Think hippies are just a thing of the past? They’re not. Meet singer/songwriter Shawn McDonald.
“I used their lifestyle to justify mine,” he says. “They say you can’t physically be addicted to marijuana but I think I was, at least mentally addicted, because I couldn’t stop.”
Shawn was a modern day hippie -- whose only ambition in life was to get high.
“Picture me. I’m out on the streets, dealing every day,” he says. “That’s what I did from morning to night. I was really wrapped up in the rave scene, doing a lot of ecstasy, staying up for a week at a time. I was hoping that somehow these highs that I was getting would eventually fulfill me or take me to a place where life was right.”
Up until this point, life had been far from “right” for Shawn. His parents had abandoned him as a baby and even though his grandparents adopted him, Shawn still felt like something was missing.
“One of the main questions was just whether or not I was lovable,” he says. “I always felt like there was something wrong with me because my parents chose not to raise me. My confusion and my hurt eventually turned into just anger and bitterness.”
Shawn grew numb to his parents, his grandparents, and -- with the help of a little marijuana-- to his pain.
“I was looking for purpose. I was looking for love. I was looking for anything that would fill me in those times, and that’s why I was doing all the drugs and partying all the time. It was like a menial satisfaction. Eventually in there, I started getting spiritual, too.”
You name it, Shawn tried it: witchcraft, Hinduism, yoga meditation, and even Rastafarianism.
“I was really into Bob Marley,” he says. “I was really into his way of thinking. I thought it was really cool how he could smoke weed and speak of God and do his own thing. I really embraced that.”
There was only one problem…
“I can’t really say it did anything for me,” he says.
So, Shawn kept living the hippie life. When a friend in his college dorm invited him to church, he declined. He’d been exposed to Christianity before…
“It seemed like people just believed in it to make themselves feel better. It didn’t seem like it was real,” he says.
t is until Shawn had an unexpected encounter of his own. It happened right after his second drug bust. He had just been let out on bail.
said, ‘God, if You’re real, if You’re out there, then say something. Speak to me. Show up. Do something.’”
Shawn pulled out the Bible his grandmother had given him as a boy.
“I started to read,” he says. “The scripture I was reading was talking about cleaning the demons out of my house. For the first time, all I could think of was that the drugs were my demons. This scared me enough to where I was going to listen. I’m going to get rid of everything. And so I did.”
Shawn emptied his house of drugs. Two days later, the police showed up with a search warrant. Of course, they found nothing!
“I think that was when I realized something bigger was happening here.”
So Shawn took his friend up on his offer to go to church, and let Jesus Christ take control of his life. What he got in return was more than he had bargained for.
“It was a pure high. I can’t explain it other than His presence was in my body and just this satisfaction and peace that I’d never experienced before to the point where all of a sudden I didn’t desire all that other stuff,” he says. “That’s when I said no more. No more drugs, no more of this lifestyle, and dropped everything and started running in the other direction.”
Things didn't change overnight for Shawn. He still had to spend one month in jail for previous charges. Since his housemate was dealing drugs, he faced daily temptations at home. Shawn's solution? To move in with a Christian friend who understood his challenge and could help steer him in the right direction. After this, Shawn’s drug days were completely over and everything in his life turned around. His praying grandmother can vouch for that.
“I don’t know how to tell you but it’s from bad to good,” says his grandmother. “It’s just like a different man. No one will ever convince me that God doesn’t do things in people’s lives because he’s just a different person.”
Shawn’s rage was replaced with love, kindness, and compassion: qualities that show up in Shawn’s songs.
With a voice like his, you’d think Shawn’s been making music for years, but that’s not so. Before his encounter with Christ, Shawn never picked up a guitar. But his passion took him far. Today, Shawn McDonald is a top Christian recording artist.
He just got married and is learning about God’s love in a brand new way. He says he’s also learning about his great need for God’s mercy.
“When it comes down to it, I’m not worthy of mercy,” he says. “I’m worthy of death, and yet God, for some reason, invests His life into us and decides He would bestow mercy upon us and teach us what true life really is."
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