Wayward Son of a Preacher Man
By Shannon Woodland
The 700 Club
Johnny Whittington was on the run. He ran from almost everything that resembled his life before drugs - his praying father, his marriage, and his relationship with God. But, there was one thing Johnny didn’t run from.
"Just instruments with strings," Johnny said. "I was drawn to them."
Johnny was a preacher’s kid with a musical gift. He began playing gospel music professionally at age 15. When he was 18, he joined a country band called Whiskey River that played venues quite different from churches. Johnny not only welcomed the change in scenery, he embraced it. Soon, he was hooked on drugs and alcohol.
"From then on I didn’t have anything to do with church or church people or with God," Johnny said, "even though my daddy kept praying. He told me one time, 'you can go as far as you want to and travel this earth, but you’ll never out run my prayers.' That stuck with me."
It would seem Johnny wanted to put his father’s words to the test because in time, Johnny turned into a junkie and a drug dealer.
"From heroine, ecstasy, cocaine, rock cocaine, methamphetamines, uppers, downers, until I found that one drug I thought was going to make me happy. But it didn’t," Johnny said.
Johnny headed to Nashville to perform at the Grand Ole Opry. He thought this opportunity would really help his career to take off. But it didn’t. His marriage ended and his insatiable appetite for drugs kept him in poor company. Then one night, a drug deal gone bad left him a victim of a shooting.
"The bullet hit right here [his chest]. It hit my heart, went through and ricocheted, hit my lung, liver and spleen," Johnny said. "When that bullet hit me, I hit the ground. All that stuff came back that my daddy said, all the teaching from my youth. And I called on the Lord, immediately, because I knew at that point I would wind up in hell. That’s the bottom line.”
The bullet exited Johnny’s body, but the damage was done. He was airlifted to a hospital where doctors worked eight hours to save his life. At first, doctors didn’t think Johnny would pull through, but after only two days in intensive care and another four days in the hospital, Johnny was sent home. He says it was there he got a touch from Christ.
"No heart damage," Johnny said. "I hurt pretty bad there for a little while. I prayed and began to seek God, get back into the word and I was really after God. I was really seeking the Lord’s face. And one night as I prayed and went to sleep, I felt a hand on my chest, [he] called my name and shook my chest and I woke up and the Lord was right there. I couldn’t speak, but cry. But when he left, the pain left and I haven’t had a pain since."
The hole where the bullet exited Johnny’s body has left a permanent indentation in Johnny’s side. This is his constant reminder of 20 years of drug addiction. Johnny never did outrun his father’s prayers and his dad lived long enough to see to that.
"I got to spend the last seven months with him before he passed away. We talked a lot. He listened to the songs the Lord had given me to write," Johnny said. "He’d tell me, 'God is working in your life now.' he was happy to see that."
Today, Johnny writes songs that reflect what God has done in his life. He shares his story with young people hoping to turn them away from a life of drugs and into a loving relationship with Jesus Christ.
"I tell people this, 'I just don’t love the Lord, I fell in love with the Lord.' I am in love this time," Johnny said.Can God change your life?
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