Justin Moyer

Introduction I’ve been a Christian as long as I can remember. It can be a blessing to grow up surrounded by the ideals and knowledge that a Christian lifestyle brings, and I know dozens of people that would give their lives to have had the opportunity to know before their adulthood what I knew in my childhood. But it can a bit of a curse, as well, for one can become accustomed to the ideals and knowledge and principles and not know how to take them seriously or apply them. That’s my story, which I’ll tell here. How I had fallen asleep at the wheel of my life, and how God reawakened me. Time and time again.

The Beginning: Childhood

My parents were decent Christians when I was born – they only had a couple of residual bad habits left over from their 1980′s-style rebellion and those were easily overcome before I could remember them. Until I was in middle school, we went to a Lutheran church. My father’s side of the family were Lutherans, and as far as we knew, there were only subtle differences between the other Christian denominations.

During my elementary school years, I watched my father grow from a regular, run-of-the-mill Sunday church-goer into a full-fledged soldier of God. This growth was in no small way prompted by my mother leaving in 1994 for about a year. This threw my dad into a deep depression, and he turned to the Bible for answers. The habits he formed during this period set the tone for the rest of his life. He began nightly studies. He continued the bible studies, with the church. The man had been touched by the fire of God and could not be quenched. Gradually, he would become more and more vocal in bible studies, he would go deeper and deeper into study at night, and he took on more and more roles in the church. After a year, my mother returned home and the two worked out their problems and fully trusted in God to help their struggling marriage.

Meanwhile, the church began to take on more and more problems. There were the beginnings of vast divisions forming and we went through a period of time where we had a different pastor every month. This building tension in the church eventually erupted in a crisis moment that involved the current pastor (fresh out of seminary with a questionable worldview) that caused several families to bail out of the church and left behind a worn and tattered core group of people. Our family was in the group left behind, and we kept the church alive for another few months before looking elsewhere out of sheer exhaustion. As I understand it, the church is still in existence today, although it had to join forces with a Methodist church to stay alive.

The Middle: Adolescence and Early Adulthood We tried several different churches in the coming months, but never really found a fit. Finally, during the summer of 1999, we found Christian Fellowship Church of the Piedmont, or CFCP, lead by a wonderful man named Pastor Ed Heppe. I wished to stay at CFCP because a lot of the kids in the youth group were my friends from elementary school. We attended CFCP through my senior year, and I was active in their youth program. We were very normal Christian teens. We knew all the answers to the questions our youth group leader asked, but still went to school and kept our Christianity secret from everyone else. We never held each other accountable for our actions, and we all developed separate lifestyles at church and school. At this point in our lives, we were all accustomed to the “act” of being a Christian. Near the end of high school, some disagreements my parents had with the pastor regarding my brother’s identity crisis led them to seek another church. I wanted to stay, but I went with my parents and joined a startup church in Culpeper. It was small, and met in an old nightclub. I only went for a couple of months until school ended.

After high school ended, I allowed some poor decisions I had made to make me bitter and I began my rebellion against anything that looked like authority. I had missed out on a free ride through a Christian private university and began working. I moved out of my home and in with my girlfriend and began an appalling lifestyle of living in sin, on credit, and full of cigarettes, alcohol, and loud music. My character changed into a disgusting, bullying, nasty, awful person. I became one of the biggest jerks anyone’s ever met – likely the product of having low confidence during my childhood. I did amazingly terrible things. If I encountered someone walking on side of the road while I was driving, I’d try to hit them with trash I’d throw out the window. It’s incredibly embarrassing, and the behavior was completely contradictory to who I was growing up, but it happened. As if this kind of behavior wasn’t bad enough, I also began to do REALLY stupid things, like race cars down backroads and drive my pickup over ramps and through fields without any regard for safety, mine or anyone else’s. I felt like I was invincible. There were times that I’m sure I should have been taken to a hospital for alcohol poisoning. After these particular events, I was out of commission for 2-3 days trying to recover. It’s a wonder that I’m still alive today. As sad as it is, a lot of young people don’t make it through this period in their lives.

My parents split up again during this time frame, for good this time. My dad joined a new church after the one I had left fizzled out. He started going to another “fellowship” church in Culpeper, but this one was very Pentecostal. He also grew in his faith and started taking Theology classes at the college the church housed. I moved back in with Dad after my relationship with my girlfriend fell apart, and even started going to church with him, but I kept up my stupid lifestyle outside of church. I started playing on the worship team, only adding to the duality that I had become. Many, many Sunday morning worship services at that church featured a very, very hungover Justin on the guitar. I was a sad and miserable replica of who I felt like I should be at age 19.

While playing in the worship team at the Pentecostal church, I saw some amazing things. I saw God’s power come into a room and take it by force. I have no doubt that a lot of what I saw in terms of healing, prophesy, and worship were true, real, actual forces of the Almighty. Even though I was seeing and experiencing these wonderful things, I still continued to act like a fool outside of church. I was still drinking, partying, and trying anything I could to be sexual with any girl I met. I was a disgusting mess, but I still had the desire to do God’s work. I don’t think I had the ability at the time, but I definitely had the desire. I tried to ignore it while not at church, and would usually feel terribly guilty while at church for my behavior, but it didn’t change me after church was over.

