The TV series Breaking Bad nearly made drug dealers look cool. Walter White was an everyday chemistry teacher who, after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, began using his skills to produce and sell methamphetamine in order to pay for treatment and create a financial nest egg to leave behind for his family. As the über-popular show went on, White was involved in all sorts of elaborate encounters with police and criminals alike. He captivated audiences.
If I told you this show was loosely based on my life story, you wouldn’t believe it. And you shouldn’t—mine isn’t near as eventful. Ten years ago, though, I was selling marijuana and prescription pills. My client base was mostly other 20-something guys like myself. I’d make deals that were $30 here, $5 there. And I wasn’t doing so for some faux-altruistic cause like battling medical bills or trying to feed my family. There were no police standoffs or territorial drug wars; I just liked making a little extra money. Becoming a two-bit drug dealer in my neighborhood wasn’t too difficult, either.
A World with No View
As a professed Christian of only a few years, who’d grown up as a non-believer in a non-believing home, I was still believing more lies than I could articulate at the time. I didn’t know how to separate biblical wisdom from worldly wisdom, and the worldview had no view at all—it was blinded in inconsistency. Morality was a jumbled mess in my mind. I never knew when biblical truth and false truth overlapped. I usually wasn’t even trying to find out.
By all accounts, we were a 1950s home. Dad worked all day and mom was a stereotypical homemaker. I made good grades and was never in trouble with the law. We were as publicly buttoned-up as any of the Christian kids I knew. But it wasn’t all so innocent. I could have girls over for the night. I could drink and smoke if I wanted to—after all, marijuana and prescription pills were common in my home. My parents had smoked marijuana multiple times a day my entire life. My mom had health issues and was not only prescribed a myriad of pills—she was buying more off the street. Being told to stay out of legal trouble while simultaneously buying and selling drugs wasn’t ironic to me. I just knew not to get caught!
And when my parents divorced, my mom’s drug use worsened. I began having to carry her to bed several nights a week because she was too high on muscle relaxers to lift herself off the couch. She’d made a mess of her life, and the depression was overwhelming at times. She used drugs no longer recreationally for a few giggles, but as a means to cope. To my shame, she even became my best customer.
Even after professing Christ, drugs were more a part of my life than he was.
The Turning Point
Toward the end of my drug-selling pseudo-career, God began intensely reshaping my life. My boredom with frivolity forced me to rethink my life. What I meant for evil, he meant for good (Gen. 50:20). He used my sin to show me its emptiness. I began to truly understand grace. For the first time, I was hearing what God had been telling me all along—he defines my character, not me or my parents or my past.
During that time, a friend at church gave me a CD of four sermons by some unknown local pastor named Matt Chandler. I’d never listened to sermons, but I had a five-hour drive from Dallas to Lubbock, Texas and needed something to listen to. I listened to all four sermons on the way to Lubbock and again on the way home, and I arrived back in Dallas a different person.
“Freedom vs. Narcissism,” a sermon he preached from Galatians 5, hit me the hardest. The thesis of the sermon was that everyone, everywhere is buying into the lie that joy comes from self-sufficiency. But true life, he said, is found in the fruits of the Spirit. Come what may, there will never be a circumstance where the fruits of the Spirit aren’t there. Through his Word and by his grace, God used this sermon to rip the scales off my eyes. I could see more clearly than ever before. I finally knew, really knew, that his goodness in my rebellion was more attractive than anything a few drugs and $20 bill could fix.
I don’t deserve to be where I am today. I should still be in the pigsty, rolling around in the mud while my Father looks out the window, awaiting my return. But he called me home. He ran to me as I approached. He embraced me and he never let me go.
I come home every day to a sweet, patient wife and two bubbly daughters. My oldest daughter runs to me in the driveway yelling, “Daddy!” most afternoons, and it is never lost on me that God’s grace is beyond what I deserve. When I pick her up and kiss her on the cheek, it’s a tangible reminder of my Father’s own love for me.
I now have a little family. I work for a Bible publisher, helping Christians better understand God’s Word and how it applies to their lives. I’ve been in ministry for almost a decade and get to write about the gospel. Ten years ago, I sold weed, stayed late at bars, and chased girls. Now I’m selling Bibles, staying up late writing a dissertation, and chasing my daughters.
It’s grace. All grace.
Stay in touch! Email me at ChurchGrammar@gmail.com.