Dave Blackley went to church to get out of doing chores—his life was never the same …
I first got into trouble around the age of six, and then I became a petty criminal for decades—motorbikes, violence, drugs. All my youth, all my young adulthood was all spent in jail. I was 16 years old when I received my first prison sentence in 1977. When I went to jail, it was scary, but I seemed to fit in. I learnt to fight, and as soon as I had my first fight and won, I became a bully.
My life revolved around crime, and the only ways that I knew to be accepted was to people-please, knock you out, or sell you drugs. So for 40 years that was the only way I knew how to get stuff. I was down and depressed—I felt so horrible—but it was starting to get worse.
Eventually, I went to rehab and that’s where things started to change. I walked in and I heard this guy say, ‘Hey, what are you doing here?’ I was shocked to see someone from my past. I met that man in jail in 1979 and I knew everything about him. I knew all about the sort of lifestyle that he had lived.
I said: ‘What are you doing here?’ He told me he had been clean three and a half years now. He’d gone to rehab and found a better way of life. His lifestyle had changed, of course, but there was something different about him. I wanted some of that. I wanted that clean lifestyle that he had. I wanted what he was talking about.
I was at Spring Hill and I was talking to one of the guys. ‘So what happens today?’ I asked.
‘Oh you’ve got to clean up’.
‘What do you mean I have to clean up?’
‘You’ve got to do the dusting and all that sort of stuff like mow the lawns,’ he replied.
‘You’ve gotta be joking! What are you doing?’ I asked.
‘Oh, I’m going to church, we’re going to the Sallies.’ He asked if I wanted to come. Of course I said yes—that was my way of getting out of doing chores.
So I ended up going to church, and when I walked in, they didn’t want anything from me. I thought: Man I like this, I want some of this. So, I just kept coming back each week and I got to know a few more people. They still didn’t want to know what I’d done. They didn’t want to know anything about me, apart from what God could do for me. For 40 years I’d tried to do it on my own. So, I thought, okay what can he do for me?
I had a big empty hole in me and I’d never found anything to fill it. When I gave my heart to God, he filled that hole. I felt this incredible peace come over me. When I start thinking about what used to be, I think: How good was that day when I gave my heart to God, and how I felt. I pray: ‘Father, I want that back again today, please fill me with your Holy Spirit, fill me with your love. Come into my heart and rule my life.’
I just want God to fill me each day. I want to be on the front line. I want to be with the least of the lost. I want to be with those people, my people.
by Dave Blackley (c) 'War Cry' magazine, 10 August 2019 p10. You can read 'War Cry' at your nearest Salvation Army church or centre, or subscribe through Salvationist Resources.