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Citizen of Darkness
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By John Turnea

John Turnea
Not so long ago I planned a huge, weeklong party at my parents' house. I had everything a good party needs: parents out of town, alcohol, drugs, food, and music. This party would be the biggest, greatest party my house could hold!

My parents left on Monday, and that's when the drinking started. At first it was just me and my buddy, but soon a couple more people showed up. We had some fun times. Then we decided that we needed to light up, which became our daily activity until Wednesday—when a series of events rocked my world and changed my life forever.

Late Wednesday morning I woke up and found my two buddies passed out on the couches downstairs. "The Johnny Walker Song" played on the radio as I went into the kitchen. I made myself some breakfast and some spiked coffee to chase away my mild hangover.

Around noon another friend came over, and the drinking and smoking commenced again. Before long we were gone, out of our minds—drunk and high.

Some more people showed up, and we had no idea who they were. One of my friends seemed to know of them, but I sure didn't. It was getting later in the night, and we realized that these mystery people were just in it for the booze and had already killed two bottles of Jack Daniels. That got me really mad, but I couldn't do anything about it.

Angry about what had happened, the thought crossed my mind that I should give up smoking pot. It had crossed my mind before, but I'd never seriously considered quitting. In the past I'd quit for a while to build up tolerance or to pass a drug test. But now I realized that I had a flaw in my character—addiction.

Before this I'd thought of myself as someone who could take care of others, be their guardian, someone who could protect them. I realized that I wasn't the guardian I'd made myself out to be. My strength—what I needed to fall back on—was weak and flawed. I couldn't defend my own home, myself, and definitely not anyone else.

I made the decision: after this party no more pot would ever pass my lips again. I announced my decision to everyone, and for the most part they accepted it without giving me much flack.

Then one of the guys suggested that we watch a video, Pink Floyd's The Wall. He said, "This will give you a mind trip like you wouldn't believe," as he passed me a blunt. I lit up as the movie began.

Most of us were watching this movie for the first time. We had no idea what strong messages and moral issues were locked away inside The Wall.

All the guys quickly lost interest in the movie and opted to go to Wawa to get some food. Before I knew it, I was alone in the house. The thought-provoking movie made me think about myself and issues that I never wanted to face.

I began to visualize myself outside my own world, almost like an outsider looking into someone else's life. "Did you see the fallen ones?" echoed louder than everything I tried to say as I looked at my friends and loved ones lying helpless before me in some horrible nightmare.

I came back to reality and searched for the remote in order to turn off this terrible movie—I couldn't take it anymore. I looked everywhere for the remote. Soon I became frustrated and destructive. I started an argument with myself about the remote—where it could have gone, and why I lost it in the first place. Truthfully, I was too high and too drunk to remember what I'd done with it days ago.

While desperately searching for the remote, a question popped into my head, Why are you spending all of this energy and time searching for something so trivial as the remote when you could be searching for God? Another question quickly followed, How could you be defiling your body in such ways? Those questions sent chills down to my core.

My argument with myself ended with a resounding final point: I'd wasted my time and polluted my body.

I resumed my search for the remote while all these questions were going through my head. In the midst of my search, deep within the stuffing of the couch cushion, my hand felt something that I didn't recognize. I knew right away that it wasn't the remote. But what could be so far back inside the stuffing of the sofa pillow?

To my surprise I pulled out a hat, but not just any ordinary hat. It had one word written across the front: Jesus. This blew me away! In all my searching I found something that I least expected. I found Jesus in my couch!

"I found Jesus!" I cried out, but to no avail since no one was home but me. Assuming this find was all a hallucination and too good to be true, I tossed the cap aside and fell asleep on the couch.

Some time later the guys returned with great news. "John, you're never going to believe it, man! We got the last cheddar cheese pretzel!"

They made it sound so important.

"The last one! Someone almost got it, but we were like, 'No, we're taking that last cheddar cheese pretzel.' And we got it!"

I sat in awe of what was going on. The guys were so happy over what seemed to me so trivial. I wanted to scream about the amazingly great thing that had just happened to me—I'd found Jesus! But I knew that they would just look at me in disbelief. So I let them have their moment. I needed time to think.

Party over

The night was already morning when the bowl we were passing around came to me. "No thanks, I'm done," I said. Then I headed to bed.

When I woke up, only one of the guys had left. The others were still taking up space where I'd left them. I sat back down in my spot on the couch and slowly glanced around the room. I reached down to where I thought I threw the remote—I knew I'd thrown something there the night before.

Instead, I picked up the hat. Instantly I remembered everything. I'd found Jesus in my couch!

Feeling dirty, I decided to take a shower. Unfortunately, showering had no effect on my state of mind—I was hoping to find some kind of peace.

After I got out of the shower I told my friends to leave, and they honored my request. I had to get out of the house, too. I couldn't stand being around everything. I drove off with nowhere to go. It was me and the radio—Star 99.1.

As I listened, a song came on that I'd never heard before. "Come running home to you," I heard as I stopped at a traffic light. "The Johnny Walker song!" I exclaimed. The lyrics were still fresh in my memory: "Dear Johnny / Please, baby / Please come home!"

The lyrics were so relevant that they struck a cord in my heart and moved me. I began to pray, "Dear Father, do You really want me? Are You trying to save me? It seems that You're speaking to me. I will come, I will come home. In Jesus' name, amen."

I called all the necessary people and told them that the party was off. I got rid of all the drugs and booze, and I've been clean ever since.

On Tuesday, September 13, 2005, I decided I needed to make this story known so everyone could see how great and wonderful the Lord works. Just like how I stopped doing drugs in the middle of a party that was supposed to last four more days, God called me to share this story before I planned to.

On Sabbath, September 17, 2005, at the Robbinsville Community Seventh-day Adventist Church, trembling, I rose up to the microphone and told the story that you've just read. As I spoke, my eyes filled with tears
tears of joy.

Afterward I left the sanctuary and found a large empty room. In this room was an altar with a picture of Jesus hanging behind it. Letting go everything that was on my heart and mind, I prayed words of praise and thanksgiving. Passionately I prayed to finally be changed and to become armed with the armor of God and the strength that is of the Lord.

I walked back into the sanctuary in time to hear Pastor Art Randall ask, "If there is anything in your heart, let it be prayed for."

I couldn't help myself. I just blurted out, "Art, I want to be baptized!"

At that moment I looked up to see a tear roll down his face. He took me back to his office after the prayer and talked with me. One of the fellow church brothers, also in the office, said, "You've ended your life today. Now God will take you to places that you've never even dreamed of!"

With my eyes full of tears, we prayed together. That's what started the transformation in me from a Citizen of Darkness to a Soldier of Light.
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John Turnea is an oceanography major at Brookdale Community in Lincroft, New Jersey. John's goal is to become a marine scientist. When he's not studying, he enjoys stream monitoring (measuring the depth, water volume, and chemicals in streams); taking care of his two freshwater acquariums; playing drums; and reading. He's also a member of Water Watch, an organization that focuses on water stewardship. 

This story first appeared in the January 6, 2007 Insight magazine and is reprinted with permission. All rights reserved © 2013 StoryHarvest.org. Click here for content usage information.