The Choice was Life or Death – He Chose Life
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“I watched a lot of domestic violence in the home, seeing a woman get, you know, beat, was normal to me,” says David Peden.
David Peden grew up surrounded by chaos. His divorced parents had their own struggles and were unable to care for him and his four brothers, leaving them to fend for themselves in Nashville, TN.
“Watching my dad, you know, fall into alcoholism and then my mom fleeing from an abusive relationship, really left me in a place of just being angry,” says David. “You know, why doesn’t he have the courage to overcome alcohol? How come he keeps choosing the bottle over us? Why does she keep choosing men and those men being men that aren’t good to her? And, you know, the result of her choices and his choices have left us in this broken and abandoned state. Really, I was angry at the hand I was dealt in life,” says David. “And that kind of just fueled everything I did from then on. I went to the streets looking for love and belonging that I felt I should have had in my home. I was openly embraced, you know, by people who said they would die for me,” says David.
At 13, David joined a gang and found his new family on the streets. One night a fight with a rival gang turned deadly when one of his friends was shot and died in his arms. “That night changed me forever, because then we went from, you know, just fighting to now we’re fighting with guns,” says David. “I just went on a mission to say, ‘you know what, like people who killed him, I’m going to do everything I can to try to kill them.’ And that really led me down a path of of of drugs and alcohol like never before.”
David fueled his hate and anger with hard core drug use, taking him further into darkness. “Heroin brought me to a place where I’d do anything to have it. I started robbing. I started kicking in doors. I started, you know, just anything, stealing from, you know friends,” says David. “There were no limits to what I would do, really.”
“By this time in my life, I was 23 years old, already had one daughter, had another daughter on the way. And yet I have them living in the same life that I resented my parents for,” says David. “You know, I felt like a deadbeat, a failure. I didn’t feel like a man at all. You know, I felt like a boy who couldn’t stop living as a boy.”
Held captive by his addiction, David faced a critical decision in a motel with his pregnant girlfriend and child. “I know I got enough money for the room the next day or I got enough money to call the drug dealer and get some drugs,” says David. “I picked up the phone and I called a drug dealer and was in tears the whole time that I called the drug dealer. I realized just how weak I was. I knew the right decision, but I couldn’t make it,” says David. “I knew I loved them, but I was painfully aware that I love the drugs more. And so I broke down and hit my knees and started crying out to God in desperation. ‘God if you’re real, I need you to come down here and change me.'”
“I felt like years, like decades of pain were like, just came off of me. Like I gave all that pain, all of that sorrow, all of that abandonment to like God and was like, this is all I have,” says David. “Like, I can’t do anything with this. But if you can, if you’re really real, like I’m willing to, to let you take control of my life. There was an overwhelming peace that, you know, came into the room where God just kind of assured me, like, ‘I’m here with you.’ Like, my hand is on your life,” says David.
God quickly answered his prayer with an arrest for his previous crimes. Removed from the drugs, David started pursuing a new life in jail. “I just, I just opened up the Bible and was like, ‘God, show me who you are,’” says David. “I started praying and I started reading the word. I started writing. I started, you know, just meditating on scriptures that I would read. And the word began to come alive to me,” says David. “Everything about me, started changing. I didn’t want the things that I would normally want, worldly things I would like crave, but Godly character.”
While in jail, God began using David in powerful ways. “I started Bible studies in jail. Just started lifting prayers up with a bunch of inmates. And we were watching answered prayer,” says David. “Some people were going home that we prayed to go home. People were healed at home. Being able to share and communicate the Word, like that was I realized, ‘Wow, God is like gifted me for this,’” says David.
After serving 13 months of his sentence, David was already a free man when he walked out of jail. “I got out and immediately got plugged into a local church and started serving. Started connecting myself with the local body of Christ, but at the same time saying to God, like, ‘However you want to use my life, like I’m here,’” says David.
“More and more people started asking me if I wanted to share my testimony or come and preach or teach or do a Bible study,” says David. “And so, slowly my ministry started like growing and God started developing me more in public ministry.”
Today God has blessed David with a family. The ministry he started in jail he now enjoys as a pastor of a local church.
“I think about when I joined a gang. You know, I'm looking for belonging. I’m looking for a place that that I was accepted,” says David. “But in our reality, it was all false love, but in belonging to Christ and belonging with his family, I truly have found, you know, brothers, sisters, spiritual mothers, spiritual fathers that will walk through fire with me.”
“When life gets hard, now I know where to run,” says David. “And, I have real weapons that help me fight. They actually move me forward in life instead of weapons that I used to really just destroy myself. He’s my everything—my deliverer, my healer, my hope, my safety, my refuge, my stability, my strength. Like he’s my everything,” says David.
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