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Game-Time Decision

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“At 12-years-old, I learned of my dad’s unfaithfulness to my mom and about a younger sister,” said Marvin Walker. “After this realization, my life took some major twists. I wanted to operate just like him because my dad was my idol. Being sexually active, consuming alcohol, and vigorous spurts of anger were parts of my life even before I started high school. My pride really inflated when I started gaining the attention of a girl a few grades ahead of me named Amber, who I dated for the next few years.

“When Amber went off to college, I moved on to the next girl. Drinking with teammates became a part of pregame meals on Thursdays. I was living a life that no one knew about, and I hid it well. I was hiding girlfriends from other girlfriends and dishonoring parents that unconditionally loved me. Stealing and strip clubs came next.

“At 17, I earned a full-ride scholarship to play football and entered college with no boundaries. My patterns, habits, and lifestyle from before continued. Amber and I still dated on and off throughout college. “When I graduated a few years later, I had an opportunity to play football at the next level. I started eating well, training well, and making decisions to prepare myself well for the upcoming Pro Day, an opportunity to perform in front of NFL scouts.

“An old teammate from high school, who had been playing in the NFL, called me to catch up. He proceeded to ask for my forgiveness over the phone for the things he encouraged me to do like stealing, premarital sex, drinking, and drugs. He said, ‘I know I have been forgiven for my sins, but I pushed you to sin, too. Will you please forgive me?’

“He had recently started a Bible study, and he encouraged me to start reading the Bible, too. When I tried to deny him, he persisted, ‘You gave me all your time before. Give me some time now.’

“Our conversation ended up being six hours. He learned I was jumping between three different women’s houses to ensure I had a place to stay until Pro Day. He told me that living and sleeping with these women was blocking them from their future husbands. I started to see my actions in a different light. I was dishonoring God and those women. He challenged me to take each woman to lunch and explain to them that I can no longer treat them the way I was. He also encouraged me to reach out to Amber and ask for her forgiveness.

“At the end of our conversation, he said, ‘God loves you and had this plan with you in mind since the beginning of time.’ That was the moment I realized God loves me more than football ever did. The game didn’t love me, but there is a God who loves me, in spite of what I’ve done.

“For the next few weeks, I started learning Christian principles, praying, and slowly building a foundation on Christ through being discipled. Over conversations each morning and evening, my friend invested time into teaching me about Jesus and the Bible.

“God started showing up in ways that made me realize He was hearing my prayers. It wasn’t that Oakland wanted to put me through a personal workout, and it wasn’t that Tampa Bay was showing interest in me. It was that God of the universe really hears me, just like the Psalms say (Psalm 116:2). Soon after, I decided to commit my life to Christ.

“I started to think about Amber again. I knew she would really benefit from knowing Jesus like I had benefited. So, I started texting her the verses I was learning. All I wanted was for her to be saved and know Jesus, so I prayed for her salvation and invited her to church.

“To my surprise, Amber eventually came to church. But she didn’t sit by me. Over the next few weeks, and multiple conversations, I was able to explain to her how my life and priorities have changed. She started to attend a Bible study, and soon after she surrendered her life to Christ.

“We started hanging out again but in a completely different way than before. Our time together consisted of curfews and Bible studies at my mom’s kitchen table and learning how to serve together at our church. The next year, I proposed, and we got married and started our lives together, committed to Christ.

“Through my reconciliation with Jesus and then my reconciliation with Amber and others, my mom has become a faithful follower of Jesus, too. I was even able to share the gospel with my father and watched him receive Jesus just four days before he died. Everything I did in my past was dishonoring and bringing glory to myself. But God brought much more to my life: redemption, restoration, healing, and understanding.

“Eight years later, Amber and I are living in Dallas with our three kids. I went to Dallas Theological Seminary, served in different ministries around Dallas, and currently, I have the privilege of being the campus pastor at Watermark South Dallas. My biggest prayer is that it will be a life transformative church. We’ve already seen God do so much at 3400 Garden Lane, especially in our partnerships with other churches and nonprofits in the area. We are just vessels there to share Jesus.”