Into the Hands of the Living God
My name is Jerry Cesario and this is my personal testimony. I hope that you will be blessed to see that God is truly in control of our lives, however if you do not know Jesus Christ personally, I hope this will give you a desire to do so. I was born and raised in Southern California and when I was about five years old, my mother became a born again Christian during the "Jesus Movement" of the sixties. From that time on I was part of her church and every time the doors swung open (it was a very legalistic/Pentecostal church), there we were. This went on for many years and as I grew older the appeal of Christianity began to wear off, that is if I had ever really understood it to begin with.
When I was about ten years old my mother sent me to the Salvation Army summer camp up in the Malibu Mountains. After a week of games, swimming in the pool, hiking and nightly campfire sing-a-longs, I said the "Sinner’s Prayer" at the Sunday service on the last day. As a ten-year-old child I did not truly grasp it, but God would prove himself faithful nonetheless. However, as the following years would come and go, the enemy would come in and snatch the seed from the wayside in an attempt to destroy my act of faith upon that day.
I was constantly teased, berated and physically beaten by the other kids at school, all the while being told that "God was in control" by zealous preachers that ran the church I attended with my mom. Next, as my teenage years descended upon me, the real attack of Satan would come in a full-frontal assault of sex, drugs and other assorted shenanigans. My mother, a single mom raising two kids, did not know how to deal with the changes that came with my physical maturation. It was always, "NO, NO, NO!" without any real explanation of why or the idea of a consequence of sin. In order to best deal with her, and my religious upbringing, I did what seemed at the time to be the right thing to do; I ran away from home and immersed myself in a world of sinful pleasures that seemed to constantly be at my fingertips and in turn, like the forbidden fruit, easily lifted to my mouth. When I was about nineteen, the party came to an abrupt end one night just after Christmas in 1985.
On that fateful night my friends and I had the brilliant idea to go to our favorite place, a storm drain in Palos Verdes, Ca. called the Acid Tunnel. This was a underground runoff tunnel about six feet in diameter, that ran for about 500 yards to the ocean; the perfect place to smoke dope and make Molotov cocktails just for fun. As you can imagine, the combination of drugs, gasoline and fire was not optimal for safety and in a moment of sheer stupidity, my petrol-soaked glove came in contact with one of the candles we had for light. Needless to say, the next few days were well spent in the local county hospital, having received 2nd and 3rd degree burns to my right hand that completely fused the tendons and fluid from the knuckles into a crumpled, deformed claw. Now high on painkillers and contemplating my future, which I had been informed, would involve years of plastic surgery and physical therapy, I began to hear the still small voice of the Lord gently calling me home.
I would lie in bed at night and hear Him softly plead with me to come home to him. I can actually even remember one night asking him not to come back until I was saved (even then I just knew that His return was near). I pleaded with him to give me time, but I convinced myself that there was still some fun to be had and that I would ‘pray’ if something happened that would take my life. About two weeks later, as I went for my first plastic surgery consult, I was not prepared for what happened next.
When the doctor unwrapped my hand to get a look at it, he was perplexed by what he saw. My hand, aside from some stiffness after being immobile for 2 weeks, was completely healed! He looked at my hand, then at my chart, then at my hand again. Then he went to get the attending physician (and other assorted interns), who in turn all looked at my hand, then at the chart, then at my hand again. As the doctor wrapped my hand again and muttered something like, "Come back in two weeks so we can check your progress…" It never occurred to me that God had something to do with it and of course with a close call now safely behind me, I went about looking for some more fun.
About a month later, without a care in the world, smoking dope everyday, I had my next encounter with the God who saves, but will not be mocked. I was sitting in a car with my 2 friends and my latest female companion and you guessed it, smoking a joint (imagine that!). I happened to look up in the sky and I noticed a couple of jet plumes going up and across the blue sky. It just looked odd for some reason and I asked my friend to look at it. He did and in a very calm voice he said, "Oh my God…there they go." I inquired as to what "they" were. He said they were Minuteman missiles on their way to Russia and that WWIII had started. I felt the distinct taste of metal in my mouth that comes with total and complete paralysis and fear. After all, here it was, that fateful day of all out nuclear annihilation that the 80’s had brought via the media and motion pictures on the subject. I was about to die and every fiber of my being knew it.
After about one minute of pulling my leg and scaring me to death, and subsequently 10 minutes of trying to convince me that they were kidding, my friends figured I was just really high. However, the still small voice was back and these words will ring in my head as long as I draw breath; "So Jerry, I thought you were going to pray and ‘get saved’ if you knew you were about to die?" I was stunned and silenced by the words of God and confronted with the horrible truth that indeed, prayer and salvation did not even cross my mind during the perceived nuclear holocaust. However, in an attempt to be as stubborn and stupid as anyone ensnared in his or her sins can be, I held onto my pitiful life as if I would remember to pray…next time.
