From Tool to Treasure
So my name is Steve, I’m a believer in Jesus Christ. I’m a father of two beautiful children, a husband to a gorgeous wife. And my story begins with my mother’s trauma.
My mother was in the bed with her mother, when her mother got killed by a jealous lover, unrequited love. ‘If I can’t have you, no one will.’ So he shot my grandmother, while my mother, she was about nine or ten at the time, was in the bed with her. And she suffered from that trauma for much of her life.
This happened on Christmas day, I was born many years later on Christmas Eve. When I was about 10 years old, the pressure and just the anxiety and the terrible things of all that were too much and my mom began to turn to crack cocaine. She left me and my brother when I was closing in on my 11th birthday in a hotel room, so she could go get drugs. She left us with a stranger, and child protective custody came and took us away and sent us to foster homes on different sides of the state. You know, as a child for that to happen to you at 9-10 years old, there’s no way to process it. So I went through life just confused and broken. That kind of that kind of surmises, or that’s a summation of my young life. Just confused and broken and trying to please people in abusive foster homes that didn’t want me in the first place. I was basically just like a check to them.
So I was just a broken child, but I knew I wanted more. All my family did, they dealt drugs, just terrible examples of human beings and that’s all I saw. I knew that that wasn’t what I wanted to be and I had to plan to go to college. I’ve always been good with math and english. So the idea was, I’m going to major in something like computer technology. I was selling marijuana at the time to put myself through college. I couldn’t, I didn’t have the conscience to sell crack.
Everybody in my family, my brothers, my cousins, my dad, they all sold crack cocaine. So I had first hand experience with what people were willing to do to get crack. They would literally sell their children. One guy I knew, his wife used to braid my hair when I was young, because I couldn’t afford haircuts. And um, I remember the children, they would be in diapers, the same pair of diapers for days. They had no food in the refrigerator because he was selling their WIC stuff and the government assistance stuff he was getting, he sold it for crack. I remember thinking even then, even even unsaved, the Lord was wooing me to Himself. He gave me enough of a conscience to know that I couldn’t be involved with anything like that. I couldn’t sell anything that people were willing to sell their children’s basic necessities to obtain. So I couldn’t do that, like the rest of my family. But I knew I had to get away from them and I wasn’t going to do that working at McDonald’s.
I got caught, my first felony, for selling marijuana. I was transporting a few pounds or so to a stash box. It’s not important, but that’s what I was doing at the time and I got caught and got on probation. My probation officer, she told me, she said, “I’m going to revoke you because you’re black and because I don’t like your last name.” And when that happened, I was just so discouraged. I didn’t have any, I didn’t have any drive anymore to even try to get any more money together or try the college thing again. So just in desperation, I began to rob places because I didn’t care about life anymore.
So I’m out, I’m about to rob a place one night, not because I need the money, just basically because I don’t want to live anymore. But in the store I’m about to rob, a woman works there that’s the Aunt of a young lady that I had dated, you know, years previous to that. And all I could think was if I kill this lady, if she gives me problems and I kill her, it’s going to just break her, her niece’s heart. Mind you, I say the Lord was wooing me even then because if you hear my story, if you’re listening to me, there is no way I could have a conscience doing all the things that I’m doing. So that was the Lord. I didn’t know that until later. But that was the Lord drawing me to Him, even then. I didn’t know Jesus, but that could have only been Jesus, me thinking about the well being of another person. So I didn’t rob the place. I’m leaving to go back home, but I hid my 18 speed, my bicycle, I had hid it on another property and I’m going back to get my bicycle.
In the process of that I have to walk onto the grounds of another business, a storage unit across the street from the store I was just about to rob. What I didn’t know is that storage unit had gotten robbed the night before. There were houses across the street and one of the tenants, one of the women, she called the police when she saw me just casually walking across the grounds, because she thought that I was the person that had robbed that business the night before. It had nothing to do with me. So the cops came. Well, a police officer came and, and I had on gloves at the time because I always wore gloves whenever I robbed a place. So when he came and he pulled up on me, I immediately threw the gloves. He turned his back to see what I had thrown.
An older guy named Silk, he gave me my first gun years earlier. This is kind of, the kind of dysfunctional path that I come from, you know, when you give a teenager a gun that’s kind of a heartwarming present. And not a registered gun that you will go hunting with, like most people are familiar with, an illegal gun that you intend to use and shoot another person. One of the things Silk told me is, “You never produce this gun, you never pull it out, unless you’re ready to do two things: die and kill.”
