For many years I lived my life the way I felt was best for me. My choices, looking back in hindsight, were not good choices. Yet, I felt that I was a good person when I compared myself to those around me.
Deep down I knew I was lying to myself. I was involved with criminals and we all felt we were a law unto ourselves. Then I had a chance at a clean slate and a new life. It would take me eight long years to separate myself from that life while working with the FBI.
When it all started, I was promised it would be six months to a year, tops. As time went on, it was extended again and again.
Those eight years were an extended goodbye to my old life. By the time I was finished, I no longer wanted any part of that life. I saw first hand what we had done to society.
When I was done and starting over, I spent from 2004 until 2014 not really knowing where I belonged. My first thought was to continue my lifestyle, minus the crime. My goal was to make a lot of money, legally this time. Then I decided that if I got a TV show, that accomplishment would fill my life with joy.
It was during that period that I began to think about Christianity. I had associated religion with the people I saw get in trouble in the criminal world. People who were caught and then suddenly found God. I didn’t want that to be me, so instead I tried being a good person, being spiritual. I read lots of books on meditation and even converted to Judaism, finding comfort in the traditions, meaning and the history it brought to my life.
Still something was missing.
I had lunch with a former criminal compatriot, Jack Rausch. I was nervous about even meeting him for lunch because I feared he was still a criminal. The truth is, I didn’t trust myself to say no if he offered me a high paying gig.
I had nothing to worry about because our lunch was at El Pollo Loco. In the old days we would drop big money on meals and pull up to our lunches in Corvettes. I pulled my Toyota truck into the parking lot as he exited his truck.
We exchanged greetings, ordered some food and sat down. Then he told me he was a Christian. He had found God during his many years of incarceration. He had become a minister and changed his life. He was helping others. When he first started talking, I thought to myself, “Okay, here it comes.” I was bracing myself for the, “You need Christ” speech. What really happened instead as I heard him talk, is that I felt small, like I was wasting this second chance at a fresh start God had given me, while he wasn’t.
This particular friend was the last person I would ever think would be a Christian. I had never once thought of him as weak, or needing a crutch. Yet, I could see he was very happy and had a purpose. He had his struggles, but he was not alone. He actually said that to me.
I had just trained MMA (mixed martial arts) at Reign Training Center before we met for lunch. The gym was owned by a Christian MMA Fighter who was at the top of his game in the UFC, Mark Munoz. Mark also defied my notion that Christians were weak people. Whenever I trained at Reign, the team circled up for prayers after practice right there on the mat.
It was becoming clear to me that I was wrong about Christians. It was easier for me to look down on them, because I was embarrassed that I had spent so many years living my own life, thinking of myself as strong as others as weak. The hardest thing to do is to admit to yourself you were a fool.
Over time, I continued to have more interactions with true Christians, and more and more I began to realize that I would only find what I was missing in Christ. There would never be enough stuff or meaningless achievements to fill the void inside me.
It was not a quick change, but over time I became more interested began asking questions. I decided I wanted to go to church to learn more. Once I did, I was all in.
God used many people in my life to bring me to Him, and I couldn’t be more thankful for each one. Now I’m one of His and He can use me to do the same for others.
These last couple of years I’ve been working on one thing at a time. It has been a relearning process. I had to stop loving myself the most and make Christ number one in my life, and start putting others before me. I had to stop trying to control the outcome of my life and let His will be done in my life instead of mine. I had to become comfortable saying, “I am a Christian.”
To read more about Jack Rausch in his own words. Jack’s book.