My name is John Ramos let me tell you my story…
The truth is sometimes you really never know where to begin. I grew up like I think a lot of people do, with a belief in God. My Grandparents were Christian, my parents were Christians but what does that really mean? As I was growing up it just meant that you believed God was real and that Jesus loves me. That was it. My parents married young and I was born less than a year after they were married. My parents tried their best to raise me the best way they knew how but the truth is that some things could have been done better. What I am about to say about my parents and my journey is no way intended to harm them because I love them very much and I do not resent them in any way it is just my attempt to share with you a little of my background so you can better understand the spiral my life took. It was the things that I have personally done that I will have to account for alone. My parents married young and truly did the best they could.
I grew up knowing that my father loved me but as a child I could never understand how he wasn’t able to get over some of his struggles when I was younger. Needless to say I grew up with a lot of resentment, hatred, and bitterness towards my father. I can remember as a kid feeling so cheated out of life. As I grew up and attended junior and high school I found myself to be insecure and driven by success and strong desire to be everything my father was not.
My parents would later divorce and I began to start growing up really fast. I can remember having this false burden as a kid to take care of my mother and sister as if I was actually capable of doing this. I grew up with a lot of insecurities and rejection and at the end of the day I just wanted to feel normal. I wanted to feel loved, I just wanted to feel accepted. I can remember when my parents divorced my mother struggled for some time to provide for us. I can remember not having the toys that other children had or not having new clothes. As a child I felt like I needed those things. On top of that when my parents finally divorced I attended a school in upstate NY where my classmates treated me different because of the color of my skin. The more I think about those times I really didn’t like myself at those times. I can remember having neighbor friend who was not allowed to play with me because I was Hispanic. With everything seeming to go wrong for me I can remember really just being miserable and hating my life. As I got older my mother would later re marry a great man. I was relieved in so many ways but mainly I felt a big burden was lifted off my shoulders.
As I entered my teenage years I tried to find my identity and feel valued, liked and loved. I really only cared about a few things, sports, working out, girls, and making money. My parents, my mom and step father who I consider a father to me, and my family moved to Fl.
I would later graduate high school and enter college. One of the reasons I went to college is because someone told me that College was a huge party and on top of that your parents paid for it. You can imagine how I reacted to that. I am down sign me up. I wound up attending college in search of finding myself and success but along my journey I would find more. I became more and more narcissistic as I entered college. I became totally obsessed with me. I began to do anything to fill a huge void in my heart. I joined a fraternity thinking that was the answer and during that time of my life I partied really hard and began to have a sex with a lot of women. I can remember partying and visiting college campuses up and down the state of Fl., Al. and Tennessee. At that time in my life I am now sad to say that women were trophies and a way to keep score. At one point my grades began to suffer because I was managing a very active social life with the women I would date. It really saddens me to think that was me but I bare my soul not because I am proud of my past but so that others see that there is hope. On the surface I had a life that many of my college friends admired. You see I was now living the life that pop culture so glorifies when I was a teenager. I was the college guy now going buck wild and having as much sex as I pleased. The truth is that even during that time in my life God was trying to reach out to me. In fact it was during this time when I was sexually active that I clearly heard God speak to me about what I was doing. God was speaking directly to my heart not an a harsh condemning way but in a way that was clear that what I was doing wrong and that he loved me and wanted me to give him my whole heart and to leave a life of sin. God was reaching out to me big time.
At this point in my life I never had enough money, sex, success, fun I always wanted more out of life. You see I thought wow I finally made it college, money, women, a bright future shouldn’t this be the life. What I found was that no it wasn’t when the party was over when my guest would leave I was always alone. I was even alone in the midst of crowd and with friends because I was just so empty. No-thing never satisfied.
I can remember at this time of my life my mom trying to reach out to me and tell me about Jesus. At this time of my life I didn’t even believe Jesus was real. My mom would call me at college all the time and try to talk to me about Jesus and it would infuriate me. It got so bad that when she would call I would have to stop her at hello and tell her that if she mentioned the name of Jesus once I would hang up on her. Things were real bad for me and most people around me never had a clue. I became so depressed at times I didn’t even want to get out of bed. I would hate to wake up and see the sun. I would have to tell myself about fifty times in the morning “today is going to be the greatest day of my life” just to be able to walk out the door.
So one day I was visiting my parents’ home and just hanging out for the weekend when I began to think to myself there has to be more. It was like for a split second my whole life flashed before me and I started to question it all. I remember talking to God and saying there has to be more. There just has to be more to life. I wondered what was the point to life after all. I wondered will I ever graduate? Will I ever have a great career? Will I ever get married and have kids. Sure I would get job make some money and live for a couple of weeks of vacation a year. Sure I saw myself getting married and then after the newness rubbed off wonder if we could really make it with nearly 50% of all marriages ending in divorce. Okay sure we will have some kids I am sure that would bring some happiness but after they grew up I wondered what kind of crazy conditioned would the world be in. It was then my journey for God, Jesus, began. I can remember just talking to God and saying there’s got to be more to life than just working a job, paying bills, going on vacations and living a rat race. I said if you are really real, if the bible is true and you have a great life for me then I want it.
