May 10, 2010
Eric grew up in Alabama, and played football in high school. His dream was to play in college and he was good enough to be recruited by one of the large SEC programs. Then in a Friday night game, the week before he was to sign a letter of intent, his arm was crushed. Eric had to have surgery that ended his football career. He lost focus after that, and his life began to spiral out of control. After graduation from high school at 17, Eric left home. “I was homeless by choice for 18 months,” he told me, “living for myself alone, an alcoholic, carrying a gun, getting into all kinds of trouble. I was wicked and evil.”
One night Eric went to the store where his Mom worked to ask her for money. A young girl who worked there confronted him, told him he was lost, and said, “When you are ready, I will tell you how you could be different.” He cursed her. She said, “That’s fine, you’re not ready now, but here’s my phone number. Call me when you are.” He stuffed it in his wallet and stomped out. Two months later, Eric’s best friend committed suicide by drinking poison. Two months after that, another good friend died instantly when he fell asleep and drove his car into a bridge abutment. Two months later, another good friend of Eric’s was breaking into a liquor store late one night. He had done this many times before, at other stores. This time there was someone inside. The guard woke up when he heard the brick come through the plate glass window. He shouted at Eric’s friend to stop and put his hands up, but the young man reached behind his back. “He had a gun,” Eric said, “and he would have killed the guard.” The guard shot him seven times.
Eric had lost three of his closest friends in six months. “I’m next,” he thought, so he decided to end his life. He wrote a suicide note that said, “Dad, sell my car to pay for the funeral,” put the note on the passenger seat, and began the drive to the high school. “I was planning to shoot myself on the 50-yard line of the football field,” he told me.
There were four stoplights in the little town where he grew up, four stoplights between him and his plan to end his own life. After the third stoplight, he said, “Mark, God got in the car with me. I know I didn’t see him and I didn’t hear an audible voice, but he spoke to me as clearly as I am speaking to you now, and he said, ‘Eric, I want you to live.’” He saw a phone booth on the corner, so Eric pulled the car over, reaching for his wallet at the same time. “I ripped the wallet in two trying to find that girl’s phone number.”
It was 5 a.m., but the girl answered on the first ring. Eric said, “Hey, what’s up?” She said, “This is Eric, isn’t it?” He started to hang up, mumbling, “I’m sorry I called,” but she stopped him: “Don’t hang up. You need to know this. I have been awake since 4, and all I have done for the last hour is pray for you.” They met for breakfast 15 minutes later and she told him the Gospel.
Eric met the Lord Jesus that morning. The Shepherd who had been lovingly drawing Eric to himself brought him into the fold.
He wants you to live.