Jared’s faith in God is what ultimately changed the course of his life for the better, he tells Tracy and I, at Hands and Feet Ministries in Jacksonville. The clean-shaven young man with a ponytail says he now feels a calling to the ministry. 

“In talking about my life, it’ll always go back to something spiritual,” Jared says in his soft-spoken voice. “God’s grace is greater than anything you can imagine.”

Jared’s sense of self wasn’t always as solid. As a child, he recalls being bullied and picked on at school. “I was always fearful, hesitant.” This feeling carried into his home life as his mother was verbally abusive with Jared and his siblings while growing up on a farm in Middleburg. His mother ran off, leaving Jared and his siblings with his father. After they divorced, Jared and his brothers went to live with their mother in Indiana. His living situation proved to be unacceptable to the State since the minor children were living in a trailer behind her house. The State stripped his mother of her parental rights, and the children became a ward of the State. It was then that his father came to get them. 

After his father passed away when Jared was 15, his grandparents stepped in to raise him. They were what Jared describes as “God-fearing people,” enrolling Jared in a Christian school. At this point, Jared felt religion was forced upon him and looked at Bible study more from the standpoint of being able to debate it rather than getting closer to God. Feeling disillusioned by organized religion, he went the opposite way, into paganism.

He thought, “I must not be of the light, so I’m going to try the darkness.”

This darkness involved experimenting with mind-altering drugs and black magic. Jared talks of performing dark rituals, in which he would try to conjure up the spirit realm to ascertain knowledge. It was during this time he also questioned his sexual and gender identities, plummeting deeper into methamphetamine use. 

He regrets not being there for his sister when she needed him, as he lost her to suicide. Instead of getting a wake-up call after this, his drug use escalated even further. 

Jared feels that God spoke to him, to which he replied, “Lord, I don’t think you want me.”

Then one day Jared saw Thom (the phone-man who we interviewed earlier) on the street. He told Jared that he looked awful and needed to clean himself up. Thom directed him to the various services that were available to help and gave him bus fare to get there. 

Fortunately, for Jared, he took his advice and reached out for the help he needed. He participated in a three-month faith-based program that provided him with food, housing, clothing, and Bible study. Jared spent eight hours daily studying God’s word, during which time he grew spiritually. Looking back, Jared says he was relishing in his life of sin. Today, Jared has no desire at all for drugs or witchcraft and has a solid sense of himself. He seems to be at peace with who he is.

“You will know the truth, and it will set you free,” Jared said. He ministers to others who are battling this same sense of uncertainty, looking for something more in their lives. 

“It’s been a daily walk. The answer to life is Jesus.”