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by Andrew Zimmerman (As told by Cheryl Weber) on November 28, 2023
Sometimes, you have to hit bottom with no way back up on your own to discover what really matters in life. My parents taught me to live according to Biblical principles and took me to church every Sunday. I even prayed to commit my life to Christ in a junior high youth group. Still, I was too strong-willed for my own good. What God wanted for me didn’t concern me much. I lived fast and carelessly. Even a miraculous deliverance from death when I was sixteen did little to change my attitude.
I was trying to get my friend Shawn home by his 11:00 p.m. curfew. Like I always did, I was driving too fast. We came upon a sharp, right-hand turn, and my speed forced me into the other lane. An 18-wheeler approached from the opposite direction. Guard rails on either side blocked me from swerving out of the way. We came so close to the truck I could read the name of the company on the cab. Blinded by headlights, I white-knuckled the steering wheel and closed my eyes. We’re going to die.
When I opened my eyes, we were in a perfectly quiet, pure white room. Was this heaven? I lost all sense of time. I didn’t know if we were in that room for minutes or hours. Then we were in our car, approaching the traffic light nearly two miles down the road. Stunned, Shawn and I looked at each other. “What just happened?” I asked him.
When we pulled into his drive, his mother rushed out to meet us. “Where were you? What happened?” Her face held a mixture of anger and fear. “I woke up, and the Lord told me to pray for you guys.”
I knew God had given me a second chance, one I didn’t deserve. He had a special purpose for my life. But young as I was, I didn’t know what to do with such knowledge and returned to my old habits. Some of my friends got involved in petty theft, and though I didn’t do the actual stealing, I hid the items at home on my parents’ farm. We began to manufacture homemade explosives we sold to other kids. We had no malicious intentions; we were just foolish teenagers having fun.
But our little hobby became an addiction. Our hunger for more powerful ingredients led us to steal federally labeled material from a local quarry. I played a significant part in the heist, but I still had a conscience. I couldn’t sleep afterward. I knew payday was coming.
One day, someone knocked on the door. My dad answered and returned a minute later. “Andrew, there’s someone here who wants to talk to you, and you need to tell them the truth.”
Heart pounding, I went to the door to find police and FBI agents waiting for me. Ashamed and remorseful, I cooperated fully and led them to all the explosives, which they promptly confiscated. I remember sitting in the police car and seeing my dad walk by and look at me. The pain and disappointment in his eyes broke my heart. I never wanted to see that look again.
Since I was still a minor, I was turned over to the custody of my parents. And then my dad found the stash of stolen goods.
“What is all this, Andrew?”
I had no choice but to explain.
“You’re taking it all back.”
“But Dad, you don’t understand.” Any additional charges, combined with my part in the recent theft of explosives, would guarantee me a cot in a jail cell.
“I do understand, son. You need to ask God to protect you through this because it’s what you need to do.” Mercifully, everyone I’d wronged left me off the hook, although I got an earful from some of them about how my actions had hurt many people.
Though spared prison time, I stood trial before a judge. He allowed me to avoid prosecution if I made something of my life and brought him proof six months later. I’d enjoyed working for a neighbor roofing houses, so I started my own company.
Once again, God had offered me another chance as he tried to draw me back to himself. He blessed me with my wife, Sarah, and a few years later, our first child, Anna. But instead of turning to God for meaning and purpose, I looked to my work. Still bearing the guilt of my earlier failures, I worked hard to prove I could make something good out of my life. Over the next ten years, I developed a very successful business. But it was all about gaining the approval of others. I rarely prayed or read my Bible, basing my identity on my performance rather than on being a son of my heavenly Father and bringing glory to him. My family suffered from my misaligned priorities. I came home one day and called out to Anna, who was a toddler at the time. She looked at me, started to cry, and ran away. I’d become so busy that even my own child barely knew me.
The satisfaction I’d hoped to gain through proving myself eluded me, leaving my heart dry and empty. Late one night in 2008, a severe winter storm raged outside. It mirrored the chaos in my heart. Unable to sleep, I went downstairs to my study. I could no longer stand the emptiness and futility of my life. I fell on my knees. “God, you didn’t bring me into this business for it to be so painful. If this is how it’s going to be, I just want you to take the business away.” Peace enveloped me, so profound it drowned out the howl of the weather. I literally fell asleep on my knees, and when I awoke, a newfound serenity remained.
The Lord led me into a new and deeper relationship with him. He changed my heart and taught me to live by healthier paradigms both in my work and in my personal life. I focused more on my customers, on glorifying and pleasing God by giving them the best service possible rather than just making money. Everyone around me benefitted from my new priorities. I learned when and how to say no to potential customers, and they respected me for it. Many were willing to wait until I had time for their projects because they really liked me and my company’s work. I no longer based my identity on pleasing people but on who God created me to be.
But the Lord had something else in store for me. For some time, I’d been feeling the Lord nudging me to sell. By 2013, the sense of guidance became so strong that I started the process of letting go of my business. However, I felt the company needed to grow in order to make the sale worthwhile. I still had not fully given myself over to God’s will. Finally, the Lord seemed to ask, When will enough be enough? Seek what I have for your life. By September of 2016, I had found a buyer whose heart for the business matched mine.
About a year earlier, I’d become involved with Convene. Their mission statement reads, “To connect, equip, and inspire Christian CEOs and business owners to grow exceptional businesses and become higher-impact leaders to honor God.” About two years after I sold, I became a group chair and executive coach with Convene, and that statement is one I’ve adopted for the consulting I do. Living it out has opened incredible doors, bringing me in to mentor and guide executive teams of large, successful companies who want to learn how to build and shepherd their business God’s way. They understand that the best guidebook to live by is God’s Word, the Bible, whether in business or in any other area of life.
I’ve made foolish choices. But the Lord used them to guide my stubborn heart to him. With him, nothing is wasted. I’ve never earned a college degree, but I’ve learned things you can’t get from a professor: wisdom straight from God’s heart. I learned the only thing that can’t be taken from us is our relationship with him through his Son, Jesus Christ, and the testimony of what he’s done for me and through me. I want to share that testimony for his glory. It’s the best legacy I can leave.
Andrew Zimmerman lives in beautiful southeastern Pennsylvania with his wife, Sarah, and their three children, Anna, Clayton, and Clint. He is CEO of Superior Walls of America in New Holland, PA, and President at Hilltop Business Services. In his spare time, he enjoys big game hunting and traveling.
Tags: money, peace, testimony, success, emptiness, approval, near death, turmoil
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