Defined by the Father
(Please listen to Colin’s story by clicking the white play button at the top of this post. You can read the transcript of the story below.)
A few stories come to mind. Obviously I had a pretty radical salvation story. I’d say I was in sixth and seventh grade, those first couple years, I knew Jesus, I was on fire for Jesus. Like, some would say or talk about Jesus and I would start crying. I used to read like the Jesus Freaks books, Voice of the Martyrs. I used to love that stuff when I was a kid. Then High School came and just the pride of life, like chasing after college football and being this man. I never like explicitly said, “I don’t believe in You, God.” anymore; it just fell way down the priority list. Like, it wasn’t a priority at all. I wasn’t active.
So I went to play [football] for the University of Iowa. I played there for two years and it was like the hardest two years of my life. My dad actually died during those two years. At the end of the first year my dad passed away, and I realized I was doing a lot of the football for him. Like, I always loved reading books. I loved school. I loved math. I loved these things. My dad would rip on me; like, he’d tell his friends, “Colin, all he does is read books all day, and do math, and all this school stuff, and hang out with his friends. I gotta get him away from that and into football and to be a man.” My dad would be very manipulative like, “Colin that guy beat you. That guy… That made me sick to my stomach when that guy beat you at the wrestling match. I had to walk out of there because I was so sick watching you lose to that guy.” [There was] a lot of pressure, a lot of just disgust that was towards himself that he’d try to put on me. I thought, I gotta listen to my dad because I trust him. Is there something in this that’s gonna be good for me? Is there something in this that I’m not seeing? I felt like sometimes I would like, unlock a different character. I’m like, this is life, I got to level up like a game. Once I achieve these certain things–my dad puts so much emphasis on them.
Looking back it was like, wow, I felt like I was being used, like I never had that desire. We all have our inherent desires and traits and our hearts desires and how we’re made. Is was like I wasn’t walking in who God made me to be. I was walking in what my dad wanted me to be and those are two different things. It ended up like, me having a lot of bitterness towards football and towards my lifestyle. I was just waiting for those four years, five years to be up, for the time to run away and to be gone. It was kind of like a prison sentence. And because of that, I just said to God, “I got it–just get me out of here. I don’t care about life anymore. I’m just trying to get through this football and be done. Why am I even doing this?” I had so much anger and bitterness towards my coaches–a lot of abuse, verbally and mentally abused by coaches and a lot of pressure on us, sleepless nights. I’d call my family crying sometimes after what my coaches would tell me. I was involved in a Bible study, somewhat, on and off this whole time, but I was still smoking weed after Bible studies. Just trying to find some joy and this like five years of hell. Yeah, I hated it and eventually led me down–I’d go to strip clubs with all my teammates, stuff like that. I was smoking weed every day, getting drunk, all the usual college stuff, pornography every day, and all that. So actually my last semester, I was finally done with football. It was such a relief, I’m finally free.
This lady that was at my bible study finally reached out to me and said, “Okay Colin, you have to come down. You told me three months ago that you would come down to LA for this worship conference.” Basically it was a three day long worship conference with all these other college students from all over the country called Intervarsity. That was the name of the ministry and I just got radically encountered by Jesus. It felt like just heaven on earth for me that weekend. God was so real. Jesus was so real. Eventually, before the last day, or the second the last day, a lady prayed for my knee. I tore my ACL three months prior. This lady prayed for my knee and my knee got healed! It was an 8 out of 10 pain. I was limping around. My mentor, the one that brought me down there, said, “You’re done walking to and from the hotel and the conference.” It was like a half mile walk. “I’m gonna go grab the car and drive you back and forth now, you’re limping so bad.” I said, “Yeah, I know, My knee is killing me. It’s like an 8 out of 10 pain. This lady prays for me, this young college girl, and my knee pain goes down to zero. I walk back and everyone’s like, “Where’s your limp?” And I’m like, “I don’t know. I don’t limp anymore. Like, I don’t have any pain anymore at all. And that’s when I was like, “Whoa, God’s here. God’s real. God chose to heal me. That’s amazing. God knows me.” This is back when I didn’t have that much intimacy with God. So I was like, “Man, God knows me. He chose to heal me. That’s amazing. Like, Jesus knows me!”
