Joe HildenbrandI was raised in a Catholic home. I went to church every week. All throughout my childhood I went to church but never got anything from it. I went because I had to. At the age of 13, I was introduced to pornography for the first time. This turned into a deep addiction that would later almost ruin my life. When I was 15 I started drinking alcohol. I worked at a pizza place next to a liquor store and the clerk was always willing to trade alcohol for a free pizza. These things were very well hidden in my life. Nobody knew I drank or had a pornography addition.
When I turned 18 my parents still made me attend Catholic Church although I couldn’t stand going. So I pleased my parents and went to church. Going to church consisted of going long enough to pick up a bulletin (that was my proof I was there), then left and goofed off for the next hour.
When I was 18 I met Lisa. Lisa was raised Baptist. Shortly after meeting Lisa, our relationship started to get a little more serious. At this point my parents disowned me because Lisa was not Catholic (my parents had only met her one time). I still had two younger brothers living at home. I was not able to continue a relationship with them either. I started harboring a lot of anger toward my parents. That anger turned into bitterness and eventually hatred. I hated my parents for what they did to me!
Lisa and I were attending a college group at another church. If I’m being honest, I was only going because of Lisa. Actually at this point the bitterness, anger, and hatred had shifted from my parents to God. I wanted nothing to do with Him. I wanted nothing to do with church. At the age of 21 I got Lisa pregnant. When Lisa told the college director of the church we were attending she was pregnant, he told her not to come back because it would be a bad influence on the other girls. At this point it didn’t bother me. I was kind of excited I didn’t have to go back; however, Lisa was really upset about it. Seeing Lisa upset really bothered me. REALLY? What kind of a person would kick somebody out of church? This only increased my anger and bitterness toward God and church.
I tried to convince Lisa to have an abortion. I was 21, I didn’t want a child. We even had an appointment with Planned Parenthood. Lisa stood strong and refused to abort the baby. It wasn’t until I saw the first ultrasound that I finally accepted I was going to be a father.
When my daughter was 7 months old Lisa and I got married. My wife and I attended churches off and on. She wanted our kids to be raised in church and at this point I could care less, I just didn’t want to argue about it. All throughout our relationship she would ask me if I was saved. HUH? What’s that? When Lisa explained it to me for the first time I said “Yeah, I believe Jesus died for my sins”.
About year into our marriage my wife found out I was looking at pornography. I said what I had to in order to save my marriage. I meant what I said but in reality all that happened was I just had to do a better job hiding it. The next few years were extremely rough. I continued looking at pornography. At one point Lisa was going to divorce me because I loved looking on the internet more than I loved her.
In the summer of 2007 our friend (a member of Mill Road) invited my children to attend vacation bible school. That was the began of us attending on a regular basis. It was then God began working on my heart.
There were multiple times people would ask me if I was saved. My response was always the same, “yes, I’m saved”. I lied over and over again convincing myself I had accepted Christ because I had information about Him. In 2009 God really started working on my heart. There were multiple times I realized my need for him but refused to accept because my heart was hardened as a result of the anger, bitterness, and hatred for my parents and God I had carried for so many years. At one point my daughter asked me if I was saved. I was really annoyed at this question and didn’t want to face reality, so I willingly and knowingly lied to her…I said “yes, I’m saved”. It was that moment that it hit me. Ever since my daughter was born I had felt nothing but shame for the way I reacted when I found out Lisa was pregnant. I was ashamed, embarrassed, and I hated myself for it. A whole flood of emotion came over me when my daughter asked me “Daddy, are you saved”. How could God really love somebody that wanted to kill a baby?
March 3rd 2009 is a date I will never forget. It is 2 days after my daughter’s birthday. I had just come home from work. It was one of those days you just want to come home and sit in front of the TV all night. Earlier in the day, Lisa had been looking at YouTube videos. When I got home she said “Joe, I want you to watch this video”. For a while I refused to watch it. Well, eventually I watched it. This video was the “Lifehouse Everything skit” (insert YouTube link here). After watching this video I started crying. I had no idea why I was crying, I just was. I watched the video another three times, each time just crying uncontrollably. While I was watching the video, Lisa was getting the kids in bed. When she came out I was in my chair deep in thought. Lisa said “I have a question for you. If we all were to die in a fire tonight would we ever see you again?” For the first time in my life I gave an honest answer. I said “no, I don’t think you would” It was at that moment I knew exactly what I had to do. I fell on my face and gave my life to Christ.
For the next few years God worked on my heart and began molding me and transforming me. I knew I could no longer hold on to the anger, bitterness and hatred I had for my parents. I had to let Christ take it. That anger slowly began to turn to a peace I could not understand. I no longer had to use alcohol to drown my pain. While I had stopped looking at pornography before my encounter with Christ my reasons changed. I originally stopped out of fear of losing my wife and my family. Now I had a new reason, I do it out of love for my Savior and wife. All of these things are what I did, but it no longer who I am. I became a new creature in Christ Jesus! (2 Corinthians 5:17)
It continues to amaze me how God could take something so horrible and wrong and use it to His glory and honor. The thing that caused me so much anger and bitterness I now thank God for. I am 100% certain had my parents not disowned me; I would not have come to know Christ as my savior.

Joe Hildenbrand
Evansville, IN

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