When I was about 5 or 6 years old my mother began to complain about back pain. She went to a number of doctors, none of them seemed to be able to identify the cause. Years before she had surgery for breast cancer, but all the doctors insisted there was no connection.
Finally she decided to see a chiropractor, who had to wait a few months before it would be safe to take another x-ray. The doctors had taken so many x-rays, they must have reached the recommended level of safety without having found a cause of the pain. When it was finally safe to take another x-ray I accompanied my mother back to the chiropractor’s office.
We sat in the waiting room while the slide was developed. I was surprised when the chiropractor asked me to step into the back with him. Being a kid, I felt like it was some sort of adventure. He flicked on his light board, and slide the x-ray into place. It was the first x-ray I had ever seen and wanted to remember the moment. He asked me, do you see anything wrong with this picture? I thought is was a strange question, I also thought the slide looked strange. The chiropractor explained, “your mother has an advanced case of bone cancer.” I was not sure what that was, but the way he said it, I knew it was not good. He called my mother in, and told her the news, she had only a few more months to live. She kept a very calm, but stern look on her face. He prescribed a series of return visits to help ease the pain. My mother just stood at the receptionists desk with a hollow look on her face while the nurse filled out an appointment card, and handed it to her. She put it in her purse, turned and walked out the door.
My mother didn’t speak a word on the way home. She pulled into the garage, parked the car, got out and walked towards the house. For some reason our neighbor came out of her house, took one look at my mother, and walked directly towards her. When they were within speaking distance our neighbor asked, “what’s wrong?” The expression on my mother’s face changed in an instant. Tears filled her eyes and began running down her cheeks as she answered, “I have cancer, and I am going to die.”
In the following years I did everything I could for my mother. I rubbed her back with lotion to bring some relief to the pain. I brought her meals in bed, served on a small bed tray table. I also rode my bike to the store with a note and money to buy her cigarettes. Two packs of regular, and one pack of menthol. I was too young to know they were killing her.
After months of being bed ridden, my mom gathered up the strength to get herself out of bed, put on her make up, get dressed, and escort my dad to the military ball. They met before W.W.II. She had a lot of respect for my dad’s service during and after the war, as he served in the army reserves. This was a tribute to the love and respect my mother had for my dad.
Things went down hill from there. The weight loss was beyond comprehension. My mother dwindled to skin and bones. In the last weeks she could not walk. My dad and I had to carry her to the bathroom. I could not believe this could happen to anyone.
Reality finally hit me. One night my dad had a talk with me and my younger brother. One day after dinner he called us into the living room, and told us, our mother was going to die. It was not what I wanted to hear. I felt, if no one said it, it would not happen. I ran to my bedroom and cried.
At that time my mother began sleeping a lot. I would go into her room, kneel down, and pray. Since the doctors had given her only a few months to live, and she had made it over two years, I felt there was a chance for a full recovery. I asked God to keep her alive.
I can’t remember if I made any promises, or how I prayed. This was not one of the things I was taught in Sunday school. In my mind, God would hear my prayers and keep my mother alive because I loved her, and I would miss her if she were gone.
At that time I had almost no concept of death. At eight years old, living in the suburbs offered little if any contact with death. Why would a child think about death, or develop a concept about a subject they had no use for?
Just a few days before Christmas my dad came into the bedroom I shared with my little brother and woke me up. He told me, “your mother fell down, I need help to carry her back to bed.” We went into the living room where she was laying next to the Christmas tree. As we carried my mother back to the bedroom I noticed her breathing was shallow and labored. It did not seem natural. The next morning I laid in bed with the strongest feeling something was wrong. I tried to go back to sleep, praying whatever it was, I would wake up to find this strange feeling gone. After some time my dad came into our bedroom and told us, “your mother passed away during the night.” I ran into her room, fell on top of her, hugging her as I cried. She felt cold and stiff. I knew there was no life in her, and there was nothing I could do. My dad told me, “she must have gotten up in the night to see the Christmas tree you and your brother decorated. I think she wanted to make it through one more Christmas.”
The next few days or weeks were blocked from my memory. I don’t remember anyone coming over to the house. I don’t remember the Christmas the following day. I don’t remember anyone trying to comfort me, or talking to me. I do not remember the funeral. It is like every memory of those days was erased from my mind. It may have been based on the fact I kept telling myself none of it ever happened.
At that point I gave up all hope, faith, and belief in God. If God could not grant one prayer to save my mother’s life, how could he exist?
That was it. I turned my back on God. But God was not done with me. He never gave up on me. I spent the next sixteen years with no church, no prayers, no faith in God.
I always tried to do good, treat people fairly, and live a good life, with no thought of an after life. I saw all the proof I wanted to see. One day you are alive, the next you are dead. Nothing more, nothing less. I felt life was meant to live for the moment.
It is amazing how Satan seems to know when something will happen. For a time I dated a woman who was into witchcraft to a small degree. That lead to following the horoscope, some beliefs in supernatural powers, like the pyramids, and other such things. I was just getting into Tarot cards when something strange began to happen to my best friend.
We worked in our own body shop custom painting cars. We made our own hours and often worked from noon to way past midnight. He began bringing these religious tapes to work and listening to them. I found them most irritating. Then he began talking about the Sabbath and how the world was worshiping on the wrong day. He insisted the true Sabbath was on the seventh day.
