As a teenager, Jake Tuazon was committed to living a moral life. He went to confession, attended mass, and prayed to Mary. He’d even grappled inwardly with the pull to the priesthood. He was determined to earn his way to heaven. He’d discovered a passion for God at a youth camp, and for years, he remained committed to the little he knew of this God. But as time went on, he found the pressure of that crippling. He knew what he was doing still wasn’t enough.
“One night of partying just led to a bad decision,” he said. “That was the breaking point for me. I’m like, you know what? I’m going to hell. I guess since I’m going to hell, I might as well have fun while I’m here.”
As a Catholic, he was not only convinced of the doctrine of purgatory, but he also felt strongly that if he did not live a moral enough life, there was no way he was getting out of purgatory anytime in the next millennium.
After that moment, something inside him stopped striving. As his spiritual life spiraled out of control, so did his grades and focus.
“A passion for something had always been alien to me,” he described.
So, he joined the Air Force, as a jet mechanic, still not sure of what he even wanted to do with his life. But, he appreciated the stability the military afforded. He enjoyed money, his lifestyle of partying, and the nightly prayer to appease the Lord. He was living a comfortable life.
On a temporary deployment, he met a girl who would change his life. She was a believer, and she knew why. Jake was more interested in dating her than learning about her faith, but she made it clear that if he wanted to truly be with her, he’d need to be a Christian. He was confused. He thought he was.
“I was really impressed just how much she knew [about the Bible]. Me, I just never knew [much],” he said. In his strain of Catholicism, he was taught that one couldn’t understand the Bible, so he wasn’t required to read it. He knew it was God’s Word, and it had authority. But so did his church.
“The rule of moral contradiction was very strong with me. Either this or that was right. It couldn’t be both. She’s telling me all these things. I’m impressed. I’m really fascinated. I thought, ‘I know nothing about my faith. Let me find some more stuff out and then I can convert her.’ Obviously, I was not going to let this go.”
He didn’t own a Bible, so his first step was to find one. After that, he took to CatholicAnswers.com to defend his faith and win his girl.
He looked up why they pray to Mary, one of the biggest questions he was frequently asked. He explained it to his friend like this: If you love someone, you should want to meet their mom. The same principle applies to one’s relationship with Jesus.
“That makes sense,” she replied, “but it’s still not right.”
Determined to make his answers unbiased and prove his faith, he decided to look at a different source. “I needed something not biased towards me. I was wondering where I could go. And I realized, ‘Oh, the Bible.’ But then I realized I still don’t know how to read it.”
He googled again and found that the Bible was divided into books and chapters and verses. He then typed his same question about Mary into another website.
“I saw that the Bible never commands us to pray to Mary. In fact, it condemns it. It gave me a verse. I learned how to read it. I was like, ‘that can’t be real.’”
From there, he spent time researching all of his questions and substantiating the answers with the Scripture.
“I went through all these doctrines, and at that point I was thinking, ‘What else is there?’” he recalled. “How do you get to heaven?” He typed those words in, and Ephesians 2:8-9 opened an entirely new world for him.
“I read it. ‘For by grace you have been saved through faith.’ And I stopped there. ‘What’s grace?’”
“I kept reading. ‘And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.’ I was like, ‘Wait.’ It was another thing I found that contradicted the Catholic church,,” he said.
He’d always had a fear of death. “I was always afraid to die. I knew I was going to, I was partying. I was getting into fights. I didn’t know if I was going to wake up. There are always stories of sinkholes in Florida. A plane crashing. I worked in front of jets. It was always in the back of my head: ‘I’m going to hell.’ I always tried to find something to make me forget about it,” he said. “But that’s always something I’ve been carrying.
“I read that it says faith is not a result of works. At that moment I realized that I never knew why Jesus Christ was on that cross. He died for our sins. When I put and two together, it made so much sense.”
He’d been going to church and Bible study to impress that girl, but after that moment, his motives changed. On February 14, 2016, he surrendered to the calling God had put on his heart and made a public profession of faith. The following week, after nearly breaking his mother’s heart with his declaration, he was baptized for the second time in his life, this time by immersion.
From there, he told his coworkers and anyone who could listen about his newfound faith. “I remember thinking, ‘Man, is this what passion is?’” he said.
As he exited the military, he knew God was calling him to employ his newly minted passion in a greater way. For him, that meant seminary. In 2017, he surrendered to that call and is now working on his diploma in the Billy Graham School.
“The Lord just really made it clear that I’m supposed to be here,” he said. ”He’s been working on me. He continues to work on me. I don’t know the direction he’s taking me, but it’s been a wild ride, and it’s not over yet.”