Let me take you on a journey that is nothing short of a miracle. Imagine being a young man figuring himself out in the world and finding his identity being part of a crowd that would party, do drugs, get drunk, and use women as objects of pleasure and satisfaction. “Rene, you’re so heartless, how do you do it man?!”, “You are such an a**hole, I knew you were playing me, don’t ever talk to me again!” were things that I would hear quite often but was so numb to my feelings and emotions that it would not cause the slightest change in my lifestyle. But God.
One of the only things that would make my heart race, where I would feel completely free to be passionate and express my emotions was on the soccer field. It was the sport that I had played since I was 4 years old and was honestly my place of refuge all throughout my adolescent and teen years. So you can only imagine what it felt like when I sprained my ankle and could not play for months. My aspirations of playing professional or college were definitely out of the picture.
Not only that but I was in desperate need of money and so I found myself cleaning houses from 7am to 7pm daily, and it was while cleaning other peoples toilets and seeing my reflection in the toilet water when I began asking myself “eternal questions” such as “Is this it? Is this what my life has come down to? Is there a God? If there is why am I here? Is there more to life than what I see?” Despite the questions, I was not searching for answers. I began being aware of this void within me, and tried filling it the only way I knew how. More girls. More parties. More alcohol. More, more, more.
Until one October night after coming home drunk, with my phone still vibrating from text messages of people saying what a great and fun night we had just had, I found myself in my room looking at a portrait of a man named Jesus that my mom had put in my room for my “protection”. Screaming from the top of my lungs I said, “If you are real, come out of that picture and show me right now that you exist!” I stared at the picture for ten seconds, nothing happened so I just went to sleep.
I was hoping for a response, but did not get it the way I wanted it or when I wanted it. In my pride ten seconds was too much of a wait for the God of the heavens and the earth to show up for me. Fast forward 3 months later and I find myself being invited to a conference being held for students who wanted to make Jesus known in their high schools or colleges. I was not a believer, or a student at that time, but I wanted to know why everyone made a big deal about this man. So I went.
I will never forget that day. The day that changed my life forever. On January 5th 2013 I had a radical encounter with Jesus. I recall seeing people worship and hearing many sermons on evangelism and prayer. Even though I felt filthy and out of place, something within me told me to stay till the end. The last sermon of the night was a message on purity, and the heart of a daughter and how we must treat them as men. This is what got me! For the first time in my life the speaker was tugging at something called my heart. I felt the weight of all my sins. I felt conviction in my heart to a measure that I had never experienced before. I wanted to be free!
As the man preaching gives an altar call I did not think twice and ran up. I closed my eyes, and it’s as if a movie of all my sins was playing before me, a burden so heavy that I could not help but get on my knees and ask for forgiveness. There I was crying, snot and everything, whispering “I am sorry.” It was then and there that I felt someone hug me, opened my eyes and no one was around me, and as these horrific scenes are playing in my head I heard “I loved you then, I love you now, and I will always love you.” I thought I was going crazy, but all I found myself doing is raising up my hands and saying “Thank you!” When I heard this I felt this weight come off my shoulders and with a deep sigh I felt peace, forgiveness, love, mercy and hope all at the same time. I now had something to live for, and that was to fall deeper in love with the man who brought me salvation, Jesus.
It is difficult for me to express with words what God did, but knowing who I was, where I came from, what I’ve been through, what I’ve seen and where I was going, the fact that I had this encounter with Jesus is one worth sharing and living out for the rest of my life wherever I go and whoever I’m with.