Today's post is a continuation of "the Great Sadness" from yesterday. The four hour tennis session last night gave me an opportunity to return to my happy place. For the first time, the people in my life that matter to me are learning about my dark secrets. It is easier to share my story with strangers. I know in my heart that if I hold back from the people that are closest to me, the story will be incomplete. I am trusting that the angels God put in my life will not abandon me at this critical time as I face my most difficult memories. Here is one more snippet, raw and unedited. Once the writers critique group gets a hold of it, it will become part of "God's Black Sheep Squadron."
"Snora" Ehlers, my high school Spanish teacher asked me to stay for a few minutes after class. "I am concerned about your brother," she said. "His grades are slipping and he is in danger of failing. There is a program called S.O.S., Save One Student. I have decided to work with him." Snora was a kind lady. Her daughter was in my Spanish class all through high school and her class was my favorite. I thanked her for wanting to help my brother.
Despite her efforts, she was not able to save my brother. One day in his typing class, my brother became frustrated. He picked up the typewriter and heaved it through the window. It would not be the last window he broke, however, it would be the last time he would attend school. My other brother also decided that high school wasn't for him and dropped out.
My mother looked to my dad for help with my brothers. He continued to stay focused on Mulligan's and rarely interacted with us. When he did, the smell of alcohol was always on his breath. The police cars made regular visits to our home to break up fights. When my brothers started using guns, they traumatized our three younger sisters who often hid under their beds until the fighting ended.
I didn't like fighting with my brothers, however, one slap at a sister was all that was needed to draw me in and I was instantly fighting. This worked every time. Each brother was relentless and we often fought until someone got hurt. We would go at each other with 2 by 4's and pieces of furniture. During one episode, one brother ran into the storage room and locked the door, taunting the other through a small window in the door. My other brother punched through the glass, nearly severing his thumb.
During another fight, I was in the back yard in hand-to-hand combat. I picked my brother up and threw him into our swimming pool, yelling "cool off!" I ran into the house and locked the door behind me. He landed on the pool stairs and was injured. Filled with rage, he pursued me. Dad came home and intervened. He prevented us from killing each other.
Each day was the same, put on a happy face for school and come home to more chaos. For me, if I didn't have my tennis to look forward to each day, I don't know if I could have made it through high school. I would hit the ball as hard as I could to get the anger out of my body. I hated going home.
One night, my brother was in the middle of a big fight with his girlfriend. I broke up the fight and offered to drive his girlfriend home. My brother followed me out and went to the trunk of his car while I backed out. His face was filled with rage as he pulled out a crow bar and ran at me, full speed.
I popped the clutch in my VW super beetle and sped off. "Hurry, he's following us," his girlfriend yelled. "He's getting closer." He was closing fast. I shut off my headlights. He shut off his headlights. He was right on top of me as I approached a stop sign at a busy street. I ran the stop sign, barely missing oncoming traffic. The move gave me just enough time to reach the grocery store parking lot. I let his girlfriend out of the car and told her to run for help. When I returned home, I asked my sisters to hide under their beds until it was safe. They spent a lot of time under their beds.
Before my dad moved out, there was one final confrontation. My brother was one minute
past his curfew. "What time is it?" my father asked. As my brother looked down at his watch, the left hook came out of nowhere, knocking my brother to the ground. At least one tooth popped out and blood was spilling everywhere. My mother was looking for intervention. She got more than she wanted.
My brother walked out the front door. With the exception of a couple of weddings, it would be the last time he saw my dad, at least until my dad's final thirty five days on earth. My younger brother also moved out and started his own construction company. He changed his last name and moved on. Meanwhile, I put on a happy face and pretended that my life was okay. I fooled almost everybody.
Few knew of the chaos at my home. The police made regular visits to our home to break up fights and my best friend, Wayne, one of the smartest students in my class, would stop by to get me out of the house. One night, we climbed a mountain in the middle of the night with a bottle of booze. We proceeded to make our plans for our future. These plans did not include getting married or having children. My own family was all the evidence he needed to persuade him. Instead, he would get his chemical engineering degree and the two of us would make plans to become rich. Wayne never married or had children. My wife and I enjoy spending time with Wayne and his long-time girlfriend. She is a powerful partner for him and they are a great couple.
I have shared my faith with Wayne, although my view of God was distorted in my early years. He remains an agnostic. Over the years, my goals have changed. I no longer care about the size of my bank account. What matters to me now is doing what God asks of me. My purpose is to share all the good that Jesus has done and continues to do in my life. The atheists that are on my tennis team and my best friend Wayne, the agnostic, are part of the puzzle that I am working on. You are also part of the puzzle. I will not rest until I have shared my conversion story. There is much work to do.
Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to share part of my story today. I know how it ends. Jesus returns. My prayer is that my story will help those who are lost. As my friend told me, "the two of us on your tennis team are the two biggest atheists in America and when we are done with you, you too will be an atheist." If I were a non-believer, I would say, 'what a coincidence that such polar opposites are on the same tennis team.' As a believer, I say 'what a God-incidence.' Let's see which of us is able to persuade the other side. It may look like it's two against one, however, I know better.
I find myself in the center of a large battlefield. The stakes are high. Surrender or retreat is not an option. Heaven and earth are fighting against the forces of evil for your soul. My time in the cave, just like David's time apart from his world was necessary for me to learn patience, wisdom, endurance, love, forgiveness and tolerance. No longer do I live with fear. I am ready for the war zone. I am ready to fight for you. No longer will I dwell in caves.
Thank you for joining me today and allowing me an opportunity to build another sand castle. There is still much writing to do before my deadline. Peace be with you.