The choices we make in our lives can follow us for years or a lifetime. Do you ever feel like you carry shame for a past decision that you can’t overcome? Through the cross and Jesus you can start again. Pastor Chris Rich shares his story of being brought from a place of darkness to one filled with purpose and peace.
Pastor Chris Rich is the Lead Pastor at Mercy Fellowship in Marysville, WA.
Purposely. Your life, God’s purpose. Listen at onpurposely.com.
Chris [00:00:09] It was the first time that I had experienced grace from somebody that changed the way I saw myself. Because as I told her some of the things that I had done. She just looked right at me and she said, “Well, that’s who you were. That’s not who you are in Christ.” Good news, gospel. And I just changed the way I saw myself.
Narrator [00:00:22] We’ve all experienced it. You run into a friend from the past, but there’s something different. They are changed. Maybe there is a calm where there once was a storm. Maybe there is gentleness instead of harshness. There’s a new passion, a new life. What changed? Welcome to Brought Back to Life. A podcast where we explore stories of ordinary transformation.
Luke [00:00:46] Hey, Producer Luke here. Just to remind you, stick to the end of the episode to hear a message from our sponsor, Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission, and I hope that you enjoy the latest edition of Brought Back to Life.
Chris [00:00:59] All right. Well, my name is Chris, and this was the time that I was brought back to life. Most people that know me know that I have six kids. But here’s the reality. I don’t have six kids. I actually have seven. And the reason people don’t know that is because I killed my first kid.
Chris [00:01:14] Little bit of my story, my background. My parents got pregnant. Unplanned pregnancy. My mom decided to have me. She chose to have me. And my dad chose to love my mom and to love me. And so early on in my life, I mean, I knew that I was loved. I knew that I was chosen. My mom named me Chris hoping that I’d be a bearer of Christ. And I knew, like, you know, really early on in life that like, hey, God’s the author of life, God creates Life. And that life with with God comes through faith in Jesus.
Chris [00:01:47] So I grew up in the church. I grew up a really, really good church kid, you know, loved going to church camp, loved being kind of that kid that the debate, the Bible. And, you know, I mean, I was kind of a, you know, probably a pretty self-righteous kid, like to make Mormon kids cry in middle school. And so not exactly the most courageous kid. But I was, like I say, the good kid. And we’re all familiar with the story of the prodigal son. And so for a time in my life, I was kind of that older brother doing the right thing, you know, just wanted to to be the good kid. And by the time I graduated high school and wanted to go to college, I was ready to flip the script. I was I was tired of being the good kid. I was tired of being the nice guy. And so when I went to the University of Washington, I said, “Hey, I’m going to join a fraternity and I’m going to let this be my life.” I even I lied to my parents. I lied to myself. And I said, “Hey, mom and dad, I’m going to join this fraternity. I’m going to evangelize. I’m going to actually start a Bible study. I’m going to teach these guys about Jesus.” But the reality is, I felt like I’d been missing something now and I was really ready to go full prodigal.
Chris [00:02:53] So, you know, drinking all the time, I became the fraternity rush chairman. So, like, my job is evangelizing other guys into the fraternity. And I just really embraced that lifestyle. Even more than most of the guys in the fraternity. There’s a lot of good dudes at fraternities, but I was definitely that stereotypical frat guy. And I still never, you know, thought that I wasn’t a Christian or whatever. I had this vision of cheap grace that God, you know, died for my sins, the sins I am going to commit tonight, the sins that I hope to commit tomorrow night. And it was just kind of this fire insurance. I didn’t really change my life in any way, shape or form. And even through all this, I was really self-righteous. And, you know, I tell guys they were going to hell because they were drinking or whatever else when the reality is, I was the biggest hypocrite of anybody in that place. By the middle of my senior year, I was working full time, had a girlfriend. We’d been together for about a year or so, and it was actually 21 years ago this week that she she came to me and she said, “You know, we’ve been sleeping together.” And she said, “Hey, Chris, I’m pregnant.” And it was that moment where I realized there’s a big difference between ideals and values. See, like I said, growing up, I mean, my mom, because she’d had an unplanned pregnancy, she worked at pregnancy resource centers. They called crisis pregnancy centers back then. And so she would want to help women that had to deal with the challenges of an unplanned pregnancy. And I mean, middle school. I remember marching in front of a Planned Parenthood. And so, like, this was I was the guy in any class, middle school, high school in the college that would debate this issue of abortion. They would be able to pontificate on a pro-life ethic.
