When a guy gets to be in his late 80's, as I have, and now widowed, no car as I wrecked mine a few weeks ago, he has lots of time to write. The more I write, the more I am eager to do so.
And since tomorrow will be the 40th anniversary of that date when I - finally, got my life on track, I thought I might share a bit with you.
It was the day after Mother's Day (1975) and I was on a bus headed for Tulsa, OK. You really do not need all of the gory details, but I was hurting and hopefully, heading for a healing. I had come from San Diego, CA, where my wife and the mother of our children was in prison, probably to spend the next twenty years - or so I thought at the time. The man I was going to see, I thought, was a well known Pastor whose specialty seemed to be, healing the hurting. And I was hurting!
But I was nervous, wondering how he - so very knowledgeable about the Bible, might address my problems as I was far from being knowledgeable about the scriptures, even though I had been going to church for the greater part of my - soon to be, 45 years of age. I decided to open my Bible, but where to start? Certainly not Genesis 1:1. I knew that one by heart, testimony to the fact I had often tried and more often, failed to read the Bible as others thought I should.
I decided to start where Jesus started in His earthly mission, Matthew 4:17. "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Repent. Repent? I had no idea what that meant and after awhile, I thought I might ask God. He had occasionally answered the prayers I had learned in Sunday School. And so, I did. I was almost asleep when I began to realize, my mind had gone back to those years when I came to hate my beginning in life. My parents were newlyweds and he wanted a daughter. I assumed he did not want me. Then, my sister came along, but I had the measles, so they sent me to live with my grandparents on the farm. It was 1932, things were not good for so many people and apparently it was true for my parents. Anyway, from that day forward, it was as if I had been abandoned, even though I was much loved by my grandparents where I would spend most of my youth. At 17, I literally ran away and joined the Army Air Corps. The more I thought about my fate in life, my father had died and left me and I thought that was also true of my mother. The fact was, I had begun to sow bad seeds and was now reaping an unhealthy harvest.
There on that bus, with my life whirling about in my head, I realized I had reason to repent and so, I did. Tears streaming out my eyes, I begged God for another chance. He gave me Jesus.
That is the shorter story. It was about to end as when I stepped off of that bus in Tulsa, and vowed that I would never go back to living the kind of life I had embraced, hating others, fearful of my own future. With God's help and the teaching offered by His Son, my Lord, Jesus Christ, I have kept that promise. It has been a long journey, but day by day, often hour by hour, i have faced the future and forgotten the past, expecting the best and it has been showered upon me.
Oh wait, don't think it has been easy. I had to learn a lot of things, starting with the fact that I was loved from the moment of my birth to this very moment. And, since I was the recipient of love, I was obligated to extend it to everyone I would meet. That took a lot of learning. Even my contemporaries, the folks I would meet along the way as well as many of my "brothers" in the church, did not seem to agree with me. I tried to get them not to debate with me, but to "hear" what our Lord had to say on the subject and even that did not work every time, At least, I had sown some new seeds that if, well cultivated, could lead to eternal life
Along the way, the church I was attending decided that what we needed was the power that was to come from the baptism in the Holy Spirit made evident by the ability to "speak in tongues". They started having classes to teach how this was to be accomplished and to many, there was success. Not for me. Try as I may, there were no "utterances" coming from my throat. Then, I ran into trouble with a couple of my Sunday School classmates and we met to talk about the problem I had apparently created. I was hurt and as they talked back and forth, I chose to pray. To my complete amazement and theirs, I offered my opinion in a "tongue", a language none of us understood and they believed that God had stepped in between us. That was alright with me as I certainly did not want to hurt my friends.
What had happened sent me to my Bible to see, if what I had been hearing in those classes were scriptural or merely, the opinion of men. Looking back, I was now beginning to grow. My Bible study was beginning to become part of my daily routine.
It should have been - from the onset of my new life in Christ, but I was about to discover one of the fallacies of the churches I had been attending. I had loved the fellowship, the music, the programs, the people, but as I sought counsel, I was easily dismissed and that began to trouble me. So, I sought other churches and in one, in particular, I found a new wife.
We really did not wait for the Lord's blessing. We were blessed by the fellowship we were enjoying and we studied together as we had come from different religious backgrounds. We really believed, "love conquers all" but we were both to learn, that depends on whose love. And then she got sick and eventually died,
That was an amazing experience for me as I was hurt, but not sad at her passing. I began to question my own faith and pray - and pray, and pray. Then, one day, out of the blue, after I had been praying for something, or someone, I really forget what I was trying to convey, but my prayers were answered. It was as if God had entered the room where I was praying and I began to have thoughts in my mind that had never been there before. It was as if He was trying to tell me I was on the wrong path in life, that in my efforts to tell others of the changes in my life since I had been "born again", I was not really paying much attention to the lives of those with whom I was making contacts. I had begun to believe, I was responsible for their change.
I was wrong. I cannot change anyone. My only task was to continue loving people of course, but as I met people, I was not to try to convince them of anything; merely to reflect His grace at work in my life. "If they are hungry, they will come,"
That was when He reminded me that in this world of 7+ billion others, each one of us has a different DNA. We may resemble one another, but we are not alike. The proof is in our DNA. If we are to believe that God is author of life, all life, as I do, our operating mechanism to help others discover what we have discovered are those two appendages on the sides of our heads. We are to listen and then we talk, if there are questions. They have a right to their privacy.
Have you ever noticed, Jesus operated on that principle. He taught that others might inquire but he sought others by listening and explaining life as it was meant to be.
It is not as many want to believe, our knowledge that is required for us to respond to others, it is our empathy, our understanding of the other person's reality.
I could spend a lot more time on this subject and you can believe, I will. Not today. Probably tomorrow. I hope I will find you there, willing to listen.