My personal story of God’s grace and forgiveness
Conclusion of my testimony.
A Quick Review
As I have told in the previous two posts, my life started with a godly grandmother. Later in my youth I turned to atheism. My unbelief had its roots in Vacation Bible school and the description of an eternally burning hell. The logic of a professor in college solidified my reason to be a complete unbeliever.
But, then I was challenged by my first wife to study the Bible to prove her wrong. After reading and studying intently, I discovered Jesus was all He claimed to be! I repented of my sins and asked Jesus to come into my life. For 20 years I was active for the Lord. I knew him well and would often spend time with Him in the morning praying and talking with Him like my grandmother had done when I was younger.
I had a very popular Bible class at my church each weekend. The Lord blessed me and my Christian friends in prison ministry. I was on the front page of a world-wide magazine. The article about my ministry was called “A Banker Goes To Prison.” One of my best friends and I had a radio ministry for years called “Answers From Scripture.” I was chosen by my church to take part in the Billy Graham crusades as a counselor where the Lord worked through me to bring people to Christ.
The First Step Back
As described before, my Jesus journey came to an end through my own choice encouraged by tragedy and selfishness in my life. Then for 10 years, I “took my inheritance” and lived it up. I had no conviction for my sin and was “dead in sin.” But, soon the money and good times began to fade.
Last time I mentioned passing a policeman while speeding out of my neighborhood. I had been drinking and had just left a nasty argument with my second wife. I will pick up the story from here.
Just as I passed the officer, going in the opposite direction, the blue lights came on immediately. I already had one DUI on my record from years earlier. I was tempted to run, but instead I immediately pulled over and said, my first prayer in almost ten years.
“Lord, please keep me out of jail.”
The police officer came up to my window. I knew he would be able to smell the beer on my breath.
“In a big hurry?”
“Yes, sir. I was going too fast.” I said this without looking at him fearing my breath would give me away.
“Can I see your license?”
He then asked,
“Do you live in this neighborhood?”
“Yes sir, I am about half of a mile from home”
“I would recommend you go back home.” Those words sounded familiar and encouraging. It was God-like….
“Yes sir, I will turn around here and head back that way.”
Whew! He let me go! I was so relieved. My second prayer was,
“Thank you Lord!”
Although I didn’t know it at that time, this was my single step back towards my home with Jesus.
The incident with the policeman stayed with me. I began to think about my drinking and how I was ruining my health and putting others in danger.
Then the Lord began to work in my life. I had open the door just a little.
Job Loss Again!
My company reorganized and my job was eliminated. This move took me off the road and away from an extravagant routine of drinking and eating in fine restaurants. But, again, I was out of work and had enough money to last a few months. Cashing in some stock options allowed me to buy a little boat and keep the bills paid. So for several weeks, I enjoyed the beauty of a nearby lake, fishing, and some drinking.
I decided to start going to Wednesday night prayer meetings at a local church of my own denomination. I requested prayer to help me find a job. Since I knew many people in the banking field, I began to network with them. The jobs advertised on the internet seemed to be a dead-end. I was starting to lose hope, especially because of the bankruptcy on my credit report. Often bank jobs require a review of your credit report and a bankruptcy will prohibit hiring or, at the very least, encourage the employer to choose someone else with better control over their finances.
God Takes Care of Me
I went on an interview downtown. It didn’t go well, but as I was walking back to my truck, my path crossed with a local bank executive whom I had worked for in my early years. We had a pleasant conversation and he told me of a position in a different county just south of where I lived. He said it had been posted on the internet for some time. I evidently had missed it because I had limited my search on the internet with this particular bank by the county in which I lived.
When I returned home that afternoon, I looked up the job and immediately made a call to the number listed. I used the name of the bank executive as a lead-in to get past the Human Resource Department and directly to the hiring manager. By the next day, I had an interview.
The interview went well, but I just didn’t think the nice younger man would hire me. Anyway, how about the credit report and the bankruptcy? Even if he wanted me to work there, would the bankruptcy on my record ruin it all?
I was back on the lake the next day enjoying the sunshine and catching a few fish. I even took a nap under the quite blue skies. The lake was almost void of people because it was a weekday. I was beginning to feel the presence of God again.
Later that day as I was driving home, I received a phone call. It was the nice young man at the bank calling to give me the bad news….at least that is what I assumed, instead he asked,
“Is this Eddie?”
“How is your day going?”
“Pretty good” was my weak response. My confidence level was way down. I expected to hear the bad news, as I had heard times before.
Well, I have some good news for you. My heart jumped!
We want you to come to work for us at $xxxx (much more than I expected) and with a VP title (I didn’t expect a title, much less a VP title!)
That is great! When do you want me to start? I tried to not sound too excited and I had a lump in my throat mostly because I felt a surge of God’s presence…It was as if He said, “I can take care of you like before if you will just let me.”
