His form was emaciated. So horrifyingly thin that it was painful to look at him. His hair was big and styled, forming a very peculiar headpiece for a man. His face was pierced many times through with holes, with metal jewelry threaded through the punctures. His voice had that whining feminine tone to it that so many men today have chosen to adopt to proclaim that they are not men. Finally, his clothes—overly stylized and overly feminine—completed the picture.
I noted that the video I was watching was from 2009, and I had some sort of gut feeling that he could not have possibly survived another two years in the path that he had chosen, but I clicked on his channel page anyways, hoping against hope. A shock ran through my system, however, when the page loaded. The wallpaper? “God is Holy.” The videos? Prayer chains, verses to live by, and wishes for a happy birthday to Jesus. This was radical. Anxious to uncover this mystery, I soon found a video entitled “CRISIS.” So I watched. I watched an emaciated, pierced, tattooed man breaking down as he recounted how his mother and he were being forced out of the house his father had built.
Johnny was beside himself from financial troubles, health troubles, and mental troubles—he was nervewracked, stressed, emotional, unstable, and lost. Here he was, humbled, sick, lost, and desperate: it was as though he had been turned inside out, and instead of wearing the mask of a face and skin, he was wearing his heart. Pierced and struggling, sinful and black, ghastly and haggard. Only three days later, however, he posted another video, and suddenly, he was a different man, mellow and full of joy that, try as he might, he could hardly express. His financial crisis had led him to call his pastor, and within twenty-four hours of turning back to God, he providentially had a place to sleep and live.
I only watched a few more of his videos, but in each one, I saw change. I saw him weeping as he took out his piercings because he “didn’t need them anymore.” I saw him rejoicing and dumbfounded that God had completely taken away his addiction to bulimia. I saw him give up his feminine clothes and decorations. And then I watched one of his most recent videos, and my eyes filled with tears. Now before me was a man with neatly clipped hair, a trimmed goatee, a wonderfully healthy body, and a face that held no metallic distractions. I was pulled in straight to his eyes—peaceful, joyful, and full of the love of God. Once again, I didn’t see a face or skin or hair—I saw his heart, and it was beautiful, plump, and pure. “My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips (Psalm 63:5).”
This took me back to my own transformation at the age of three. However young that might seem to you, I remember the moment in the back of the car the day after Resurrection Sunday. I remember that I submitted my life to God, that I gave back to Him what He had rightfully owned all along. That I lost what I could not keep, and allowed a new Captain to man the ship. As young as I was, my heart was as destructive, malnourished, rebellious, and black as Johnny’s—it just had not had a chance to manifest itself so vividly on the outside. But that moment that God washed my heart clean and white and pure was as miraculous and as transformative as the scenes I saw on You Tube. And that is why I wept, because Johnny reminded me of myself, both before and after Jesus saved me. His joy and excitement brought back the vivid memory of my three year-old self careening into my aunt and uncle’s house, desperate to tell every single person of the incredible gift I had just been given.
The understanding came later. The commitment, the baptism, the spiritual disciplines—those all came later. But the joy, the freedom, the relief, and the peace--that was instantaneous. So whether you are the "before" image of Johnny and the three year old, or the "after" image, don’t miss your opportunity. Choose you this day Whom you will serve, and then get out there and share the good news with others in obedience. Johnny would have been the last person I would have chosen to walk up to and witness to. Thank goodness God doesn’t work like that, because if He did, I would have been the last person He rescued.
Photo Credit: Ex-In Transit
We have drawn the winners of our giveaway! Thank you all for entering and for putting such thought into those great questions. We'll be getting to them throughout the year, so keep watch!
Congratulations, Samantha--you won the blog design from Ara!
Elizabeth and Abby each won a charm.
We'll be getting in touch with you ladies shortly!