* * * Note: this is chapter length
For years I thought that if only I could return to my hometown I'd be happy. There was no way I could fit in with the people in this Boston suburb. To me it was as though they were from a different planet. Or that I was. Esther next door had invited me into her home. We went past the ivory statue, and past the living room which was covered with snow-white carpeting.
"Don't you get nervous," I asked, "when someone sits on your couch with a cup of coffee? One drop would ruin your rug."
"Oh we don't USE that room," she said, "it's just for show."
Never in my wildest dreams could I imagine having a room "for show." In one house I lived in, I had slept in the cellar so my children could each have their own room.
I hated the suburbs. To me, people there weren't real. There was a movie called, "The Stepford Wives," which so reminded me of the people in the suburbs in which I found myself. The Stepford wives weren't human. They were robots perfectly designed to look like humans, but really robots who kept immaculate houses, cooked perfect meals, and kept their husbands perfectly happy at night. I was glad I had watched that movie because it gave me a way to explain my reaction to the residents of this everything-perfect metropolitan suburb.
I yearned for home with all my being. I was beyond miserable.
In August of 1973 I desperately cried out to God ...and a miracle ensued. We moved back to my hometown. I was beyond excited and knew I'd now be happy for the rest of my life. But several months later I realized this wasn't the answer for me. I now had everything I wanted in life. A husband, children, our own home, and the privilege of living in the community where I was most comfortable. It was incredible to me that I wasn't happy. And for the first time, I had nothing to blame it on. I had it all. Not a single thing could have been added to my life that could have improved it.
Alcohol had been my constant companion for several years. It quieted the misery inside, and I turned back to it in a fury. But its familiar solace wasn't there so much anymore. Even alcohol was letting me down. I guess I was down as far as a person could get. Nothing in life was able to pry me out of the depths of depression. Deep depression. Very deep.
One afternoon something happened that really threw me for a loop. I remember it so well. I was standing near the door in the front of the house when all of a sudden I heard from deep within me, "how do you know you're right?"
"How do you know YOU are right?" the voice repeated.
"Picture a long line," the voice continued. "In that line is a person who represents each of the major religions in the world. There's a Catholic, a Baptist, a Lutheran, a Jew, a Moslem, a Buddhist, and one from all other religions as well. They all have one thing in common: the people in this line have been taught the tenets of their religion since babyhood. Many live in communities populated with like-minded believers of their faith. Their parents, their relatives, and all their friends are of the same persuasion. But there can be only one TRUTH. And because they so differ, even contradicting each other, there can only be ONE person who has the right religion. How do you know it's you?"
The implications of this left me staggering. It was so true. I had been taught the tenets of my religion from babyhood. I attended a religious school throughout my childhood, K-through 12. All my relatives and most of my friends were of the same religion. But suddenly I saw it, something that had never, ever occurred to me, and ...I saw it. I realized that the only reason I believed what I believed was because I had been taught it from my earliest years and had been brought up with it surrounding me all my days, and it was the only thing I knew.
But that isn't a foundation one can build truth on. It can't be. Because others of other beliefs believe just as strongly as I do that THEY have the right religion. And they believe it for the same reason: they were taught it from their babyhood, and were brought up with their religion surrounding all that made up their lives. I would say they are so wrong, and they would say I'M so wrong. One of us is wrong. How do I know I'm the one with the truth? The religious system we grow up with is such a huge part of who we are. Truly, being steeped in it from our earliest years, it overshadows all we think, all we do, all that we are. For most, it will never occur to them that it may not be the TRUTH.
And for me, realizing this was as tremendously traumatic as anything I had ever experienced in life. For three days I staggered around the house, trying to deal with this. My entire foundation had been pulled out from under me, because I recognized that my foundation was not justifiable. Having been taught all these things from babyhood no longer justified them to me as truth.
The tremendous ramifications of this ate away at me and I felt like I was dying. I had no more foundation. Life could no longer make sense. I could not filter the things of life through my religion because I no longer had a religion. I couldn't go to my parents, because they of course would only justify their belief. I couldn't go to a priest because of course he would do the same. I did, though, write a letter to a priest I had greatly respected, telling him of this horrible quandary I was in, asking for guidance, and that priest did not respond to either of the two letters I mailed to him. I checked to see if he was still in the parish I remembered him from, and yes he was there. He obviously could not answer my questions.
