A Prodigal’s Story

How many people can really say they know me? I know I am vocal in my church. I have been teaching youth about Jesus for nearly ten years now. I get to pray on stage once a month. I have had the opportunity to preach to the congregation on a few occasions. I am the big guy behind the drum set banging my drums for God every Sunday. Most people at Hillside Christian Church know of me and my family. They know the struggle we are going through at this time. I have blogged about it for the past three months, and taught all the lessons I have learned from this experience. But who, besides my immediate family, knows my story?

                Maybe that is my fault. I have never been one to be a downer, I love to have a good time. Joking and teaching about Jesus, is who I am, but how did I get there? I should share my testimony openly. Testimonies can be powerful. The definition of testimony is a formal written or spoken statement usually in a court of law, evidence or proof providing the existence of something, or a public recounting of a religious conversion or experience. I believe a testimony is all of the above. Here is my written, formal statement, about the existence of Christ, and how “my life got flipped, turned upside down” (The Fresh Prince of Bel Air).

                I was born and raised in Lincoln Nebraska for the first four years of my life. I don’t remember much of those times. We lived on a farm. My mom worked days and my dad worked nights. I remember my dad sleeping on the couch while me and my brother played. Other than that, I do not recall much.

                We moved from Lincoln to Papillion. My dad got a job as a truck driver and my older brother and I thought it was so cool. Life was pretty ordinary. Play, sleep, eat, and repeat. Until I became old enough for school. My parents had us attending public school until I was in second grade and my brother was in third. We started to home school. It was hard. Going from having friends to talk to and play with, to my only friend being my older brother. It was about this time when we started attending an Assemblies of God church in Bellevue.

                I remember being at church every time the doors were open. There were two Sunday morning services, I missed the first service because of Sunday School, and there was a Sunday night service. We were at every one of them, plus Wednesday night activities. It was at this time, around the age of seven I decided to give my life to Christ. It was in Mrs. Rodgers 2nd grade Sunday school. She had been teaching us about Jesus and how much he loved us. I wanted to be a part of that. So, one Sunday I did. I asked her if I could have Jesus in my heart.

                Nothing really changed. I knew I was supposed to be different, but I really didn’t know how. Like most children, I learned what I could from the bible while at church, but what do you really know about the hardships of life at seven? We attended this church for several years. Even after we moved from Papillion to Blair when I was in sixth grade. As I Grew up, I learned to read some of the Bible on my own. But still never quite fully understanding it.

                The first trial of my life happened when I was in 8th grade. The first time my faith was tested. I knew who Jesus was. I knew all the “Christian” answers. I listened to only Christian music. I had been baptized. I wasn’t doing all the sinning my classmates were.  I was saved in my book. My dad took us to see DC Talk and Audio Adrenaline in concert (I just aged myself, if you know who they are). It was amazing. I felt God through their music. I felt like I was growing spiritually. But it would all change faster than you can say “the 90s were the coolest time for Christian music!”

                It was a day I will never forget, but when your faith is tested, you tend to not forget. I failed this test and failed it miserably. I had just attended the most awesome concert of my life. I was on cloud nine! I wore my new DC talk t-shirt to school the next day. I was on fire for Jesus, or so I thought.

I was in homeroom. We never had much homework so it was conversation time. I told my few friends about the concert and how awesome it was. I never really had many friends growing up. Always a few close ones, but never a popular guy. So, when a couple of the cooler kids next to me started asking me about my shirt, I was eager to share. The conversation was all down hill from there. The ridicule for my taste in music, my weight, my awkwardness started then and there, and would not stop for the rest of the school year. The damage was done. At fourteen, I walked away from God and it would take him six years to get me back.

                I closed myself off to anyone and everyone. Because if they didn’t talk to me, I couldn’t hurt. I was never one to reach out and make friends. I was on a downhill slide. I didn’t want to let anyone in. So, I embraced who I was, a loner, an outcast, a nobody. I tried to go back to church with my family and to youth group with my brother and his friends, but I wasn’t feeling it. I fit in with no one. I was a worthless piece of junk tossed by the wayside. Who could ever love me? Jesus couldn’t love me; I had given up on him. That’s when I started to believe the enemies lies.

                By the time I was fifteen, I had a few close friends. They introduced me to heavy metal, bands like Slayer, Slipknot, Mudvayne, Korn, as well as the classics like ACDC, Metallica, and Iron Maiden. It was at this time I learned, that what you put in your ears, effects your brain, and your soul. What you feed yourself, book, movies, and music, has a huge effect on your mental health and your heart. By sixteen, I would be addicted to pornography, tobacco, diagnosed as manic depressive with bi-polar disorder, and often thought of ending it all. Suicide was a very valid option that I thought of often. If I couldn’t be happy, what was the point of living?

                Life remained this way until I graduated high school at eighteen. I was working fulltime and attending college classes. I saw how my dad who had walked away from God, had returned. He was starting to change. He started to live out the love of God daily. Not just with word, but actually living it. His living it out, gave me hope. God spoke to me in the deepest levels of my heart. I could still hear that still small voice asking me to come back. But the lies the devil told had a hold of me. I told myself, I am a wretched sinner, I can never go back, He wouldn’t want me anyway, what good am I to him? The depression cycled back up again.

                I remember attending church with my parents when I was nineteen. It was the first time I had stepped foot in a church in four years. God convicted me that day. He told me I could come back. That he had plans for my life, that I didn’t have to stay in this state any more. I could come home to him. So, I did. I went and purchased some Christian music. I still listened to some of the terrible music I was into. I came to a realization when I was lying in bed one night. I was nineteen and afraid of the dark. I prayed every night for years, if God was real, that he would show himself. I slept my tv on because the darkness in my room felt alive. I knew what I was into and what I was doing was wrong. I had magazines in my closet that I shouldn’t have. The only things I had to wear were band t-shirts and everything I owned was black. I took stalk of my life. And realized how far off the rails I was. God was still beckoning to me, “Come back my son.” He still cared, even though my life was a mess.

