Encountering the love of God is not simply life-changing, but it sustains life in its fullness, as Todd White’s amazing testimony reminds us.
At eleven years old, Todd was placed in a boy’s home after his parents split up. He was told he would go home at the end of the summer, but no one collected him. Five years later he was still there. Angry and bitter, Todd had turned to drugs and alcohol to soothe himself. When he left the boy’s home, Todd joined the Marine Corps. Armed with attitude, he did really well in boot camp. After a time, however, the Marines was not where he wanted to be. Refused leave, Todd left anyway and escaped to Colorado with money stolen in a drug deal. He was arrested and sent to military prison, only to repeat the same journey again on his release. After another jail sentence he was given a bad conduct discharge and left the Marines. He found a job in sales (the first of thirty jobs over nine years) and met a girl who he ended up moving in with. The couple had a daughter, but nine damaged years into their relationship, Todd returned home one day to find his girlfriend and daughter had left. Completely broken, Todd wanted to end his life. Next to the notepad he was going to write a letter on, however, was a phonebook. Flipping it open, he noted that there were 568 churches inside. So, taking a marker, he noted down one church and went there. Todd continues.
I didn’t even know why I was going. This guy, Dan, met me at the door with the biggest smile on his face; “how you doing, buddy?” I was like, “what is wrong with you, man?” But I went inside and poured myself out. He shared the gospel with me; I did not go there to hear about Jesus. But he said, “this is a church. What you’re telling me isn’t helping you.” He didn’t say I needed to invite Jesus into my heart. He said I needed to give Jesus my life.
It would be bad if I let Jesus into my heart and held back my life
So I just thought, “whatever” – that’s my acceptance of Jesus. I said, “God, if you’re real, show me you’re real and I’ll live for you.” I didn’t want my life anyway. I had no idea what I was getting into. I called my girlfriend and asked her to come home. My daughter got on the phone and I told her that I had found God. She asked, “what’s he like, Dad?” and I replied, “I don’t know, but I met someone who did.” So they came home and I put my daughter to bed. I told her I loved her and I cried and held her.
An hour and a half later, I was out buying crack.
We can’t afford to just say we love Jesus. It’s the truth that sets you free
I used to say to my best friend, Bobby, “hey man, Jesus loves you.” Bobby didn’t believe in Jesus, but he believed in me and he stayed by me. Problem. I would be upstairs raging on my girlfriend, raging on my daughter, punching holes through the wall, then I would come downstairs and I’d open the door and tell Bobby that Jesus loved him. I didn’t have any clue who I was. I was trapped. There was no relationship with Jesus.
One night I went out and picked up some kid from New York City who had a bunch of crack on him. I told him I was a cop and that he had to get out of the car and put his hands on the hood. As soon as he had cleared the door, I hit the gas and he unloaded a 9mm from ten feet away. A voice said, “I took those bullets for you. Are you ready to live for me yet?” I went and smoked all the crack as fast as I could and every hit I took, that voice kept coming back, coming back, coming back, wouldn’t go away. I got home and I was freaking out because I couldn’t get high that whole night and that voice was ringing. I got out of my car and looked around. Not one bullet had touched my vehicle and I knew that it was God.
I went to the door but my girlfriend told me to get out of her life. The next day, Dan helped me get into rehab. I called Bobby and told him about God speaking to me. His reply; “Todd, haven’t you shown by now that Jesus isn’t real? You’ve been doing this thing for the last six months. Nothing’s changed. It would be better that you go [into rehab] realising that Jesus isn’t real. Let them help you.”
So I went to rehab but I submitted to God
Three days in, for the first time ever, I didn’t have attitude with authority. Something happened. But then I got a phone call. It was Dan. Dan told me that Bobby had had a brain aneurysm, he was in a coma and the doctors didn’t expect him to live. My best friend. The one who stood by me when no one else would. I could have run out the front door, but I’d already submitted to God. So I ran to the prayer room and the presence of the Holy Spirit hit me on the floor. God rested upon me saying, “you’re not going anywhere.” God took away my anger and from that day, He gave me peace. So I stayed in rehab.
