Photo by LaDonna Baxter
As a skinny cross-country runner in high school, I mainly hung out with other skinny, cross-country runners. Runners stick together, train together and fight together, on and off the course. I loved that!
But I wanted more. Although raised as an Adventist and knowing better, I wanted to be in “the cool kid club:” the partiers, the “Free Spirit-ers,” the fashion gurus wearing designer trends, and expensive jewelry. When I went away to college, a change began. I was top of my class in “swag” and even got signed to a modeling agency in Atlanta. My college roommate also was very much into fashion and partying; before I knew it, we were hitting the best party spots off campus. Sad to say, school was no longer my priority.
I eventually dropped out of school but didn’t want to return to Detroit just yet. Freedom tasted too good! But then things started getting too crazy with that lifestyle, and I decided to finally go home.
Soon after, I enlisted in the Marine Corps, where I got even further from Christ. The effects of a non-fulfilling lifestyle began to take a real toll on my mood, outlook on life and, ultimately, my soul. Emptiness grew, and I became suicidal. I remember having a gun to my head, gently pulling on the trigger to see how close I could get to the “break.”
Coming from a family who loves the Lord, I still had a knowledge of spiritual things. I knew there was a God. When friends would speak crazy about our Savior, I would hypocritically correct them, saying, “I know the truth, but don't look at me as an example.” I accepted my fate of an eternal death in the lake of fire. I would say to myself, “It's too hard to be saved; I might as well give up, enjoy the counterfeits of this life, and burn in hell with the rest of the world.”
However, when my grandfather, Pastor P.C. Willis Sr., died, for once, I saw that it is possible to live a great life for Christ. It is possible to be cool and enjoy life how God intends it! I finally cried out to God, but not like I did before. This time was different. I wanted to be free from sin, free from depression, and sorrow. I knew the only way to peace was through Christ Jesus.
My testimony is ongoing. I still struggle and try my best to deny self when worldly temptations and discouragement sneak back around. But, no longer am I that insecure runner trying to impress people; I am more fixated on running the race set before me, to please my ever-loving Creator.
Because he hath set his love upon Me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high because he hath known My name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honor him (Psalms 91:14‒15 KJV).
Jeff Baxter, 22, was baptized in May and has launched Battlefront Ministries to help other youth gear up for the battle against the devil’s deceptions.