I was 38 years old, happily married with two great kids and a job I loved. I was the Sales Office Manager for Procter & Gamble in Memphis, Tennessee. I was a big frog in a very small pond. I would have been happy to do that for the rest of my career. We were going to a small Episcopal church (for the kids), but the truth is I really didn’t need God in my life. All I needed came from my family and especially my job.
Then P&G had the great idea that the Memphis Sales Office should be closed and I was sent to the great big P&G pond in Cincinnati, the headquarters, where I was a very, very small frog. I was given a job that I didn’t particularly like and my boss, a decent man, smoked big cigars which I detested. I was no longer happy with my career which meant I was no longer happy with my life.
We started going to an Episcopal Church that had a good youth group (for the kids) – that actually turned out to be a great youth group as both of our boys accepted Jesus into their lives through the group leaders. We did it for our kids.
We joined a small group that turned out to be a group of people who simply took God at his word and talked about Jesus as their Lord, Savior and friend.
There was one man who had just lost his job as the VP of a local company which to me at that time would have been devastating. Yet, all this guy could talk about was how much he loved and trusted Jesus. I used to say on the way home from the study that this man was nuts and I believed that.
Then this man and his wife convinced us to attend a renewal weekend called Cursillo. On Saturday night two things happened that started a change in my life. A woman priest gave a talk and said that when Jesus died on the cross all his disciples ran away, fearful for their own lives. That I understood. Yet, 50 days later they were willing to go to the ends of the earth and give their lives to tell people about the risen Jesus. She said the only thing that could make that kind of radical change was encountering a man who had died and then rose from the dead. That I didn’t understand.
The second thing that happened was Betty received prayer for the migraine headaches that she had suffered from for years. The same woman priest prayed a healing prayer for Betty. That was in 1984 and to this day she has not had another migraine headache.
Over the next two months I struggled with what I had encountered. I felt like God was telling me it was time to get off the fence. I had been playing at church. I had to make a choice – what path I was going to walk – my path or God’s. Either I believed that what Jesus did on the cross and his subsequent resurrection was real or it wasn’t. And, by that time I couldn’t deny that Betty’s healing from migraines was real. It clearly was as she should have had at least three or four migraines, but she didn’t.
I was still unhappy with my job situation. What I didn’t realize at the time, but I do now, I was lost, separated from God, and struggling to do everything my way and failing at it.
One night, after Betty had gone to sleep, I finally said, “OK God. I’m tired of trying to do it my way. I’m ready to do it your way.” Then I went to sleep.
No fireworks, but the one thing that radically changed was how I viewed the Bible. Prior to that night I found the Bible hard to read and it made little sense to me. Now it made sense and I found a real desire to read it more and more. I know now that was the Holy Spirit who had come to live within me.
At the same time, Betty’s long term faith was coming alive and she began to take it seriously in her own life.
Did everything become great or easy in our lives? No. Since then Betty has had two very serious, life-threatening accidents and several serious medical events. I had a back injury and dealt with an aggressive prostate cancer including the after-effects of surgery.
We know now that God didn’t promise us a life of sweet melodies and beautiful roses if we chose to follow Jesus. What God promised and what we received was a new, personal relationship with him through Jesus. God does not promise an easy or calm path, just the right path.
We know now that it was our self-focused sin nature that separated us from God and it was only through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross on our behalf and our acceptance of that gift that made a difference. He paid the price for our sins and made it possible for us to come into relationship with God.
We know now there was no way or nothing we could do to bridge that gulf between us and God. Sin brings separation from God which manifests itself in death, an emptiness of the soul.
We still believe, even moreso today, the only source of life is the acceptance of Jesus into our lives each day.
C. S. Lewis, as usual, said it best: