By Doug Dowty
Chris Holmes had to lose the girl to find Jesus. At least, that’s how it worked out. Holmes, 34, had other loves in life: basketball (he played semi-pro), drinking (he was a bartender), rap music (Eminem) and partying (Armory Square circuit).
He’d been the popular jock at Onondaga High School, setting records in football, basketball and track. He first dunked at age 17, despite being under 6 feet tall.
His plan was to attend junior college near Albany and become a professional basketball player. But after a brief stint with the Albany Patroons team, he returned to Syracuse and bounced between jobs.
His first long-term girlfriend was Catholic, so he went through the motions to get confirmed. The faith didn’t stick. A few years later, he had two children with another girlfriend. But the couple turned out to be “oil and water,” Chris recalls, and that relationship ended, as well.
Then, in September 2013, he took a chance on an online date. Her name was Renee. And he knew there was something different about her.
“She didn’t need anyone to be happy,” Chris recalled. “I thought she was way out of my league.” But Renee Markus took a chance on Chris, too. She started coming to all of his rec league basketball games. She loved her family and the outdoors. She got along well with Chris’s two girls, ages 4 and 9, who split time between Chris and his ex-girlfriend.
Renee had grown up in a religious family, but wasn’t going to church regularly. Early on, God wasn’t a big part of their relationship, Chris recalls.
Together, they started going to church. And the experience changed Renee. For Chris, those changes weren’t always welcome.
He was bartending in Syracuse’s South Side. Renee didn’t feel comfortable around all the drunks anymore.
He was still listening to explicit music. She wanted him to stop. He wanted to be extremely physical. She wanted to slow down.
After two years and mounting friction, Renee called Chris last fall: it was over.
Distraught, Chris turned to the pastor of the church they were attending in Liverpool. “Let her go,” the pastor advised. She’s not interested in you anymore.*
That turned Chris’s world upside-down. But in the pain, he found a Savior. He started seeking God at every opportunity. That included coming to the Vineyard on Saturdays for worship. He joined a Bible Study at the Liverpool church.
“Through the heartache, I found Christ,” Chris said.
Secretly, that’s all Renee wanted all along. She took another risk and decided to break the silence.
“I didn’t think you’d ever talk to me again,” Chris told her. “I found my strength in Jesus.”
Renee’s prayers had been answered. In the past month, the couple got back together.
“I was too concerned with things that aren’t important,” Chris said. He’s left bartending and got a promotion at a Verizon store. And he’s promised to take one day at a time with his lost – and found – love of his life. Chris says he’s a new man, and Renee says she’s seen the changes in him.
He’s been proving himself over and over again since they got back together, she said. “How impossible all this without a Creator is!” Chris declared.