Social Science tells us that we are products of our environment and that often seems true. Most criminals come from fatherless homes, and poverty seems to breed joblessness and illegal activity. But if this is true, why would a young person brought up in a middle class home with a two supportive parents, a close extended family, the benefits of a good education, and involvement in extracurricular activities choose to turn to a life of dependence on drugs? Why would he or she choose to reject the values taught by loving parents? It is easy to blame the parents-“they were too permissive or too strict, they gave too much or not enough, they were too involved or not involved enough“ -but sometimes even the best parenting doesn’t guarantee children will follow in their parent’s footsteps.
There are no pat answers. If you are the parent of a prodigal you go through much anguish and self-doubt. You question God and His promises. You cling to the promise, “train up a child in the way and when he is old he will not depart from it” yet you know it is not a magic formula. As a wise friend once said, “everyone has free will. And regardless of what they have been taught, they make their own choices.”
There are many stories of prodigals such as St. Augustine and Franklin Graham, who after years of running came to the end of themselves, were gripped by the heart of Jesus, turned to Him and were transformed.
I would like to share one such miracle with you. This is the story of my nephew, David Cashon, who as a teen began the slow spiral from alcohol to drugs. A high school student with good grades who was chosen to attend Governor’s Honors School in the area of musical performance, found himself at the age of 18 leaving home. Without a car or job, he stayed with various people, bouncing from place to place. After some very difficult years, Jesus met David in a very dramatic way and called him to the ministry. David is now a graduate of Rhema Bible School and ministers on a daily basis. His life is an amazing miracle.
I interviewed David to learn what I could of the choices he made and how Jesus met him in the midst of his deepest sin.
David seemed to have an ideal childhood. He was the first grandchild on both sides of the family, and was an only child until his sister arrived 5 years later. I asked him about the closeness of his family, and why a teen that had good grades and excelled in music and had family and friends to support him would turn to alcohol and drugs.
My childhood was wonderful! It was a great time of growing and learning and being loved. Being the first grandchild in the family was very nice. I think being the first grandchild becomes kind of reference point for the family members to experience, so you get to live freely. There are no preconceived notions to live up to.
I think you can have all the outside things in life seemingly correct and still have a problem on the inside. I had what society says is good for a person to have in life- a great family,/friend network, decent grades, a degree of popularity in school, and aspirations. Still none of those things could fill the place on the inside that was crying out (unbeknownst to me) for something more. I think our western society neglects the spiritual aspect of man, and tries to treat the things with natural means which can never touch the part of man who is hurting. For me, drugs and alcohol were a means by which I was searching for something to fill that empty place on the inside. For some people it’s money or fame or family. Others may use their children, food, or sports team, but we all are attempting to fix or quiet the fact that man was born with a spirit inherited by Adam, a sin nature. The only cure is Jesus Christ and our spirit being born again with His new nature.
I asked David when he became a Christian, born again.
I have wondered that myself! I remember praying when I was younger for salvation, but I don’t know if I really understood it or if I was just frightened into it by a minister talking about hell. I do know the day I received Jesus and became a new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5”17) It was September 13, 2009. I gave up! I knew I needed something different. I had tried various means of filling that spiritual void on the inside for quite some time and came to a point where I knew I had to make a change. Someone has said,” If you want something you’ve never had, you’ve got to do something you’ve never done.” I kinda felt that way. I had tried everything else and was finally willing to do whatever it took to have something different. The Lord saved me and baptized me in the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2).
I asked David to describe his journey into addiction and when he hit rock bottom and realized things had to change in his life. I wanted to know his struggles and how tough life became. How did Jesus meet him at the point of his deepest need?
The moment I hit rock bottom for the last time was when I was living in Atlanta with a friend of mine and felt just miserable. Nothing I had used to fill that void was working anymore and I was starting to push away all the positive influences in my life. I came to a crossroads and knew I had to make a decision to either continue living the way I was and completely turn my back on anything good in my life, or receive Jesus ( which I didn’t like the thought of at all). …God had someone in my life that cared enough about me even after I had treated her terribly, to love me and tell me that Jesus could set me free. So one day I asked her family to pray for me and when they did Jesus set me free from drugs and alcohol instantly, saved me, and filled me with the Holy Spirit.
I asked David how his family helped him through his recovery and what advice he had for parents of teens and young adults who experiment with alcohol and drugs.
My family loved me unconditionally. Regardless of my decisions they continued to show me the love of God even if it meant saying “we don’t approve of what you’re doing, if you want to live like that, we love you but you can’t do it here.” I believe the Bible teaches that God is that way. He allows us to make our own decisions and has given us free will and will love us unconditionally even if He doesn’t approve of what we are doing. He is always watching for us to run back home (Luke 15). I would encourage parents to raise their children with strong Biblical guidance and strong Biblical love. It saved my life that my parents stopped enabling me and we started having hard uncomfortable conversations. God is never going to skirt around an issue. He’s direct because He has our best interest at heart.
“As for you, you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience among whom we all once lived in the passions of your flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses made us alive together with Christ-by grace we are saved.”
I asked David to comment on this scripture.
I like this scripture a lot. It always ministers to me in that he says even when we were dead in our trespasses He made us alive together with Christ. He didn’t clean me up from drugs and alcohol and the wrong things I was doing first. He put me dirty into cleanliness, and it’s the cleanliness of Christ that is my redemption. It is His righteousness that is my righteousness. God knew I’d never be able to clean myself up enough so He created me in the clean one! I’m very grateful for that. People just need to come to Jesus!
What Bible verses are especially meaningful to you?
The verse in Ephesians 2 that was mentioned earlier is definitely one. Galatians 2:20 is another. I love the book of 1 John and love reading Paul’s epistles. The “mystery of Christ” is the crux of the entire Bible, I believe. God had a plan from the beginning and no one really understood it until it was revealed to Paul. The prophets only saw parts and realized it was to us they were ministering (2 Peter 1:10-2) and Paul was the first person to really see what took place in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, and what that made available to us in Jesus.
Are there times you struggle with the temptation to return to your old self. What do you do to overcome this?
I don’t really struggle with the desires I used to have. We each have our own things that tempt us(James 1:4) but I have found I have found even more than what I was searching for in the world, Nothing can compare to what Jesus has done and who He is living inside of me. My satisfaction is in who He is and what He has done.
What plans do you have for your future?
I just want to walk with God. I believe there is a place made available to us in Christ where we can fellowship with God and walk with Him just as Jesus walked, me in Him and He in me. My goal is to abide in that place like 1 John speaks of. (One of the reasons I enjoy that epistle so much!) I really don’t have any plans in myself. I want to do His will and whatever He needs done. I know He has called me to tell people what He’s done and what’s been made available to them in Christ, but my focus is just going to be on knowing Him more! I believe I’ll marry and have a family one day, and I desire to raise children that will serve God and serve their fellow-man in the love of Christ.
How has Jesus transformed your life and healed you?
He’s changed just about everything! I was lost, now I’m found, blind, but now I see!
Since I interviewed David he has become engaged to his best friend Olivia Renegar, who stood by him in all his struggles.