The next eight years were spent in a spiritual wasteland. The only bright spots were that I married LaRee in 1973 and we had two more children we both adored. But even those bright spots were threatened by my alcoholism. I carried the emotional and spiritual baggage that’s so common amongst alcoholics: the internal rage, the marriage that was fracturing, my hidden self-agendas and manipulation of people, self-centredness and moral bankruptcy. During that time, I sometimes experienced happiness but not joy.
I was big into self-sufficiency and whatever was trendy. Believe it or not, I thought I was winner! Religion was okay in modest amounts. I would even go to church once in a while (it was the good pluralistic thing to do. Listen to different points of view.)
The thing I still remember about that time was that the pointlessness of living for oneself came into clear focus. All I had built over the previous decade seemed like a house of cards that came crashing down around me. I remember sitting at the kitchen table trying to remember the last full week in which I did not drink. I couldn’t remember one. I realized that booze and my life had defeated me.
The weight of a life without God broke me. I wanted the Jesus my father had known. I tried to live without God but my life was in shambles. I simply wanted Jesus. There were no hidden agendas anymore, no manipulations, just sorrow. I was sorry for my failures as a husband and father, sorry for what I had done which I should not have done, sorry for those things I should have done but left unattended. I was sorry for ten lost years.
Like I said, I wanted the Jesus my father had loved. I did not want Jesus the social worker or marriage counselor to put my marriage right. I did not want Jesus the accountant to sort out my finances and make me rich. I did not want Jesus the addictions counselor to cure my alcoholism. I simply wanted Jesus for Jesus’ sake and to be forgiven by God for a litany of sin.
In the early days of 1980, I cried out in my despair and defeat. I remembered from my childhood some words of Jesus:
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3.20)
I hoped that after ten years He might be at my door. I opened my heart. He was there! He did come into my heart and He did dine with me.
Our banquet was made up of peace, Joy and reconciliation. Christ had been at the door of my heart all the time during my ten lost years. He told me he loved me and I gave my life to Him to do with as He pleased. All I asked was that He would stay with me and not forsake me as I had done to him so many years earlier — and that I might become more like Him and less like me.
For the first time since early childhood I found myself once again engulfed by brief, occasional, unexpected glimpses of Divine Joy. My tears were now prompted by Joy not sorrow. They were fleeting moments of Romance, Ecstasy, Joy. Call it what you wish: Perhaps it was simply a touch from the Master’s hand.
There is a hymn that has the line:
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full on his wonderful face. And the things of earth shall grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace.”
My Christian conversion was much like that.
In the subsequent weeks, Christ began to change me. I do not know how it happened, but He took away my addiction. I have not had a drink since December 31st, 1979. My Christian pilgrimage began.
(End part 5. Stay tuned for parts 6-7.)