Editor's note: Andrew Palau is one of international evangelist Luis Palau's four sons. After spending his youth and much of young adulthood in rebellion against his father's Christianity, and surviving a close brush with death in a Jamaican plane crash, Andrew experienced a dramatic turnaround and committed his life to God. Today, he works for his father's Palau Association, alongside two of his brothers.

After [the University of Oregon] and my European excursions, I moved to Boston to pursue a career in retail. I chose Boston for several reasons, but mainly because it was on the other side of the country. It was time for a new path. My lifestyle transitioned into a grown-up version of my junior high self. No, I didn't continue experimenting with gasoline and fire and handmade bombs. The experimentation was different, though equally flammable.

Outwardly I was doing "OK." I had my university degree and lived in one of the premier American cities working my way up the corporate ladder. I maintained my self-centeredness and self-gratifying relationships. Though I dialed the partying and drug life back a bit, I still lived as if God did not exist.

I was no longer a boy in college able to contrive excuses for my carousing. I was a man who chose to walk away from God. Far worse. Now, I was grown up, but still obstinate. I kept my life together and managed to stay out of jail and real rock bottom, for the most part … outwardly anyway.

My internal narrative read much differently.

As time passed I began to recognize the emptiness in my life. I began to feel a real sense of loneliness even though I had a great family and I had all the friends in the world. I was the ironic soul who stands surrounded by people, yet inwardly carries the burden of despair. Something was missing. What am I doing with my life? I thought.

This question vexed me. Even though I wanted everybody to think I was doing great my inward existence seemed futile and embarrassing. Working up the corporate ladder was a farfetched statement. Reality? I was trying to make my way in life, doing the best I could. But despondency sank into me like a subtle virus—it latched on and infected other areas of my life.

But was I so surprised?

I had built my life on structures of glass—gleaming and sparkly but easily shattered with a pebble. I was trapped by all the things I had done in the past. The things that started out as "fun" and exciting" now contributed to my unraveling. I could choose dozens of examples of how things began to unravel, but I'll stick with one: alcohol.

Article continues below

I abused it in this way. At first I drank for fun, for social reasons, but in the end it was a trap. Anxiety was one of the primary reasons I began abusing alcohol. I couldn't go to bed at night sober with my thoughts. Whenever I found myself in that position, sober, lying in my bed, in the darkness of the night, all the garbage of my life flooded my mind and my heart. I'd restlessly lay there and think about all the people I'd hurt and all the lies I told and all of my cheating and my stealing and the abusive relationships and all of my addictions, my arrogance and my pride and so much more would flood in.

I was like a prisoner caged in my thoughts, the guilt pressing in on me, overwhelming my spirit. I could not take it.

So, to avoid that situation I found people to party with every night of the week, which wasn't too hard. But sometimes I couldn't find anyone so I'd end up riding the train to the bus to my apartment and sitting alone, on my couch, drinking beers watching baseball into the wee hours of the night. On the east coast you can watch the west coast baseball games late into the night until one or two in the morning. Eventually I would pass out on the couch and the TV would "sign off for the broadcast day." No 24-hour cable TV back then. The screen would turn to fuzz. I'd wake up, turn it off, crawl into bed, hear the alarm, get up and go to work in the morning. Then out partying. On and on it went. I wondered if, at some point, I would turn to fuzz and be shut off.

This terrible cycle continued in my life; it was my way of avoiding the reality before me.

I stepped right into the fool's world.

With an incredible display of imprudence and lack of wisdom I had played this role in high school and college and now as an "adult." I was the fool. A fool is a silly person. I'd read enough to know the role of the fool and thought warmly of the court jester—a character who plays the clown to entertain all the people of wealth and influence. I played this role growing up. I was like a clown walking the tightrope balancing plates and balls on my nose while whistling calliope tunes—the circus jester entertaining the folks who would look in my traveling-fair.

I went to great lengths to apply my make-up just right. I lived with a painted veil over my life that seemed more fun, more daring, more everything. I felt better having a great fool's mask. I loved walking the tightrope singing my silly songs. The safety net was below; I know I'd be fine if I fell.

Article continues below

And I did fall. In doing so I learned that fine is relative. Sure I'd pick up the pieces, but then found myself quickly wondering, what's next? Being alone and adrift, growing estrangement from friends and family began to feel less and less fine. If fine was the act of "getting by" I didn't want to be fine. I wanted glory and love and power. Modern media mirrored my desires, sex and food and plenty of it. I wanted to rise above the mundane and indulge the rich things in life; the things that made me feel good—that made me feel invincible.

When I fell from my tightrope all my plates and balls shattered and scattered. My mask smeared. My back hurt. My pride hurt. My heart hurt. When I looked around to see what the crowd thought, the stands were empty, no applause. But I was told the crowd laughed when the clowns fell. What about the cheers and the laughs? What about the approval of man? The fool was fooled.

* * *

"You're a believer."

"What are you talking about?"

"You're a believer. Right?"

I didn't know what he was talking about. I was in a club in downtown Boston. The lights and the music pulsed. I was three thousand miles from my family and anyone who really knew my background. How did this guy know me?

"You're a believer."

"Yeah," I said hesitantly. "I am." Oh boy, I need to just cut this discussion short and scram. But part of me liked what he was intimating—that we were connected through spiritual brotherhood. For a moment I felt comfort; this person was obviously a Christian. Somehow from the past he knew me.

"I knew it. You're a follower of Satan. Right?"

"What? No! No!" I tried to yell over the thump-thump of the club.

He laughed at me, turned and left.

I stood frozen. What just happened? Something supernatural had occurred, though I didn't know what, or why. What did that man see in me that led him to believe that I followed Satan? Since college a broad array of drugs was part of my life. If it was 2 a.m. and we needed some more coke, we went after it. It didn't matter that we had to call shady characters across town to get it. Most of us did drugs—it was our social enhancer.

But on that night in a Boston club, hopped up on mushrooms and beer, I received a frightful reminder of something that had peeked around at me over the years. The "social additives" that I loved to use and abuse were a gateway into another world, a world that I knew little about—a world that none of us controlled. Perhaps now it was time to put the college lifestyle away for good. I wanted success in my job yet I still wanted a good time. I had eased off most of the drugs near the end of my college career but now I felt like it was time to abandon them completely or something bad would happen.

Article continues below

So, I tried to shelve them. I had to function professionally and, frankly, I was freaked out by the connection between drugs and Satan made clear to me that night in the club. Not only was I conscious of the spiritual pressure of guilt that confirmed there was going to be a time to pay up, I was getting pressure from the other side. As if dealing with God wasn't enough. Now a dark side was making its presence known to me. And I didn't like it.

Excerpted from The Secret Life of a Fool by Andrew Palau, © 2012. Published by Worthy Publishing, a division of Worthy Media, Inc., Brentwood, TN. www.worthypublishing.com. Used by permission. Tell us what you thought of this excerpt on Twitter: #SecretLifeofaFool @WorthyPub

Related Elsewhere:

The Secret Life of a Fool: One Man's Raw Journey from Shame to Grace is available from ChristianBook.com and other book retailers. CT also did an interview with Palau.

The Luis Palau Association site has a section on Andrew and his evangelistic ministries.

Worthy Publishing also has a trailer, audio interview, and first chapter from the book.

The Secret Life of a Fool: One Man's Raw Journey from Shame to Grace
The Secret Life of a Fool: One Man's Raw Journey from Shame to Grace
Worthy Books
224 pp., 16.76
Buy The Secret Life of a Fool: One Man's Raw Journey from Shame to Grace from Amazon