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Daniel - The Empty American Dream

I was born in Hurst but grew up in a small Texas town of 30,000 people called Paris. In Paris, everyone knew everything about everyone. My parents grew up Catholic and that is where I went to church growing up. As is the custom in the Catholic Church, I was baptized as a baby. I went to Sunday school and went through all the motions, but never once do I recall feeling the presence of God. Life at home was pretty standard. My brother and I had great parents, a loving home, and we did things together. Yes, my dad was hard on us but my dad came from that era of tough love. Though we didn’t get the “I Love You's” and hugs” from him, we knew he loved us. Our mom was wonderful, and you could say we were spoiled by having such a great family.

Fast forward to when I moved to Dallas in 2001. Things were good. Found a job. Met Vanessa. Found a new job. Got married. Bought a house, etc. But I always thought something was missing. I thought maybe it was animals so we adopted a couple of dogs to fill the void. That was great but I still struggled with the big questions of “What’s the point?”, “Why am I here”,

and “Is this all there is?” Vanessa and I would go to church from time to time but nothing ever stuck during this time.

After we lived in Dallas a couple of years, my brother had his first child. Vanessa and I hold him and we think, “Oh. Oh”. Holding my nephew — God’s miracle — really stirred something in us which would eventually lead to us having 2 wonderful children of our own. But shortly after they were born, I found myself more angry than usual. I could not pinpoint what this anger was. I had a great job, great wife, and healthy kids — you could say I had the American Dream. But something was missing and I was angry.

My questions still bothered me, and along with my questions came my anger. We joined a church for a while and found a small group where I tried to express how I was feeling. I would ask my group how they coped with similar feelings, but there really wasn’t anyone like me in the group. Thinking back, I probably scared them all saying the things I said about how angry I was. But I was just searching for something. Eventually, we left that church.

I turned to the Bible for answers, but they did not come — at least not yet. A few times, I would try reading the Bible, but being an engineer if I didn’t understand, I just put it down. I’d read the Bible here and there but during this time nothing stuck with me being in the Word.

Fast forward to April 2018. My mother-in-law was on a Southwest flight and she sat next to a gentleman. They got into talking about their faith and he mentioned The Door Church. She knew we were not really going to church, so she shared her conversation with us and gave us the guy’s card she had met. Not wanting to pressure us, she was just sharing with us to do with that what we wanted. I would later look back on this event as being nothing short of a miracle, and I would later know that this was God working to save us — I just didn’t know it at the time.

This event is a turning point in my faith, so let me explain how this happened.

I never, ever listen to my mother-in-law for most things. She shares things with us all the time and I’m always like yeah yeah and just immediately dismiss it. This gentleman on the flight usually kept to himself on flights, and he was not in the habit of talking to people on airplanes about his faith. Meeting him after all this happened (more on that in a moment), he told me that my mother-in-law started talking to him and rather than pull his earphones on and give her the signs that he didn’t want to talk, he decided to engage with her. The Spirit was clearly moving in their conversation. When my mother-in-law gave us his card and told us about The Door, something was telling me to listen this time. I know now it was the Spirit. As usual, I told her yeah yeah and I tried to dismiss the conversation but the card would always find a way to show up at random times and remind me. I was getting annoyed as I couldn’t just dismiss this like all her other loving suggestions. I gave in and told Vanessa we should visit The Door. I could at least say I visited and then I could validate my disregard of her suggestion by telling her how awful The Door is.

The rest is history. Walking in, we immediately felt God’s presence. We didn’t know much but we knew we found our church home. We first heard Drayton give the message and we were amazed at the beauty of the gospel. We went back and heard Scott and we knew we were home. How our kids reacted to everyone in the Little Door was nothing short of awesome. We immediately decided we were going all in. Drawn by God to the church, we met with Steve, found a Discipleship Group, started volunteering, and attended service regularly. (That guy on the plane ended up being in our Discipleship Group, by the way.) I started attending men’s Bible studies on Thursday mornings. I started getting into the Word. Disregarding the old me that had to understand before continuing, I would just keep reading the Bible even when I didn’t have all the answers. I would continue through the haze of my confusion, asking God to just show me rather than me understand it all. And I’m still doing that to this day. I cannot pinpoint when I finally met Jesus but it was shortly after our first visit to The Door.

As the Lord gave me a heart of flesh, I could feel my heart softening. Where I would usually be prone to anger with my wife and children, I responded with grace and love. Our son started public school in August 2018 and when I would pick him up, I would ask him what he did wrong that day. I know from experience that it’s rough when your dad gets on to you, but that was my routine at the time. After attending Bible study and reading, Vanessa and I were talking about his schooling and how we should handle it and it just hit me. I was convicted. I didn’t want to have that reaction with him anymore. I decided right then and there that my son would know that his daddy loved him. Just as the Father is unashamedly proud of me because of what Jesus has done on the cross, my son would know that his daddy is proud.

I realize God gives me grace. Jesus came and saved us…saved me. I finally understand that I do not have to perform to be loved by God, just like my children are good enough for me just as they are. Jesus’ salvation wipes my record clean. I considered how I love my children, how I will always forgive them and love them, no matter what. When I made the connection of God’s love to my love for my kids, I got it and it was powerful. It hit me like a hammer. When I see my children, it’s all about love, hugs, and positivity. When I see Vanessa, my heart is full and thankful. Though I don’t have all the answers, my questions no longer stoke my anger. I pray unselfish prayers like I’ve never prayed before. God has given me a great gift and now I finally understand that because of Christ, I am worthy.

I still read the Word every day. I crave it. I research and study outside of the Bible to get closer to Jesus. My journey continues. And I am forever thankful that this stranger, on a random flight that day, decided to engage my mother-in-law, that I never lost his card, and that we listened to whatever was pulling us to The Door. I have been saved and in turn, my family has gained the husband and father that they deserve. Neither him nor my mother-in-law knows truly what was done for me that day but I know it was God. I am not perfect. I am a sinner. But God loves me and I am forgiven. And that is more than enough for me.



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