So the last day of the conference, I’m in my hotel room and I get on my knees. I’m like, “God, these last three days, I’ve never experienced so much peace and joy.” Because those five years are just full of depression, anxiety and just hopelessness. And I’m like, “God, I feel hope for the first time in my life. I feel joy and peace like I felt when I was a kid in sixth grade, like I feel that right now. I realize I’ve gotten away. I have gone on this dark path. Like, this is what I’ve been waiting for and like this is what I’ve been yearning for my whole life. This experience. I got on my knees and said, “God.” I don’t know what I was praying. I said, “God, I want to experience You right here, right now.” And at the conference, they said, “wait and let the Lord speak to you.” I’ve never heard of that before. So I was like, All right, I’ll just pray that prayer and just wait. I was waiting there. All of a sudden in my mind, I kept just hearing, “Go back to the conference. You’ll experience Me there tonight at the last worship. Go back to the conference. You’ll experience Me there tonight.” And it repeated to me like 10 times my head, in a matter of a minute. I’m like, it sounds like my own conscience. You know that voice that tells you, don’t do that, don’t do this, whatever. So I’m like, Okay, I don’t know if it was me, or God, my own conscience, but I’m going to trust this voice. I’m going back to the conference. Whatever this voice is, I’m gonna trust it.
So I went back to the conference. It’s the usual worship for an hour. Thirty minutes into worship I’m like, Alright God, I swore You told me to come here. I swore something’s gonna happen like, nothing’s happened. I had my hands in my pockets, in my blue jeans and all of a sudden I hear Colin, put your hands out, palms up, in front of you. And I’m like, that’s weirdly specific and I said, “No.” Because I always made fun of people that have their hands in the air, like dancing and stuff. I always made fun of those people. So I said, I’m not going to be like that; I’ll be a hypocrite. No. And that’s weird. Then it got louder, this command. It boomed through my head. It’s like, Colin, put your hands out, palms up, in front of you right now. And I’m like, Man, that was a command. I think this is God. Maybe. I put my hands out, palms up, in front of me and next thing I know, I close my eyes and I just start seeing fire and lightning coming down in this vision. I had no idea what a vision was; I just saw it in my mind. It was hitting my hands and the next thing I know, I had heat, like flames. It felt like I had heat all over my hands and like flames in my hands. Only my hands, but it was radiating. It was moving back and forth like someone was holding my hand almost, and it lasted like three days almost. I went to bed that night and it was radiating underneath the pillow, and it lasted all night.
It went away like a couple days later. Then I started worshiping and it came back. It always came back whenever I started worshiping, or praying, or reading the Bible. Actually before this, when I was in the hotel room before this event, I actually said, “God, I just want You.” One thing I heard before I got back to the conference, I actually heard, “There is stuff in the way between us.” I said, “What’s in the way Jesus?” I had no idea. I was oblivious. And I heard, chewing tobacco, marijuana, pornography, all these things. I was like, “Okay God for You, because this is all I’ve ever wanted, I’m giving all that away.” I threw away my chewing tobacco right there. I went home and threw my weed away the next day. I haven’t watched pornography since and I’ve just been completely free.
To wrap it all up, I went home, it was like three days later. It was a Wednesday, because the conference ended on a Sunday. Three days later, Wednesday night, I was laying in my bed. I was lying there and I was like half asleep, half awake. All of a sudden I went into like a vision, kinda like a dream, like I was like half asleep, half awake. I, all of the sudden, start dreaming. I was a sixth sixth grader on this boat and I was standing on it and it was raining. Jesus was on the water standing there looking at me. And He’s just nodding His head. In the dream I was so excited to see Jesus right in front of me. I was so excited to be 20 yards away. He didn’t say anything, He just waved His hand, like come follow Me. So I jumped off the boat, landed on the water and started running after Jesus. A sixth grader, just full of zeal for Jesus. I was just running, running and I stopped at the shore. Jesus is like 10 yards up this mountain. This mountain starts going up and He stops. He looks at me, and we’re just looking at each other. He just nods His head and waves up again. I said, Okay, and I just started running, I was so excited I was like jumping over these rocks and just running, running and Jesus is like five yards in front of me. All of a sudden…Boom, ice.
