This is a story of God’s Grace, faithful and True
I am here. I am happy. Generally speaking.
But it has not been an easy trip, the gracious Lord has put me through many fiery furnaces of affliction and refinements of my soul, and they were all worth the limited torments for the end value that was received — a little at a time over a period of many years. But “fiery furnace of refining” is no small event to experience. Those eventualities at the times of their taking place felt literal to me and not figurative. But the Lord was steadfast in His stubborn promise that He would never leave me nor forsake me, even in cauldrons of refining the gold, silver, whatever He was working to purify in my soul. The following is one incomplete example of picking up our cross and following Him daily. Here I want to clarify, picking up our cross isn’t agony — it’s ecstasy for what it signifies in fellowship with Christ and the healing that results. But the event that brings us to the point of needing to pick it up, can be very dire, serious, and critical to our overall well being. And often brought about by ones own lack of needful understanding — thus the lifelong process afforded us for purpose of change and refinement in thinking and behaviors within our very soul.
This experience is just one event for illustration, for I thought I was irreparable during this time. As Follows.
For background: My mother first told me about God and Jesus, God’s son when I was four years old, and when she did my heart leapt within me. I wanted to “see” Him. I wanted to know this person! She explained that He was spirit, we couldn’t see him in the physical, which made perfect sense to me for some reason, and didn’t need further explaining. And I never forgot the God who watched over me and I never doubted His existence. I confessed my faith in Christ before the church congregation when I was twelve years old, and was baptized. When I confessed my faith before the congregation I thought I was set, I had to do nothing more, and He would receive me at the end of my life on earth. I received no further instruction or discipling. However, I didn’t fully surrender my life into the hands of our Savior until I was thirty-five young years old. And that during a lengthy conversation with Him in prayer — it was set-my-will-like-flint total, no-looking-back, commitment.
Although I had surrendered my life to Him completely and had kept that commitment, I stumbled many times for lack of knowledge and misunderstandings. Some years down the road I took a headlong dive into alcoholism for a relatively short time of five years, but I was down and I couldn’t lift myself up.
Alcoholism is a disease. But it’s not a disease as described by the American Medical Association. It’s a disease of the soul. Now, I am an alcoholic for Christ – in recovery eighteen years, but I never forget that it is a substance that I must always say no to, forevermore.
I was a Christian, consciously following Christ when I took a turn and went sideways. I suddenly developed a taste for alcohol. I was in a Christian marriage, active in my church, and a genuine love for the Lord – up to the point that I understood my relationship with him. I became a little fearful when I discovered how little I did know about the Lord and his ways. I had him wrapped-up in a neat and tidy little box, but was willing to increase the size as I gained more knowledge. And as He is spirit, not physical, I thought that should be fine with him. It was, after all, a very attractive little box.
I had heard that God is a gentleman and will always ask our permission before he takes something away from us. But I don’t remember his saying a word to me when he began shaking and stretching that little cubicle called ‘my understanding’. My marriage was coming unglued, I was confused and God was out of the box and growing huge right before my nonplussed, panic-stricken eyes. How could I possibly commune with a God this big? So I did what any normal man, not in his right mind, would do – I ran.
I ran into the Northeast where civilization was sparse. If God was going to communicate with me, He was going to have to do the communicating since I no longer knew how. I hunted and fished and waited – to hear from God. My wife went on with the divorce – and I waited. I drank and I hunted and I fished – and I waited. I consumed alcohol to ease the fear and pain. The alcohol dulled the pain and it took the position of replacing God’s peace until God could catch up to me – I thought. I was sure He would catch up with me sooner or later.
After about two years, I moved south to civilization and went back to work in my field, but still I inebriated myself during off hours – and I waited. This lasted for a year when I quit my job and devoted my time to alcohol – and waiting. I began exercising the practice of contemplating — and even planning — my own demise, my self-inflicted exit from this world. Then quite unexpectedly Christ communicated with me in a dream. This just doesn’t happen outside the Old Testament, I told myself. But I couldn’t deny it was real. He pointed me in the direction I must follow. I was ecstatically joyful in a way I hadn’t experienced in a very long time. Not by the direction He gave to me, but that He lovingly reassured me I was still His, and I was hearing from Him once again.
Within the week I admitted myself into an in-patient Christian faith-based alcohol/drug addiction program for one year. After completion I stayed and went on-staff as an addictions counselor and counseled others through that dark forest, as well as teaching Bible classes in regular chapel services, and occasional preaching from the pulpit, for fourteen years. This came about as I had been ordained in the Mission church as a Minister of the gospel of Christ, which requested my cordial welcome by all Christian churches everywhere – learning all the while just how great God’s Grace truly is. Some who I counseled asked me if I believed God delivered me from alcohol. I told them yes, and I will remain delivered just as long as I never take another drink. When we follow God’s direction we have to be willing –even when it’s hard – we have to be willing to follow. I followed and it’s been very good – very good, indeed.
When the Savior saves, I learned, it’s not just a one-time thing. He keeps on saving that we may persevere to the end. He leads and we follow, even though our path is somewhat serpentine compared to His – we follow Him by His strength, His guidance, His wisdom, His leading. Yet in His Grace and Mercy He gives us the credit. What an Amazing and Awesome and truly Loving God, Almighty God, our Savior, Jesus Christ is to us! The God of Grace and all tender mercies.
Where can I go from your Spirit? where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. For you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Psalm 139: 7-12
–Yes I’m happy, and content in my “retirement” and have time to reflect over my life journey. And I’m ready to see what the rest of the journey and service to the Lord may bring — after all — it’s not finished yet. There is more to come. And our Lord of Mercy and Savior, Jesus Christ is not done with me yet. Whether here or there my service is to Christ Jesus, Almighty God in Christ! Blessings, -g.w.