Chuck Taylor

My name is Chuck Taylor. I want to tell you all about my faith story. I’m originally from Philadelphia, PA. Grew up in a home where there was no presence of men. I am an only child and the oldest grandchild on both sides of the family. So I took a leadership role in my family even as a young child, thinking that I had to get things done that weren’t being done. My mother lived in the same house where I was raised. She had very little to do with me as a parent, and for as long as I can remember.

In my household lived my grandmother, my mother, and two aunts. One aunt was my mom’s sister, and the another was my uncle’s girlfriend. Maybe by the time I was ten or twelve, there were about nine kids in the household. We all lived there in a three bedroom house. We were pretty close, to say the least.

My addiction started early. It wasn’t a chemical for me; my very first escape was fantasy. I remember fantasizing about Gilligan’s Island, I Dream of Jeannie, and things like that. Anything that would take me out of the environment where I was. I don’t know whether that the environment was hostile, but I do know that I wanted something different.

I wanted to be anybody other than who I was, and anywhere other than where I was. What other people had was always better than what I had, at least in my mind.

My grandmother ran card games, so I got to watch all of the neighborhood hustlers come and gamble and drink. For some reason it was appealing to me. Also, there were men around, so I got to interact with these men. Probably not the best men to interact with, but they were men, nonetheless.

I was in Catholic School for 1st and 2nd grade. Something happened and the nun cracked my knuckles. They called my family to come get me but my family came to fight. They had a problem with the nun hitting me. I learned to handle problems with violence at a very early age. When I was nine, my grandmother made me move with my mom to North Philadelphia. I lived with her for about three years, and that’s where I started smoking marijuana.

I was not welcome in the new neighborhood. In the 1960s in Philadelphia, that was not something you wanted to do. I didn’t get picked on, I got beat on because I fought back. I started boxing in the gym around the age of nine, just showing up and trying to train and learn things, and I enjoyed it. I think being an only child, I accepted challenges that I could do on my own.

Living with my mom for three years showed me that she really didn’t have what they called a “mommy gene.” It just wasn’t in her; so I fended for myself and became a part of the neighborhood gang at a very young age. I started smoking marijuana. I guess I drank a little bit if it was around.

By the time I was twelve, I moved back with my grandmother. I moved into a new school and was a pretty tough kid by that time. I handled all of my problems, usually with other males, physically. There was an air of violence with me.

By the time I was age fifteen, I was an established marijuana seller in my neighborhood. And the cycle of addiction began. I remember my grandmother saying that she just wanted me to make it to fifteen.

I never thought about how much pain that must have caused her until after I got into recovery. She would just say, “I just want you to make it to your 15th birthday.” I never imagined what that must have felt like until after the fact.

I did pretty good in high school, but I had other interests that weren’t school related. Selling weed, making money, drinking, and taking pills was what I did more than anything. How I passed any grades at all had to be God – it wasn’t me. I didn’t go to class. I just came and took tests. Had to be fairly smart. I had a math teacher that was frustrated with me. She just wanted to teach me and I just wanted to pass the test. I figured if I could get an 85 on the test there was no need for me to come learn.

There was a group of men who were identified as the Black Mafia who were neighborhood guys, friends of the family, and they took me under their wing. It got real crazy. I got kicked out of high school. They sent me to a special school, and I got kicked out of that as a senior. I wound up getting my GED the year I was supposed to graduate.

I also went into the army. Unfortunately, I took my behaviors with me. At the end of the day, they said, “Sergeant Taylor, if you leave today, we’ll give you a good discharge.” That’s how bad things had gotten for me. The addiction was not just the things that I did, It was also my mindset. I thought I could do what I wanted, when I wanted, and how I wanted. The world doesn’t operate like that.

I returned home in 1985 at the highlight of the cocaine and crack mess: that’s what it was. I walked into it, and I walked into it full blast. That was the beginning of my end. My “bottom” lasted five years. It was like a kettle drum. I just kept going up and down, and up and down.

Then I got locked up for maybe nine months or so for fighting. These ladies came every Sunday for weeks and they sang and praised God. I was the cell block captain. I made everybody come out to listen to them and the guys were mad. They said, “You don’t even believe in God. Why are doing this?” After everybody left one day I said, “How come you ladies keep coming? Nobody listens, nobody cares, and you just keep showing up.” This little, tiny lady said, “Baby, we don’t come for you and we don’t come for ourselves. We come because we love Jesus.”

