This extract is from a testimony that has been published in its full form in the book “Under the Covers” by Jody Feldman.
School was tough. I couldn’t make friends, let alone get a girlfriend. Life at home was no better. It wasn’t so much the occasional beatings, more the constant anger, the continual fear, not knowing what kind of mood he’d be in when he got home.
None of us kids really talked to each other. We were all terrified. They say family friction between siblings builds character, but there wasn’t any ‘friction’ in our house — we were all too afraid to speak.
As soon as I hit 16, I left home, moved to London to be an actor. I had a bit of success. Theatre. Some TV. But I couldn’t hide from my emotions. I sought refuge in drugs and hung out at some of Soho’s seedier night spots.
It was in these festering drug dens, visited by gangsters and low-life criminals, that I was hit on by older women – mother figures. I was lonely. Wasted. Desperate to be loved and touched. Desperate for intimacy. Desperate for sex.
But the things I let these women do to me didn’t have anything to do with love, or even sex. It was abuse. I see that now, but I couldn’t then. And intent on punishing myself, intent on expressing my self-loathing, I kept going back for more.
My world was gangland, my diet was drugs, and my job was crime.
I found it difficult to form relationships with girls my own age, girls I actually found attractive. If I did meet someone I liked, I messed it up. Why? Because I was a mess: a crack-addict taking whatever sex I could find. I was out-of-my-face 24/7. And when I was feeling lonely, I’d return to these women who would pay me the attention I craved.
Then I finally hit rock bottom. I fell in love with a girl, a young woman who had been raped, who was clearly working through her own issues. She broke my heart. And it was through this gaping wound that Jesus entered.
I’m reminded of a few lines from Oscar Wilde’s poem The Ballad of Reading Gaol, which he wrote while serving a two-year prison term for homosexuality:
How else may man make straight his plan
And cleanse his soul from sin?
How else but through a broken heart
May Lord Christ enter in?
Jesus found me while I was wandering around the streets of London, age 27 but really, inside, I was a little boy lost.
Tripping on acid, I thought it would be cool to stop and pray with a street preacher. My brother was with me and he prayed too.
A few days later it felt like I was still tripping but I wasn’t. All of the colors were brighter, more vivid. Birdsong became the most beautiful music ever. The moon became magical, hanging in the sky, glorious, bright. And as I sat at home on the 19th floor of my south London tower block, a Spirit filled the room: thick, tangible.
I was in awe.
It was stronger than being on ecstasy, more beautiful than LSD. It was a hovering Spirit, gentle, comforting. I was afraid if I moved I’d frighten it away.
It was my brother who figured it out: we had been born again. We both felt completely new and clean.
Look! I make everything new!
– Revelation 21:5
Then I realized the strange spiritual presence in my room was the Holy Spirit. I’d taken enough drugs to know it wasn’t a drug high. This was much more beautiful. I suddenly knew what the phrase “the fear of God” meant. It wasn’t about being afraid of God, but afraid of losing God! I wanted this Spirit to stay with me forever.
My brother had started reading the Bible, so I did too. It was one of those Bibles where the words of Jesus are in red letters. And the words became alive. They started floating off the page:
Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. Do not let your heart be troubled, and do not be afraid.
– John 14:27
And so I began my Christian journey. Yet even though Jesus had set me free from drugs, the sexual depravity didn’t stop. I hid a secret addiction.
Fifteen years later I was still secretly indulging in porn. Lonely Christmas days in London, when everyone else (at least in my imagination) was having fun celebrating with turkey and mince pies, I was holed up with a bottle of whiskey, poppers and porn.
In the movie The Perks of being a Wallflower, a teenage boy, recovering from childhood sexual abuse by a woman, is told by his English teacher:
We accept the love we think we deserve.
Was this the love I thought I deserved? Not love at all but hatred, self-hatred disguised as love.
Some of us express our pain through hurting others, while some express our pain through hurting ourselves.
So how did I escape this black hole of despair?
I knew the gospel, I believed in Jesus, but I was still locked in an addiction.
Why did I hate myself so much?
Why was I so intent on destroying myself?
Sometimes my wrists cried out to be cut.
My choices were, get my act together, or suicide. Sometimes I’d cry out to God:
Kill me. Take me to be with You. Anything but this. I would rather die and be with You than continue in this self-abuse, this sexual energy I can’t control.
And just when I thought God had already laid all His cards on the table, He played His ace.
An ace called grace.
Even though I’d been a Christian many years, I’d never truly understood grace or how much God loved me.
I mean, I’d read in the Bible that He loved me. I’d heard it preached that He loved me. But I hadn’t truly believed in my heart that He loved me. Because of what Christ had done, God had forgiven me. Not only that, but He had made me holy. To God, I was pure. I was beautiful.
This was amazing! Verses in Hebrews that I’d read hundreds of times suddenly started to blow my mind!
By one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who have been made holy.
– Hebrews 10:14
Jesus had made me perfect forever!
I was so excited. I started to read more about grace, and I learned that many people, all over the world, were understanding grace too.
Grace meant we were free from sin.
Grace meant God didn’t see us as sinners anymore, once we had given our lives to Him.
He had forgiven us once for all on the cross and had made us perfect forever!
Further study taught me that, on the cross, Jesus had swapped places with us. He became sin; we became holy. He became us; we became Him.
Christ had no sin, but God made Him become sin so that in Christ we could be right with God.
– 2 Corinthians 5:21.
I was the righteousness of God!
Occasionally the “old me” tries to pull me down again but even if it does God reminds me that He loves me and forgives me, that He will never let me go.
I believe sin is a sickness. What parent would let a sick child rot and die? A parent will do whatever it takes to nurse his or her child back to health. How much more will our loving God nurse us back into health and wellbeing?
As Jesus says:
It isn’t the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.
– Matthew 9:12.
Our destiny is eternal.
God will complete the work He has started in us. He is our Great Physician. He is our Healer.
A longer version version of this testimony is published in Under the Covers: A Message of Hope.