In this article, I decided to jot down some of my reflections as I look back over my life and the forging of my character by the mighty hand of God. I will readily admit that I am not a self-made man, and that God has invested much in me. It is His investment that He guards and protects from the possibility of His work being dismantled within my life. His work in me makes my life count for more than I could possibly expect or even imagine. If I am confident in anything, I know that it is His story being told as a tribute to His grace and His work of drawing people to Himself.
I can tell you that I have not done everything right, and admitting to that would marginalize my continual need for Him. Although I believe I will never arrive at that point on this side of Heaven, I like Paul, press for the mark for the prize of His upward calling. It is through these movements, both forward and upward, that enable me and others to move outward with zeal and confidence.
The call to preach came at an early age for me. With two paper routes and a multitude of jobs, ranging from working in the Jewish-owned local grocery store, shining shoes, collecting scrap metal, and cashing in soda bottles for refunds to Mr. Crockett’s makeshift soda store in his basement house. It was at this crucial point in my life that I sensed the call of destiny. The messenger and the message created a strange and strained life of trying to be and not knowing what I would become. The constant attempts at living up to the expectation of others but never measuring up produced both insecurities and confusion within me.
During my early years of puberty, in pursuit of discovering what it meant to be a man and an inexperienced preacher, the journey became long and laborious. Although I entertained these new and heart-rendering feelings of liking girls, I did not know how to reconcile these strange emotions with being a preacher. Heartbroken by the strength of the call and the strain of my passions, I walked a tightrope between two worlds. But ultimately, Jesus won the battle over my mind and soul!
When my father died of cancer in December 1968, my mother was left as a young widow with seven children. I remember that this was the darkest day of my soul. Even though we were not babies, to all seven of us including our mother, he was our strength. My recovery was slow and the seed of rebellion was securely planted against God. I began to doubt His love and even question His existence. I wrestled with how I could serve a God that was so cruel as to take our daddy when we needed him so much.
As I look back at my checkered past and on the path which He has placed me, I am reminded of my own vulnerability. It is only when God is allowed to govern and guide us through life that we discover its truest meaning. Once we fully surrender to His will, He will navigate us through obstacles that would otherwise lead to our demise. I am a living witness and my life testifies to the fact that God can take nothings and make something out of them. It is clearer to me now more than ever before that the sufficiency is not in me, but in God. While 50 years is brief in light of eternity, I know that each day is a building block that leads to an expected end. His path must constantly be my path and He gives direction to where I am willing to go. As the psalmist David wrote, “He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His namesake.” Now, it is my passion and ultimate purpose in life to be led by Him and constantly follow His leading.
I have come to understand that many of my challenges earlier challenges were mere preparatory measures for what was to come. When we desire to follow God, it is easy to be misunderstood. Some do not really know what it means to trust in Jesus. There are those who may lean or even believe on Him for salvation. But to trust in Him means that He has become your very life, where you fully identify with Him and He with you. Therefore, the attitudes and dispositions of the world are the same towards us as they are with Him. Although we do not comprehend the challenges we face, nor the pain we experience, the joy that lies before us keep the flame of hope burning. This is the endurance of faith, to remain constant in spite of the threatening attacks from the opposition. After 50 years of ministry, I can confidently say that, “Through it all, through it all, I have learned to trust in Jesus. I have learned to trust in God.”