Chris [00:04:53] The irony was the quarter before she had told me she was pregnant; I was taking a Supreme Court class. And, you know, it’s a college campus. I had a liberal professor. Our assignment was a pick one case, rather, that you would overturn. Well, I mean, I’m a Christian and I’m pro-life. So that case is Roe v Wade. And so I wrote an a paper on why Roe v Wade should be overturned, where my professor said, “Hey, Chris, I don’t agree with you on this issue, but you nailed the argument. You get this issue.” Well, like I said, there’s a difference between ideals and values. Ideals is what we say we believe values is what we do. And the reality is, at that moment, I value myself. I was willing to do anything to preserve the life I thought I deserved because I just thought having a kid that’s just going to it’s going to cramp my style. That’s going to hurt me economically. That’s going to tie me to this this girlfriend for forever. And I wasn’t sure I wanted to do that. And, you know, I was in sales, I was in marketing. I was a rush chairman. I’m very convincing. And she laid out a great case on why we should have this baby, how we can make it work, maybe even get married, you know, what does that look like? And that actually had been a goldmine, you know, to be married, to be a man that has a family and, you know, has has a loving wife and kids and all that. And like I said, I’m pretty convincing.
Chris [00:06:26] After about a week, I’d worn her down. So on a Thursday, we skipped class and we drove up from the University Washington up to Kenmore, where there was a Planned Parenthood office. And, you know, the irony was not lost on me that I’d been protesting in front of one of these about seven years earlier. We walked in that front door. And, you know, it’s I’ll just be honest. It’s dark, dark spiritually. It was dingy. It wasn’t warm and welcoming environment. And we’re led into this office. And this gal, you know, a clinic worker, counselor type, you know, we tell our situation and, you know, some things that happened by that point that there was an abortion pill. You could take a pill that would cause you to miscarry if it was early enough. And so that’s that’s the stage where she said, “Hey, you know, it’s going to be a couple hundred bucks. You can take this. And that’s going to that’ll end your problem. They’ll solve your problem.” And I mean, I was convinced. And so I paid the bill. My girlfriend took the pill. And we left. And as we stopped off for lunch, I think she got you know, we stopped at McDonald’s in Lake City, and I think she got a Big Mac, something that had lettuce. And halfway through our lunch mean we’d been silent. We’re not looking at each other. We’re not talking. And she just sat down this little piece of lettuce from her, from a sandwich or from her burger and said, “Our baby would be this big right now.” Because she’s like a biology major and studied all that and. You know what are you supposed to say? So we just finally drove home. And by that point, the drug had started it’s work. She’s cramping. She’s going to the bathroom all the time. Miscarried was beginning. She’s bleeding. We go back to her apartment in the U district, and I stayed with her through the afternoon. And it was it was agonizing. And then finally her roommate came back from from school from I think a work shift or something about 5:00 and I peaced out. I was like, “All right, hey, I’ve got homework to do.” I mean, I was not a good student. I never did homework. It was a lie. Totally lied. Lied to her. And I went back to the fraternity., I mean, Thursday night, it’s party time in the Greek system. So I went back to my room, and there’s a party going on there, and I’ve got, you know, the stereotypical K-cup full of booze and, you know, probably some trash and you know we’re listen to some hip hop and you know people are partying and I’m just that guy sitting on the couch staring into my cup and just being like, “What have I done? Who am I? How could I have done this? I’m the good guy. I don’t do this.”.
Chris [00:09:19] That’s when the shame hit. That’s when the reality hit. I can’t pretend anymore. I’m not a good guy. If you’re the prodigal son, this is we’re getting close to getting into the pig slop at this point. I’m like, “Whoa, this is not good.” And I just want to be clear, for anybody listening to this. That as hard as that night was for me, emotionally, spiritually. I know It was exponentially more agonizing for her. She didn’t want to do that. She was abandoned by me. Her friends were with her. They knew what was going on. So she had some support. But I mean, I had rejected her. I was clearly let her down a path that was not good.
Chris [00:10:01] So it was by the end of that night that that pregnancy ended, baby died, terminated. And it was a couple of weeks later that our relationship died. Terminated. And you’d think they’d be rock bottom. But like I said, now I know I’m a bad guy and I do bad things. That’s that’s what I do. And so for the next 18 months, every weekend, I traveled for work, traveled all over the country, went out, go party and you know just anything to numb the pain, anything to to feel a sense of acceptance and of course, pleasure, right?
