The grass felt cool and comforting on my back as I laid my head back and closed my eyes. But the pain in my leg raced up and down from my toes to my stomach like the clawing of a furious animal. White haze filled my vision and I felt sick to my stomach.
That morning had started perfectly. Mild, sunny weather was what I had wanted. We had planned to spend our day riding our dirt bikes through the countryside. I had risen early to clean, oil and adjust it to be ready for a long ride. A few runs in the driveway would check its readiness, I thought. To my surprise, in the middle of a wheelie, the engine sputtered, dropping the bike to one side. My leg went out to steady myself and the force of the fall was too much for my knee joint.
My brother helped me to the emergency room where a surgeon examined the injury. The expression on his face told what his thoughts were—back again; don’t you ever learn? Two years earlier, this doctor had repaired damage in that same knee. As I thought about that previous surgery, memories of my father’s visit came to me. He had stood by my bed and quietly asked, “Don’t you think God is trying to tell you something?” All those thoughts came back to me again. Yes, God was dealing with me, and I was resisting Him, preferring my own path of earthly “fun.” Why would He not leave me alone?
I had been raised in a home where the Word of God (the Bible) was revered. We were taught of mankind’s fall to a sinful state and how Christ could lift us out of that darkened path. I had my eyes and thoughts on other things and gazed out at the world. Anything that came along and seemed exciting was what I wanted.
Growing up, I loved to play sports and that occupied my mind and time. The school teams were my goal, and they were successful. We won local and regional championships allowing me to wear a school jacket displaying the crests of our victories. It was exhilarating to stand before the whole student body and receive the awards for our success. But that feeling did not last long. Soon I was back to my day-to-day life as a student, having to cope just like everyone else. The next athletic success would only come with a lot of practice and sweat.
During the years of secondary education, another of my passions developed. Music made my fingers tap and my feet dance. Rhythm and blues were the music that moved me most and soon a few friends and I were getting together to play music. We practiced seriously and eventually had a band that was good enough to play at dances and taste a bit of the nightlife. My parents were not happy, but I was old enough to make some decisions on my own. Being out late to early morning hours with the band meant Sunday mornings I was too tired to go to the meetings of the Lord’s people. Soon I was skipping out on the evening meeting also, more occupied with having a good time than with my eternal needs before a Holy God.
In the middle of all my waywardness God spoke to me very clearly. I had a cousin who was my age and was close to me. We had been together quite a lot and enjoyed each other’s company. One night in a single car accident, his life was gone. During the funeral service, I stared at his casket, ensnared by the stark reality of death, yes even of a young person. I anxiously wondered, where would my soul be if I were the one in that casket?
Satan continued to distract and amuse me with all his devices. Soon I was back to my old self, looking for some new thing to enjoy. Being with other musicians and the party crowd, I had started drinking to enjoy myself more. The problem was I did not handle alcohol well and would be sick and hung over after a “good time.” Still, I went back to it, even after sometimes vowing to never do that again. The desire for new experiences and a good time had ensnared me, even though I did not see it that way.
During my college years, peace, love, and the “hippie” philosophy caught me up. We protested the “establishment” and its deceitful ways, not knowing that we too were being used to propagate even a bigger lie. Drugs were to open your mind, expand your understanding, and I fell right into it all. At last, I felt like I could have a good time and not get sick. We all felt we were having a good time. Don’t think about the ones who “fried their minds.” Don’t consider the “unlucky” who died of an overdose or drug induced acts of death. Almost frantically we searched for the fleeting glimpse of newness, a short moment of pleasure.
There began to be cracks in my life of self-indulgence. God had not left me to myself. People spoke to me about God at unexpected moments. A sincere Christian man prayed that I would know my soul secure eternally by the blood of Christ. He cared more about my soul than I did. The thought hit hard and would not leave me.
One night at our regular bar, two men broke beer bottles and slashed at each other. On another occasion, in the bar across the alley, a man walked in with a shotgun and shot his wife who had been with someone else. There was blood on the bar floor, death in the place of pleasure. I walked home with my girlfriend thinking, “and they call this a good time?”
A friend and I had planned to hitchhike through Europe, so I moved home when I was twenty-three. It was during this time that I fell on the motorcycle, injuring my knee. I could not work for two months and spent a lot of time around the house. My parents asked if I would go to some gospel meetings and to be agreeable, I went. The message struck me with my need of being made right with God. At night sometimes I would shake, thinking about dying, not ready to meet God and being cast out into eternal darkness. An uncle spoke to me and left me some tracts to read. I read them and put them away.
Europe beckoned and I made my plans to travel. We left New York on an ocean liner for six days of easy living. From Southampton we hitched to London for a few days, then north to Scotland and the Isle of Skye. There a former school friend and fellow musician was living for a couple of years with relatives. We enjoyed the reunion and the party started. But I didn’t enjoy the laughter. I did not feel like dancing.
We stayed in a small trailer outside Portree. At night the usual was to go to the pubs and then back to one of the homes until the early morning hours. This was not what I needed and one evening I excused myself to go back to the trailer. Settling into the sleeping bag my sleep was uneasy. Shortly my eyes opened. I felt ill and my head was spinning. As I got to my feet, I noticed the fire was out in the heater. The trailer was full of gas. I had to get out now.
As the cool October air cleared my head, the reality of the situation came to me. Death had come close. I had sensed the terror of meeting God in my sinful condition. My early years had taught me about God, but I did not know Him in a personal way. Now the reality of hell for a Christ-rejecting sinner made me see there was only one way—God’s way. My sin had caused the separation between me and God. My sin kept me in the bondage of the fear of death. The result of sin, and eternal damnation were impressed upon me. I needed the Savior, but how? Could I believe? Would He accept me?
A couple days later, we went to Edinburgh to another friend’s home to visit and see the local sights. It was a quiet time, and I was glad to have time to ponder my spiritual needs. I had memorized Scripture in my early years and thought that in a moment like this I would just grab a verse, believe, and all would be okay. Now I had a dark sense of being helpless and hopeless.
We left the city hitchhiking south to Dover to cross over to France. The rides were slow, but we finally got a ride in a delivery van, and we sat in the back on our packs. As the truck rolled along, I was quiet, thinking. I had put off God for many years, not listening to the invitation of Jesus. Had I gone too far? Where was He now that I wanted Him? In that moment of despair, a verse of the Bible came to me—”Him that cometh to Me, I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). The solid promise of the Savior. Yes, He loved me. He died for me and shed His blood to cleanse me from my sin. Right there I came to Jesus, confessing my sin, believing in my heart He died for me. What joy, what relief. The burden was all gone! On that day at the end of October, just about noon I was saved, born again, now finally a child of God on my way home to heaven.
Returning home a few months later to my friends and areas of my old life was a daunting time. What would they think of me? Could I live the life of a believer? Being near old “places of pleasure” would be a test as to the reality of the power of Christ. Old friends were amazed at the change of lifestyle. Some were skeptical, some very interested. My new Friend was with me always. He faithfully guided, corrected and encouraged me to grow as a believer. What a blessing to know Jesus Christ as Savior, as Lord, and as my gentle Shepherd.
The next year, the Lord pointed out a sweet Christian woman and we were soon married, starting life together in Christ. Shortly after our marriage I received a letter telling of the salvation of my European traveling companion and his wife. What a gracious God we have to see us safely on the long way to our eternal, heavenly home. Reader, come in faith to Christ and He will in no wise cast you out, but will securely keep you all the long way home to glory.