This summer, I met a fellow named Darrin by a poolside in Wilmington, North Carolina. Darrin had long hair and lots of tattoos so, before I introduced myself, I already knew he’d be a good conversationalist. I wanted to ask him whether it was possible to get sunburned through his tattoos or whether he needed to put suntan lotion on top of them. But it was getting late so we decided to talk about God, Satan, and salvation.
Darrin told me he had gotten saved when he was 13 years old. But things didn’t work out for him after his salvation. He went astray and eventually joined a satanic cult and started getting lots of satanic jewelry to go along with the tattoos. His commitment to Satan lasted far longer than his commitment to Jesus – 24 years to be exact.
Some folks may think that joining a satanic cult and worshipping the devil is about as low as one can fall – especially after one has supposedly made a lifetime commitment to Jesus. But it isn’t. Darrin’s life proves that one can fall much further.
Although he had spent years as a worshipper of Satan waking up with no desire to live, Darrin never really came close to killing himself – that is, until he finally hit rock bottom. In his case, it was a pending felony drug conviction that nearly pushed him over the edge, quite literally.
After he lost his job and his wife and his home, Darrin had nothing left but his commitment to Satan. And so he made a decision to end his life. He was certain that he was going to prison but he refused to let it happen there. He thought to himself “If I’m going to die, I might as well die someplace beautiful.” So he bought a one-way ticket to New Hampshire.
After he arrived, Darrin went for a long walk in the beautiful New Hampshire countryside before stopping in the middle of a bridge overlooking a river. As he looked down over the water he cried out to the one he worshipped. He said that he heard the voice of Satan responding by asking him to just go ahead and do it. Darrin knew that he was headed for death but just needed some time to figure out how he was going to give his life to Satan forever.
But before he acted, Darrin said he heard another voice – one that he now describes as the voice of God. It simply commanded him with two simple words to “Get up.”
And he did.
Darrin got up and walked through the New Hampshire countryside for two or three miles until he saw a little church that was standing on a hill. There was a man standing in the doorway of the church working on a stained glass window when he saw Darrin walking up the path towards him. It was the pastor of the small church. And he asked Darrin if he could help him. Darrin said that indeed he had come needing someone to talk to him.
And he just laid it all out for the preacher to hear. From the devil worship to the drugs he told his story to a pastor who refused to offer any condemnation. After he was finished spilling his guts and crying out for help, the pastor invited him to church that evening.
And he went.
I don’t have to tell you that Darrin made it back from New Hampshire alive. Otherwise, we would not have met this summer by a poolside in North Carolina. But I neglected to tell you that Darrin was soaking wet throughout our conversation because my friend Mike had just dunked him in the pool.
Just before Mike baptized Darrin he read a little statement from our born-again-again friend. The statement said that he never really thought during those lowest points of his life that God could have any love for - much less any use for - someone like him. But I think we all know how he is being used today.
It wasn’t really that long ago that Darrin’s neck and wrists and fingers with covered with satanic jewelry. But today a cross hangs around his neck as he goes walking through the world with a glowing smile upon his face.
I can’t help but wonder how many times conservative Christians like me see a man covered in tattoos wearing a cross and think to ourselves “why is he wearing that cross?” We do ourselves a great disservice when we fail to see God in the eyes of those who do not look or act or dress like we do.
I was glad I got up to go introduce myself so I could hear more from Darrin about his walk with God. Like countless others now hearing his wonderful story, I’m really happy that Darrin got up, too.