Putting God Back in the Center

06/15/2018 .
Joe Brenneman  .  Storyteller

Things don’t always go as planned. When Josh moved from a tiny Midwest town to Southern California several years ago, he was excited for what lie ahead. He was coming out west to pursue an opportunity he thought would change his life forever. A dream job. A dream life.

For a self-proclaimed country boy, moving to Southern California felt like a huge step. Josh had recently completed his enlistment in the army and decided to move back home and begin life as a civilian again. He worked various jobs and volunteered as a fireman in his small town of just over 300 people in northeastern Missouri. He was beginning to show symptoms of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), but he shrugged it off, hoping it would pass. Josh met a woman online whom he became interested in. She said she could get him a job as a fireman in Long Beach, California, so Josh packed his bags and headed west. Josh was married within a year and, soon after, had a daughter, but the job with the fire department never materialized.

Work frustration and recurring PTSD episodes began to fracture their marriage. A short while later, Josh found himself divorced and alone, wondering if his move had been a mistake. His friends and family in Illinois encouraged him to move back, but Josh wanted to stay put. Josh had found a steady job and thought it was best to stay close to his daughter. She had recently been diagnosed with autism, and Josh needed to be there to support her. And even though he and his ex-wife were separated, he committed to working closely with her to provide the best care for their daughter. Together, they focused on her needs and talked every day to make sure she was cared for.

He was finding great success as a maintenance technician and liked to keep busy to distract himself from the PTSD he struggled with. He began dating again and his new girlfriend invited him to church. But Josh was hesitant. He had some bad experiences with church in the past. He had accepted Christ when he was young, but he had drifted away from God for almost 10 years.

Josh had never heard of Saddleback Church or Rick Warren, but he decided to go with his girlfriend to Saddleback Newport Mesa after her continued invitations. From his first visit, Josh felt welcome, loved, and right at home.

A few months later, during a weekend service, Josh decided he would get baptized and recommit his life to Jesus. He was the first one in line after the service. His girlfriend and daughter were there to watch him as he was immersed into the water and brought back up. His daughter shouted out, “I’m proud of you Daddy!” And it hit him,This is what I need to do — not chasing the money and the toys and the career. Just be the dad I’m supposed to be. And be a good role model for my daughter.

Josh was back home with God and in church. And it felt great. As he began building relationships with the people at church, he decided to get more involved. He began serving with the security, setup and teardown, and tech teams. Josh enjoyed being a part of the weekend and helping out.

“The men and women at Saddleback Newport Mesa have done nothing but befriend me and help me get through struggles,” Josh said. “They have helped me find the strength to overcome numerous obstacles that I have gone through these past few years.”

Learn more about getting a fresh start with God at saddleback.com/freshstart.