Doug during his first video interview for my weekend message.

Doug during his first video interview for my weekend message.

We love sharing life change stories each weekend at CedarCreek. Since it’s not possible to measure life transformation by objective means, stories are a powerful way to communicate heart change.

I loved being able to share my cousin, Doug’s life change story with you. Many of you sent me notes or messages about how much his story meant to you or someone in your life. Doug’s prayer was that God could use his story to bless others – and I love watching that answer that prayer rain down on the lives of many of you.

There’s a lot more to Doug’s story and I asked him for permission to share some additional parts of his story that we couldn’t fit into the video.

In your story this weekend, you mentioned growing up in a wonderful Christian family. But, you began to struggle during your teen years. At what point did you start to move away from your faith?

Original creation by my friend, Shirley Yee. I met Shirley a few years ago at a conference and Facebook keeps us in touch!

Original creation by my friend, Shirley Yee. I met Shirley a few years ago at a conference and Facebook keeps us in touch!

I was pretty good kid growing up. I was definitely a boy. It wasn’t until I entered middle school when the problems really started. Being a Christian and in Public Schools can be and was a huge challenge for me. All the different kinds of peer pressure and picking out the” cool” kids to accept you. I chose the outsiders or as society called us” rejects”.

Got to the point I no longer wanted to attend church or be around people from church. I turned cold and my parents pretty much had to force me to go.

I started to experiment with drugs and alcohol. Started fighting all the time, going to parties and just going against all I believed. I’d like to blame it on the peer pressure, but I liked it. I found it much different and exciting. I felt like I was someone. I didn’t want to be in the world and not be apart of the excitement. I started doubting my own faith and everything I believed in. I was no longer the good Christian child that my parents raised me to be. Eventually I calmed down a little, but still smoked a little pot and drank beer.

During the video, we heard you explain your anger over your parents divorcing and how that anger led you to joining a hate group. What impact did that association have on you?

I was walking around fighting everyone. I didn’t care about anyone. It was all about me. And, my relationship with my family fell apart, too. No one wanted to be around me.

We didn’t have time to talk about this during the video, but how did you end up going to prison?

Created by Shirley Yee

Created by Shirley Yee

Even though I was very cold hearted towards pretty much everyone I cared a lot for my friends. I would do anything for them. A friend came to me and was in pain. Said that his girlfriend was cheating on him and wanted him to learn his lesson. After a week or so of contemplating I had the perfect plan. Called my friend and he gave me the address. After a night of drinking and doing drugs another friend and I drove over to this guy’s house.

I snuck out of my car, ran around the house and poured gasoline on the side of the house and I lit it up. Now, this whole time I never once considered the consequences of what I was doing or the outcome. This happened when right after my 18th birthday. When I was 19 the law caught up with me. The so called friend that was with me had gotten arrested for statutory rape. To lesson his sentence he told them about me setting fire to that house. After some investigating they decided to arrest me for questioning. They had told me that the couple in the house had a baby and their dog woke them up. If not for their dog things could have been much worse. To make things more complemented the friend who gave me the address, gave me the wrong address on purpose then he also turned me in. I had this sense of embarrassment, guilt, shame, worthlessness, instant depression and suicidal thoughts.

 I confessed to everything and a year later I was in prison. Before going to prison though I went through some counseling and got to the core of my actual problem. I was upset about my parents divorce and instead of dealing with that I ignored it and it turned into so much more.

Things were tough for you during the early days of prison. What happened?

Created by Shirley Yee

Created by Shirley Yee

I blamed God for everything. This was God’s fault and I didn’t want anything to do with him. I remember my first day in prison. I got beat like there was no tomorrow. I fought back, but couldn’t defend myself. I wasn’t allowed any phone calls or visitations for the first few weeks of being there.

I ran into a man who’s name was Satan. I spent a lot of time talking to him. We talked about our others’ past, futures, religions, everything. He brought it to my attention that I was brainwashed by these people who thought they were better then everyone else. I was taught to hate for the wrong reasons, and surprisingly enough this guy taught me how to love again. He never once talked me down for my religion. He allowed me to talk freely. And it was at that point that it hit me. God didn’t put me here, God didn’t want me to take the path I took. He gave me a way out, I was just not accepting his answer. It was kind of ironic how a man named Satan bought me back to Christ.

How did your life start to change once you reconnected with Christ?
I read my bible on a daily basis and went to church services. I never once had any issues with any other inmates. God protected me when I needed him most. Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom to see the worth in yourself and to see what your worth to Jesus. He died for my sins upon that cross. He knew everything I was ever going to do and he still died for me. He didn’t only die, but he conquered the grave.

The last part of your video brings tears to my eyes every time. I’m so happy for you! What is the best part about how God has transformed you?

My life today is a blessing. I’m so happy to be where I am and growing everyday in Christ. He has truly transformed my life. I have a deeper love for people and I can honestly look past their sins and still love them. God gave me that ability because I was once in their shoes. I still have my struggles just like everyone else does. Nobody is perfect. I have reason to stay on the straight and narrow.

God took my hatred, my worthlessness, my depression, my guilt and shame. He gave me peace, love, happiness, a great fiancé who loves Jesus just as much as I do. He gave me a great church.

If there is one thing I want to do with my life is for my story to touch someone’s heart and say, yes there is still hope. I’m more sensitive to people’s needs. My friends today would never ask anything of me that would harm me. I’ve got good Christian friends. God has given me the strength to make it every day and claim he is God. He has renewed me and made me a new person. I am so grateful for what he has done in my life. I still look back on my past, but instead of feeling that shame I thank God. I had to go through what I did to see his true love. No matter how bad I was he still protected me. He had his hands in everything. I’m so grateful for my past because it’s turned me into who I am today. Today, I am a Christian, today I am God’s child. Today, I have the strength to stand up for my beliefs.

Did Doug’s story inspire you? How were you encouraged to believe that God could transform your life? Leave us a comment – I know Doug would love to hear from you! Feel free to share this post with anyone who might be encouraged by it.

 By the way, your “Transformed” journey continues this weekend at CedarCreek Church. Jason Tucker will be talking about how we can be “Transformed Spiritually.”  We all want to be closer to God – and when we allow more of God in our lives, He transforms those painful, broken, fearful places inside of us. Join us! Saturday at 5:15pm/7pm and Sunday at 9/10:45am and 12:30pm.

 

 

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