Chris [00:10:44] That was the next 18 months. And I’m like every weekend, every month, I’m like, “I am farther and farther away from the man that God wants me to be. I’m just clearly irredeemable.” And by this point, I moved out of the fraternity. I graduated, moved into alumni house with some other fraternity brothers and, you know, had a good friend and a good fraternity brother named Tyler. And he loved the Lord, love me. He’s like, “Chris, you know, your path isn’t you know, where this goes.” And I mean, by this point, I mean, like I know what I’m going to do if if a pregnancy ever happens again. I mean, you won’t think like, you know, Saul on the road to Damascus, right? I’ve already held the purse, you know, for for one death. You know, I know what I’ll do now.
Chris [00:11:31] So he just put out this offer and he said, “Hey, you’re going out and getting drunk every weekend. I’ll be your designated driver on Friday and Saturday nights all through Seattle, wherever you want to go. I’ll make sure you get home safe at night. Make sure you don’t make too many bad decisions. If you just come to church with me on Sunday.” I was like, “Well, that’s a really good deal because I want to get a DUI because that would be wrong, right? Like, I haven’t done worse.”.
Chris [00:12:01] So we did this for like another year and a half. And big church in Seattle, lots of young people. And the pastor of that church at that time really loved speaking to young men. You know, I’m in my early twenties at this point. And he’d say, “Hey, you know, you need to love the Lord. You need to think about your legacy. You need to take responsibility. You need to get a job. You need to be a woman that are a man, rather that protects women, not one that is a predator to them.” And so I felt a lot of conviction, and I felt that shame again, not because of what he was saying, because what I knew, what I had done, because I was like, “Yeah, but I haven’t done that.” And it was at that church where I heard that there was good news, that there was actually hope that the Gospel wasn’t, that God picks the good people on his team, or that once you failed, God’s done with you. It was, “Oh, all of us have sinned and fallen short.” That the gospel is not have chosen you and you’re the good guy. The good news of the Gospel is that if you’re in Christ, you can be a new creation. See, I didn’t need to get better. I’m not the hero of my story. I’m the greatest villain in my story. And so when I heard “Whoa, whoa, you can be a new creation. You can be literally born again?” Like like, like I needed that. I wanted that. And yet I knew that things were still tough.
Chris [00:13:23] So we’re there and I’m tell my buddy Tyler, “hey, I’m still walking down the wrong path. It still show up, you know, come early or come late rather leave early.” And I’m there and I’m like, “Man, I tell you know, where I was doing last week?” And I said, “I’m so far from being a man that can be loved and love others.” And I’m talking to him and that’s what I see her in this foyer of the church. And I’m like, “Tyler, I can marry that girl today. That girl. I can marry that girl today.” He’s like, “Well, you better talk to her.” I was like, “Well, hey, I’m in sales, man. I can get her number.” I know I can put it on. I was a womanizer for sure, so I knew how that could go. So I actually stopped it, threw up a quick prayer. Like, “God if You want me to talk to this girl, You need to make it really clear.”.
Chris [00:14:13] I was, you know, it’s crowded and I’m kind of hanging out nearby. That’s when I hear a friend say, “We’ve got to talk to two people this week before we leave.” And I was like, “All right, that’s my sign. That’s my in.” And that’s how I turned around and I said, “Hey, welcome! Are you guys new?” And I just acted like I was a greeter. And I was actually holding a brochure for a women’s retreat upside down is ridiculous. And anyway, we started dating and I started to let her know a little bit of my history. Just a little bit, because I was like, “You know, you met me at church, but I’m not a good guy. This is who Chris really is.”
Chris [00:14:44] It was the first time that I had experienced grace from somebody that changed the way I saw myself. Because as I told her some of the things that I had done. She just looked right at me and she said, “Well, that’s who you were. That’s not who you are in Christ.” Good news, gospel. And I just changed the way I saw myself.
Chris [00:15:12] And, you know, my life now is really, really different because I am I’ve been married now for 17 years. We’ve got six beautiful children. They look like her. So that helps. And I mean, and my job now is actually one where I share hope for people in Jesus. I mean, God was really clear to me. “Chris, I’m not done with you yet.” And so I’ve gotten to do some work for pregnancy resource centers and can I tell my story there. I’ve talked about it at church, and when it’s age appropriate, I kind of let my kids know a bit of the story.
Chris [00:15:54] But I want to be clear. It’s not that I got my life together or that I’m a good dad now, average dad or I’m a good pastor. Really, it’s the grace of God. It’s Jesus pursuing us. It’s through a good friend like Tyler that James 5:19 says, “Brothers, if anyone among you warned us from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death.” Brought back to life, right? He’ll cover a multitude of sins. That’s what Tyler did for me. Tara is where I got to experience some grace. But it’s Jesus who’s the real hero. Because Jesus knew my shame. He knew my sin and He knew what I needed. And in the book, Hebrews Chapter 12, it says that “We’re to run the race of faith with endurance. We look to Jesus as the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”.
