When I was 15 years old, I began my position as a bagger for Super Valu in my hometown in Ohio. I was just 85 pounds back then, and a little feller, but the cashiers said I had run circles around the other high schoolers working there. I was very likeable with a happy personality. I gained everyone’s trust—before I let them down. You see, back then I was a thief. I would contemplate and plan the theft of products. Everyone was doing it anyway. I’d never get caught. Then I did one day. I was instantly fired from my job.
This wasn’t my first time stealing, and surely not my last. I loved the rush of doing it, and, besides, I was like a pack rat. I just loved to steal. I had turned my back on God and my closest friends. I could hardly find employment in my little town because of what I had done.
Years passed by, and I quit being a thief. I decided it was for my best. I didn’t want to go to prison over it, but it was hard to quit. It’s a habit just like anything else.
At about 20 years old, I’d compare myself to everyone else. My self-esteem started to slip really bad. I was disoriented and said off-the-wall things at times. Sometimes I just wanted to stay in bed. I felt that I sounded like Forrest Gump. I was painfully teased by coworkers. I just wanted to crawl back into a hole and die. I was in the Ohio Air National Guard, and I was ridiculed there, too. I was not suicidal at least, but my mental health was going south. I did not know what to do. I told my assistant supervisor at the Guard that I thought I was mentally ill. Nothing happened. The ridicule continued.
Then one day, I had forgotten about my guard drills. I was headed to my brother’s house in Ohio, when I decided to make a pit stop at a gas station. Then I decided not to at the last second. I swerved back onto the main road. A police officer was coming towards me as I went back into my lane. He skidded right by me. I was almost in a head on collision with the police officer. He stopped me. Immediately I was given a sobriety test because I appeared intoxicated. I was disoriented and talking slow. They asked my brother who had showed up if I was mentally challenged. My brother told them I was in college, and working, and in the Ohio Air National Guard. They proceeded to make me walk the yellow lines and touch my nose with both hands. I kept telling them I was fine. They wanted me to see a psychiatrist. I refused at first, until the policeman told me if I killed anyone with my vehicle, due to my condition, I’d end up in prison.
The next day, my mother took me and enrolled me at 1-A over at the hospital in Ohio. I saw a psychologist. He asked me if I was hearing voices. I had been at The University of Cincinnati where I was going at the time. The voices threatened me and were usually derogatory in nature. I was diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic, and put on medicine. The medicine did not work at first. I went on a different one. I received an honorable medical discharge from the military.
My mother was really concerned. I moved in with her for a little while and put college on hold. I worked at Speedway with my aunt, who was the manager. I did well, but I wanted to acquire life skills. I moved into a clinic’s group home in Ohio. I learned to cook and manage my money. There were other people in there that had problems such as I. I was pretty stable.
When I was with my mother who is a Christian, I went to church a little bit, and the Spirit of God would convict me and bring me to tears. Finally, I went to “Heaven’s Gates and Hell’s Flames,” a production put on by my mother’s church. I was miraculously saved that night.
I started attending church with my brother at a small church in Ohio. The church turned out to be a cult and was preaching against other churches. They said if we left we would go to Hell, that they were the church of the Bible, and no other church had the manifold wisdom of God. Jesus was only coming back for this church of true believers. My brother and I tried and tried to break away, but the Pastor would hunt us down. They were the only true church according to them. Finally, I was at my breaking point. I said a prayer to God, “Lord, show me the true church of God.” He did. The church split over differences. My brother and I both left it.
This didn’t erase their teachings though. I had to unlearn and relearn from a true church. For a while I went church-hopping to find a real, good church. I visited many, but I was now walking with one foot in the world the other in the church; I had a live-in girlfriend, and I had reverted back to smoking and chewing tobacco—things I had given up, when I had gotten saved. I found out I qualified for VA benefits in 2005. I transferred from a mental health clinic to the veteran’s hospital, and I started receiving more money.
My live-in girlfriend and I had visited many churches, but we ended up breaking up. I helped her move out of our apartment. She had been running around on me.
I bought a house in 2009. I remember distinctly praying to God. I told Him, “I wanted more than this.” I wanted to be a real Christian. I wanted holiness. He led me to a couple churches at first. But one day, I went to a fish fry at the church across the street from my house, and I felt the Holy Spirit speak to me. I would not come back to this church until a little later. Spiritually, I was a mess at the time.
A couple months passed before I went back to the church across from my house. I loved it and they loved me. I found my home church. I rededicated myself. After about three years of attendance, I became a member. I was on janitorial, volunteering for the church. I was evangelizing going door-to-door. I helped out wherever I was needed. I loved everyone there.
In 2014, I received my bachelor’s degree in Leadership and Ministry, and, in 2017, I received my master’s degree in Ministry, both from Ohio Christian University. I married the love of my life, Nila.
I am still a follower of Christ, and a very active member of my church. With God all things are possible. I am living proof.
Jason Kirk Bartley is from Chillicothe, Ohio. He is 47 yrs old, and married to Nila, his forever love. He has a master’s in Ministry from Ohio Christian University.