Light in the Darkness

I have rewritten and rewritten my testimony many times, but I never went this far.  I think it necessary in the light of current events.  I don’t know what causes me more pain today.  The left is calling the right haters and the right is calling the left haters.  Aren’t they all hating?  I have read countless rants on the blogosphere.  Some are from well-meaning people, but I read one a few weeks ago that stated that one side could not call out the anger and hatred of the other side without showing their own anger and hatred.  So, I’m not taking sides in the argument.  Our nation used to be a place where people had a difference of opinion and the other side just hadn’t seen the light, yet.  We didn’t have armed camps that refuse to allow the other side their chance to express their views.  I’m glad that I’m old and ready to check out.  I weep for my grandchildren.

 

I read in Oswald Chambers’ book last night that retelling an old testimony meant that I am living in the past.  God needs to be doing things in your life today.  You need to talk about that.  This is a new version of an old testimony.  God has caused old things to resurface.  I guess that is what God has done for me today, to bring up the past.  My old testimony was that I was always a good kid.  I am an Eagle Scout and a former commissioned army officer.  I lived duty, honor, country.  I hear that and think, “Wrap me up in an American flag and put me away.”  I have my Dad’s casket flag in the living room.  I’m ready.  After giving that preamble, I used to move into how the Jesus movement in my old high school let me know that I was out of step…  All of that was true, but…

 

I lived my first 22 years in Mississippi, but not all in the town of my birth.  We lived for a year in southern MS in Collins and from 8th grade through 10th grade in Tupelo, just twenty miles east of the town of my birth.  Otherwise, it was all at home.  Yet, my junior year, home didn’t feel like home.  The old testimony things are true.  A friend greeted me the first day with a wide smile.  I thought something was wrong with her, but others said that she just loved Jesus, as if that explained it.  I noticed that a lot of my classmates had Joy in their hearts and I did not.  I had always been in church, never missing Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday prayer meetings, but my heart was missing the point.  All of the old testimony is still true.  It took me a year and a couple of months to finally give up asking for the Joy.  I was always demanding God give me the Joy without surrendering my will to Him.  It is all or nothing, folks.  You cannot try Jesus out for a weekend.

 

But what was I not telling?  When we moved back to our old home town, I had established friends in Tupelo.  It was in Tupelo that I had joined the Boy Scouts and became an Eagle Scout in only four months more than the minimum time.  Tupelo was an experimental school that tried out new techniques before other schools did.  That was fun.  I was on a roll.  Now I was back home in Pontotoc, but my friends treated me differently.  I was a boy that they had known since kindergarten, but did they really know me?  I was insecure.  I was a natural introvert, so study hall was one of my favorite hours of the day.  I got to be alone.  Of course, that soon ended when I was excelling at Chemistry and the others petitioned for me to teach them Chemistry during study hall.  I would review yesterday’s lecture during the period before Chemistry was scheduled.  I got straight “A”s and they all got “B”s and “C”s, instead of the failing grades they had made at first.

 

But during those first two months, I had a table to myself in the library.  It was in a back corner where the head football coach (and librarian) couldn’t see me.  On the shelf was a copy of Mein Kampf.  I started reading it.  To an educated man who fits into this world, Mein Kampf is the insane rambling of a madman, but the educated man has history to prove that Adolph Hitler was an insane madman.  To a young boy of sixteen who had to leave his new friends behind and go to a town where there were tons of old friends (but not really), the book made sense.  These old friends had moved into a world where this world was not their home.  They were simply living their days on earth until they could be with their heavenly Father.  I was not a part of that world.  I was not a part of any world.  Mein Kampf taught me that I could blame someone else for my troubles and I didn’t have to face up to the things that I did wrong.  I confess, as I doodled in my notebooks, I started drawing swastikas in the doodles.  I had seen the dark side and the attractions there were to it.

