Rev. 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
I can recall four times through out my life that Jesus came knocking at my door.
The first knock
The first time was when I was about ten years old. My older sister had been going to a Baptist church with a friend of hers from school. I would assume that somewhere along the line she had received Christ as her personal savior, though I never saw much evidence of that as time went on. Anyway she had told me that if I were to receive Christ, that I didn't have to change at all that Jesus just expected me to sin because I was only human. Even at the age of 10 I knew that if something sounded to good to be true it probably was. I declined her offer.
Mat 18:7 Woe to the world because of offenses! For it is necessary that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense comes.
Rom 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, in order to prove by you what is that good and pleasing and perfect will of God.
Soon after that, I fell in with the "wrong" crowd. At age 11 I started smoking cigarettes just to fit in. I would steal money or cigarettes from my parents to support my habit. I took up shop lifting as well, fortunately I had the good sense to end that before I got into real trouble. Over the course of the next four years I began using, (or abusing), marijuana, alcohol, acid, speed whatever I could find to get a buzz. This went on for the next twenty years.
Mat 18:6 But whoever shall offend one of these little ones who believes in Me, it would be better for him that an ass's millstone were hung around his neck, and he be sunk in the depth of the sea.
The second knock
The second knock came about January of '75. My best friend and a good party buddy lost his dad to a stroke on New Years Eve '74. I wasn't sure what happened to him after that. He just started saying things like praise the Lord and hallelujah. He spent a good two months trying to bring me to his God. And I spent the same amount of time trying to bring him back to reality. I won.
The worst year that I can ever remember would have to be 1975. The girl that I had been going with for almost a year, (my first real girlfriend), had dumped me for what I thought was a good friend. Though by the world's standards this may not be the worst thing that could happen to a person, By the standards of a sixteen year old boy with a low self esteem and and a severe drug problem it was devastating. I fell into a state of depression which I aggravated even further with my drug use. It took about a year, but I pulled myself out of my depression. In doing so I built a brick wall around myself so that I never had to experience that type of rejection again.
The third knock
The third knock came when I was around nineteen. Tony was a guy that I associated with but never considered to be a friend. He had a sister that I would have liked to have called a friend. Kathy was a very pretty and popular girl. She was a year older than me and I never figured that I would have had a chance with her. There were times however when she would flirt with me, but I either figured that she flirted with everyone like that or I was to dense in the brain to even realize that she was flirting.
Tony on the other hand was a couple cans shy of a six pack. He was into drugs that took you to the limit, the kind that had to be injected. He liked to fight and was mean and crazy enough that he would intimidate even those that were twice his size. One day he had shot up some angel dust and attacked his dad. His uncle had to shoot him three times to get him off. Tony died enroute to the hospital.
Sometime after that I ran into Kathy in a mall. For as nice looking as she was, drug use seem to take it's toll on her. This time though she glowed. Her eyes were clear and she looked happier then anyone should have a right too. She told me she had found the ultimate high in Jesus Christ, (God had used Tony's death to bring her to Him), and that she had never been happier. She invited me to come to her church. I was tempted to accept her offer, not for Christ, but I saw it as a chance to get to know her a little more intimately. (She had a reputation and I had no idea at the time of the life changing power of Jesus Christ). I declined her invitation. For all my flaws I was never any good at stringing someone along under false pretenses.
Eph 2:1-3 And He has made you alive, who were once dead in trespasses and sins,
in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience;
among whom we also had our way of life in times past, in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the thoughts, and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
By now I'm eighteen years old, a high school drop out and my primary function in life is to party.
Maurice was another friend of mine back then. I went to pick him up at his work one night so that we could go out drinking. He worked in one of those "24 hr- breakfast served anytime- coffee shop- type restaurants". I went in there and he told me he wasn't done quite yet, but have a seat at the counter and he'd buy me a cup of coffee. So I did. The waitress came over and poured my coffee and wrote out my bill without saying a word. A few minutes later another girl came up to me and asked if I wanted a warm-up.
If I had ever seen a woman more perfect in face and form before that moment or since I truly can't remember. Her name was Cindy and at the time she was the hostess there so she got to wear her own clothes instead of those goofy looking uniforms that restaurants in the seventies would force their servers to wear. She stood 5'7", had long brown wavy hair and a smile that could have lit up New York during the black out.
That night all I could talk about was Cindy, Maurice told me to get over her because she would never go out with someone like me. (I chose only friends that were encouragers.)
I was obsessed. I quit my job and went to work at the "24 hr- breakfast served anytime- coffee shop- type restaurant". I never did work up the courage to ask her out. But for reasons that I could never understand, she had an interest in me and we finally started going out.
We got married about a year later. Our marriage started out with several handicaps. The first being that neither of us had finished high school. We both worked low paying jobs. On the day that we got married Cindy was three months pregnant with Joshua, our first born and only son. I was still taking drugs and drinking a lot.