It switches, like another scene within the stream and all of a sudden. We’re halfway up this mountain and it’s Jesus and I. I’m like this 40 year old man– mangled, hurt, cold and homeless. Like really just pain and trauma and loneliness. There’s a fire between us. Jesus was on one side of the fire and I was on the other side. That kind of represented those five years of my dad dying and all the trauma from college football. Anyway, that scene switched; all of a sudden I was back and I was a sixth grader right after that scene and Jesus was following me. He’s leading me up this mountain. All of a sudden we get to the top and He sits down and He opens up his cloak and I run in and I hug Him around the waist. I just told Him like, “Thank you so much, Jesus. Thank you for saving me. Thank you for freeing me. This is all I’ve ever wanted, to be close to You. All I’ve ever wanted is to be right here and hug you Jesus. Then Jesus says, “This is one of my children, Colin.” and I woke up from the dream.
Right after that, to make things even more wild, I got on my knees and I said, “God, what was that? God, You gave me that dream. What was that? Why do you give that to me?” I’m just asking simple questions. I hear it–all of a sudden. I just waited, and all of a sudden, out of nowhere–after a minute of just waiting in silence, I couldn’t get John 16 out of my head. John 16. John 16. John 16. So I grabbed my Bible. I haven’t read the book of John before. I was just a baby believer, three days born again. I opened up to John 16 and the first verse of John 16 says, ‘I’ve given you this so you will not fall away from Me.’ I was like, wow, that’s amazing. Like God was looking out for me. God isn’t even mad. God doesn’t want me to fall away from Himself. God’s for me. I don’t have to prove myself to God, God’s for me, after me. God’s helping me.
Jesus wouldn’t die for you if you didn’t have value. the world will always tell you one thing, but God has a better word, that your son, you’re valuable you’re in his family, you belong.
I was always trying to be someone that I wasn’t. Jesus went to the cross for me, knowing everything I would do, past, present, future. He still chose to go to the cross. He chose to die for me, for us. And that’s like, just nothing about performance at all. You don’t have to earn that, you don’t have to do anything, you just have to receive it. Just being able to receive–I had to learn how to receive love from people and from God and not try to earn it. Realizing that God loves me just for me. I don’t have to do anything or perform anything or be anyone I’m not. He just wants authenticity. It’s kind of confirmation that wrapped everything up like, Yeah, this is Jesus. This is real. This is, no going back. This is it. This is, I’m all in for Jesus now. He’s real. He’s alive.
One of my favorite stories of God’s power, about Him being actually–like using us in day to day life was probably this summer when I was downtown Chicago. We have a house that’s like a 20 minute bike ride from the beach. It was August, a nice sunny day and I was biking; I had a week off work, PTO. So I was biking and I was praying the whole way, just using this as prayer time. I was thanking Jesus for using me and all these things. I was asking Him, “God, just use me. Like,God, this is–You’ve gotta use me everyday. Please just use me.” And I caught up with that prayer and I kept praying it and then I kind of like changed subjects and I was praying about something else, my mom, or dad, or whatever. Then all of a sudden, I get to this hospital and there’s this black guy. He walks out with like dreadlocks, young guy, 23-24 years old, and he’s got a bandage around his right calf and there’s blood coming out of it. I didn’t even think about the prayer that was saying earlier, I just like stopped. I just felt like I had to talk to this guy.
So I get off my bike by the ER, I set it down on the side of the sidewalk and go up to him. I said, “Hey man, what’s up? Like, what happened to your leg? Why are you in the ER?” He goes, “Oh l got hit by a car last–this morning or last night.” I was looking at his leg and there’s blood coming out of the bandage still, like it was like seeping red. So I’m like, “Hey, I’m a Christian. What do you believe in? I believe Jesus healed and He wants to heal you right now.” And he’s like, the guy said, “I believe in every spiritual being. I know Archangel Michael is watching over me.” He started listing off all these spiritual beings, he said he believed in like, kind of everything. Robbie Dawkins says something like this, You can–if someone doesn’t believe in Jesus, you can just pretty much say, ‘Hey, we’re just gonna heal you right now.’ If they don’t get healed, worse comes to worse, they still don’t believe, it’s not that big of a deal.