On my street lived a guy named Deacon Jones. All Deacon Jones ever told me was that Jesus loves me. I would say, no, He loves you. Deacon Jones had plush carpets and a big Lincoln Continental. And I loved being around him and his wife. So when I got released from jail, the first people I ran into were Deacon Jones and my paternal grandmother’s pastor.

They shared the gospel with me. I was fresh out of jail, not even home four hours yet. They asked me something strange. They said, “Do you have a reason to not believe?”   I couldn’t think of one. And for the first time in my adult life, I shed tears. I went to my grandmother and all I could get out of my mouth was, “Mom, I’m not going to hell.” I told her what had happened and she cried, but she didn’t let me see her cry.

That’s how I came to Christ. It took another two years for me to actually submit myself to Him. I eventually wound up on a park bench. Until this day, my family won’t accept the fact that I spent two months on the park bench and two months in a shelter.

What led me to this park bench was that I knew I needed something different. I just didn’t know what. But I also knew that if I stayed with my grandmother after all the drugs and money stuff, I wouldn’t get what I needed. Something in me knew that she enabled me. I didn’t know what it was called, but I knew her heart was too big for me to stay there.

I wound up on the streets where I saw Bill, a man I had known all of my life. He saw me there. What’s interesting about this story is that back when I was selling drugs, I had asked where he was, and people told me he was smoking crack. So I found him, gave him money, gave him drugs. I said, “You don’t have to live like this.”

Fast forward 20 years, Bill finds me in Penns Landing sleeping on a park bench. I told him I was OK. He left a sandwich for me. I said that I didn’t need it, of course, prideful. I took the sandwich as soon as he left and probably swallowed it whole. I remember how hungry I was. Something was saying, “He’s your friend. Just tell him the truth.” He left, but he came back and gave me $10 and a basic text from Narcotics Anonymous. I already had a Bible. I’d gotten saved. He said to me what I had said to him, “You don’t have to live like this.”

So when Bill left, I read my Bible. I read this NA (Narcotics Anonymous) book and I thought that the NA book was something evil because I identified with it so much. I didn’t know where it came from; I had no idea where this book came from. I had heard of NA, but it wasn’t something I wanted to do. I went to meetings in the shelter, but I they could have been NA, AA, I paid no attention.

A few days later, I was getting high and I just knew it was over. I stopped what I was doing. I set it down with tears in my eyes once again, and I walked away. That was August 19th, 1994. August 20th, 1994 is my clean date: 28 plus years of being clean and serene, and walking with the Lord.

Today I am a single dad. I have a 20-year-old daughter. I have a 40-year-old son. I found out about celebrating recovery when my daughter was 18 months old. She was born sick. Her mom couldn’t take it. I took her. I raised her. Me and this child with a feeding tube, a heart monitor, and breathing apparatus every day, back and forth to the hospital. She’s still home today. It’s been a struggle, but I thank God for those women who raised me because there was something that Christ put in me to raise a daughter on my own.

My sponsor at the time said to me, “Chuck, you know what not to do. Leave the rest up to God.” So I thank God for that.

I’ve worked for an engineering firm. I’ve got grandfathered in to several positions that I did not qualify for, but the Lord opened the doors and nobody could shut them. Today I work for the same government that I got kicked out of because I couldn’t follow the rules. I‘ve stayed clean. I’ve never stopped reading my Bible.

The Holy Spirit has given me the gift of teaching others. I love to teach because I love to learn. I am part of Brightside Baptist Church’s Ministry Center for Outreach. There are several ministries that fall under my leadership. I am also on the board of Firm Foundation Recovery.

I just love life. I love the Lord. Jesus has been my rock ever since I met Him. I do things throughout my day to remind me of His presence, from getting up to study and spend time with him, to my prayers, to posting devotions. I say a scripture either to myself or out loud before I eat every meal to remind me and the premise, “No read, no feed.”

My phone goes off at 10:02 every day to remind me of Luke 10:2: The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. I’m blessed to be alive. If it were not for the love of God and Jesus’s death, burial, resurrection, and soon return, I would have nothing worthwhile to talk about.

My life scripture is Romans 12:1-2, Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Thank you, Jesus. Praise the Lord.

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