A Life Restored by Grace
Story & Photo – Kyle English
“To this day, I've torn apart more Blackhawk engines than I can shake a stick at; and yet never changed the oil in my own car.”
John laughs as he talks about his stint as a helicopter engine mechanic in the Army.
“…And I'm determined not to change the oil in my car, just so I can keep that joke.”
You may not know John Cummings by name, but if you’ve been around Resurrection Church for any length of time, you’ve probably seen him around the lobby between services. He has a real knack for engaging in thoughtful conversation, with anyone who should come within a ten-foot radius of him. And he does so with all the positive enthusiasm of a man on fire for God.
This past Easter, John was one of over thirty people to get baptized at Resurrection. Like many of the others, he has a story to tell. His is a story of God’s redemptive grace and relentless calling. A calling out from brokenness, and seasons marred by addiction; a calling into renewed hope and faith, and new life in Jesus Christ.
WHAT DOES BAPTISM MEAN TO YOU?
John: When the idea was brought up to me of getting baptized on Easter, I had not really thought about it at first. You know, I had only been walking with God for the last six months or so. I was baptized when I was seventeen, me and all my brothers. We got baptized, and it was kind of an expected thing; that was the way I took it anyway.
But this time, it was a celebration of what God has done in my life. My relationship with God is a relationship now! It was never an actual relationship before. My baptism was a celebration of what the last six months have been, and Him bringing me back to Himself; shaping me, changing me, and growing me. It was also a public dedication in front of my church family, saying that I am committing the rest of my life to being all about the Lord.
WHO WERE YOU BEFORE YOU MET CHRIST?
John: I would say broken, but I’m still broken. I mean, I grew up in a very solid Christian home. Around age eighteen I decided I didn't want anything to do with that anymore. I wanted to walk away and do my own thing.
And I did… for about 11 years.
I was very active in my lack of pursuit of God. I didn't want anything to do with God, or anything remotely related to God. I was going to live my life my way, do the drugs that I wanted to do, sleep with who I wanted to sleep with, and make the choices I wanted to make; without guilt or reproach. I would try to find reasons to disprove God, so that I wouldn't feel guilty in the way that I lived. That was my life. That was my reasoning. I always knew I could never quite shake my faith or my belief in a God, but I was always trying to find a way to disprove Him.
I like to say that I didn't get kicked out of my parents’ house, but that I lost the privilege of living at my parents’ house… twice. That was through poor decisions, bad life choices. I found myself homeless for a period of time, in Orlando, and got myself to the point where I'm like: “Okay, I really need to do something to change my life around.” What I was doing was not really working very well.
Joining the Military seemed like a good way to go. I originally tried the Air Force, but they needed me to lose about thirty pounds, and I had never done anything physical in my life. Not only had I no idea how to even begin to lose that kind of weight, I really had no desire to. Then the army stepped in and said, “we have a waiver for that. Sign here and you can come in as fat as you want.” So, I joined the Army for 5 years. I was a helicopter engine mechanic and learned a lot of really cool things.
I actually ended up getting kicked out early. Again, poor decisions… drug addiction.
But God pulled me out of that drug addiction before I was even walking with him again, which I still find amazing.
HOW DID GOD PULL YOU OUT OF YOUR ADDICTION?
John: I got involved with “spice,” a synthetic marijuana. It’s really bad. I was to the point where I couldn't really function. You can't function while on it, and I couldn't function without it. I needed it constantly. I got into it while I was in the military. It was my way of being able to get high without getting caught. I mean, they could drug test me all day and not find anything. So, they ended up finding a different way to kick me out, which was a lot worse.
When I got out, I got worse into my drug addiction. God gave me a really good paying job, which just meant that I could now afford to spend twenty-five to fifty dollars a day on it. I needed it. I couldn't live without it. Somehow, I was able to pull myself out of it at one point, but then I relapsed a few months later. It would get really bad, I would pull out of it again, and then it would get really bad again. I honestly don't remember a lot of that time. I was high constantly. That and some other things led to an addiction to marijuana. I basically just traded one addiction for another. It was legal, and I knew it was a little bit healthier… or at least it wasn't “as unhealthy” as the spice was.
Looking back, it was such a terrible time, but now I can't see anything but God's hand pulling me out of it; even though I had no desire to want anything from Him. Even from pot, where I went from smoking it all day, every day, I started coming back to Him. I decided that I wanted to follow Christ again, for the first time really. I wanted to come back, but I didn't really know what that looked like. I made the decision that one of the things that I needed to do was get rid of this addiction in my life.
And so, I quit. Cold turkey.
I quit October 3rd of last year, and I've been clean ever since. I've already celebrated six months, and you know, it was a big milestone for me. It blows my mind. I never thought I'd be able to go a couple of days. To go six months, and to not really crave it as much anymore… it's amazing!
WHO ARE YOU NOW THAT YOU KNOW CHRIST?
Something that I noticed when I was walking away, and I wasn't able to put into words very well, is that I was angry. It was never a problem when I was a kid - maybe my mom would tell you otherwise - but I don't remember having that much anger in me. I had become very bitter, and my fuse was so short.
You know, something funny happened to me just the other day. I was having a rough day, and at one point I got really frustrated with someone for cutting in front of me on the road - I drive for a living, so it happens all day, every day. I found myself getting really mad at this person. But it raised a flag for me. This wasn’t me. This wasn’t what God wanted from me.
I honestly can't remember the last time I felt like that. It had legitimately been so long since I've even had that feeling arise in me. It was such an amazing thing to be like: “Okay, yes, I'm still broken. I'm still struggling.” The way I used to treat other people was that I’d forgive them outwardly. Inwardly, I would find myself being really judgmental and harsh. But God has taken that away, and in such an amazing way.
Now, more often than not, my natural reaction is to think: “I don’t know where you’re coming from, and I don't know the full situation. Realistically I am a broken, broken, person saved by grace. The least I can do is give you some grace... even if I don't know why I should be giving you grace… even if there's no better reason to give you grace than the fact that Jesus gave grace to me.”
There’s been so many different aspects of my life in which God has changed my heart. I genuinely believe that the person who walked into this church six months ago is not the man standing before you today. I might look somewhat similar, but I am not the same person.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. ~2 Corinthians 5:17