 

Did I start beating people up in the school yard?  No.  Did I shave my head?  I was an ultra-conservative in a very conservative school.  If hair ever touched the ears of any boy in school, it was because he hadn’t made it to the barber shop on time.  A year later, the hair started hitting a lot of ears, but even then not the shoulders.  No, I was still a good kid, but there was an eternal battle going on inside me.  Mein Kampf led me to blame all of the boredom as I sat in the choir loft at church on my mother.  She had no signs of Joy.  I couldn’t look to her for an explanation of what the other kids in school were experiencing.  She had duty.  She was organist, choir director, teacher of the women’s Sunday school.  I was her dutiful servant.  Call it hormones, but I simply wanted to get away.  Yet, as the eternal good kid, I said, “Yes, Ma’am” and kept attending church, Sunday school, and youth groups.  And each night I would pray that God would come into my life, and each morning realize that He had not.  The Bible gave me no hope, until I surrendered my will to God.  Church and the nightly Bible reading gave me no comfort, until I surrendered my will to God.  Mein Kampf and its message of hate let me keep my will and gave me comfort in that hate.  Hate is warm and comfortable, if you forget God and bathe in it.

 

But there was never any rest.  The war inside me continued until October 17, 1969, during my senior year of high school.  I looked at the ceiling above my bed and said, “God, I give up!”  I recently read that God speaks to His own and they alone can hear His voice.  I don’t know if that is true, but that night I heard a reply, “That’s what I’ve been waiting for.”  A feeling of Joy and comfort came over me and within seconds, I was asleep.  The next morning I rushed to my Bible and started reading.  With each passage that I read, I would shout, “Ah ha!  That’s what it means.”  The Holy Spirit was guiding me toward understanding.  I have been reading and reading the Bible ever since.  Each time through, I gain new insight.

 

I had never thought of Mein Kampf from that moment until now.  It was as if I had never read the book.  I feel that God brought back that chapter of my past now for a reason.

 

When I was between my junior and senior years of college, I spent a month as an army recruiter (recruiting people to join ROTC when they got to college), went to ROTC summer camp for six weeks, and then I had some free time before my senior year of college started.  I went on a grand journey that I may write about at a later date.  This was the summer of 1973.  I drove from Mississippi to Connecticut to pick up an ROTC summer camp buddy and then we went from Montreal to Quebec through New Brunswick and then after dropping him back off at school, I went home.  On the homeward trip, I went to Charlottesville.  I had lived my entire life at that point in the South.  I went to Monticello (before learning that Thomas Jefferson was the first cousin of one of my ancestors.  That was neat.  The University of Virginia campus was fascinating, but I loved the statues throughout the town.  I wasn’t impressed by the Robert E. Lee statue a few blocks away from the courthouse.  “Stonewall” Jackson had been my hero and the subject of a research paper in grade school.  I loved the impressive “Stonewall” Jackson statue, riding his horse in full charge next to the Albemarle courthouse where Thomas Jefferson defended my ancestor in court.  (He’d been accused of being a Tory, but he had been helping the revolution in secret.)

 

To hear about tearing down a statue that is, to me, part of my heritage, it brings a tear to my eye.  I would hope that educated, articulate Southerners could express their views on heritage without the extremist haters getting involved.  There is a part of our history that is slowly being rewritten, because of the viewpoint of the history book writers.  To me, it is sad.

 

But what is also sad is that I served in our nation’s military, not to preserve the conservative beliefs that I have had during my life.  I served to preserve the opposing view’s right to express themselves.  We’ve lost that.  My side is right.  You are a hater.  You are wrong.  Then the fight starts.  Property is damaged.  People get injured.  People die.  We have gotten to a point where my side is right and everyone else should SHUT UP.

 

Isn’t that what Mein Kampf was saying all those years ago.  People to the left, people to the right, you are both being guilty of a key tenet of Nazi ideology.  You are repeating one of the saddest times in history, by hating the other side and not letting the other side have their little rally and then go away.  If that had happened, it wouldn’t even be a news item.  If they did property damage, they would have violated their permit and the law should step in.  Otherwise, we would still not hear of it on the news.

 

Adolph Hitler proved that an idea spoken over and over can change the world.  Words are powerful, but trying to stop those words from being spoken lowers us to their level.  Then, the news media start to salivate as they see a story to tell.  The cameras are rolling when the first fight starts.  Is it at all possible to express God’s Love when you are shouting in anger at people that you hate?  That’s how sides are chosen and wars start.

 

There is a phrase that I used earlier in this post to illustrate my struggle (what else does Mein Kampf mean anyway?  Other than my struggle) “until I surrendered my will to God.”  We will continue to have two armed camps or more in this country until we turn back to God.  Where is our Joash?  Where is our Hezekiah?  Where is our prophets of old?  Where is that voice (that is not shouting) that is expressing God’s Love?  May God have mercy on our souls.

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