On the third day of this trauma, I went into the livingroom, looked upward and said, "God, I do not have any reason to believe that you exist. I realize that the foundation upon which I did believe it - is no foundation at all. Having been told by mortal man that you exist, and it being in contradiction to what other men tell their children, it just doesn't have validity. I can hardly believe I'm saying these words, but I have to because they're true. All I ask is that IF you DO exist, please show me WHO you are and which is the right religion. I don't care which is the right one. If you exist, just show me the right one, and I'll join it. If you're "Allah" I'll become a Moslem. If you're "Yahweh" I'll become a Jew. If you're "Jehovah," I'll become a Jehovah's Witness. Just show me WHO you are. PLEASE."
Weeks went by. I was in such an indescribable state -- my mind in a maelstrom. I began reading the works of a psychic by the name of "Edgar Casey." What he said not only sounded plausible, but he had some kind of power, and that validated him to me. I sent away and had my astrological chart done by a professional. And later, I made an appointment with a psychic in another city.
One day there was a knock on my door. When I found two Mormons on my doorstep, I concluded that this must be the answer from God because of the request I had made that fateful day in my livingroom ...if in fact there IS a "God," I thought. So I let them in, and I let them take over my mind. They taught me the precepts of Mormonism, and I was nearing the point where I'd be received in baptism. But something happened. They were bringing me through some teachings using a cassette player and an easel. Each time the cassette would beep, they'd flip the easel to the next chart. Suddenly they flipped the chart and there before me was a picture of Satan. I gasped. Before I had time to process this information, I blurted out, "why do you have a picture of Satan?!!" Immediately I wished I could take back the words, but they had come forth all on their own and I was left speechless.
"That's not Satan," they said, "that's Joseph Smith the founder of our chuch!"
But I had "seen" Satan. Little did I know that even at that primitive state in my walk, the Lord was with me. I had no understanding at the time of what had just happened, and I was very embarassed.
Well, there was a hitch in the story. The Mormon church could not receive me unless my husband gave permission. And he wouldn't. To this day I don't understand why he wouldn't. He wasn't a spiritual or religious man in any sense of the word, nor did he put any obstacles in anything I wanted to do. He had no knowledge of this church. In short, he had no reason whatsoever to not allow me to join this church. But he wouldn't. And that pretty well ended that story. And I was back to drinking alcohol and just trying to block out life.
Thanksgiving was just ahead and my sister came one day to my door. She had joined some kind of prayer group, and when she told me some of the people prayed "in tongues," I pretty much tuned her out. But she had something to tell me. She said that there was a man in my town who was counselling hurting people, and would I be willing to see him. She wouldn't tell me anything about him, and I really didn't much care. So. He's counselling "people like me," huh? Well, I sure couldn't deny that I needed help. What have I got to lose? "Sure, set it up," I said.
"Where's your phone book?" she asked. And she proceeded right there on the spot to call him. She explained to him briefly how "down" I was, and how hopeless, and how I was going to my death from alcoholism. Would he see me? Well, he told her, right now he was pretty over-extended with a full load of hurting people. But he told her he couldn't just say no. He said, "give me a few days to discuss it with my wife and call me back."
"Ok," I said, "call him back in a few days. Whatever."
Thanksgiving came and we all went to my parents' house for Thanksgiving dinner. At this point, I wonder what it must have been like in heaven as they observed from there the story that was about to unfold on earth.
We finished dinner, and as we were clearing away the dishes, my sister said, "I'm going to call that man right now."
"Of COURSE not," I said, SO annoyed! "It's a holiday! They're doing the very same thing we're doing. They're involved with family. Don't bother them today, we can call tomorrow."
"Ok," my sister said, and we continued to bring all the pots and pans and dishes to the kitchen.
A short while afterward, my sister said, "no, I HAVE to call him, NOW!" And with that, she went to the phone and placed that call. And I stood there bewildered that she was going to bother this man on a holiday.
Little did I know what he said to her on the phone that day. I was told only that we were to meet him at his office the next morning.