At that time I had no idea how powerful that little prayer was and that God would take my invitation to prove himself to me so seriously. Within a few months I can remember walking across my college campus and really searching for more I began to talk to God (pray) and asking himself to reveal himself to me. I was desperate I tried everything else and nothing seemed to satisfy. At the end of the day I knew I didn’t come from a monkey and figured If God was real I sure needed to know. If the Bible is true and it is I at least needed to read it. If there is a heaven and hell I needed to know. Considering that up until this moment in my life I spent more time deciding what I was going to select off a menu than where I would spend eternity. Well I often tell people, be careful of what you ask God because He might just do it and in my case He has done it indeed.
I remembered one night a friend of mine invited me to a church service little did I know that one night would change the trajectory of my life forever. Everything about that night was awesome. I began to notice people singing in such intimate way to God. Not some sterile pious way but I remember thinking wow whatever they have I want it. I thought to myself why is it my so called love for God doesn’t cause me to respond to God this way in fact it was just stale if you will. Well the preacher spoke a message that went straight to my heart and that night I made a commitment to accept Jesus to be my savior, I confessed all my sins and asked God to forgive me. I felt such an incredible burden come off my back. I remember going to shake the preacher’s hand just to say thank you. All he said was More Lord! I fell to the ground and began to shake like a fish out of water and then I began to cry uncontrollably. You have to understand that this time in my life I was entirely too cool to make a scene much less be on the floor weeping tears of joy and being enveloped by the presence of God. It was the most beautiful feeling I have ever felt in my life. It was the presence of God. As I laid there I heard God speak to me for the very first time; He said “son am I real? You just don’t even know.” I eventually went home to my apartment and called my mom and said you will never believe what happened to me tonight. I told her I gave my life to Jesus.
Well my life began to change drastically not because I was forced to but because I was motivated by Jesus’ love and forgiveness to change my life and stop living for myself and to begin to live for him and for others. I would like to say that everything changed all at once but the truth is that I changed over time and I am still changing today.
It has been nearly 16 years since I gave my life to Jesus and it is amazing to see what God can do with someone’s life when they really surrender it to Him. I went from trying to do everything to make myself happy, to truly experiencing something more than happiness. I now experience true joy. Happiness is something that just happens but true joy comes from God. I am so grateful to Jesus for His forgiveness and saving my life. My whole outlook on life and God has changed. God went from being “the man upstairs” to a real person that I talk to pray to everyday. Reading the Bible went from reading a dictionary to reading a living book that spoke straight to my heart. Ever since I gave my life to Jesus I have been so caught up in His love that I can’t stop sharing of His great love and forgiveness. To my surprise, God called me into the ministry. I never knew that God could use a person with my pass. Boy was I wrong. He took my mess and made it my message. I am just a “nobody” who tells anybody about a great Somebody, JESUS, and how He has changed my life.
At the time of this writing I have been happily married for more than 12 years to a wonderful woman a true gift from God and we have 4 beautiful children and I pastor a wonderful church. My relationship with my parents has long been restored and now being a parent myself I have found it has become extremely easier to have mercy on them and to look back upon my life with a greater perspective. I am truly living out what I always desired a life of true purpose and significance all before a holy and loving God.
Maybe you can relate to my story maybe you can’t but are you are tired of living a life away from God. I ask you this because in one part of my journey I was a Chaplain intern at LSU Medical Center in Shreveport LA. I had a unique opportunity to pray for people in many life and death situations and have been on the side of many death beds. I have found what people say when they are in a crowd about God is very different from what they say when death is knocking on their door. People have only two regrets when they are about to die. 1) I wish I would have done more for my family because I am getting ready to leave them and 2) I wish I knew God because I am getting ready to meet Him. I encourage to avoid tomorrow’s regrets today and seek the Lord while He may be found. I encourage you to turn away from the sin of this world and give your heart to Jesus. He loves you and has a great plan for your life. Failure is not final in God. He is the only one who can redeem your life. Don’t wait. No one is promised tomorrow. All you have is today. If God is speaking to you through my life story, then don’t put Him off or cover your ears to his loving call to come to Him. There is nothing that you could have done or do that would disqualify you from knowing Jesus and his overwhelming love and forgiveness.
If you’d like to invite the Lord Jesus Christ into your life as I did read more.
Image courtesy of gerasimov_foto_174/shutterstock.com
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