So soon as the cop – That was always the plan. – so as soon as the cop, you know, rolled up on me and he turned his back, I pulled my gun out on him and I would have shot him. This is just how my mind works. I saw him, his body – There was a ditch nearby. – his body would have rolled into the ditch and I would have ran off into the night. A light came on in the house across the street, I didn’t find out until later that that was the woman that had called the cops. So in that moment that I didn’t pull the trigger, he turned around and he saw the gun leveled at his head from about 10 to 20 feet away. He was close to me. So he pulled out his gun and he is terrified. I mean, the gun is shaking in his hand like a tuning fork because he wasn’t expecting that, to turn around and see a gun leveled at his head, a nine millimeter leveled at his head. So he’s terrified. I can see his gun shaking.
But anyway, he shoots me three times and he tells the judge later in court, which I’ll get to that, he tells the judge later that ‘he saw a change coming over me.’ He shot me because ‘he saw me making a decision.’ The important part about that is, as I lay on the ground, all three bullets went into my right side. I’m staring up at the stars and I can see the stars going black. I realized that I’m dying and I pray to the Lord, “Lord, I’m coming home, save my soul. But please don’t let me wake up. Don’t let me survive this.” For me death has never held any fears for me. Waking up to the darkness, the just bleakness of my life was worse a thousand times over than death. So as I lay on the ground dying, I prayed to the Lord to save my soul, but don’t let me live. Don’t let me wake up and go back to the life I know.
Well, God had other plans. He heard my prayer. He saved my soul, but He also saved my life. Obviously, I did wake up, not exactly the next morning. So when the ambulance did get there, over an hour later, they rushed me to the hospital and they did the emergency surgery. They had to remove two shattered ribs and 40% of my right lung. They had to cut me from sternum to like, pelvis to do whatever they had to do in there and they had to cut my entire side open to take out the ribs and the lung and all of that. So I’m pretty badly messed up. I’m in the hospital room and everything and shortly after that, because anytime a cop is involved with a shooting, their internal affairs division comes to talk with the victim to get their side of the story. So at the time I’m saved, but I’m freshly saved. I don’t even know what “saved” means. So I concocted some elaborate story and lied to them because that was just like my natural inclination at the time. Many more things happen but I’ll keep it to a minimum.
I was shipped to Central Prison, which in North Carolina is the prison where they do the executions. It’s also the prison, the only prison, where they have a hospital facility, so I was shipped there. So I’m not getting the best care. I remember the other officers sent to watch over me, I remember them kicking my wheelchair whenever they could, whenever they were beyond the sight of the cameras and just all that can be expected from people that are vindictive towards someone. So that was kind of my stay there. And what I didn’t know at the time is that things are happening in me.
So once that is over, and a lot more is happening there, but once that is over, I’m shipped back to the jurisdiction where I came from, so I could face my charges, which was months later, the Lord said to me, He said to me one night, “You give Me all, or you give Me nothing.” So everything I’ve done, I’ve always done 100%. The Lord knows that. He made me. So He told me, you know, He just told me one night just like that. He said, “You give Me all right now or you give Me nothing,” because I was concocting a lie to tell the judge and all of that, you know. Just normal stuff for the situation that I was in. And the Lord said, “No. No more lies. No more, no more posturing, no more any of that. Your old life is over.” So I decided. He said, “You give Me all or you give Me nothing.” I was not going back to my old life. It didn’t matter if I had to go to prison for the rest of my life. So I said, “I’ll give You all.” So I said, “I’m going to tell the judge exactly what happened. Everything that happened, all of it.”
So when I saw the judge first, before I saw the judge, I asked to see the police officer and I apologized to him. I took him aside and I apologized to him. I asked him not to mention that to the judge because I didn’t do that to get a lighter sentence. That was not for any nefarious motives. I was a different person and I was ready to leave that old guy behind. And the guy that had almost killed him, the guy that he shot, was a different person.
So the judge, a strange thing happened in court. I’m telling him all the things that I’ve told you. I’m telling him what’s happening and I’m telling him what I was doing. I’m admitting to my crime. But when it came time to tell him that I was about to rob that store, he stops me. He interrupts me and he’s, he starts talking with me about, you know, the state of the world, and the state of young people and just something in general, like, pretty strange. So okay, I conversate with him for a minute or so about that and then I try again, to tell him what I had done. [The judge asked] ‘Why, why were you there in the first place with a gun?’ [I said] ‘I was about to rob this place.’ Now, mind you, where I’m from, armed robbery at the time carried a seven year minimum. Like, there was no, he couldn’t have shown me leniency. It was what you call a mandatory minimum. If I had admitted in open court that I had been about to rob The Sweet Seventeen, which was the name of the store, he would have had to give me seven years minimum just for that charge, on top of the other charges. He couldn’t have shown any leniency. I didn’t, I didn’t find this out till later.