Then add ignorance to the list. I, being the genius that I am, figured that women, aside from the obvious physical differences, were pretty much like men in their logic and thinking. I had a lot to learn.
Cindy was rekindling her relationship with Christ (she received him at the age of nine but was turned off by church people). This didn't set too well with me. For whatever reason I just couldn't stand to see her read her bible or go to church on Sunday. Needless to say this spawned a lot of arguments. So did a lot of other things. It seemed to me that all we ever did was fight, (that wasn't the case but it sure seemed like it to me). If we weren't fighting over her turning religious on me then we were fight over my drug and alcohol use. Sometimes our battles were little misunderstandings, sometimes they were knock down drag out fights. More than once did we receive visits from the police.
This went on for about the first three years of our marriage. By 1982 I had planted the seeds of an extramarital affair, (never took root), and Cindy and Josh had packed up and moved out.
She moved out of the South Bend, Indiana area to Kalamazoo, Michigan. She had three older brothers already living there, they helped her move and get set up with an apartment. The night that she moved out she called me to see if I was all right. She told me about an experience that she had where she received a physical hug from Jesus, reassuring her that everything was going to be all right. I just thought that she was going loonie-toons. I moved back in with my parents.
I was working as an assistant manager in a restaurant South Bend. The money was so-so, but the hours were tolerable. After about six months of separation, we agreed to give it another go. But rather than Cindy moving back to South Bend with me, I quit my job and moved to Kalamazoo with her. I figured that I was the greatest thing to happen to the restaurant industry since the automatic dishwasher and knew that I would have no trouble getting a job.
A lesson in humility.
It turned out that every restaurant in this town expected you to have college experience if you were going to be on their management team. It didn't even matter what you studied in college, or if you had any type of food service experience. All that mattered is that you had college. I didn't even have high school let alone college. Our savings had depleted within a months time. I finally wound up taking a job at Red Lobster making a whopping $3.75 per hour as a cook. Though my pay went up fairly rapidly and they gave me as many hours as they could, we were always at the poverty level.
We moved into a sixteen unit inner city apartment building. It was cockroach infested and right across the street from porno land. Cindy and I were the only tenants not living off of welfare, we were also the only tenants without a stocked up freezer.
Just to add insult to injury, I was still into drinking and taking drugs, two things that our budget could have done without. Yet Cindy still managed to fit them in there somehow even though she hated doing it. Cindy and Josh were living off of a can vegetables a day. I'd get my food from work most of the time, (one advantage to restaurant work).
At one point I contracted an eye infection, something like pink eye only a lot worse and very very contagious. I was out of work for about a month and a half, and all that we had to live off of was $50.00 a week that Cindy made baby sitting. Cindy's brother was our land lord and he threatened to evict us, and it was his kids who she was baby sitting for.
So it was by way of my arrogance, my pride and my ignorance I managed to take this beautiful young woman, my own son and myself so far down that in order to see the bottom we had to look up.
The fourth knock
April 14, 1984.
On this day, just like any other day, I came home from work. Unlike any other day though Cindy had come out to greet me in the parking lot. I thought this to be somewhat peculiar but didn't give it a lot of thought. A conversation struck up between us that went something like this...
Cindy: (greets me with a kiss) "would you do something for me tonight"
Scott: "I dunno, What?"
Cindy" "Just tell me that you'll do something for me."
Cindy: "I don't want to tell you."
Scott: "Then I don't want to do It."
Cindy: "Do you love me?"
Scott: "Yes. Now what do you want?"
Cindy: "I want you to do something for me tonight."
Scott: (becoming aggravated) "What!"
Cindy: "just say you will."
Scott: "Not till I know what it is. Now either tell me or leave me alone!"
Cindy: " I want you to go with me to see a play."
Scott: "What kind of pla...(bells and buzzers sound in my head as I figure out what she has in mind)...oh no!!! uh uh!! I'm not going to some stupid church play. NO!! Just forget it!!! (As I look at this in retrospect I have no doubt that at this point I became possessed by some kind of demon, and that a battle for the soul had ensued)
Cindy: "Please! I won't ever ask anything of you again"
Scott: (becoming violently angry) "Yeah right!! If you want to go then go, just leave me out of it!!"
In the five years that we had been married, it became typical that if one of us started getting angry the other would snap to their defense. This was the first time that I could recall that this didn't happen. On top of everything else our relationship had bottomed out just like everything else in our lives. Cindy would have rather seen me burn in hell for all eternity then to be the vehicle by which God chose to make sure that I didn't burn in hell for all of eternity.
I let her have it with both barrels. Every obscenity and profanity, Every insult that I could come up with I fired at her. I had become mean, belligerent and obnoxious. I did everything that I could think of to get her mad. I knew that this was the only way I would ever get out of this, yet she maintained an even temper no matter what I threw at her.
