I love you, mother, for what you have done for me. You brought me into this world, you loved me, you nurtured me, you took care of me, you spent time with me, you held me, you shed tears for me, you disciplined me in the best way that you knew how, you did everything for my good, and not for my bad. Never once did you desire to hurt me, but you always had in mind my best interests when you laid down the law. Mom, you were great. In fact, you were too good. You allowed me to party, and you hardly ever checked up on me. Mom, you never caught me when I stole those lights from our many neighbours. Or when I showed all those kids how to pick a lock (I was just doing that for fun to “show off” my great abilities. Unfortunately, that same night, the bike whose locked I showed those kids how to pick was stolen … and I never did find out who did it, but it could well have been one of those kids).
Mom, you always thought I was the “good guy” of the family, who did “what was right”, when in fact, on quite a number of occasions, I would sneak off and do thievery and cheat and steal from people, like our neighbours whose lights and extensions cords I stole for the sake of the “mobile discotech” that I owned and operated (I was half owner. The other half owner were all the people whose stuff I stole to supply its needs). I even paid a man to steal lights for me. You know, that’s just as bad as doing it yourself. Some of those lights, as I recall, came right off a police cruiser, or was it a tow truck? (Those beacon type lights). Yup, mom, that was me. I did it all. I “paid” for those services, and was not ashamed of it. In fact, I was quite proud of it. I did it all. But you know, I grew out of that … praise God! It was only a stage! Or, … was it?
After that “phase” in my life where it seemed that “everything was mine if I wanted it and was willing to steal it”, it seemed as though I was maturing to the point where I realized that I should stop doing that type of stuff. (I was about 22 at the time.) But I have to admit that I had a little bit of a problem in “giving up” some of this stuff. These were “tricks” that I knew and that really seemed to “work” for me and they were just “too good to be true”. Who could resist cheating the buses when it was so easy? And so, “in the little box” my nickels went … about six or seven nickels I would put in the little box, when in fact, it should have been about twenty. You know, I had a trick for everything, and I kind of “knew” how to do it, “just right” (run right to the very back of the bus and get mixed up among all the people so the bus driver wouldn’t be able to find you). Of course, I do remember there was this “one time” that I got caught by the bus driver. “Come back here!” the bus driver shouted. There simply weren’t enough people on the bus that day to hide among. I felt ashamed for a short while, but then kept on doing it.
But all that was a life of fear, mom. It was a life of fear, and trying to gain “one over” the system that in my own mind I rationalized as being “unworthy” of being treated with a sense of dignity. After all, it was just a “system” right? Surely no one would get hurt, would they? But as hard as I tried (and I did try hard to “reform” myself) I literally found it impossible to give up those “too good to be true” practices that I could very easily get away with — at least most of the time, like cheating the bus system. I always wondered to myself, “I wonder if it will ever be possible to get over this stuff, or will I just keep on doing it the rest of my days?” That was a serious concern of mine. And it remained a serious concern of mine until March 31, 1985 (at which time I was nearing my 23rd birthday).
At that time, the Lord became real to me, and something dramatic occured in my life. It was like an incredible thing happened that I could not have imagined possible in a thousand years — no, not even in a million or trillion years. Now I know I’ve told you this before, and I think you have responded to this before, as well, but I really think that this part bears repeating, if you will but permit me to do that for a moment. In that amazing moment of time, the Lord of this universe “broke in” on my private life and revealed himself to me in a way that I can only say was (for me) “truly amazing” — or is “astounding” the right word? (It was both of those, and more, I can most certainly assure you!) There, as I gazed upon him in a way that was too clear to deny, I beheld Jesus Christ dying for me on the cross, and paying the penalty for my sins. Now I can tell you (if you were wondering at all) that there was NO sense of “condemnation” towards me in that vision I had, only of a sense of God wanting to forgive me of all I had ever done — stealing lights, and, … you name it!
The other thing that I can say about all of that was that it was ultra-genuine. There was just no “deceit” about it. There was Jesus — my Lord, really, whom I had only believed upon in my head, but had not really personalized in my heart up until that moment in time — well, there he was, stretched out on that cross, and all alone, too, and the wind was howling, and it was rather dark (there were dark, ominous, clouds overhead), and there he was, THINKING ABOUT ME! (Yes, that’s right, he was thinking about me!) I’m telling you this, becauase this is exactly what happened. It happened just like that, and I am not adding, or subtracting, anything, from what happened to me on that day. I can assure you, I am not lying. What I am saying to you was and is completely true. If I could only play the “video tape” of it (as it were), you would see that it is all true, and that it all happened just the way that I said it did. I did not lie. I am telling the truth. Only, I’m not sure you always believe me when I tell you these things, because, to my great dismay, it seems like you always have some reason or another to try and “explain away” what it was that I went through on that day. And that saddens me greatly (more than you can possibly imagine). But I will try; yes, I will, forgive you for not believing me.
All this, I know, is a little hard to “swallow” if you have not experienced something like this yourself. Yes, I can appreciate that quite a bit. But, you know, just because it is “so hard to swallow and really believe” doesn’t make it wrong. It just makes it “a little difficult to believe.” Now let me share with you the off-shoot (the result) really of that “encounter” with the living God — for that is what He surely is, for he was not dead when he appeared to me, but he was fully alive, and well, and was speaking to me words of sober truth through that vision, namely, that:
– “I love you,” and,
– “I have a marvellous plan for your life,” and,
– “I just want you to please put your hope in me,” and,
– “Will you trust me?”
The result of that encounter, really, was something totally unexpected! For the first time in my almost 23 years of living, I really began to “live” like I was supposed to! I mean, I found the REASON FOR LIVING, AND HIS NAME IS JESUS CHRIST! (I offer this in an exclamatory, declarative way, for that is exactly how it was presented to me.) And, “the chains fell off.” What I mean by this is that, for the very first time in my life, I understood that I NO LONGER needed to steal, or practice deceit and lying, in order to “get my way” and “succeed” in this life. For God had just become real in an unprecedented way, and what advantage would I now gain by trying to do those things that I formerly practiced? No, but my life was to become a new one … and in fact, did become a new one, right then and there.