So I’m trying to tell him again, the rest of the story I got to tell. But when I got to that part, he interrupted me. We talked about, you know, something mundane. And then when we finished, I tried to tell him again, and he interrupted me again. And he’s just talking about, you know, the state of the world and it’s terrible that these things happen in this world. And I’m kind of confused. So the third time when he interrupts me, the Lord says to me, “Stop. Stop, don’t tell that.” That’s what the Lord said to me. I didn’t know about a minimum and I didn’t know that the judge was doing that so I wouldn’t admit to that in open court so he wouldn’t have to give me that.
When he did sentence me, he gave me what he called ‘special circumstances.’ I was charged with assault on a government officer, instead of like, attempted murder of a police officer. Because the Lord, that was the Lord. That was the Lord that put it upon his heart, because it was not the Lord’s will that I go to prison for 100 years, which I was ready to, but it just wasn’t the Lord’s will. So that’s important, because that was all God, this judge does not know me. But the Lord was there and that was the Lord. So I ended up serving about four years in prison, when I went I was supposed to serve maybe 30 to 40 years. And I bless God for those four years, because that was my seminary. That was the time I needed to be, I needed to be taken away from the environment where I was completely. It was necessary that I be ripped away from that in literally 24 hours and given no opportunity to interact with the people. Because of the nature of my crime, I couldn’t receive any mail or receive any visitors. And that was for the best.
So for the next three or four years, the Lord began changing me and I read through the Bible. I had to read from Genesis to Revelation a dozen times or more while I was in prison. So that was my seminary and I wouldn’t have traded it for the world. I was in terrible pain every day. But I got a unique opportunity to seek the Lord that many people don’t get. Out here in today’s society, you have to work, you have children. If the Lord blesses a person to get saved, they still have to contend with life, as they’re becoming a new creation.
You can be beloved of God and still have difficult times at the same time. And I say that because so many people need to know that. That’s just, circumstances do not dictate how God feels about you. Whether you have money in your bank account, or you have perfect health is not an indication of how God feels about you. You can only see God’s love for you in the cross. You can’t look for God’s love for you in your day to day circumstances because they change. We live in a world where there’s a demon, there’s a demonic force called the devil. And that does not mean that God does not love you, does not cherish you. You can only see God’s love for you clearly in the cross, not in your day to day circumstances.
So, about the time, when it comes time for me to get out of prison, my first love, my wife, whom I married to now, the first woman I’ve ever loved, she just happened…God drew her back. She just happened to come back from getting her nursing license. And she didn’t even live near where I was, but she told me God put me upon her heart. I hadn’t seen this woman in years. So there was no reason for her to even think of me. But my wife, now the Lord used her and brought her to just bring light to me and so that’s what happened. And she had a daughter. So when I got out of prison, we were together.
For the next few years, I can’t get disability or any disability consideration because of the way I got disabled. All I knew was that I have to work. I have a family. It is God’s will that I work, you don’t work, you shouldn’t eat. I wasn’t taking into account that I had been shot and that I had broken ribs, 40% of a lung missing, because my whole life has been pain. That was the honest truth. So I thought everybody’s back was killing them and I was just weak. As crazy as that sounds, that’s what I thought because my whole life has been pain.
When I was younger, before my mother left me and my brother for crack, when she began smoking crack, it was, I was about seven and she didn’t leave us until I was about 10. That three year period, we would stay in abandoned trailers. And I remember, I remember them being abandoned because my little brother, at the time I was a single parent and like seven, eight years old, and we would stay in trailers not and she would tell us that we would have to put the blinds down at night so that nobody would know we were there. And it’s abandoned trailers. So it’s no, it’s no running water, there’s no lights, there’s no furniture. There’s a low kerosene lamp and I’m seven years old, eight years old with a newborn. So like, my life has been stark since the beginning. So I didn’t even I didn’t even consider that I was disabled. My wife will tell you that. So she took care of me that entire time as I just lost job after job and as I wasn’t the most pleasant person to be around because I was just in terrible pain all day, all day. So that’s kind of my life until about three years ago.