Even in the midst of my screaming and yelling, which had been going on for about three solid hours now, she came up to me as cool, calm and collected as James Bond and said in a very pleasant tone, "it's time to go now". I vowed to her that if I went, I would do anything that I could to embarrass her. She said, "that was fine".
As a cook at Red Lobster it is customary to come home and take a shower and change clothes right away. The reason for this being that if you don't shower and change, anyone within a ten yard radius will know that you do something that involves hot grease and cooking fish. I chose not to shower or change that night.
From that point in the parking lot at home until I entered the church building, I was in a fit of rage. My little demon kept me fueled. For four solid hours I had no control over my anger and my hate for my wife. As soon as I passed through the church doors all my anger, rage and hate was gone.
My demon wasn't welcome in this church building on this night.
The play was called "Heaven's Gate/Hell's Flame". The premise was to show the difference between eternity with Christ and without Him. This play did what my sister, a good friend and a pretty girl couldn't do. It brought me to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.
1 CO 3:2 I have fed you with milk and not with solid food, for you were not yet able to bear it; nor are you able even now. For you are yet carnal. For in that there is among you envying and strife and divisions, are you not carnal, and do you not walk according to men?
I tried. I started reading the bible. I prayed. But I was weak. The play that brought me to an understanding of God's plan of salvation only revealed to me that I was more concerned about escaping eternal damnation than I was at developing an intimate relationship with my Lord and Savior.
I was very bold about my salvation at first. I was even bolder while sitting in a bar half crocked. I justified my time in the bar by how much I would talk about spiritual matters. As time went on though I quit talking about spiritual matters.
I finally landed a management position. The pay was awful, the hours were worse. I would rig the cash register there so that I could get my self some partying money. At first it would be like five or ten dollars. But as time went on I would take as much as a hundred dollars a night. Again I could make justifications in my mind by saying that with all the hours that I work they owed it to me.
So now I'm working sixty five to eighty hours a week. I'm supposed to be a christian and I'm using stolen money to support my drug and alcohol problem, of course, my marriage is back on the rocks.
After less than one year of working there I was fired. Not because of the money that I had stolen, but because I got held up at gunpoint and lost the company about three thousand dollars. Never ever let it be said that God doesn't have a sense of humor.
There is something about the barrel of a gun poking you in the head that really makes you re-evaluate life. Even though I'm out of work, I'm still eligible for unemployment insurance. Plus I had a couple of jobs getting paid under the table.
Even though I tried to go back to Jesus, Cindy had had enough. Now she was going out to the bars. She made a deliberate point of always leaving me with Josh so that I had to stay home and she could go out. On top of that she was now planting the seed to an affair. But God is always faithful inspite of our own foolishness. I got a job back down in South Bend and for the first time ever it wasn't in a restaurant.
When we fist moved back to South Bend I decided that it was time to do what I could to rekindle my relationship with Christ. I got back into studying the bible and praying. We found a church but I didn't really get involved because I felt so rough around the edges around the rest of the congregation.
As time went on I managed to let myself fall into the same old habits as before. I went back to the drugs and drinking. Cindy had done all that she could to get me to stop, now she had just given up. She set aside an allowance for me and I could spend it anyway I chose. She also went and talked to a divorce lawyer.
It was in 1991 that the Holy Spirit finally lifted the scales off of my eyes. I took my allowance and bought a bag of pot instead of a birthday gift for Cindy. It was through this heinous act of insensitivity that I finally saw in her eyes the pain that I had been causing her. It was through this act that I could actually see just what a selfish pig I really was. I knew that I was selfish but it just didn't register. It's kind of like knowing that the lit end of a cigarette will hurt you if you press it into your arm, you know it will hurt but you don't really understand it until you push it into your arm.
1Co 10:13 -17 No temptation has taken you but what is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above what you are able, but with the temptation also will make a way to escape, so that you may be able to bear it.
Therefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to wise men; you judge what I say. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?
For we, the many, are one bread and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread.
It's been eleven years now since I have touched drugs and alcohol. I don't even consider taking anything that isn't mine anymore. This includes when I'm given the wrong change I always give it back and we never even consider trying to get our daughters into some function by saying that they're younger than they are.
I've become more involved in my church, and even though I still feel like I'm rough edged I do what I can to get to know as many people as possible.
Cindy and I just celebrated our twenty third wedding anniversary. In addition to Joshua who is soon to be twenty-three, we have two daughters Jamie who is fourteen and Sabrina who is nine. We still have our struggles but at the same time we have Jesus Christ.
Finally, I learned that love is a verb, it requires action. I learned that even if there were no escape from eternal damnation, that Jesus Christ would still be worthy of our praise. I learned that by loving Jesus with all my heart and mind and soul and strength that the love for family, friends and others that need it just falls into place.