As I look back over my life, it’s very clear God has been in pursuit of me. In spite of me! He has used specific people even as early as childhood to draw me to Himself and to serving Him. And now in my role as GFC’s Recovery & Care Director, I see clearly how God has used my journey and my struggles to lead me into a position of leadership for our recovery ministry, Re:generation. Here is a glimpse into my story.
When I was a child, my parents had a roller coaster marriage - the lows at times became very violent. RIck was one of the neighbor boys who went to church with his parents, and he invited me to go along. It was there that I accepted Christ, even though it would be many years until I’d realize what that meant. Thank God for Rick.
About a year after moving to Florida, my parents divorced. I starting hanging out with the wrong crowd and was acting out at home and at school. One day when we were giving a substitute teacher a hard time, she called the principal to the room. I’ll never forget- the principal actually pointed me out and said she was disappointed in me in particular. I remember thinking, “I didn’t even think she knew my name!” I was afraid she would catch me every time I acted up, so I stopped. Thank God for her.
At that time, I was also disrespectful to my Mom. I was big enough that when I told her no, I meant no. She was no longer able to physically make me do anything. My stepdad had been a police officer in Detroit for 13 years, so that behavior didn’t last for long. Thank God for my stepdad.
God continued to pursue me into my young adult years, where I picked up a reoccurring sin, called an “addiction” in the recovery world, of looking at porn. This would come in and out of my life as stress would increase from time to time. Like many addictions, it was a symptom of not learning to cope well with life and turning to things I could control when I felt out of control. I was doing well in my career, yet my relationships were a mess, to say the least.
Eventually I met and married my wife, Trish, and life was great for the first year. Then the stresses of life returned, and I turned to porn as I had trained myself to do. Trish caught me. Instead of leaving me like most women may have done, she stayed with me. This was the first time I really saw the pain I was causing the people closest to me. It was a long struggle - years actually. But I am so grateful that she was willing to stick it out with me. We have a great relationship now! Thank God for Trish.
After we started attending GFC, I joined a small group. The group leader recognized my need for a relationship with Christ. He took me through a Bible study and then discipled me for the next several years. Through this investment, he helped me change the direction I was headed. Thank God for David.
At that point, I was poised for even more growth through serving others, but it took another 5 years to get to a place where I felt like I could serve God in any capacity. The Devil had beat me down and had me feeling shame and guilt. I felt God couldn’t forgive me for my past sin, let alone use me in a positive way. I believed the lie, “If you really knew me, you wouldn’t want anything to do with me.”
I don’t think I’m alone in that category. Our society bates us to the edge of sin, and then when we go over the edge, condemns us. I think this leave a lot of men in particular, and women as well, feeling alone in a crowd. This is why I feel a ministry like re:generation is so necessary. When we realize that God loves us, that there is nothing He can’t forgive, that He’s not mad at us, we can be truly free. Re:generation is a way to experience this freedom with others who admit they are struggling, as well.
For me, it’s been a joy to be a small part of creating an environment that allows people to experience God’s love through His people. Yes we have curriculum, and we have some teaching/testimony time. But the real magic is watching people come the first night wondering if this is going to be worth their time or not. Inevitably, we see some of them up on the stage later, telling how God has come alive for them, and has met them right where they were, and has raised them up to freedom.
This side of Heaven we will still struggle, and things won’t be perfect. But we can also rest in the reality that God loves us and has a plan for us.
Rich Riesz, Recovery & Care Director
Learn more about our Re:generation ministry online or stop by on a Monday night from 6:30-8:30pm.
Posted on Fri, August 28, 2015
by Rich Riesz