My Journey: The Long Road to Forgiveness
By Jeremy Smart
June 17, 2012
I was 5 when I asked Jesus into my heart. My dad happily led me in the prayer of salvation.
I must admit it has been a rocky road ever since.
My brother Jeff was diagnosed with Dandy-Walker syndrome as an infant, a disease that led to numerous surgeries throughout his childhood.
Unfortunately, Satan used my brother’s infirmity to tear me from my family. Jeff got all the attention. Jeff was in the hospital again. Jeff had another seizure. Jeff needs another surgery. What about Jeremy, I thought.
By the time I was 15, I had turned my back on my faith to follow a sinful lifestyle. I believed in God, but that was it.
When I was 18, I decided to get drunk and drive myself home. I can recall little about the accident, except that I woke up in my jeep, which was sitting mangled in the street. I had blacked out and run into a light pole in front of a house.
I staggered to my parents’ house. It was 4 a.m. when I walked into their bedroom. I remember standing in front of their bed weeping.
“I messed up,” I cried.
The only thing out of my father’s mouth as he jumped out of bed was, “What did you do!” I will never forget the condemnation in his voice.
He called the police to report the incident, and I was charged with drunken driving.
When I returned to the scene the following morning, I saw the trajectory of my tire tracks and was confronted with a sickening truth. The light pole had prevented a tragedy. Six kids had been sleeping in the front room of the house. At the speed I was going, my jeep would have hit the front of the house and very possibly killed the children. Even amid my reprobate existence, God was there.
Soon thereafter I went off to college — and the party lifestyle that accompanied it. After earning my degree, I operated several restaurants, working all day and partying all night. Every night. At one point I was spending up to $300 per week on alcohol.
There was always a void in my life that I longed to fill. The alcohol seemed to help. My life consisted of drinking and working.
One day at work a stranger walked up to me and just stared into my eyes.
“Yes?” I said.
“I need to tell you something,” she replied. “God wants you to know that He hasn’t forgotten about you.”
I felt cold shivers going down my back. “Excuse me?” I said. “Why are you telling me that?”
“I don’t know,” she replied.
Holding back the tears, I whispered, “Thank you.”
But I acted as if that incident never happened, even though the message that God has a plan had been ingrained in me all my life.
Later I decided it was time to start settling down. My lifestyle had become too much. I moved back home with Mom and Dad. Only then did things begin to turn around.
Then I found the woman of my dreams. My childhood crush. I will never forget the first night I picked up Laura for dinner. When I saw her standing in the doorway, I knew that I was looking at the rest of my life.
I saw Laura and her beautiful 4-year-old daughter regularly, and soon she invited me to listen to her sing at church. At church?
OK, I thought. I will do anything for this girl. We were married five months later
We had a beautiful son in July 2008. But after that, I began to change, sadly returning to old, bad habits.
Laura and I started fighting — a lot. Eventually it all came to a head. After an especially long night at the bar, I returned home and they were gone. No wife. No kids. Just an empty house and a ring sitting on the dining room table.
I convinced Laura to come home, and we were OK for a while. But when I returned to my old habits, Laura said she was through.
She wanted a divorce. It was the end of my world. Little did I know that this was true in more ways than one.
Then it happened. I don’t know why I decided to go. I guess when life hits rock bottom we return to where it all began. For me that was Cedar Lake Christian Assembly of God in Biloxi, Miss.
It’s where I’d met Laura for the first time, in sixth grade. It’s where I grew up in church.
I arrived during worship. Soon after I got there, the pastor stopped the music and said he felt like the Lord had laid something on his heart. He started describing someone in pain — someone who had hit rock bottom.
“It could be a relationship need,” he said. “Maybe your marriage is falling apart. I want you to raise your hand if you need prayer.”
I dropped my head and clenched my teeth as the tears flowed. My hand shot into the air. I knew I’d been trusting in the wrong person all those years. I needed Jesus.
That night I was born again. For the first time in my life I had made the decision to follow Christ.
And finally, for the first time, I confessed my deepest secret. “I forgive you, Dad! It wasn’t your fault!” I cried. “I forgive you, Jeff! None of this is your fault!”
I finally forgave my father and brother for the events of my childhood. My mom and dad had done everything they knew to be good parents. This was nobody’s fault.
I instantly realized that this was what I had needed my entire life. I asked God to take control of not only my relationships with my father and brother, but with my wife as well.
Immediately I became involved at church. I invited Laura, and after seeing the change that the Lord had made, she agreed to attend church with me.
Now I am on the road to doing what is right. Together as a family, my wife and I trust in Christ to guide us. Our relationship has never been stronger. And I know in my heart that nothing but great things are in store for the future.
JEREMY SMART lives in Biloxi, Miss.
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