Dante, 23, Pennsylvania, USA
I grew up in a deeply religious, broken home. When we misbehaved, we were forced to sit and read Scripture. Because of this, I knew the stories, but I was never taught the love of God — and I surely never saw it within our home. My parents fought constantly, often until the cops showed up.
Things escalated when my dad found out about my mom’s affair. Threats were made and, in eighth grade, my parents split up. I was still grieving the split when my mom began dating a new man. Hurt and angry, I rebelled. I started partying and dropping acid and there even came a point where I couldn’t go a day without smoking weed.
In tenth grade, my sister and I both developed depression and anxiety. She developed it first. I remember being unable to understand what was happening to her, until a few weeks later, when it hit me like a ton of bricks. It felt like my life was crumbling in on me…I felt that I was living within a box. I cut off all of my friends and dropped out of school. My long-standing porn addiction worsened. I was stuck — immobilized by purposeless.
Just as I was preparing to end my life, my dad invited me to church. He really wanted me to hear the visiting pastor, a man named James Lee Grady (oddly enough, my name is Dante Lee Grady). Up until that point, I’d only visited church to hang out with my friends or talk to girls. But, my dad kept hyping the pastor up, so I gave in.
During his sermon, the pastor spoke against pornography. He mentioned porn again later in the service and also touched upon every single other issue in my life. I immediately knew that God was speaking directly to me. It was like He dropped down a screen and presented me with my entire life story.
Without warning, I found myself moving towards the altar. I feel that the Hand of God grabbed me by the heart and pulled me up there. There was nothing that I could possibly have done to stay in that seat! When I got to the altar, Pastor Grady spoke over me and prophesied. That’s when I passed out.
When I woke up, I felt love for the very first time. The heavy blanket of darkness was gone; in its place was none other than the Holy Spirit. I’d been saved and it was obvious to me and everyone around me. People said they’d never seen me smile like that!
I went home and tossed out all of my drug paraphernalia. I threw away all of my secular music. During this time, God even freed me from my 7-year porn addiction. I was on fire! But, like many new believers, I thought that the fire would remain aflame on its own. As 2 Timothy 1:6 reads,
“For this reason, I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you by the laying on of my hands.”
I didn’t know to fan the flame, so it gradually went out.
Fortunately, God has since shown me the key to keeping my fire lit: spending my idle time in Scripture, worship, and prayer. I now see that the world — in other words, society apart from God — is always, always feeding us. There’s never a time when the surrounding culture isn’t feeding us. But a heavenly, God-prepared feast is also readily available. So, we have a choice.
If you choose to eat junk, you can’t be surprised when that junk comes out in your thoughts and actions. Neglecting prayer and worship leads to spiritual starvation; and it’s like an iPhone charger — if you’re at 1%, you’re basically dead.
If you feel your fire weakening, reach for God. He’s right there waiting. Even if you’ve neglected Him, He is never far from you. The distractions of this world add static to our connection with Him, but if you’re in Christ, you cannot be separated from Him. God never hangs up on us.
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-29)