Two months in, I’d just started to read the Bible. I’d say, “God this has to get in here. I don’t know how it’s going to happen but I’m going to stay in it until you show me what it means. This is the only thing that’s going to change my life.”
We can’t afford to just say we love Jesus and never get into the word. And we can’t afford to get into the word without the love of Jesus
We’ve tried to apply principles as theories outside of relationship and nothing happens. We have to be in him because that’s how he created us to be. In him and him in us.
So I’d started to realise who I was. One day, I was sitting on a park bench because I had privileges to go across the street. A homeless guy was pushing a trolley cart up Main Street and I yelled out to him that Jesus loved him. He came over to me and said, “I know how much he loves me, but do you know how much he loves you?” I was like, “tell me!” He sat there and preached about righteousness, the very thing I’d been seeking. I asked him why he was pushing the shopping cart and he told me that twenty years ago, God had told him to pick up his cross and follow him. He had sold everything and had been pushing this shopping cart across America going mission to mission telling anybody who would listen about God. Sold out. Literally. He looked at me and told me something like this; “you have a demon in you, son. I’m going to pray for you and this thing is going to leave you.” He prayed for me but I didn’t feel anything.
That night, I went to bed and had a dream. I’d had these demonic nightmares the whole time I was in there. But in this dream, I heard a voice saying, “do not fear, I will not leave you or forsake you.” I woke up and flipped open my Bible to Psalm 23 – I realised it was God. I had the same dream that night. Next morning, same psalm. On the third night, I heard, “I will never leave you or forsake you. Go home.”
Rehab freaked out but Dan came and picked me up and on the way home he told me every reason why I was going to make it.
The reason was Jesus
I’m so glad Jesus didn’t say, “no one comes to Heaven except through me.” We’ve made it that and bypassed an encounter with the Father. It’s, “no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). If we don’t realise when we are born again that God is our Father, we’ll be headed to Heaven but we’ll live like Hell until we get there. It’s not about just barely making it in. It’s about having confidence now to approach the throne of grace in time of need.
I spend time with Jesus every day
I can’t afford to not have that in my life. We have to be swayed by his love, by his heart, by his beauty. We have to come back to the original plan, which is the desire of Jesus Christ. It’s in relationship that this thing gets cultivated. God asks us to give up something we were never created to be in the first place. He points out things that need to go, because he is the gardener and he prunes and clips and trims and he gets all this stuff out that needs to go and then he expects obedience. If God speaks to you with truth, whatever truth calls you to, grace empowers you to walk it out. Grace is God’s willingness to forgive me. Grace is God’s willingness to empower me. Grace is God’s willingness to come and make his home inside of me, so that I can represent him well.
God loves me. When I look in the mirror, I don’t see yesterday. I see today.
Todd married his girlfriend the weekend after he left rehab. She had given her life to Jesus whilst he’d been away. In addition, having encountered his Father, Todd realised what it meant to be a father to his daughter. Nine years on, Todd has an international ministry sharing the love of God around the world.
Story: Todd White
Todd White spoke at Cloud Festival NZ in 2015. You can check out his full story here and further resources on his website lifestylechristianity.com. Excerpt and image used with permission from Lifestyle Christianity.
1. What would you say if someone said to you, “what’s God like?”
2. Have you read John 14: 6 as, “no one comes to Heaven except through me,” or, “no one comes to the Father except through me?”
3. What do you think about the line, “it would be bad if I let Jesus into my heart and held back my life?”
4. Todd describes his wrestle with the Bible, saying, “I’m going to stay in it (the Bible) until you (God) show me what it means.” Does this resonate with you?
5. What do you think about this line, “whatever truth calls you to, grace empowers you to walk it out?”
Scripture: Unless otherwise specified, Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.