So the next morning my sister and I showed up early. We sat in the darkness of the hallway at the top of the stairs. I had jeans on, short cropped hair, and I looked like I had crawled out of a cesspool. Sitting in darkness was such an apt picture of the reality of my life. It actually was prophetic. But I was a little anxious to see what this man would say to me.
After a bit, the door downstairs opened and in came a man and a woman, each carrying a large book. "Well she got it right," I said to myself, "that looks like an astrology book, just by the sheer size of it."
We made introductions and went into his office, and he and his wife proceeded to ask me the source of my misery. I began to TRY to explain, but I didn't know how to put profound depression into words. If you haven't lived it, there's no way on earth that you can possibly describe it. They asked about my upbringing, my home life, the schools I attended, my parents, brother and sister, about everything that could in any way shed light on the cause of the deep depression I had lived with for so many years, and concerning which I found escape only in alcohol -- alcohol which in the not distant future would have taken my life because at this point there was no bum on skid row who was more an alcoholic than I. It was the only thing that deadened the pain. And I didn't care if I died.
After about a half hour of questions the man stood up, looked me deep in the eye, and said, "do you know the Lord Jesus Christ?"
"Oh nooooooooo," I thought. "I thought he was going to show me something that really works." And my heart sunk into my toes.
"I graduated from an all-girls' religious high school and you ask me if I know Jesus Christ?" I said angrily.
"I'm not asking if you know ABOUT Him," he replied, "I'm asking if you KNOW HIM."
"Well I guess so," I said disgustedly. "I'm sure that after 13 years of religious education I know as much of him as you do."
"If the President of the United States were walking down Main Street here, and you saw him coming, would you greet him as a longtime friend and ask about his family?"
"Of course not."
"Because I don't know him personally, and he doesn't know me."
"And if it were Jesus Christ walking down Main Street, you wouldn't approach him for the very same reason. You don't KNOW Him."
"Well I know all about him, born in Bethlehem and all."
"But you don't KNOW him."
"Well I know they crucified him."
"But you don't KNOW Him."
"No, I guess not," I said greatly agitated. "It never occurred to me that one could know him as a personal friend. Is that what you're saying?"
"Yes. I want to tell you that it is not by accident that you sit here today. The Lord Jesus Christ has arranged this."
Then he proceeded to tell me what my sister hadn't yet told me. When she had called him back on Thanksgiving Day, THAT was the sign he asked for. He and his wife were counselling a full load of people and didn't feel they could take on any more. They had prayed together about my sister's request and had agreed that IF my sister called them back at the least likely time, ON Thanksgiving DAY, they would know that they were directed to take me on."
I sat there stunned. How I had argued with her not to place that call! All she had to do was wait one more day, I had said, I didn't want her to bother anyone on my behalf on a holiday when they were busy with their own festivities and family. But if she had not called back ON that day, we would not be sitting here.
I sat there speechless. I could not open my mouth. I had never encountered anything so "real" as this in all my life. God did this? And then I remembered that day in the livingroom when I begged him to tell me WHO he is. And I remembered that day when the Mormons were trying hard to get me, and I "SAW" Satan in the face of their founder. I began to shake inside as I realized that today, this is God himself, answering me.
The man leaned toward me and looked deeply into my eyes again and said, "You certainly CAN know Jesus as personally as anyone in your family. And He WANTS you to. That's why you're here!"
I felt the tears coming now. Because I was being touched by love. I was being touched in the depths of my soul by the most High God whom I had begged to let me know who He was; I was being touched by the most High God who protected me from the cults when I was SO vulnerable. And I was being reminded that the voice that spoke to me that day asking "how do you know YOU are the right one?" was the same voice I was hearing now. The voice of the man standing in front of me changed. It was no longer that man's voice I was hearing. It was that same voice I heard that day asking me, "how do you know YOU are right?" This was the voice of God, and I knew that as surely as I knew my own name.
I broke. I fell into a deluge of tears as I realized God himself had set this up - for the likes of me! It was not that I had gone to Him, but that he had approached ME that day asking, "how do you know YOU are the right one?" He was listening attentively three days later when I came to the utmost end of myself, foundation destroyed, and had cried out "then who ARE you???" And He had set this meeting up, because it was His plan to reveal himself to me - even to someone like me. I sobbed hysterically as this all washed over my soul in realization that the Lord God Almighty had chosen to reveal himself to me.