It was also during this time that I began to develop my biggest doubts toward God and the church. I began to wonder at some of the things I was seeing. For example, the same people came to the altar call every week, which I thought was weird. Didn’t you give your life to Jesus last week? Why are you here again? Should I be giving myself to Jesus every week, too? And it always seemed to be the same people who were “so affected by the Holy Spirit” that they would pass out in the aisle ways. And what if a new person, someone who didn’t know Jesus, walked into our Sunday morning worship service? They’d hear the shouting, the babbling in tongues, the shofar horns, see the people passing out, and would likely run out of that crazy place! I wondered if the kind of worship we were doing wasn’t tripping our attempts at evangelism. Even in my debaucherous stupor, I realized that the church I was attending was more interested in worshiping God than they were in spreading His message and good news. These doubts eventually came to a head and sparked my longest period spent away from the church. After being asked to step down from the worship team by the pastor (over something related to my lifestyle), I never went back to that church. My faith in God was real, but it was shaken to the core. I began to lose sight of who God was, and gradually stopped trying to have any relationship with Him at all.

The Now: Adulthood Around the time I left the Pentecostal church, I started dating the girl who would eventually be the mother of my first child. She left for Virginia Tech the summer after we met and it looked like the end of the relationship. The distance was difficult and both had interests outside of our relationship. Meanwhile, I lost my job (for the 4th time that year, I was such a mess). Since I had some free time, I traveled down to the college to break up with her. So picture this: I was out of work, I had no money to speak of, I was in Blacksburg to break up with my girlfriend, and I was 20 years old. Then, I found out that she was pregnant with my child. I stuck through the awful relationship and moved down to Roanoke to support her, the whole time having to encourage her and persuade her and a few members of my family that an abortion wasn’t the right thing to do.

It was during this time that God tried to awaken me the first time. Soon after finding out about the child, I collapsed in the stairwell of one of the dorms at Virginia Tech and fell apart. I realized I didn’t know who I was or where I was going. The thought of having to be responsible for a baby while doing the terrible things I was doing at the time scared me half to death. I sought God for the first time in a long time in prayer and asked for his help. People passed by me on the stairwell and thought I was crazy, but I barely noticed them. Over the next several winter months, I broke down and spent the time almost entirely alone living in my grandparent’s lakefront condo in Moneta, VA and working for a construction company. I realized during this time period that Jesus needed to be a focus in my life, and I needed to try to listen to his instruction. Doing things on my own wasn’t working out, and I was getting myself deeper and deeper into a hole. Following Christ was the only way I could see out.

After the fall semester was over, my girlfriend transferred to a school closer to our hometown and I moved in with her. We spent a miserable few months there before Kayla was born. I remember the first time I saw my daughter, I was awestruck. Until that moment, I wasn’t aware that I could love anything that much. I started thinking about how this must be how God loves me. And this thought was tough to bear, because I had turned my back on Him so many times. I couldn’t imagine my daughter forsaking me like I had been forsaking my Heavenly Father. It killed me on the inside.

Things were even less peachy after Kayla was born, and the fights I had with her mother got worse and worse. We started going to church at Soul Purpose Church, or SPC. I really liked the pastor there. He was down to earth and genuine. This only turned into another thing to fight about, though, as she didn’t like the church at all. It didn’t matter in the end, and what was inevitably coming eventually happened. After finding out about some constant online flirtations with someone else, I decided that enough was enough and moved back into my father’s house.

During this time, I still attended SPC and went to all of the men’s group Bible studies because, I figured, I’d need role models. I didn’t know the first thing about being a man, and at age 20, I was a single father. So it was time to start at least acting like a man, and that meant hanging out with them. They were all very gracious with me, and let me feel like a part of their group, even though some of them were more than 10 years my senior. I started to play in the worship team at this church, too, and had a blast doing it. I got deeper into the church, and frequently counseled with the pastor about how to handle the ex-girlfriend problems and so on.

I eventually moved out of my Dad’s house and got a place of my own. I slowly started to creep out of my un-Christian ways and began to start seeking a more Godly life. I think this is one of the biggest myths about Christianity. There’s nothing that says “when you trust in Jesus, you are immediately a good and holy person”. Sure, the process begins, but all of the desires and habits from the time before you began trusting in Jesus are still there. It takes time and work to overcome those behaviors. Sometimes, it takes a lot of time and a lot of work. The changes were slow, but constant. I met my wife during this period and began to court her. We didn’t make it a year before getting married! I felt like she was God’s gift from Heaven in my life.

After knowing her for a mere few months, I wasn’t sure how I had made it as far in life as I had without her. She was perfect, and she loved me and my daughter very much. She also provided an example to me as I learned to continually trust in Christ. After another couple of years of going to Soul Purpose (which eventually joined up with Community Christian Church to become Soul Purpose Community Church) and continually working on my character, I signed up for an ordination training class because I had wondered if my call to lead a Godly life wasn’t a call to something more. I still desired on the inside to do the Will of God, and I felt like that Will was to spread his Good News. I was challenged to read the entire New Testament, and to act like the words were “God’s love-letter to me” as opposed to acting like the words were “an instruction manual to life”. I was astonished at the result.

I was awakened again, this time more so than ever before in my life. I never read the Bible like that before, and even though I knew what it was going to say (for I had heard it many times before), I was deeply affected by the character of God, and began to feel like I knew Him for the first time. I really began to grasp how AWESOME and INCREDIBLE God is and how small I am. I became overwhelmed with the fact that someone so important and vastly huge could take the time and energy to show love and affection for me.

I flew through the Gospels and through the rest of the New Testament. I feel rejuvenated, and have begun to read anything I can to feed the desire I have to learn more about God. I started reading books that clarify the calling I have in my life so I can be sure I’m on the right track. I started reading books about purity so I can keep myself clean to be useful to God. I started reading books about living a Godly lifestyle. And, most importantly, I started reading the Bible every day.

I am alive. I have been reawakened, and I am making myself ready to do God’s good work with a purpose. This has been my story until now, and I would like to challenge all who read this to put your Christian walk story into words for others to be encouraged.