My name is Jim Craig. I was born into a middle class family in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, the third of four children. We went to church every Sunday, where I was an altar boy. I also attended a parochial school. Both my parents worked. In fact, my mom was a teacher at the parochial school. Then, the parochial school closed just before I would have entered high school. Public school for eighth grade was a difficult transition with the task of making all new friends, but I managed to get through. Next came high school, and it felt like eighth grade all over again. I tried out for sports — football, swimming, track — and made some friends through it, although I did not feel like I fit into the jock scene. Occasionally I had the opportunity to drink beer.
During my sophomore year I met a guy in one of my classes named Tim. One day, he encouraged me to go out to lunch with him, and we managed to drink a couple of beers and smoke some pot during the lunch hour. I began to hang out with Tim and his friends and finally found myself with a group of people where I fit in. But it didn’t stop there. What started with beer and pot soon grew into experimenting with acid, cocaine, mushrooms, speed, and barbiturates. You name it, we did it. Every night we would gather together and head out, and by the age of sixteen I was a regular at two taverns. The only thing I would not do was shoot up.
I remember one night when my friends picked me up after work and we headed to a party. The drug of choice that night was something called “angel dust,” and I decided to try it. Not knowing what would be in store, I snorted the angel dust and soon I was on a ride that I had not anticipated. Within the hour I was starting to panic and asked Tim to take me home. At home, I made it past my Dad, who was usually up until 1 or 2 in the morning watching TV and drinking beer. I made my way to the basement where my bedroom was. I remember marching around the basement with a flag saying, “Everybody is messed up, everybody is messed up.” I spent hours hoping I could come down from the trip I was on, and it got to the point where I was convinced I would end up mentally retarded or dead. I recall lying on my bed and seeing two of me. One of me was floating up near the ceiling and could see the other me, my body, lying on the bed. The trip finally ended, and the next day I was grateful to be alive. It was clear that this “angel dust” was straight from the pit of hell.
My life continued on like this — partying on the weekend while maintaining a great job during the week. I married my wife Julie at age 25 and we continued this lifestyle together. Seven years into our marriage, my wife suddenly started on a spiritual mission to find answers to some of life’s questions. Along the way she meet a Christian lady at work and began to attend home Bible studies. One day in our living room while reading her Bible, Julie turned to Jesus to save her. She then started attending Falls Baptist Church. All along I was not sure how I fit into this new journey; I still wanted the old lifestyle.
Julie and I usually went bowling with other couples our age. It was our usual practice to get a pitcher of beer at the end of the night and start boozing it up. However, one night after bowling Julie asked if I would take her home — she had no interest in joining us for a pitcher. Somewhat irritated, I decided to drop her off at home and head back to the tavern until closing time. I headed home very drunk. I soon found myself dozing off, and then it happened. I went off the road and hit a utility pole. Fortunately, no one was hurt but me. However, my new Chevy Blazer was seriously damaged. I waited for the police to come, and they took me to the police station where they confirmed what I already knew — my blood alcohol level was very high. My wife had to come to the police station and bail me out.
The next month was a low time in my life. Having only an occupational license, I couldn’t go out with the guys. Exactly one month after my drunk driving accident, my wife asked me if I would like to come to church with her because she was going to be baptized and join the church. Since I had nothing else to do, I went to church with her. Upon entering the church I noticed several things that were different than my religious upbringing. The song service seemed to go on forever — everybody was singing! In my former church, if you wanted to hear someone sing, you might have to poke them in the ribs. As a visitor I was asked to fill out a card and put a name tag on my shirt. I noticed that everybody had a Bible. There were no altars and no robes. The pastor wore a suit, and when he got up to preach, I heard more truth than I had ever heard before. I was taken aback by the distinct difference between this real and vibrant service and the ritualistic church experience of my youth. I concluded that this must either be very right or very wrong. In any case it left me wondering.
At the end of the service as I headed out of the auditorium, several men approached me and asked me, “Are you sure if you were to die that you would go to heaven?” It turns out that the name tag I was wearing was akin to a blue-light-special-at-Kmart-back-in-the-90s. Nonetheless the question was one that I had not considered. I did not come to church thinking about the theological questions of life, so the only thing to do was to politely answer, “I hope so.” Upon my arriving in the lobby, another gentleman approached me. His name was John. John asked me the same question: “If you were to die, are you sure you would go to heaven?” to which I replied, “I don’t know for sure, but I hope so,” (a very typical answer for people of my religious background). John said that the Bible tells us that a person can know for sure and asked me if he could show me from the Bible how I could know. Being ignorant of the Bible, I answered that I was waiting for my wife to dry off from being baptized. John asked if he could wait with me. In my head I was thinking, “Go ahead and wait with me!”
My wife appeared ten minutes or so later. As she approached John and me, John jumped in front of me and asked Julie if it was okay to show me some verses out of the Bible. He thought my earlier rejection of seeing some verses from the Bible was truly that I was waiting for my wife. Naturally, Julie said it would be okay with her. So John and I headed off to a quiet place to look at the Bible. We sat on the steps that led to the baptistry. John proceeded to show me the Romans Road: four verses from the Bible that teach the gospel clearly. We spent some time there because I had some questions. One thought that seemed to bother me was the fact that if I understood what I was reading, that meant all the people that I loved — my mom, dad, brothers, sister, aunts, uncles, grandmother, grandfather — all believed wrong, and yet this stranger was showing me in black and white the words of eternal life.
There was such conflict within, but the more I thought about it, two choices became clear. I could close the Bible, walk away, and go on with life as I had, or I could act upon these truths and be saved. I chose to place my complete trust in Christ. John led me in a prayer, and we went back to the lobby to meet up with Julie. Julie and I headed for the parking lot arm in arm. Just before reaching the car, I told Julie, “I’m not sure what happened, but something is different!” I remember the feeling of a huge weight off of my shoulders. For the first time I sensed God’s presence and His love.
I began attending church every week. God was working in my heart. Two weeks after getting saved, I took all of the marijuana plants that I was growing and all of the drug paraphernalia and tossed them out. John and I began meeting for discipleship. God was changing me. Within six weeks I was baptized. All things were becoming new. I was a new creation, a child of the King. I soaked up all the Bible truth I could. Within a few years I would be involved in ushering and Sunday School ministry, and God eventually gave us seven children. Currently, my wife and I are involved in the Reformers Unanimous program, helping those bound in addictions to find freedom in Christ.