The Power of One Decision: Johnny's Story
Often when I catch a glimpse of my husband from across the room I can’t help but shake my head in amazement at the thought of where we were and where we are today. Our marriage, our children, our ministry, none of them would have existed if the man I love had made one different choice twelve years ago.
While I was a young single woman serving as a missionary, you can bet I would have laughed in your face if you told me that my future husband was currently on the streets of a major Canadian city using and selling drugs. Impossible. Right? Someone probably would have needed to remind me that my Jesus specializes in the impossible. But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s start at the beginning.
My husband, Jonathan (or Johnny, but never John) was born in Alberta, Canada. He was raised by wonderful parents who loved the Lord and loved Johnny and his two older brothers. His dad was a North American Baptist pastor and Johnny grew up enjoying church, knowing Jesus, wrestling with his brothers and having an altogether lovely childhood.
But as he got older he began to ask some tough questions about Jesus and faith and eventually decided that if he had been born into a family who practiced a different religion, he would have automatically been of their faith. He wanted to make his own decisions about what he did and did not believe so he tossed Christianity aside, bought a big book on world religions, and read.
As he searched he found that religion after religion seemed empty and meaningless. Which left him drowning in unanswered questions and aching for a place to belong. Around the same time he was invited to his first rave. That night, and the decision to go, led Johnny down a dark and difficult road that threatened to steal everything from him. He dove headfirst into the drug scene, partying for days on end, taking any and every drug that was offered to him, then eventually selling drugs so he could continue to purchase drugs for himself. His only goal was to constantly be high.
I could tell you story after story of times that he was nearly killed or arrested.
He should have been. It is a miracle straight from heaven that he wasn’t.
He was surrounded by friends overdosing or going to jail or being killed. He was in a car accident he shouldn’t have been able to walk away from. He was stopped, questioned by police and somehow let go. He was risking his life every single day to get high and oh was his future bleak.
Johnny likes to say that Jesus gave him mono. I like to say Jesus saved our life.
Because indeed Johnny did get hit with a terrible case of mononucleosis. He couldn’t get out of bed for over a month and during that time his body was forced to endure not only mono but also the withdrawals and detox that come with quitting drugs cold turkey. One day while he laid in bed bored, long before smart phones and mindless game apps or Netflix could pass the time, his dad came to his door, handed him a Bible and offered a simple challenge.
Read one Proverb a day.
And for some reason, I believe it was the endless hours my mother-in-law spent on her knees praying for her baby, he picked up that Bible and he read a Proverb a day.
And just like he always does when we allow him to, Jesus showed up.
The simple word of God, the truth that is found on the pages of the Bible, the wisdom of the Proverbs, it began to soften the heart of a 19-year-old kid who had tried so hard to find a different way. And now he had a choice to make, a decision that would forever shape his life and so many others. As his health returned, would he put down the Bible and return to the life he had grown addicted to? Or would he let the truth set him free?
I rarely allow myself to ponder the what if’s. But when I do, I find myself totally overwhelmed by what is.
My husband allowed Jesus to claim his heart once again and he walked away completely from the life he had lived for over two years. That one decision completely changed both of our lives forever.
And to think I didn’t yet know his name.
Shortly after becoming sober, Johnny applied to a missionary training program with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) in New York, the very ministry that I just happened to be on staff with. Go figure, right? Even after nine years of marriage, when I think about what had to happen for my story and Johnny’s story to become one, I am overwhelmed by the goodness of Jesus to fight for each of his children.
A friend of ours put it this way, and it perfectly describes the man I call husband. After praying for Johnny she looked at him and truth spilled from her mouth: “If I didn’t know your story I would never guess what you walked through. Some people have a difficult past and you can still see it on them, feel it on them. But you. You walked through so much darkness and I don’t see a single bit of it when I look at you. Nothing. When I hear your story it’s as if you’re talking about someone else. You are a completely new creation.”
One decision to open his heart up to the all consuming love and healing of Jesus Christ. Now the man I share my life with is the most compassionate, kind, humble and servant hearted man I know. He loves the Lord with all of his being and has dedicated his life to sharing Jesus with the nations. He is the husband I could never begin to deserve and the best person in the world to teach our boys how to be men. He is the reason I will never underestimate the power of one decision. He is my constant reminder that Jesus doesn’t believe anything or anyone is impossible.
Nearly a year ago our journey led us to the first Sunday service at Grace
Clermont. Our family has found a home at Grace, and as I watch Johnny serve on the Ops team or in graceKIDS, I am overwhelmed by thankfulness for a God who doesn’t give up, a husband who made the choice to change his life, three boys whose very lives are a miraculous testament to God’s faithfulness and a church that will help them own their faith from the very beginning.
This article was written by Johnny’s wife, Kelsey, and was published in the Live Life Unstoppable issue of Grace Magazine.