My sister began to speak. "Remember that day last week when I came to your house and asked you if you would be willing to meet this man? Well I didn't tell you the whole story. This experience began at a prayer meeting I attended. That evening I came to the prayer meeting in such a state of despair, and I broke down in front of everyone. They asked me what was wrong and I told them I had been praying for my sister for two years and the more I prayed the worse she got and I just can't bear up under this burden watching her go down. A man in the prayer group stood up and gave a word from the Lord. He said, ‘Your sister's TIME has come!’ Then someone gave me the name of this man who is counseling hurting people. I had never heard of him but I followed through and sure enough - your TIME has come.”
I didn't know where the flood of tears was coming from. I hadn't poured myself out like this ever before, in all of my life. I couldn't answer her. I couldn't say any more to him or to his wife. I did notice though, his wife was crying too. And so was my sister.
The man stood in front of me in all seriousness of manner but tinged with a gentle love, and said to me, "are you willing to give your life over to the Lord Jesus?"
"Oh yes, I sobbed, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes."
Then his voice changed again. It was that familiar voice again. It was as though the entire room disappeared and I could only hear that familiar voice from that day in my livingroom. "You have been the lord of your life all these years," he said. "Are you satisfied with what you have done with your life?"
"No, of course not," I sobbed.
"The Lord Jesus Christ wants to purchase you. You are a house of many, many rooms. Each room represents a part of your life. There's your emotional life. Your family life. Your marital life. Your financial life. Your educational life. Your social life. Many, many, many rooms. And the Lord Jesus wants to purchase this house. But you have to be willing to give over to him the keys to each room in the house. He will take possession, and will come in. He will redo the house top to bottom. He'll knock out walls and redecorate. And He'll want the keys to the most hidden rooms too, the places within yourself where no other has ever been, the places you have most deeply kept shut off. Are you willing to give over the keys to every part of you, to every part of your life? "
I understood on a level deeper than I had ever gone to before in all of my life - I knew what he was saying. I could never put into words how truly I KNEW and understood because this was a supernatural thing happening. It wasn't just a man offering me some psycho-babble in order to help me out of depression. This was NOT the voice of any man. This truly, truly, truly was a supernatural thing happening in the depths of me, and the depths of me were answering in my place. "YES! YES! I KNOW YOU! Finally I KNOW who you are. Finally, I know you! Yes, you can have ALL of me," I cried."
The voice continued, "You must understand that this is an eternal exchange. You're making an eternal commitment."
"Yes, I understand."
"There's one more thing."
The price of the house.
"There's a price? He's going to BUY me?"
"Yes. You will be led into a covenant of commitment. You surrender your house, your life, every part of you. He brings the price and offers it to the Father. The price is….."
"The price is HIS BLOOD! The sacrifice of his life. Which He did for You. On the Cross. That's the price."
All I could think was, "I'm not WORTH that. How could he give his life for ME?"
I don't know how I spoke the words in the prayer of covenant he led me through. I don't know how I had breath left in me at all, so deeply had I been sobbing all this time. It was as though all my soul had been poured out of me. I was lifeless. I was spent.
I followed the words of the commitment, the acceptance of the covenant. And I became HIS.
It has been many years since that day, and tears pour down my face even as I write this. It's as though it were yesterday. He DID come in. And He DID tear down walls, and destroy treasures, and I felt him pounding nails as he redid the insides of my "house." It did hurt. It continues to hurt. But the hurt cannot compare to the glory he brought inside. I have known love that cannot be known any other way. I have known faithfulness, and comfort and encouragement. Jesus Christ took that wretch, and truly I was a wretch if there ever was one, and he made me new. Now, many years later I live "in" him, and him "in" me, 24-hours a day. I've been in his presence, not only on that day, but from time to time through the years. He has NEVER left me, he has NEVER forsaken me. He has provided ALL my needs, and then some. I could write books, a book for every story that has taken place since that day, for there are many.