So I went to a local [studio] in Virginia Beach. I say Virginia Beach, I live in North Carolina. I went to my martial arts studio in Virginia Beach to learn self defense, because I’m easy pickings for anybody that just wants to knock me down for whatever reason, and I didn’t like that. Even disabled. So the place where I went, it’s called Savior Dojo, and it’s ran by a guy named Scott Gilbert. And he’s just a great Bible believing Christian. He’s just a wonderful guy infused with the Spirit of God. So one day, I couldn’t make it to one of my lessons because I had washed dishes. And I called him and told him, “I can’t make it today, because I’ve washed dishes.” And he was like, “What do you mean?” He wasn’t doing the private lessons, so he didn’t know my story. So he said, “When you come in, can I pray for you? I would love to pray for you because God still heals. He just uses his children to heal his other children.” I’ll never forget it. Those are words he said to me. And I said, “Okay.” You know, I was nice enough. Really I’m thinking, Okay, I’m gonna let this strange guy waste 10 minutes of my time. What have I got to lose? I had no aspirations, no hope that God was gonna heal me. That’s ridiculous. And I know the Lord. I mean I, I know of the Lord.
So when I came in, when I was finally able to make it into my personal training session, Scott pulled me to the side. He pulled me into his office and it was him, his wife and another one of his martial arts instructors named Jeremiah. He asked me if he could pray for me again, I told him, “Yes.” I’m walking on a cane. I couldn’t lift my arm, my right arm above my head. And he prayed for me. Just something simple, you know, thanked the Lord for me, and everything that I was, and my potential in Jesus Christ, and He commanded that my body be healed, that my ribs be reknit and that it be regrown. And then he asked me, “How did I feel? Was there any change in the pain?” And he told me to be honest, you know, “because we’re not here to waste your time or ours, just be honest.” And the honest truth was nothing changed. That’s what I told him, exactly what I expected. Nothing had changed. Just 50 seconds wasted of my life. That’s it. But I ain’t got nothing else to do so you can waste my time. That was my thought pattern.
He began to ask me about my relationship with God, if I’m saved. I told him, “Yeah, I’m saved, you know, but my God is a harsh taskmaster. The God I serve, I’m just a tool in His hands. That’s what I told him. “I’m just a tool and His hands and not a beloved tool. I’m the kind of tool that you use it, throw back in the bag, you never clean it. You never repair it. It’s there when you need it and when it breaks, you throw it away without a second thought.” That’s what I am to God. And his wife, his wife, she’s like 90 pounds, maybe five feet, something like that. I’m a tall guy, you can’t see but I’m six feet and some change. Right now I’m about 235. At the time, I was 310 because I couldn’t I couldn’t exercise. I was in terrible shape.
So his wife, she raises up like, like David to Goliath. And I mean like supernaturally, she raised up! She says, “Noooo!” But it’s like, it’s like Charlton Heston, like he’s talking through a bullhorn or something. Like, really, I’m like, 300 pounds, like two feet taller than her and I had to take a step back. She’s raising up with the power of God and she’s like, “No!” She puts her hand on my chest and she’s just speaking identity into me. She’s just, I mean, it’s obvious that the enemy had harassed her with that same faulty identity. And it just rose up something in her that she wasn’t willing to see that happen right in front of her. So she rose up, she just began to speak identity right into me. “No, you are beloved of God. You are paid for with a precious price. You are not a tool just to be used. You’re an investment of the Lord. He has a vested interest in you. He loves you. He knew you before the foundation of the world…” and just all of these things.
So Scott prayed for me again after that. And I say that because she was the catalyst, nothing changed the first prayer. The second prayer, all the pain went away, instantly. 20 years. And he asked me, “How do you feel? How do you feel?” And I told him, “I feel tender. I feel tender.” And he’s like, “What does that mean?” I told him I felt tender. The truth was, I didn’t feel anything. But after being in pain for 20 years, when it’s gone, it takes a moment for your body to process. So I lifted my cane above my head for the first time in 20 years. And yeah, just basically all the pain went away. I remember leaving, folding up my cane because I can walk now, and shaking my head. That’s what he told me he saw on my way out. That’s what I was doing. Just shaking my head because something has happened.
I’d been in mortal pain for 20 years, and I’m not now. So it’s not a fluke. It’s not in my mind. So something has happened. But God has not healed me. Like that’s all I knew as I’m walking to my car folding up my cane and shaking my head in disbelief. Something just happened, but God has not healed me. God does not love me. He does not care about me that much to show me that kind of attention and affection. I just, I did not believe that. Which is grand for people to hear, because you don’t have to have great faith. Because I had no faith. So when you pray for somebody, it’s not their faith by which they get healed, but by the faith of Jesus Christ. And I just wanted to put that out there because, Thank God. He’s not waiting for you to believe. He can’t deny Himself. His power is irrevocable, whether you believe in it or not. I remember being in the car and kind of hitting myself, punching myself in this area because I was so shocked. I couldn’t feel anything. It was completely numb. You could have stuck a sword in my side and I wouldn’t have felt it.
