I had been before I had become involved in the occult. I saw myself alone in my bedroom asking Jesus to be my savior. I had the most wonderful experience of my life that night. It was as if I had breathed my first real breath. What had happened? I could finally see the truth. Satan had promised me he would give me all things if I would turn my back on God and follow him and I had fallen for it. Formerly, all I thought about was what I was getting from serving Satan; the ability to manipulate others, the drugs that he had made so accessible, the false sense of belonging. Now all I could see was how I had been tricked and what he had stolen from me. Twenty-four years were gone and I knew I could never get them back. Faces from the past began to appear in my mind. Suddenly I was faced with everyone I had betrayed. So many people, so many lies, so many lives destroyed. I had turned my back on the true and living God to serve a liar. The devil had used me all up and now he was ready to finish the job. I looked at my arms. Tattoos-symbols of allegiance to Satan on both of them. The pentagram necklace I had worn for so long around my neck seemed to burn into my flesh. The demonic symbolism on the rings I had been so proud to wear seemed like foreign objects. This was what I had allowed Satan to turn me into. I wasnt even human anymore. I was just the shell of a person that I had once been a long time ago. This was the only identity I had known for twenty-four years. I had gone too far, I had served Satan too long. I was so ashamed. He had brought me here to die and I wasnt even able to put up a fight. What was I to do now? And then out of nowhere a gentle voice spoke to me, Pick yourself up and go. The voice was so completely different from the one I had obeyed for so long, and yet it was familiar. I felt almost as if I was being lifted as I rose to my feet. I had no idea where I was going but I felt as if an irresistible force was moving me toward an unforeseen destiny. Suddenly I had a thought of a little white church that I had passed earlier in the day. The thought had occurred to me to stop and rest there but my ego wouldnt allow it. God cant help me now I thought as I passed by the front steps. Now all that I wanted was to get back to that quaint little building. I rounded a curve in the road and the church steeple came into view. When I reached the churchyard I met a man who was affiliated with the church. I asked if he knew where I could find the pastor. The pastor was upstairs installing windows and when he learned of me he called down Can I help you? I looked up into the kindest face I had seen in a very long time. I just need to talk, I said in a trembling voice. What about? he asked. I just need some help, I said and I realized that I was crying for the first time in years. Come on in, he yelled back down. Once inside we sat down to talk and I extended my forearms to reveal the satanic symbols that I bore in my flesh. Look at me, I am completely broken. I cant be fixed, I said, while extending my right hand to reveal the scars that were a result of setting my hand on fire in a bar. The weight of the sin that I had freely given myself over to seemed to fall on me. Pastor Hoyt listened compassionately to me. For the first time in years someone actually seemed to care about what I had to say. There was no condemnation in his eyes. This man who didnt know me loved me. I could see it in his face. He didnt pressure me to do or say anything. He simply shared his testimony with me and then he asked if I needed something to eat. I couldnt even think about food. I was starving for something that I could only find at the feet of Jesus. I had eaten for so long at Satans table that I couldnt even remember what real food was. Pastor Hoyt invited me to attend church services that afternoon. This was on Friday and I can see now how that God had everything perfectly aligned for me to come home to Him. I told Pastor Hoyt that I would be back for the service and then I left and walked around aimlessly. The voices that I had grown so accustomed to hearing returned. You cant escape this fate, Its too late, This is hopeless. The voices buffeted me for the remainder of the day. I found a serene place and sat down near a waterfall to skim rocks across the water. I had never felt so empty and alone. Me-- the Satanist, the clown, the life of the party, completely barren. I realized that there was nothing left of who I really was. The person that God had created me to be was completely mask over by gothic clothing, satanic jewelry and tattoos. Thoughts of suicide filled my mind for the second time that day. I realize now that it was Satans last attempt to destroy me before I fully surrendered to God. I was unsure of what was going to happen as I headed back to the church, but I was certain that this was my last chance to escape a fate that I had began shaping at age thirteen. I took a seat in the back and soaked in the message. The Lord began speaking to my heart about my life. The altar call was given but I didnt go forward. God was doing a work on me right there in that pew. He told me that He had not forsaken me even though I had forsaken Him and that I just needed to come home to Him. He reminded me that I had received His son Jesus as my salvation when I was thirteen years old. I was shocked as I actually heard the Lord telling Satan Enough, take your hands off my child! After the service I spoke with Pastor Hoyt and the visiting minister. They were concerned about the fact that I hadnt come forward during the altar call. I explained to them that I had been saved when I was a young teen-ager and that I had given my heart back to the Lord Jesus that night. They were amazed that I could have served Satan for 24 years after having a real salvation experience. I was more amazed than they were. How could God love me that much, but there was no denying that the good shepherd had found me and brought me back into the fold. I can see now just how merciful God was to keep his hand on me through all that I did. There is no way that the human mind can comprehend that kind of love. Nothing that I had ever done had stopped God from loving me. He protected me more times than I can count. I knew now what God wanted me to do. I had to return home to my family. They had lost me 24 years ago and I know now that it was their prayers that had kept the protection of God around me. I also knew that I had to face the people who I had deceived with my lies and occult doctrines. I had too tear down the kingdom I had helped Satan build. A feeling of dread washed over me as I realized I might end up in prison for my illegal use and possession of prescription drugs. I told my new minister friends of my plans and they encouraged me to carry through with them and get my life back in order. They gave me a copy of a New Testament and drove me to the bus station. Since my bus wouldnt be leaving until the next morning I rented a room. It was there in that little motel room in Berlin, New Hampshire that I bowed my knees to the Lord Jesus for the first time in 24 years. I awoke early the next morning, and I was finally able to remove the occult jewelry that had adorned my fingers for so long. I dont need you anymore, I proclaimed as I threw them in the river and headed for the bus station. I took a seat in the back of the bus and decided to read from the gospels of Jesus Christ. Tears streamed down my face as I realized who Jesus was and what his coming to earth had meant to all mankind. My bus arrived in Manchester, New Hampshire four hours later. I still had to make my way from the bus station to the airport and purchase my ticket back to Raleigh, N.C. I had flown to New Hampshire only two days earlier on a one way ticket. It was almost funny to me that at the time I purchased that ticket I had no intention of ever coming home again. I should be dead now I thought, but God had other plans. He had his hand on me the whole time and I was so blind I didnt even realize it. I passed through airport security and boarded my flight. Everything felt so different and so completely right. Just two days ago I was on my way to ending my life and now I was headed home with a new beginning. I had run as far as I could for as long as I could and I still couldnt escape the love of God. He had planned my redemption since the foundation of time. Satan had given me his best shots but was unable to destroy me. The Lord had always planned to bring me home on a little trestle bridge in the mountains of New Hampshire.