from chaos to christ
by Aaron DeMerchant
Read more about Free Will Baptist Bible College at www.fwbbc.edu.
Young men in the dormitory at Free Will Baptist Bible College may be startled to learn that the resident director they know as Mr. DeMerchant, who lives in campus housing along with his wife and infant son, was better known five years ago as a 270-pound professional wrestler named The Canadian Crippler: Chaos A.D.
While I dread recalling some of my past and find it difficult to speak of because people get the wrong idea about my old life, I’m eager to tell how Jesus Christ turned my life around.
A Near Conversion
I grew up in a good Christian family with Dad, Mom, and two older brothers. My brothers and I were taken to church from the first Sunday our parents brought us home from the hospital.
I remember that 1982 Sunday afternoon service at a local church in New Brunswick, Canada. I was six years old. The pastor preached about the love of God from John 3:16. For the first time in my life, I believed God was speaking to me personally. Overwhelmed with conviction, I walked to the front of the church and knelt to talk things out with God. “God, I believe if I want to go to Heaven, Jesus is the Way. But I don’t think I can preach the Bible.”
I don’t remember all I said that day, but I did not believe God was telling the whole truth. I could not tell others about a God who says He is love when I did not believe it.
I left the altar like so many do, confused, un-surrendered, and consumed with unresolved personal matters. Everyone seemed so excited about my apparent conversion that I went along with the crowd—something I found myself doing often the next several years.
The unspoken reason I could not trust God was because of a dark secret that began when I was five years old. A teenage boy sexually molested me and threatened me if I told anyone. The abuse continued almost two years. The consequences of molestation followed me 17 twisted, nightmarish years, pushing me deeper into the black hole of sin.
Playing the Game
Not long after my near-conversion, I was baptized and became a member of the visible church. Mom and Dad were the same at church or at home, so I learned how to say prayers (because I heard so many), and I memorized scriptures so others wouId think I was spiritual.
But the older I got the more bitter I became toward the church and my parents (who knew nothing about the molestation). I became hateful toward God who did know about it. I figured my parents loved God more than they loved my brothers and me (they did), and that most everyone in church was a hypocrite like me (they weren’t, of course).
Eventually, I left the church and my parents’ home. That’s when the real Aaron emerged—my new friends gave me the nickname Chaos.
Sold Out to Self
“Chaos” sums up my life the next five years. I was no longer a hypocrite. I became what I knew myself to be—a great sinner. I cast off my upbringing and was a law to myself. The only thing I wanted was to be happy, no matter what it took, no matter what it cost. I thought I knew how to achieve perfect happiness.
My drive to be the best at whatever I did made me difficult to be around. Drugs, alcohol, run-ins with the law, and more—I would rather fight than eat and rather party than sleep. People who lived like I did do not survive long; I never thought I would reach my current age of 32.
While I didn’t set out to ruin my life, that’s what happened. No matter what I did in order to be satisfied, I always wanted more. The harder I tried the emptier I became. One day in 1998, my wild life caught up with me, and I suffered a severe back and shoulder injury at the lumber mill where I worked. A heavy load I was handling shifted, muscles ripped and tore, and suddenly everything was gone.
The pain I now had was both internal and external. I was no longer the big, weight-lifting tough guy. To make matters worse, I could not do the one thing in life I enjoyed—play musical instruments. I had been classically trained on the guitar and was taught to play the piano. Somewhere in the 24 months it took for me to recover from the lumber mill injury, I realized something had to change.
I felt exhausted and burned out by bitterness and hatred, lonely, lost, and hopeless. I did not care if I lived or died, and three times I attempted suicide. I hated God, was angry at the world, and ended up hating what I had become—Chaos. I felt cursed. I wished I had never been born or could go back to non-existence.
Hearing From God
I remember waking up one morning and reaching for my drugs. Something happened that moment which changed my life forever: My eyes were opened to God’s truth. God had let me go my way so I could learn that my way led to misery and death. I could not blame God for anything, because I had never followed God’s ways. I could not blame God for the things others did to me, because they did not follow God’s ways either.
I always thought I was good and knew what was best for me, until that morning when I understood that God alone is good; not me, not any one else, just God. And if God alone was good, then He was all I wanted.
I said, “God, I’m not asking you to save me. I just want to say I’m sorry for blaming everything wrong on You. I do not know You, but I need to. Keep all the Christians and religious people from me; I don’t want to hear about You anymore. I want to hear from You.”
Naturally, God did not keep Christians away from me, but as I began to read the Bible searching for Him, He did speak. On March 18, 2000, I bowed my knees to Jesus Christ in my parents’ kitchen-dining room and confessed Him as Savior. Jesus did for me what no one else could do—He set me free.
New Man—New Mission
Shortly after my conversion, I enrolled at Free Will Baptist Bible College where I graduated five years later with a B.S. degree in Pastoral Ministry. God used those five years as His hammering process, and though they were challenging spiritually and difficult academically, His grace was always sufficient.
Now I witness to everyone. I assume that wherever I am is where God wants me to spread His message. While serving as an intern at a local church in New Brunswick, I conducted a Bible study at a drug dealer’s house, praying that the police would not raid the place until I finished the Bible study.
The Lord led me into professional wrestling at Mid-America Wrestling Federation (MAW) where I shared the gospel with my fellow wrestlers and fans. My wrestling name was Chaos A.D. I used the name as a springboard for witnessing to curious fans and wrestlers who asked what it meant. I threw airplane-shaped tracts to fans as I walked to the ring and autographed the tracts during intermission in order to witness.
I will never forget the night MAW was in Centerville, Tennessee, where I won the Royal Rumble and then the MAW Heavyweight Championship title against a wrestler known as War. Before the show began, I listened to conversations between wrestling fans. A middle-aged man was bragging how he planned to party all night and sleep-in the next morning (Sunday morning), when the young teen in front of him turned and said, “You’d better not do that!”
“Why not?” the man said.
“Because Chaos A.D. is here tonight, and you need to be in church tomorrow,” the teen said.
I talked with the boy and his friends that night and shared the gospel with them. They believed what I said and promised to be in church the next morning.
After a year, even though I won the heavyweight championship, I knew God wanted me out of wrestling. So I walked away from it and never looked back.
My one ambition in life is to know Jesus Christ. I’ve laid my thoughts, my plans, and who I am at the foot of the cross, and can honestly say God has taken me, Chaos A.D., and given me His life. This is not a dream—this is reality.
God let me reach the end of myself, and when I got there I found no goodness, no power, and no hope. I realized it was not just forgiveness I needed. Aaron DeMerchant had to die—I needed to be changed; that’s what Jesus did for me.
The man known as Chaos is no more. The dark years of molestation are gone. The angry six-year-old who could not trust God and became a modern-day prodigal son, found his way home—all the way home.
ABOUT THE WRITER: Aaron DeMerchant is men’s resident director at Free Will Baptist Bible College. The Canadian-born minister is a 2006 FWBBC Pastoral Ministry graduate. His wife Rachel is a member of the college’s English faculty.