So after the Lord healed me, which was just miraculous and literally changed my whole life…It cannot be overstated the change to my life from me being healed. I can walk just all the avenues of life that are open to a normal person or open to me again. So I’ve learned to hike and I swim and I’m in the gym regularly. I box. I’ve learned martial arts, Krav Maga. So Scott is like, you know, you shouldn’t be able to do these things missing 40% of a lung, even miraculously healed. So he’s like, “I believe that the Lord has grew back your lung and your two ribs.”
So we go to a chiropractor, a chiropractic friend of his and she takes an x-ray. So come to find out she’s looking over the X rays and we’re asking questions. And the ribs that God regenerated are actually stronger and more robust than all my other ribs, which is completely abnormal. Not only that, but my right lung is completely regenerated. She can see the shadow of it in X ray. So there’s no indication that there was any tissue removed from my right lung or any damage, there is no indication that I was ever shot at all. Another interesting thing is that two of the bullets were lodged in my spinal column, the third bullet, they were able to get out, but the other two bullets, they were lodged in my spinal column, and they couldn’t extract them because the doctor told me, when I when I initially got shot, he was like, “They are so close to the nerve endings in your spine, literally a fraction of an inch away in your spinal column that, we would paralyze you just trying to go get them. If you turn the wrong way and your muscle pushes these, either one of these bullets, even a smallest fraction of an inch forward, you’re just going to drop, you’re going to lose all control of your lower of your legs and everything, and you’re just going to drop and you’re going to be in a wheelchair for the rest of your life. And that’s just, there’s nothing we can do about it.” And that’s what he told me when I first got shot, that’s just something you’re gonna have to live with.
So when I went back, when we went to get the X ray after my healing I only had two bullets, both of them were in my spine, and one of them was completely gone. Like God had just taken a whole bullet out of my body. He generated two ribs, regenerated my entire right lung nearly, and took out a whole bullet. The other bullet was there still, encased in the bone of my spine, it had calcified around it. So it was no it was no, there was no chance of it touching, touching the nerve bundles because my body had grew bone around it. And the way that it grew bone around it, she told me and I actually have the X rays, she told me the way that your spinal column has calcified around this piece of metal, it actually makes your spinal column stronger.
So the Lord just did an unbelievable miracle. And I’m just, I’m of course, I was surprised at that but I’m just overjoyed because I actually have documentation, you know. And I am just so glad to be honoring God in this way. Because there’s just so many tricks out there in the name of the Lord’s healing and to have actual documentation of this literal modern day, you know, biblical great miracle is just truly an honor. It is truly an honor and a joy to be able to share that with people and their faith be rejuvenated by that.
So that was maybe seven, eight months ago and since then I’ve just been living a joyous life in the Lord. I swim, like I said. I hike. My wife is just growing in the Lord by leaps and bounds. My children, they know the Lord, the Holy Spirit is honored in my house. And that’s the big thing, even more exciting than what God did to me physically, was what God did for my spirit by teaching me who I was in Him, by teaching me just how much I am truly loved. I often say my physical healing was for my wife and for my testimony. I would have traded that and been in a wheelchair and in pain for the rest of my life a 100 times over just to know who I am in Christ. Because there’s no comparison.
Even saved I thought I was just a tool, an unloved tool in God’s hands. And when you think like that, – As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he. – If that’s how you think of yourself, then you’re not going to walk in God’s love. You’re going to, any bad thing that happens you’re going to take it personal as if God doesn’t love you. You’re going to be just burdened with guilt and shame and your feelings and your emotions are just going to rule your life if you don’t know here, in your heart, how God feels about you. And that was me! God revolutionized me as a person. He taught me the power I wield, because I am a son of God. It raises me above my circumstances. The sun doesn’t have to be shining for me to be filled with joy and I am filled with joy every day. I’m a human being, so I have life, you know, like life is happening. But there is never a day that I’m not doing fabulous.
The Bible says that eye has not seen, nor ear heard the things that God has for those that are called according to His purposes. And let me tell you, I never imagined the life that I now live. It never entered my mind. I never considered it possible. My eye had not seen, my ear had not heard the things that I live in now and God is just beginning with my life. So I can’t say where God is taking me. I know that He has great things in store for me, and for everyone else who was called by His name, and I am just along for the ride.