At the age of 12, I found myself in jail for marijuana. I was scared to death, and I really wanted to turn my life around. But after I was released, I found myself right back in the same situations I had been — partying, drinking, drugs and sex.
My mom attended church fairly regularly, and she practically made me come with her. But I went more to hang out with my friends than to worship God. I heard the Gospel preached, but I didn’t take my walk with God any further than that.
When I was 15, I met my girlfriend (now wife) Taylor. Even though I had finally escaped the drugs, partying and drinking, I still struggled with sexual sins. Not long after we started dating, Taylor and I decided we couldn’t be separated. So, we came up with a plan: to have a baby. Yeah, I know — WOW! Thankfully, God can use our not-so-wise choices for our good. We eventually had our daughter Alexis, and I asked Taylor to marry me. Yes, at the age of 16, I was married with a kid.
Throughout the next six years of my life, God was nowhere in my mind. I sinned without guilt.
Throughout the next six years of my life, God was nowhere in my mind. I sinned without guilt. I didn’t attend church or care about anyone’s salvation, including my own. After Taylor and I eventually had a son, Ryder, my mother tried to pull us into church. After a few hardheaded excuses, we started searching for a church that was right for us — and found Pinelake. The first few sermons hit me hard, and I tried to live for God and get to know Him. Over the next year, I would walk a little with God and then slip back into my old lifestyle. Over and over, I would do this.
Around this time, I developed a passion for studying philosophy. I was primarily interested in the origins of life and how God could create such a beautiful world. Well, this lead to some serious questions I had never thought about — questions about pain, suffering and just how complex God is. Doubts popped up, and this was really disturbing to me. How could I doubt something I knew inside was true?
I needed some answers, and so, I started digging. I researched these questions and found something called apologetics (the defense of the Christian faith). I had no clue what it was at the time, but the more I read, the more I was drawn to it. There are so many resources out there that provide answers. It’s amazing how Jesus meets us in our doubts and waits for us to take His hand so that He can pull us up (Matthew 14:31).
It’s amazing how Jesus meets us in our doubts and waits for us to take His hand so that He can pull us up.
As my interest in apologetics grew, I felt conviction for the sins I had committed in my past. I started caring about my salvation. I learned that it was only through Jesus Christ that I could be set free of sin (John 14:6). I realized that I had never asked Jesus into my heart to be my Savior. I asked and started living my life for Him.
I have come to realize that back when I was 12 I had no idea what genuine saving faith was. I thought it was simply about getting into heaven, and while that’s a part of it, it’s really about spending eternity with my Father God. It’s not good enough to just believe that Jesus is real. We have to believe INTO Jesus and put all of our faith INTO Him and rely purely on Him alone. I realize now it’s not about me or my wants. It’s about God and His desires. It took me 24 years to realize this, but God knew exactly what He was doing every step of the way.
God has truly been shaping me into one of His disciples. I have grown so much in my faith that it is amazing. I’m so grateful for what He has done in me. He is teaching me that I am not supposed to come first in my life. I'm supposed to be last. He fills me up on a daily basis, and in turn I get to pour into as many people as I can. I truly have meaning in my life now, and His name is YAHWEH!
—James McGowan, Pinelake Reservoir