I grew up in a family that valued performance and achievement. My father was an angry man and I don’t recall him ever telling me that he loved me. I had a falling out with my father a few months before we found out he had cancer and not long before he died I heard God tell me to go to my father and be reconciled. My father gave his heart to Christ in his later years and died of cancer at the age of 60. He did the best he could but I decided I want so much more from my life and for the people in it.
My wife, Bonnie, encouraged me to sign up for Freedom for Life at the Duluth Vineyard. I came to Freedom for Life with a lot of questions and did a lot of soul searching. I wasn’t sure what God was going to do but He began to reveal stuff that I had never thought of as addiction – busyness, “fleeing” from situations, isolating myself…I realized that I had become stale in my growth and I wanted more of God. It became clear that being “busy” was consuming my life. Since Freedom for Life, I am learning what it looks like to “hang out” with God any time of the day and for any length of time. He’s a personal God who loves me and wants to connect with me and His love for me isn’t based on my performance in any way. I’ve been learning what it looks like to abide in God and am so excited that He is doing something new in me. He is actually giving me new life! Bonnie has observed a “softening” that she hasn’t seen in me before. I’m learning that God loves me where I’m at. I’ve known this in my head but I’m really beginning to grasp it and grasp who my Heavenly Father is and live in that reality. He loves me no matter what.
I’m also learning that I can’t do life alone. I need community. I’m reaching out to people I’ve lost touch with and investing more in my marriage and in my stepkids and grandkids lives. When my grandkids come to visit I drop everything I’m working on and spend time with them. I want them to know that they’re a priority in my life. I’ve also joined a small group and am participating in community-building activities. It’s not easy but I’m stepping away from projects and isolation and out of my comfort zone, taking more risks. I don’t want to isolate anymore. Not only am I learning to be intentional in my relationships – I’m also learning to be authentic and open about the areas I’m struggling in and am practicing giving God the first fruits of my day instead of my meager leftovers.
God has been showing me that if I’m not growing in my relationship with Him then I’m dying. I want to work through Freedom for Life again and have been spending some time these past few months praying through all that He is working out in me.
God has given me new life through Freedom for Life.
I feel hope and joy.
I feel free!
— Doug Antonich