BY TOM DUKE, GRACE ATTENDER
I have been told numerous times lately, and with very clear direction from God, that my story needs to be shared in a larger capacity…but in the meantime, here’s a brief snapshot…
I grew up an original member of Grace. Since 1991, my family has regularly attended this church and it’s always been my refuge. Since the folding chair/warehouse days as we like to call them:)
Over the years, I’ve faced many difficult trials and tribulations. Quite a bit more than most my age, I am guessing. I’ve dealt with many family deaths and horrific illnesses, my own personal divorce (followed by a brutal custody battle). I’ve also suffered through alcohol abuse/addiction, arrests, hitting rock bottom time and time and time again until I felt that there was nothing left and there was nowhere else to go. I lost multiple jobs due to the consequences of these decisions and, from there, faced anxiety, literal and figurative demons who seemed to be much more present than humans for longer than I care to remember in my life, devastating rumors, and much more.
Because of my unwavering faith in God, a relationship and faith that grew through this church, I for the first time, can see the top! I’ve taken steps to follow Him and walk this horribly obstructed path piece by piece. I dove headfirst into my deepest fears, understanding that until I dealt with the depths of MY inner issues and struggles (while holding Gods hand for strength, courage, and protection, of course), only then could I begin this journey to leading the life He intended for me to live. Humbling myself to the level necessary to allow Him to work in me.
I am now 151 days and 100% sober! I’ve finally regained the trust of my friends and family, and have a wonderful relationship with my best friend and fiancé. I have a valid drivers license again (at one point thought this was never going to happen). I've also made it successfully through all programs( court-appointed or not, I’ve completed them and actually enjoyed them) and, in turn, have become a leader and speaker inside of them to help folks who were or are just like me. People have begun to understand and dispel with clear confidence the horrible rumors and hatred that were previously shared about me. And I know that is God working through it all.
I never thought I’d be able to say I made it past day 1. God has shown me through this ‘living hell’ a new direction and I believe wholeheartedly that He is leading me, steering me, PUSHING me to share this message for it to be used by Him to help others battling what can seem to be a No-Win fight. To those who have given up hope, to those who are in such a dark hole that they can’t see a way out, who think there IS no way out: I am here to tell you to never give up. Never ever give up. For He will honor even the smallest step of faith. I’ve been there. Nothing surprises Him, for He already knows! Find God and find a church that is willing to love and accept you for you, while also walking alongside you to push you to grow. Find people who won’t let you settle; who won’t judge you, who won’t gossip about you, who trust you and in turn, you can trust as well. Find our loving God who wants to show you what He’s created you for! He wants you to find your purpose... and with the smallest bit of faith and hope in Him, He will show you things you never thought you’d find. Don’t take my word for it; take His. I’d love to share my story in greater detail if and when it would be of the most benefit and I’m always open if anyone would like, or just needs a friends ear. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What can I say? I love you all and Thank You beyond words for all that you’ve done for me. All My Best, Tom Duke