                I needed a change. I was tired of being depressed. I was tired of feeling numb. I was tired of the pain I let rule my life. I remember two things. I called my friends to my house and gave them the entire CD collection that I owned, the wasn’t Christian music, well over 200 CDs. I went to the store and I bought a bright yellow Adidas shirt, and a white Adidas hoodie. I was tired of who I became. It was time to add color to my wardrobe.  I sat in my car smoking a cigarette before work one afternoon and I asked God to completely forgive me. To take me back. I did not want to be depressed and suicidal anymore. God moved into my heart.

                I was not going to go back I was determined to move forward. I walked away from the former life that had plagued me for the last 6 years. At twenty I started reading the bible daily. I attended church every week. I was not going to be the same man I was before. I started really letting God fix my life. I gave him my addictions and my pain, and he gave me blessings.

The blessings started to pour out over the next few years. I was finally on track! I got married at twenty-one to the one and only Michelle Robertson. There is no one like her. I prayed and prayed that she would be mine. She was an answer to prayer and fifteen years later, she still is. We had Alyssa when we were twenty-two. This is when my faith would be tested a second time. I would fail this test as well.

                I started to let the stress of life get to me. I walked away from my bible and my God once again. I was a young dad, newly married, had a great job, but the stress of it all took its toll, and I let it. I slipped back into that depressed state. I started listening to that old music again. I started letting the devil have a foothold in my life. I fell for a year. God wasn’t’ going to give up on me.

 We found mold in the place we were living in at the time. Looking back now, it was a blessing in disguise.  We went broke trying to live the American dream, so we moved in with my parents. I remember late one night listening to Jeremy Camp on my CD player, and again taking stalk of my life. I realized I had failed and walked away again. But I knew enough to remember that God is faithful to forgive if we confess our sins. I did. I vowed never to walk away like that again.

                The funny thing about faith is, that to make sure it is real, God tests it. And he tested me often. I have since realized that I would not be where I am without the testing of my faith. I have written about this a lot lately, go check out some of my old blogs. People say, “God will not give you more than you can handle.” That is not true. I got my fare share of more than I can handle! It’s how we come to rely on him. When we cannot handle it, we give it to him, and he changes us little by little.

                I spent time in my early twenties, working as a union electrician. I spent more time laid off than I did working in those 3 years. It’s a miracle that we made it through. But God provided always. He taught me to seek him more and more. I learned so much over the course of those 3 years. Trust in him and bible study time went up and up. Even when my back gave out and I had to have surgery to clean up a couple discs.  On valentine’s day in 2011 I had surgery and it was six weeks of growing closer to God.

                I didn’t know then, but God had a plan to put me in ministry. I was working with the youth pastor at the time, helping, learning, teaching when I could. By June of that year, my back was completely healed, and the Youth Pastor decided he was going to take a position somewhere else. God pushed me to step up. I took a leap of faith and haven’t looked back. I have been the Youth Pastor for 10 years. All the while growing and bringing up a couple young men after me, who have really taken over at this time. God is good!

                I found a new job in 2012. Gained knowledge the more I taught the youth. I learned more in my teaching than I learned most of my life leading up to that. You have to put in some time to learn if you are going to teach!

                Life has since had its ups and downs, a new home, another surgery, and three more kids, and more stress than I care to handle, my faith is still being tested. But I haven’t let it drive me away. Sometimes you have to walk through the fire, the valley, or on water, to get where God wants you to go. Here I am 22 years after I walked away, 29 years after I gave my life to Christ, still being tested.

                The best part about being tested is it helps you to let go of all the pain and hurt and hold on to God. It helps you to move forward and learn. As my journey progressed, I lost those things that I clung to desperately. I gave up pornography. I no longer battle depression or bi-polar disorder. Tobacco no longer controlled my life. I am bought, I am redeemed. You can be too. You don’t have to listen to the lies of the enemy. You can be free from the chain in Jesus’ name. As I have said over the last several weeks, the testing of your faith is to make you more like Christ. I had to learn that the hard way. But with each test, I became more like Christ, surrendering, and giving up the parts of my life that didn’t look like him. I count it all joy, the trials we have faced.

                You can use your life for God. It is not too late. If you would have asked me 20 years ago where I would have thought I would be, it wouldn’t look anything like this. I am so grateful that God flipped my life on its head. I am no longer the same. I am a child of God. I am saved. I am more than a conqueror thanks to the love a God who would not stop pursuing me. I am an overcomer. I am more than a conqueror. I am blood bought and washed clean by a savior who cared for me, even when I hated myself.

                I can stand here today and say I am a true follower of Christ. Still learning at his feet daily. But always progressing forward. I will use my gifts and talents for his glory alone. My goal is to teach people of all ages, to surrender and be healed as I have been.

My name is James Delisle and this is my story

Published by Hillside Christian Church

We Proclaim: Faith Alone in Jesus Christ is all you need for Salvation! Baptism is an act of obedience following a confession of faith. An outward sign of an inward reality. Sunday Morning at Hillside Adult and Children’s Sunday School — 9:00 a.m Home of the Great Commission: Matthew 28:19-20 Children's Church 10:15 a.m. Worship and Preaching of God’s Word— 10:15 a.m. Praise Band Lead Worship: Easy Listening Contemporary Style and Traditional Music Arrangement

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