Amid the recent violence in U.S. schools, a Tennessee father decided to speak out about his experience as a “troubled kid.” But he never expected to go viral.
Jay Cleveland is a devoted Christian and loving father who runs helps run a community resource center near his home — a far cry from the juvenile delinquent he said he was as a teen.
Cleveland wrote on Facebook:
The picture below is of me at 15-16, taken by a Birmingham Detective with Jefferson County in Alabama. I was being charged with 3 counts of Attempted murder and two counts of discharging firearms into occupied dwellings. I had been in juvenile multiple times, and this time I was taken to the adult jail.
The father said he spent his time getting ahold of guns and drugs, despite his family’s pleas for him to shape up. Regardless of what they said, Cleveland said he “wouldn’t listen to a single person.”
But all of that changed when he was put behind bars to await his court hearing. Cleveland wrote:
The only thing that helped me was reaching the bottom. It was the night before my court date, I was sitting in a jail cell. Two men convicted of murder had been stalking my cell… I truly thought I was going to die, and if not, I thought I would die in prison. I got on my knees that night and told God that I finally relinquish control over my life to Him, to live for Him, no matter what happened next. From that moment forward, my life began.
Cleveland said that when he opened his eyes, the two murderers had vanished. And from that point on, he put trust in his faith.
The father said he now hopes other troubled kids see his message. He wrote:
We need a Savior in these kids lives. In these fatherless homes, in these schools, In these homes that mimic the Devil’s playground. Where mental health and illnesses fall short, God always fulfills.
The Tennessee dad’s message seemed to strike a chord with social media users.
His inspirational post had been shared more than 50,000 times on Facebook, and garnered thousands of comments. Some wrote:
God bless you in your daily thoughts, travels, footsteps, and prayers. Heart touching reading your testimonial.
Your awesome testimony proves that God can change anyone’s heart.
You need to share your story with our youth today. Thank you.
Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. Hopefully it will help other troubled people to turn to God.
This is what people need to hear. Thank you.
Cleveland told Dearly that the flood of responses to his post was initially “overwhelming,” especially considering how open and vulnerable his words were.
But as he read through people’s messages, he knew he’d made the right choice. He told Dearly:
“Once the comments and messages started pouring in, it was easy to see the greater purpose, though. There’s a lot of hurt people out there that are truly living in constant pain and hopeful prayer. The messages I’m getting are either full of encouragement and hope, or in search of answers and prayer for their loved ones.”
Thousands of social media users are now hearing his message of faith, and he said it feels “absolutely amazing” to help encourage others.