How does a happy little boy with dreams and aspirations wake up one day a grown man with nothing to his name, except 435 pounds and a prison cell?
Growing up, my dreams revolved around Dad, a pilot for a major airline carrier. I too will fly one day! Those dreams ended the day the FAA came to our house and clipped Dad’s wings due to his advanced diabetes.
That night, Dad unleashed his anger and frustration by smashing almost every piece of furniture in our house in a drunken rampage. That night, I witnessed his rage for the first time–but not the last.
What could Mom do? She surrendered to the deception of a religious cult that enslaved and damaged our family for the next three years, leaving our home barren and hopeless for new dreams.
By the age of 16, I was intolerable. I had been kicked out of the house multiple times. I finally ran away. Somehow, and despite the turmoil of my family, I finally asked Jesus Christ for forgiveness of my sins and trusted in Him as my Savior. A year later, my Southern Baptist church made plenty sure I was baptized, but that wasn’t enough to keep me from destroying my life for the next 17 years.
Living a Double Life
Although I called myself a Christian, I lived by my old childish habits: do what I want first, and maybe ask permission later … and whatever you do, don’t get caught!
As a white collar criminal, I soon learned to take other people’s money, lots of money, and shop with abandon. No permission needed. The first day of my first “purchase,” I literally shopped every day, every hour of the day, to the tune of hundreds of thousands of other people’s dollars.
I found out that I could have gourmet steaks and some delicious gold flaked cheesecake delivered to my door, a habit that eventually helped me debase myself to 435 pounds.
Two years later, as I fell asleep in my recliner (too fat to actually lie down and not choke while sleeping), I realized I was at a crossroads in my criminal career. I needed to kick it into overdrive or give it up altogether and get a regular 9-to-5 job. I don’t know what got into me, but I prayed for guidance and said these fateful words to God, “Whatever it takes.”
The next morning, as I returned home from an early lunch feast, police detective cars swarmed my house. I decided to head over to a nearby grocery store and park, hoping it all would blow over. No such luck. One minute after parking, I was face down on a hot asphalt parking lot, handcuffed by the police who’d followed me there.
Caught by God
Though I began an instant diet the day I arrived to prison, my weight probably spared my life. Too fat to beat up and more laughable for resembling the late comedic actor John Candy, I was simply given the nickname of “Uncle Buck” and left alone.
I realized then that God had indeed answered the previous night’s prayer, “Whatever it takes.” But that was just the beginning. For the duration of my incarceration, Jesus Christ got my attention through hourly Bible reading and daily devotionals. And He also showed me His amazing grace.
What should’ve been a 10-year sentence turned into a miraculous open door to freedom after only 11 months. By then I had clung to Jesus and His Word and was ready to turn my life around.
Waiting on Him
I’ve lived in the same place for nearly 11 years now, never spending more than 20 hours away from home in one day. I go to work. I attend church. I participate in Toastmasters®. I go back home.
My self-imposed, 11-year sentence outside of prison has been a season to re-character myself, my life, my influence, and even my body to a manageable 175 pounds. It has been a season of discipline and a season of waiting for God to direct my steps towards a journey that can bring Him glory.
Sharing my story to give others hope is part of that journey. I can’t wait to see what He has in mind for my life next!
Have you been caught?
Have you been caught yet in your rebellion? Maybe you are not in prison, but the agony of your life has become that prison for you.
I let two decades of my life slip by, but you don’t have to let that happen to you. When I was in prison, I daily prayed the words of Job, “Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes” Job 42:6. Your prayer of simple surrender to Christ won’t take but two seconds that will make a world of difference. You can start now with these simple words:
Jesus, I’m tired of rebelling against you. I can’t continue in this path. Please forgive my sin and rescue me from the mess my life has become. I thank you for what you have done for me already, dying on the cross for my sin… so I can be forgiven and reconciled to God. I want you to be Lord of my life, whatever it takes.
Friend, my prayer is that you will take this step of faith and begin your journey back to peace and a new life with God. He loves you and wants to have a relationship with you.
Kent Gerhan is an aspiring writer, avid Toastmaster, and perennial dieter. He’s a native San Diegan and active member of Shadow Mountain Community Church. Come worship with him on Sundays in El Cajon, California.
* Watch for an upcoming paper tract from Vineworks Publishers, Inc.