“I grew up in a mostly secular family in the US, with a touch of Catholicism. My father had his own business and was focused on success. We were financially prosperous but spiritually deprived.
When I was 18, I took a gap year before starting college. Every weekend I would meet a friend, and we would go out drinking and partying. I lived in darkness. I believed in God but had no idea who he was, and I was not traveling to seek him or his salvation.
Then, one Saturday in 1981, my friend invited me to join him and his sister as they sang at his father’s church. His father was a preacher, but neither he nor his sister was a believer. Since we were still planning to drink afterward, I agreed to come.
They sang one song, and instead of us leaving, they sat down. I was confused, and my friend’s father got up to preach. He spoke from Isaiah, but I didn’t even know Isaiah was a book in the Bible. Although I didn’t understand much of what he was saying, I had a sudden, tremendous conviction of sin as I was preaching. It was like a lightning bolt of realizing I was under God’s judgment—a thought I’d never had before. At the end of the shift, I went forward. I told my friend’s father I didn’t understand much, but I knew my only hope was in Jesus, and I wanted to accept him.
Even though I didn’t know how to pray, I poured my heart into God and changed that night. Then I asked my friend’s father, “What should I do now?” He gave me a Bible and said, “Read it every day, pray every day, and come to church when the doors are open.”
I did exactly what he said. I started reading the Gospel of Matthew and kept going until Revelation. I prayed every day and went to church four times a week.
Immediately, my loved ones saw a great change in my life. They started asking me questions about what was happening, and I shared what I knew about Jesus, stumbling along.
During my childhood, I had a terrible relationship with my father. He was an alcoholic, and his behavior was erratic, mostly quiet, sometimes happy, and sometimes angry and violent. We were constant enemies. Then something else changed.
Reading the Bible, I realized that salvation was not just my reconciliation with God. It was also about reconciling myself with people. In Matthew 18, Jesus told his disciples a parable about a servant to whom much was forgiven but showed no mercy to his fellow servant.
At that time, I knew that God had forgiven me a lot. I was overwhelmed by it! It was so much more than the injustice my father did to me. Also, within a month, I discovered something about my father that I had not known before, which explained his pain and emptiness. I suddenly felt a deep compassion for him that I had never felt before. So I called my father and asked if we could meet for lunch.
I replied, ‘I don’t need anything. I want to say I love you. I know we had a controversial relationship growing up, but I forgive you. I love you.’
He cried. It was the only time I ever saw him cry a tear. Our relationship never became miraculously close after that, but it improved tremendously.
This experience showed me early in my walk with God that the Holy Spirit can bring an about great change in us and enable us to do what we previously thought impossible. It has been so formative to see God at work in my life; by His grace, it is now 41 years – God is restoring me to himself and others. Thank God!”
“I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have been as merciful to your fellow servant as I? (Matthew 18:32b)
Ed’s story is part of Eternity’s Faith Stories series, curated by Naomi Reed. Click here for more faith stories.