Dear friends, I am so proud to introduce this story to you today. Meet Blake. I have known this guy for over 15 years. Growing up with him, I've witnessed some of the very tales on this page; the talented life of a guy going nowhere fast. But then hope entered in, pushing through the barbed wire fence and the jail cell walls, anxiously awaiting to redeem the brokenness of this stony-hearted, convicted felon. Blake's story carries with it a power to awaken even the crustiest of souls. May it serve as a reminder, that no one is too far gone or beyond the Father's reach.
241909. Those numbers once marred my identity and summed up a life of hard living and heartache…a life where I broke the hearts of those around me and used everything and everyone to my own advantage. But who knew that prison—the place where I’d pay for my crimes—would become the very place where I’d become truly free.
December 3, 2013. That’s the day I was released from prison, but the truth is I was in jail much longer than my five years served or fifteen years sentenced. My jail time started when I was thirteen. Influenced by my peers, I tasted my first drug. My curiosity felt like harmless teenage behavior; however, I developed an appetite for more and it quickly became my weekend ritual. The parties. The drugs. The girls. This became my new normal, unable to comprehend the significance that these decisions would have on my life for the next 10 to 15 years. Voted Best Personality, Mr. Central High, and possessing an athletic ability that Major Leagues desired, I had the world fooled, and the praises of everyone around me.
I’d soon graduate with plans to attend college on a baseball scholarship. I’d leave home behind, but not my behavior. My drug and alcohol abuse progressed…marijuana, ecstasy, cocaine, and alcohol consumed me. I was able to produce in school and on the field, hung over with no significant impact on either one, so I didn't feel the need to change my lifestyle. I look back on it now and I can see...I can see the years...the months…literally the exact time where I can say that’s when it happened.
It was my freshman year, and I took a turn for the worst. I started doing cocaine at a rate that was destroying me, in combination with never having to take responsibility for my actions because of my privileged life and athletic status. I was given everything, and it crippled me. I didn’t know how to get help, so I didn’t. My addiction was a problem, but it was my secret and that’s how I wanted to keep it. I had an image to maintain, I told myself. That year, I wound up getting kicked out of school for using and selling pot to my teammates. I was dismissed on Tuesday and signed to another university by Thursday. Once again, my actions had no lasting consequences, and as I reflect back I can see the deficit...I can see where my life could have changed right there. But, I continued on to another college and played ball there for a few months, until I got arrested for possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute. Again, I got kicked out, this time with 3 years of supervised probation.
It was at this point that I decided to hit the streets. I burned bridges with my family and blamed them for turning their backs on me, but that really was not the case…I turned my back on them. In my reckless, ignorant thinking, I closed the door on the very people I needed the most, and my drug addiction took center stage as I spiraled out of control. Every day was spent hanging out with people like me--addicts. It is such a crazy process--you turn around one day and you’re living a life that you would have never thought, drowning in the shame of it all. You are bound by your addiction, and you choose to exist in this broken mindset, feeling like life can't change and probably never will. And so that's where I stayed, hopeless for any real change: running the streets, selling drugs, sleeping with countless women, partying, consuming cocaine and meth and alcohol.
I eventually violated my probation and was sent to prison for the first time for 15 months. I remember when I got to prison it dawned on me, So this is it huh? This is prison? I can take a mans life and this is this the worst they can do to me? And while that might sound coldhearted, that was my mindset. Prison became my breeding ground for new connections into the drug world. We fed off each other, prison contaminating my soul more than it was...me contaminating prison the longer I was there. For the inmates, it was a cesspool of oppression and anger from the decisions that we had made to get us there. As a prisoner living with other prisoners, you thrive off each other and the resentment you have for the world. Our fuel was pity and bitterness. They drove us to deeper anger, deeper hatred, feeling like we failed society or society failed us…forgetting the free world, because the free world forgot us. And it's crap really… it's not even reality. I was in prison because of my choices.
So, I do the 15 months and get out. My family is there with open arms, and for about 8 months everything settled, but I eventually burned those bridges again and headed right back into doing what I had always done. I turned my back on my father and continued to hurt my mother. I caused her such pain that I believe, in part, it drove her to meet Jesus. Here I am, running the streets...again. Using and selling...again. To top it off, I get arrested...AGAIN. This time I was charged with trafficking methamphetamines, but my sentence was 15 years in the state penitentiary. I was 25 years old, and I knew this time I had some years ahead of me. You'd think that would've opened my eyes...but no. So, I dove deeper into the prison lifestyle: gangs, drugs, prison contraband, cell phones, fighting with inmates and guards…anything illegal in prison, I was there.
But then something happened. Four years into my 15 year sentence, I got transferred from one prison to another for disciplinary actions. I'm at a new prison, starting fresh, and for the first time in my life since I was 14 years old, I got sober! I don't know what caused me to do it…there is no explanation. It only makes sense in Jesus that I had the strength to overcome my addiction, but I remember thinking how badly I desired it. It had been six months, and although I was sober, I was still participating in gangs and other prison activities. Soon after, somewhere around late October or early November of 2012 after being in since 2008, for the first time in my life God spoke to my heart, and I RECOGNIZED IT. I witnessed His hand move for the first time in my life. Something was birthed in me that day. He whispered, This is it..this moment in time, right here right now, I am about to do something in you that will change your life forever. I'm going to let you have the knowledge of my salvation, what it means and I am going to show you My Son. I am going to confirm the testimony of My Son Jesus Christ in you and it is going to completely shatter you. And that's exactly what He did.
From that moment until now, Jesus Christ wrecks my every thought. I met Jesus! In a prison of all places and by NO means looking for Him, I met the Son of God. I was heading down my road to Damascus just like Paul, and I meet Jesus. I immediately started seeking and searching the scriptures, and I had a hunger for His Word that could not be quenched...a hunger that I'd never known before. The Bible never made sense until that point. I found something--or someone--in my life for the first time, since my childhood, that was good and perfect and it was Jesus. And I held onto Him. He began to open my eyes and let me see sin in the world for the first time…in myself and in others. I was once always a part of it, ignorant to it, and suddenly I saw it for the first time...and it disgusted me. At times I couldn't even engage in conversations with people or listen to certain music or watch tv...sometimes I still can't. He literally destroyed my way of thinking and the way I viewed life. He began to purify me and caused me to seek Him and His ways, instead of the world's ways. I had no control. It was like a child being led by the hand, and all I wanted was for Him to keep doing what He was doing. I remember praying, not knowing how to pray, begging Him not to stop. I didn't want to be like I used to be anymore; I wanted to be like Him. The Holy Spirit continued to breathe on the Scriptures, and God continued to ignite the flame that He had lit inside of me.
From that moment on, I surrendered to my Father, and my life was forever changed. He made good on His promise and still does everyday. I was saved and baptized in prison, and for 13 months I served Jesus and shared His gospel with my brothers inside those four walls. My life was changed by Jesus, and through this, I understand the gift that was freely given to me, so I in turn, freely give it to others. You see, I was delivered from a deep place, so my worship and my pursuit of Him is deep. I was released from prison after serving five years and 39 days on December 3rd of 2013. I was immediately led by Jesus to a ministry called theFort church located in Fort Mitchell, AL where I used to manufacture meth, and that is where I continue to serve the Body of Christ. I am currently a pastoral assistant, with dreams of sharing the Gospel all across the world. You know, I gave my life to Jesus because He bought me with His life. He saved me. It was my ignorance of the gospel that kept me bound for so long...so now I live to tell others, and the rest is history.