Chris [00:16:57] I had so much shame for what I done. But I heard that verse preached and taught. I realized that it’s at the cross where where Jesus hates our shame even more than we do. And it’s there that He knew that I needed to be redeemed. It’s there that He knew I need to be forgiven. It’s there where He knew that my sin, my sin He took seriously. He took it seriously because He died on the cross for it. But He was motivated by joy. He was motivated by the joy of my restoration. He was motivated by the joy of my redemption. He was motivated by the joy of reconciliation. Back with that God. Back to the father. So that I could come home, so that I could have the Father wrap his arms around me and say, “Welcome home. Let’s kill the fatted calf, Let’s throw a party, let’s celebrate and let’s get back to work. You’re back in the Father’s house.”.
Chris [00:17:59] So I want anyone that hears this to know a few things, because if you’ve been through this, I want you to know, number one, you’re not alone. See, I believed the lie that I was alone. When crisis hits, it’s like storm clouds rolling in. It’s like wildfire smoke choking out the air. You can’t breathe. You can’t see and so you’re disoriented and you think you’re isolated. And you believe a lie. You’re on your own. See, I wasn’t alone. I had to tell my parents what happened a few years later. They had grief, right? Because they’d lost their first grandkid without ever knowing about it. But they also grieved and mourned how sad they were that I didn’t come to them during that time. So you probably have more people in your life that know you and love you and want to help you through and navigate whatever storm you’re facing. See when there’s kindness that breaks through the fog and it gives you clarity so you can finally see hope.
Chris [00:19:01] Second thing I want people to know. You can have the darkest chapter, but it doesn’t have to equal a bad story. One moment, one decision or even a season does not define a person. All of our lives have dark chapters. And just because you find yourself in a dark chapter in a place of despair or have one in your past that seems to cast a shadow over your present, it doesn’t mean that your story is over. No one is so far removed from the grace of God that they can’t be welcomed home with faith in Jesus Christ.
Chris [00:19:41] Then as well, like I said, I want you to know you’re not going to be able to fix yourself. You’re not going to be able to…Like I could have six kids…I could have 60 kids and it doesn’t make up for the fact that I ushered in the death of my first kid. I can be an awesome dad. I can be an awesome husband. None of that makes up for it. Only Jesus can be the hero. Only He can pay for your sins. Only He can bring you back from spiritual death to spiritual life. We talk a lot about eternity and eternal life with God. Eternal life doesn’t start when you die. It starts when your faith is in Jesus. The Apostle Paul who oversaw death, who is just a terrorist, who is on a path of destruction, was met by Jesus and was given a new identity and a new mission. And he says in Galatians 2:20, “I’ve been crucified with Christ. It’s no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.” The life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up for me. See, when you worship yourself, you will sacrifice your own child so that you can have the life that you think you deserve. But the Gospel is God. Sacrifices His Son, Jesus. So that you can be given a life you don’t deserve. And that’s grace. And that’s His mercy to us so that we can be brought back from death to life when we simply trust Jesus.
Luke [00:21:24] Chris, I can’t thank you enough for being on the show to talk about your spiritual death, because without it, you couldn’t be brought back to life. Now, here’s a powerful testimonial from our sponsor, Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission.
Narrator [00:21:48] Helping the lost become found with Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission. Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission doesn’t just provide food and shelter. They offer a path out of homelessness, giving men and women a safe place to recover from addiction and start on the path toward a new life.
SUGM Testimonial [00:22:06] When I was 15, my world fell apart. I learned that the man I’ve been calling dad wasn’t my father. I was also dealing with my mom’s alcoholism and a lot of anxiety. I started hanging out with the wrong crowd and doing drugs. Soon, that’s where all my money went and I became homeless. I was sleeping on the street, curled up around a transformer just to stay warm. And one day I just got fed up. That’s the day God brought me to the mission. Today, I am a graduate of the men’s recovery program. I now work at the mission and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve grown so much just being here. The mission changed my life.
Narrator: Even when it seems impossible to see, hope can be found. Local men and women in our area desperately need a fresh start, and that’s what they find at Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission. From learning, to trust again to that first hot meal, to a recovery program, and then job training. The mission’s recovery programs offer counseling, case management, chemical dependency classes, and so much more. To hear this story again and hear other stories, visit kcisradio.com/ugm.
To hear more, volunteer, or donate, visit ugm.org