I will tell just one of them, because it happened shortly after that. It was the day before Christmas eve. I was sitting in my kitchen, with a glass of vodka in my hand. Having a drink before me didn't seem to me as a "sin," because it had been a part of my every waking hour for years now. Oh, from time to time I had tried to stop drinking because I could see how it was leading me to death. It had come to the point where I'd lose days at a time, with no memory of where I had been or what I had done. But each time I had tried to break off from it, I couldn't get past withdrawal. Withdrawal was just way more painful than I could endure. So I had failed. Several times.
So there I was in the kitchen, the day before Christmas eve, and I got up for some reason, out of the chair, when all of a sudden Jesus himself was standing there next to me. I didn't see his physical body. Unless you've ever "seen" anything or anyone "in the spirit," there's no way I can describe to you what that's like except to say maybe you could call it a hallucination. That’s one thing that had never happened to me, no matter how much I drank, I had never had anything like a hallucination. So, with no other words to describe this, I'll just say he was there, standing there to the right and slightly behind me.
He said to me, "if you will pour that drink down the drain, I will set you free."
Oh the patience God has to have with us stubborn and rebellious people! Oh the extents of his love! My first thought was that tomorrow night we were having a Christmas eve party and we always all got drunk and sang songs and told jokes, and "had a ball." This pattern of thought happened in a flash, "why couldn't you have come the day AFTER tomorrow?" But I recognized the seriousness of his voice. Though he hadn't said it, I "knew" by the tone of his voice that He was offering me deliverance from this demon, and I dare not trifle with the offer. He came deliberately BEFORE the party. I had to make the decision. Shaking, I went over to the sink, poured the drink down the drain, and as that liquid flushed down the drain every desire for alcohol instantly and completely left me.
I stood there stunned. He was gone. And so was the bondage. He had freed me. I was completely and totally stunned. I slowly turned to my left where the bottle of vodka was still on the counter, and I gagged. I looked away, just unable to believe what was happening, and then turned to look again, and I gagged at the sight of the bottle.
What was this "gagging?" To this day I don't have any explanation for it. All I know is that's what happened, and continued to happen for about six months or so, I would gag at the sight of any alcohol. That continued until after six months or so when I had lost all awareness of alcohol, until when I was around it, I just had no interest and didn't really notice it anymore, something that is true even now so many years later.
But back to that day -- I jumped into the car and drove to my mother's house, burst through the door and said to her, "you are NOT going to believe what just happened!!!!"
She just looked at me stunned, having no idea what I was going to say.
I told her what had just happened, how the Lord Jesus himself had come into the kitchen and stood at my side, to the right of me, and how he had set me free from bondage to alcoholism, "I'm totally and completely free!" I exulted.
My mother said, "we'll see." She had known me that way for so many years, this seemed too much to believe.
The proof was in the pudding. We had the Christmas eve party and I had NO WITHDRAWAL!!! After all those years -- NO withdrawal! We sang, we told jokes, and everyone else was drinking, and I think I enjoyed that Christmas eve party more than any I had ever been to in all my life. I felt light as a feather, and I was free. SO free! I knew I had had a miracle.
There is power in the Gospel. Scripture says, "For the message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the POWER of God."
I have been blessed with the power of God operating in me and in my life ever since. No, not as though there would never be pain again in my life. Oh, the pain to come -- I'm glad I didn't know what was coming. But the Scripture also says that ALL things work together for the good for those who love God, and who are the CALLED according to his purposes. And most assuredly can I attest to the reality of that word. Every single thing that has been painful in my life over the years has been turned to my good. Truly, and experientially.
Walking with the Lord is not a theology. It is not a theory. It is not head-knowledge. It is an experience, an adventure, a challenge, and the greatest joy possible to man. If I had a hundred lives, I'd give each one to the Lord Jesus Christ who I can say I KNOW as I know my family members. If I saw him walking down Main Street, I'd drop whatever I had in my arms and run into his embrace.
There are many chapters yet to write in this story. But there will be none more glorious than this one. I know what it is to be "born again," because on a Thanksgiving weekend, I was born again by the power of Almighty God. And I live my life walking with him daily, and in the great and joyful anticipation of the day when I will be taken with him to his "Father's house" which has "many mansions." He has gone to prepare a place for ME there. And he WILL come and receive me to himself, that where HE is, I will be there with him --- forever.