“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
“Dirty. Unworthy. Hopeless. That’s how I felt for a long time,” said Anthony Polenski. “If you had told me there was a God, I would have said you were crazy. Or if there was a God, how in the world could He love me? I was the prodigal son. I was the guy passed out on a park bench still wearing the clothes from a party the night before. I never thought that ‘good’ could ever be much fun, and I really liked to have fun.
“I started using drugs and alcohol at 14. As an athlete, I tried to keep it somewhat under control. But when I blew out my shoulder and lost my focus on basketball, I started smoking pot more heavily and abusing prescription drugs.
“My addiction worsened as I entered the working world. I had a good job and spent a lot of time taking clients out, partying and staying out late. I bought a really expensive car and made a lot of unwise decisions. I lost my job after I got my first DUI. That really pulled the rug out from under me. After I landed a new job, I got a second DUI and my probation was revoked. I had been exposed and was full of guilt and shame. I thought that was the lowest point in my life.”
“It was the Lord who prompted me to go to church, where I heard the gospel for the first time. It was like my whole life had prepared me for that moment when I finally saw who Jesus really was—the Messiah. I was set to turn myself in to jail, when I heard a message on Isaiah 61. I learned that Jesus came to ‘set the captives free.’ I had been enslaved to so many things; I knew I was not good enough for God. But when I was still a sinner, Christ died for me and took the penalty for my sin. I understood the power of God’s mercy because I was struggling under the weight of my own sin. His blood was far more powerful than everything I needed to be forgiven for.
“Some people say that after you trust Christ, your life gets easier. That’s not always the case. My life certainly didn’t. I ended up serving jail time. I did manage to get sober and was later baptized. But when the girl I planned on getting engaged to told me that she didn’t want to continue our relationship, I had a complete meltdown. I cursed God, relapsed and thought very seriously about suicide. I thought jail was the lowest, but this was worse.
“I was taken to a faith-based rehab facility for 24 hours. I was so full of guilt and shame I couldn’t even speak. I had already put my parents through hell, so how was I going to face them? I remember laying on the floor at rehab, just pleading with the Lord to save me. I’d squandered what God had given me and turned back to the sin that so easily entangled me. That’s when I experienced the gift of genuine repentance. God showed me that my sin wasn’t against my dad or anyone else. My sin was against God. The Lord loved me, and I needed His forgiveness first. The Holy Spirit filled my heart that night as I received God’s forgiveness. That in turn, gave me the strength to ask others for forgiveness.
“During my time at rehab I prayed and spent time with the Lord. I’ve been sober since October 10, 2008
and really left that facility as a new creation in Christ. God gave me the desire to experience the new life He had given me.
“I would have been dull and stagnant in my faith if I stayed in the bubble of isolation. I’ve experienced so much sanctification in community with other believers. Friends have authentically demonstrated what following Christ really means, and as a result I have become more fully known and fully loved. I am able to do the same for others as I have served as a leader at Watermark’s re:generation recovery ministry.
“Today, when I look at my wife Lydia and our 10-month-old daughter, Grace, I’m reminded of both what God has done in my life now and the man I was before. I’ve broken just about every commandment in the book and have been to some of the worst places you can think of. But Christ came to take the punishment for all that sin, and allowed me to serve the Lord, my wife and my daughter as well. I’ve learned to obey God, not simply to ‘follow the rules’. My desire for obedience is now a response to the freedom Christ has given to me. Loving God is better than any experience with drugs and alcohol I ever had. Christ has given me a life I never thought was possible. That’s my story.”