After listening to him running off at the mouth, and those tapes played over and over again, day after day, week after week, I finally said, enough is enough. It was time to speak my peace. I told him, “everyone knows Sunday is the seventh day, not Saturday. I counted on my fingers, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday is the seventh day of the week. Why do you think they call it a weekend?” He insisted Saturday was the seventh day, and Sunday was the first day of the week. We argued back and forth for some time. Finally I asked him if he wanted to bet on it. We agreed, if Sunday was the seventh day on the calendar, Larry would have to stop listening to the tapes at work, and stop talking about all that religious stuff. If I was wrong, I would attend next weeks Bible study with him.
After we shook hands on the bet, we had to prove who was right, and who was wrong. We decided to look at the calendar in the office. The calendar on the wall clearly had Sunday as the first day of the week, and Saturday as the seventh. I swept over to the desk calendar. The same thing. I flung open the drawer to pull out a pocket calendar. Same result. I reached back, pulled out my wallet, fumbling through it to find a card sized calendar. Same result again.
I felt bewildered. How could I miss this all my life? I looked a calendar thousands of times. How could I have missed this?
In hind sight I can see how in a way, God had placed his hand over this simple fact my entire life. How can God do that? God created everything, even the molecules on the paper, and my eyes. God created my brain, and in His way, used it to hide a simple fact I should have easily noticed. God did all this because He knew exactly how to call me back.
When I went to the study, I walked in with a very poor attitude. I figured I was only there to settle a bet. I sat down at the kitchen table with a group of other people chit chatting about little religious matters. I wondered how long this was going to last as I checked my watch. A few minutes later a tall skinny guy wearing a shirt and tie came walking in all excited about something. He exclaimed, “I was so surprised when I found this during lunch. I jotted down some notes and ran off some copies.” He passed them out around the table. I looked at a list of scripture with a few words jotted down next to them. They prayed before beginning the study.
Someone took out a really big group while the teacher, Bill, asked everyone to open their Bibles to a text. I didn’t have a Bible, so the lady next to me offered to share. I pretended to look, just to be polite, but only glanced at the page, not reading anything. After they read the text, Bill asked the group what the key words were. They went around the group gathering a list of three words. Bill asked the person with the Concordance to look up one of the words, and choose a few verses to look up. One member after another read the texts they were asked to look up. Bill asked if they saw anything in the texts. Some of the texts identified what Bill referred to as the spiritual meaning of the key word. They did this for the second and third key words. After the texts were gathered, and the spiritual meaning for each key word was charted out, Bill rewrote the original text substituting the spiritual meaning for each key word. As he read the paraphrased text back my attention became focused on the study for the first time. I listen to the interpretation, leaned over to the Bible next to me to read the original text, amazed at how this had made the text so clear, so easy to understand.
Bill asked everyone to turn to the next text. I slide my chair over to get a better look at the Bible next to me. I looked at the text in the Bible as it was read, and had no idea what it meant. Once again the group identified the key words. The first word was located in the Concordance, a few texts were chosen to identify the spiritual meaning. This was repeated for the second word, I was beginning to think this was some kind of trick. Much to my surprise, Bill asked me to look up the third word in the Concordance. At first I was nervous, but quickly decided, this is giving me the chance to show they were playing some sort or trick. I was certain this was not going to work if I chose the texts.
I looked up the word, ran my finger down the row of texts, and randomly picked out four, with no thought behind what I was doing. The first verse read didn’t reveal anything. Neither did the second verse. I was thinking to myself, I was right, this is going to fail. The third and forth verse clearly identified something, but did it fit the original text? The spiritual meaning for the key words was written down. The verse was paraphrased with the spiritual meanings. As Bill read the paraphrased text I leaned over and read the original. He did it again. It made perfect sense, and was much easier to understand.
I was totally amazed. I had to admit, I did feel something different. I felt a lot different. Bill explained how God had written the Bible in a way anyone could interpret it. I knew this was true, I had just seen it explained twice, and one of the words I helped with.
I did feel different. I felt I had found something I did not know I was looking for. No, I found exactly what I was looking for, the meaning of life. I was looking for it in all the junk I had been reading. None of it provided any answers.
As I drove home a deep warm feeling entered my heart. I felt like a new man. I found a new life, a new purpose. When I arrived home, I went into the kitchen, grabbed a big green garbage bag, and began filling it with all the Tarot cards, horoscope and pyramid books, and all the other garbage I had. That very evening I took the bag out to the curb, and never looked back.
Since that day, thirty some years ago, God has put a number of people in my life to show me what I needed to learn at the time. I have learned a number of study methods, different ways of reaching people, and how to pray. My life has been a road of constant growth. It has its ups and downs with the path always leading up. My original Bible became like an old friend, one I could always turn to for answers. The friend I really turn to is Jesus. He has drawn me so close to Him, I can feel His presence every day. Since I have met God, He has always shown me, He is able to accomplish what seems impossible to me. Each study has shown only God could have written the Bible. Experiences in my life have shown me, God is always working on me, drawing me nearer to Him. I know God always has a plan for me. The first one took sixteen years. Since then, I have learned to listen to God’s voice, how He reaches me through His word, my prayers, and others, who follow God with all their hearts. God, our creator can do anything. God has done everything.