Before I became a Christian, I would describe myself as a moralist. It was not that I had such high ideals but because I thought it would win approval and I really needed wanted to be accepted. I saw others making bad decisions and wrecking their lives so I just went the other way. Even though I was trying to be a good person, I still made plenty of mistakes in my effort to gain acceptance. I tried many of the dead ends that others traveled such as tobacco, alcohol, thrills, and spills but all the efforts just left me more alone and I liked myself even less.
After I had been married for a couple years, my wife and I decided to try the church route. As I talked with the members they told me that I was a sinner and I needed to be saved. That puzzled me so I asked them what that meant. I was told that if I had sinned then I was a sinner and because of that I needed to be saved. Still confused, I said, what do you mean I am a sinner? I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I don’t chase women, I don’t cuss; and you have a deacon that chews tobacco. You see, I thought that you were a sinner because of what you do. I didn’t understand that what you do is just the product of what you are.
I had lots of questions and very few answers so my wife and I began to attend a home bible study. One night, after the study was over, we were enjoying some refreshments and began to visit. The leader was talking with my wife and another lady about something and the other man, whose name was Leonard, was off to the side playing a guitar. The only other person there was the wife of the bible study group, so she and I began to talk. To this day I cannot tell you what we were talking about but within just a few minutes we were arguing. At that stage in my life, no one was going to tell me what to do; and of all people, not a woman; and of all women, not the wife of the bible teacher. Also, at that stage of my life I had never made a scene is such a setting, but here I was standing and shouting at this lady. The bible teacher quickly stepped in and sided with his wife, but now it was two to one. I needed reinforcements so I turned to the other lady who was a very timid person and I asked her what her opinion was and wouldn’t you know it, she sided with the other two and now it was three to one. Desperate for support, I turned to my wife and asked her opinion. She never disagreed with me, but she looked up into my eyes and tearfully said that I was wrong. At this point, I thought in my mind I will make it unanimous and then leave, never to return, so I turned and asked Leonard what he thought. I was totally unprepared for what he said. He just looked at me and then tears began to run down his face. He finally said, “How you must hurt.”
It broke me immediately. I was unprepared for the love of God in another person. He did not need to tell me what I already knew. I had been trying to gain God’s approval for what I did when he loved me while I was still a sinner. He suggested I pray and within a few moments I was kneeling and praying out loud. God . . . my voice sounded strange to me. I don’t even know if you exist . . . that was a lie because I had seen Him work in our family and especially in my dad. God didn’t condemn me but let me continue. But if you are real and will be real to me in my life, then I give you my life and will follow you forever. I don’t remember if I even said amen. No trumpets sounded. No heavenly choirs sang. It was just quiet and for the first time it was quiet within. I just went home deep in thought. I still had plenty of questions and didn’t quite know what to make of everything.
The next day we were going to travel 4 hours to move the pastor to the new church field. The plan was for me to rent a U-Haul trailer for the remainder of his stuff. We left late that night and all the way there, Leonard was reading the bible to me with a flashlight while I drove. When we arrived at the U-Haul, I went in to write a check and was asked, are you from around here? When I said no, they said we won’t take your check. This was back before credit cards and counter checks were common. I had personalized checks and never had a problem of cashing a check. I thought, that’s okay, I’ll just go down to the grocery store and cash one. After going to several stores I still had not cashed a check so I decided that I would go to a bank, they will have to take my check. After the third bank refused to cash my check, I finally got the message and returned back to the U-Haul and told Leonard that I was out of options. I had only a few dollars and the same for Leonard so we had no options left. I reached up and got my bible down and it fell open to Mt 21:22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive. I said, Leonard what does that mean? He said it means just what it says so I said okay, lets pray. My prayer was very simple. Lord, I don’t know much but you said that if we would ask believing, then you would grant it. As best as we can we are asking. Amen
Before I could lay my bible on the dash, the attendant came running out of the office and asked us if we still wanted the U-Haul. We said yes. He then said, I’ll take your check. At that moment God became real to me and He has continued to be real to me for over a half a century since then.