So, um, I was like, “Hey man, I believe Jesus wants to heal you right now, completely. So I’m like, what’s your leg pain right now?” And it’s like seven out of ten. I put my hand on his leg, his calf and then I prayed for that giant wound he had on his calf. I prayed once and I’m like, “Alright man, how do you feel?” He starts bending it and he was like, “it was throbbing before, without even moving it.” And now he’s bending it. He’s like, “I don’t feel anything right now.” Then he grabs his own hand and pushes into the blood, into the scab, the wound. He goes, “I feel no pain at all, even when I was pushing into it. Nothing at all.” I was just talking with him and I asked him, “Do you know about Jesus?” And he goes, “I don’t know too much.” So I share with him the gospel. And, whenever I share the gospel, I will try to end it with one–like, how does this, I ask the Holy Spirit…”How does this apply to this person? Specifically, how can I wrap this up for that person?” And I felt my heart to say, “Yeah, now that Jesus died for you, you have worth and you have value. It shows that you’re valuable. Jesus wouldn’t die for you if you didn’t have value and the world will always tell you one thing, man, but God has a better word. That you’re a son. You’re valuable. You’re in a family; you belong.” Then I said, “Yeah, but I also see you like, I see you crying right now in your room with all the lights off, in a ball.”
The guy starts crying and he goes, “Yeah, man, I’ve been suicidal,and that’s exactly what I needed to hear, that I’ve worth and value. I’ve always questioned my worth and value and that’s exactly what I need to hear. That is an accurate picture of me. I have felt so alone, crying by myself at night, suicidal and stuff.” Maybe that day could have been one of his last days if I didn’t encounter him. I eventually went across the street with him and we had lunch and shared more about Jesus with him. He ends up giving his life to Jesus! It turns out, he was into ouija boards, he was into acid and shrooms, and he’s in all of these spiritual things like tarot cards, all that stuff–seances, all this crazy stuff. I had him confess that stuff right there just to get it out of his body. And, he felt–he said he felt darkness completely leave him. I asked him, I said, “You need the Holy Spirit. You’ve been seeking spirits, but you need the Holy Spirit. He’s the Spirit of all spirits. The Spirit of Jesus.” He goes, “Okay.” I go, “Repeat after me, Holy Spirit, come fill me up.” And all he could say after that, he started laughing and all he could say after that was like, “Man, that’s, that’s some good, that’s a good, that’s a good energy right there. That’s a good…” It was like he knew the spiritual realm, and he had not never experienced something like that before. Something like the Holy Spirit. He goes, “Man that’s good right there. I have never felt this peace and this presence and this joy before in my life.” I started explaining the Holy Spirit. How the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of peace, Spirit of joy, Spirit of a sound mind, and Spirit of power and love. I was explaining that he’s been spiritual because–he’s seeking spiritual things because God made him to be part of the spiritual, to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
I kept in contact with him, had him reach out to some friends when I left town, and gave him some churches to go to. I tried to help him any way I could before I left. But yea, that’s…that’s one of my favorite stories. Yeah, yeah, it was this past summer and also like, I was always scared of Chicago too. So made me like, because Chicago is always a big, kind of crazy, crazy place, but I was like, wow, I can have an impact. You know it’s like this huge place and I can, I can still have an impact here. Like, God can still use anyone no matter how big the place, New York, Chicago, whether you’re overseas, whatever. So that really changed my view of what God can do.
I’ve never had a stranger hug me like that tight, like hold me. We held each other for like, the hug, for like 5, 6, 7 seconds. He was so thankful. And just to see like, wow, that guy’s life got changed. He’s different now. He had an encounter with God. Being able to bridge that gap between heaven and earth; to be that soul used to have heaven flow through…it’s just amazing to be used by Jesus to call someone home.