All my life I understood God as the authoritative deity. Like all religions, this concept is widely understood. I sort of understood Him as a loving father, just due to some encounters of his fatherly love throughout my life... But Jesus...
Jesus made zero sense to me.
I was born and raised in a Christian home. My father was involved in several ministries throughout my life, including pastoring his own church for several years. God was the center of all that we did, and I was very fortunate to have such zealous parents. But due to my parents’ upbringing (both were first generation Slavic immigrants from Russia), the way I perceived God was from a very religious perspective. Everything was striving, and performance based. It was always about ‘how much I can do for God out of my own strength’. Condemnation was always around every corner, and repentance meant begging for forgiveness over and over and over.
The year I graduated high school, an unsuspecting new zeal for the Lord was birthed within me. I began reverently pursuing God in every way I knew how, involving myself in every possible ministry. I was a “yes-man” when it came to ministry.
At one point, I was the full-time drummer for our worship team, a full-time youth leader, a full-time prayer minister, and at the same time, a part-time international missionary. I was always partaking in random crazy fasts and often remember staying up late at night praying as much as I could (often just shouting in tongues until I got tired).
Needless to say, I burnt out.
I was 6 months into my marriage when I began habitually abusing substances. I was failing as a financial provider for my family, the burden of ministry was too heavy to carry, and worst of all, I felt as though I had failed before God... all those years of striving just... wasted. Substance abuse (cocaine was often the norm) was my go-to solution to help me perform better so I could at least manage my financial responsibilities. But like most drug-abuse stories this was a paradox, and I only sank deeper into physical and financial hell.
In February of 2018, after being confronted by my wife and family about the very evident substance problem, I agreed to fly to Texas to be admitted into a rehab. The morning of my departure, my 3-months pregnant wife and I rushed to the emergency room due to severe stomach pains she was experiencing. We were then informed that our baby no longer had a heartbeat and that this would be a miscarriage.
The next morning, I woke up at the rehab, conveniently located in the middle of nowhere Texas. Within a week my wife informed the rehab supervisor that she would be mailing divorce papers, and that I would need to sign them and send them back. I was truly, and utterly devastated. This was it, all that I loved had been taken from me. I wanted to die.
I remember running outside and collapsing on the concrete sidewalk, wailing and weeping. Slamming the ground with my fists and begging God to do something, to save me, to save my marriage, to fix all of this, to do SOMETHING... and all I heard was silence, nothing.
After what seemed like an hour, I walked back into the center, crippling fear surging through every square inch of me... and then I remembered something. It was a business card given to me by Craig Groshans who would visit the rehab every Monday to pour into and love on all the people there. I called Craig, and sobbingly explained what was about to happen to my marriage. After quietly listening to everything I had to say Craig asked me one question,
Craig: “Samuel, can you hear the voice of God?”
Me: “No I don’t think so.”
Craig: “Well... you do, it’s just a matter of positioning your heart to hear. Let’s ask Him some questions, just repeat after me.”
Craig: “Jesus, where are you right now?..”
It was with this question that my life was marked forever, because for the first time, in 20 years of my existence, I SAW THE LORD. I SAW JESUS.
There He was, standing in front of me in this vision... and all of a sudden he stretched His arms toward me and just EMBRACED ME. Waterfalls gushed out of my eyes and my stomach was fluttering. My heart melted as I started to cry loudly. And then, with the most loving smile I had ever seen, Jesus looked at me and just said, “Everything is going to be okay.”
This one small encounter was the single most important event in my life. It was the moment I was set free and stepped into grace.
A few days later, I received a long email from my wife saying that she forgave me and that she wanted to fight for our marriage, together, for the rest of our lives.
Three years later, I am still happily married to the love of my life, and we have a perfectly healthy and beautiful two-year-old son named Jonathan.
Craig became one of my closest friends and is in many ways a spiritual father to me. If it wasn’t for Craig and Streams of Arabah, I would not be carrying the same revelation of Jesus and living out my destiny as I am today.