Well, they say that the third time is a charm and it only took about two or three days to find myself in a Laundromat with my two friends; doing laundry and smoking a bowl. This was the night that changed my life forever, but the preceding events were instrumental in God’s sovereign plan to bring this prodigal home. While sitting in my friend’s car reading a Playboy (ok, I wasn’t really reading it) and waiting for the wash cycle to finish, that little voice began to invade my hardened heart and mind. This time was different though; it was very loud and clear, almost audible. I was not ignorant either; I knew that it was God.
He began to tell me that he was coming soon and that I was not ready to meet him. I tried to block him out, but that was clearly not going to work this time. I tried to plead for more time in my sins with the promise of coming back soon. Again, this was not working. I remember when it was time to go put the laundry in the dryer that I felt like the whole universe was going to explode if I stepped out of the car without submitting to God. I was paralyzed with fear (again), but for some reason I dug in my heels and climbed out. Nothing happened. I shrugged it off as just being high and went inside.
Once inside the Laundromat God began to speak again, only this time it was different; it was final and I knew it. He pleaded with me to come home and I kept giving him excuses; each one countered by a knife of Truth to my heart. I remember clearly the final dialogue that we shared that night. He spoke and it was the last revelation that closed the deal. But first, in what was to prove to be absolute truth for those who know me today, he said, "I love you and I have a specific plan for your life Jerry." I painfully recounted my legalistic and super Pentecostal upbringing and quite honestly told him, "I don’t want all that junk. I can’t handle the confusion and nonsense that I grew up with Lord." He lovingly made this promise to me, which has been my guideline throughout my walk with him. He said, "I promise that what I am calling you to, is not what you grew up with."
He had clearly gotten my attention now and I was stunned, however I still had to throw my last dying excuse at him. "Please Lord, just a little more time…" With that said, as God is my witness, I then felt in my minds eye something very similar to the images of movies like the Matrix and such. I was standing with my back towards a great chasm and it was as though God were holding me by the front of my shirt. I could see and feel flames of fire around me and I knew that eternal pain and total blackness were only a release of the hand away. Then He spoke these words that shook me to my core, "I love you Jerry. I always have and I always will, but I must tell you this. My hand of protection is leaving you this night."
With those words I was broken in half, I could feel the paleness of death enclosing in on me and I knew beyond any doubt that He was no longer playing along in my little games. With the last bit of strength left in my pitiful soul, I simply bowed my head and in turn my stubborn will and uttered these four simple words, "Yes Lord. I’m sorry." Immediately I was sober and I knew that my life had just been changed. I felt like everything was alive and vibrant around me and I began to tell my friends that they needed to ‘get saved’ (To this day, most of my old friends and some of my enemies still think that I just flipped out on drugs and became a Jesus Freak). I also knew that I no longer belonged in the world and I needed to get home and into church.
I didn’t think my friend could fold his laundry fast enough, and I’m sure with the Bible verses I was spouting off, he was thinking the same thing, but eventually I made it home. My mother was watching T.V and I came in and told here that I needed to talk to her. I was nervous and pacing the living room and she asked me if I had gotten someone pregnant and when I said no, she asked me if I was gay. I told her what had happened to me and she immediately pulled out the Bible and read me this verse from Hebrews 10:31…
"It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
Indeed, I had just discovered how very true this living Word was. She then read me plenty of verses about salvation and led me in a more traditional sinner’s prayer, in which I eagerly repeated, however I do believe that my salvation was secured with the simple words of repentance in the Laundromat about an hour before. This was on a Thursday night and I could not wait to get to church for the Friday night service, where of course I prayed that prayer once again. In fact, I think I even prayed it again at the Sunday service too.
So there you have it, the story of a stubborn teenager who ran from God and even tried to withstand Him and barter for more time to enjoy the pleasures of sin even though the season had long passed the time of any real joy. I have left out the gory details of my years in sin (extreme sexual indulgence, heavy drug use and weapons related violence) in order to get the main point across. Was I going to die that night if I did not accept Him? I do not know, but recently I have realized something rather profound. I very well may have perished in my sins that night, however…I may have lived a full life without ever hearing his voice again only to find myself on my deathbed many years from now cursing the very God who had pursued me during the day of salvation. Of course nowadays I can analyze this testimony a hundred different ways and give you all the Scriptures that back it up. (Jude 21-23 fits quite well), but that really does not matter. The question is; are you still running from God and the salvation that He is offering you?
You see I am in no way unique. I put my pants on one leg at a time just like you and as far as I know, God had no obligation to interfere with my life during that season. However the only difference is that I bowed my will and said "Yes Lord. I’m sorry" and I made a conscious decision to place my life in to His hands. The same hands of the living God that filled me with terror at the prospect of being let go are the very hands that snatched me out of Hell and are holding me secure until his son Jesus Christ returns. Will you fall into those hands today? Or will you wait until it is too late and slip out of them forever? If you are ready to make the decision to bow your will to Christ today, just between you and God, say these words, "Yes Lord. I’m sorry."
Please feel free to email me or visit my website, A Study of Revelation.