“How about Monday?”
“Yes that will be fine.”
“I’ll be there! Thank you so much!” My words were short, because I knew I was about to shed some tears.
When I got off the phone, I pulled my truck over on the side of a busy road and began to cry. I thought of the prayer meetings and the “accidental” meeting of a bank executive in such a large city. The job was waiting for me. It had not been filled. A coincidence? No! It was the Lord who knew my needs.
I started to work on Monday. I was concerned about not having any health insurance for 90 days. This would become very important over the next few weeks because I was about to have a life changing event.
My Past Life Style Catches Up With Me
About this time, as expected, the creditors came and picked up my truck and my Harley Davidson motorcycle. I was without transportation. Fortunately, my cousin had a “junker” that I could use. It was an old ugly rusty Oldsmobile. Driving this car humbled me. Also, the trips to the lake were no longer possible since I didn’t have a truck to pull my small runabout boat.
I put everything into my new job….so grateful to be working and making money again!
My insurance finally kicked in after the 90 days. This was very fortunate.
As I was sitting at my desk, I felt a tightness in my chest and decided to go to the break room. It didn’t let up. So I went out to my rusty Oldsmobile and laid back in my seat. No relief. I began to sweat, so I started up the car and drove to my doctor’s office. I could barely walk into the building. When I got to the front desk, I told them I was having chest pains and the doctor came running out and instructed the nurse to put me into a wheel chair. She rushed me over to the hospital next door. I could not breath and felt like I was going to faint.
I could make this a long story, but I will summarize here. I had a blockage in the vein known as “The Widow Maker.” I had an option for open heart surgery or a stent. I chose the stent. This helped for about a year, when I had a second attack after a long bicycle ride. The next attack required bypass surgery.
My extravagant life style and drinking had finally caught up with me.
The night before the surgery Jerry, the new pastor of the church I once attended came by to visit. He had prayer with me and I felt at ease.
The surgery went well and I was back at work within 2 weeks and grateful to God to be alive.
But returning to God after a long time is like being in a car accident and having your legs broken. You have to learn to walk again. God had worked through a police officer (lesson on mercy) and near death through a couple of heart attacks (consequences of sin) to get my attention. But there was more before I would finally decide to go home.
Do You Know That Young Man?
One night, my second wife and I attended a function downtown. It was a very classy event with evening gowns and expensive suits. As we left the event and walked towards our car and the valet attendant, I remembered my overcoat and went back inside to get it while my wife asked for our car.
When I started back and was near my waiting car and wife, I noticed one of the attendants staring at me. It felt a little odd that I would notice since I was hurrying along and a little tipsy from the drinking. The eyes of the young man who looked Ethiopian seemed to penetrate my soul.
When I got in the car and drove away, the young man was still looking. My wife asked,
“Do you know that young man?”
” I don’t think so. But, he looks familiar.”
Then my wife said something that would bring back that familiar feeling of conviction. Unknowingly, her words would lead me to take another big step back to God.
“That young man came over and asked me if you were Eddie. I told him, yes that is Eddie. He then told me you had one of the best Bible classes. He said you probably don’t know how much your teaching helped him with his journey with Jesus. Eddie, I didn’t know you were a Bible teacher. I have learned something new about you tonight.”
Great conviction ran throughout my being. It was like an electrical bolt of lightning through my conscience. I thought of my wild lifestyle and the many people I had hurt. But even more, I thought of the once effective witness I had been for Jesus that had been ruined by my decision to ask Him to go away.
I didn’t want my wife to see me cry so I held it in behind moist eyes and a huge knot in my throat.
A Cautious Return to Church
A few days later I asked my wife if she would go to church with me. She seemed surprised, but willing to go. We were of different denominations, so I knew it would be a little odd for her and I appreciated her willingness to go. In over 5 years of marriage, we had never gone to church or even discussed religion.
As we entered the big church, I told her I didn’t know which Bible class to go in so I looked in the window of the first door. Inside was one of my former class members (from earlier years) teaching the class. I said, to my wife,” Let’s go in this one.”
The class had already started and all the eyes of the people in the circle of chairs seemed to be staring at us. My former class member teaching the class, Maurice, stopped and then began to introduce me. He said,
“I want you all to meet Eddie. Many years ago, I attended his class and he had a great influence on me.”
Tears came to his eyes and he stopped talking. I, too, felt tears and that familiar lump in my throat. That day we had a inspiring time in the class and the service afterwards. It was great to see so many people I had not seen in almost 10 years. It felt good to be back in church.
Conviction and Doubt
Later in the week, I was under great conviction, but was worried that God would not take me back. It seemed like I had forgotten everything I ever taught and the Bible verses that meant so much to me. I felt the familiar tug of the Holy Spirit to give in to Jesus knocking loudly on the door of my heart. I spoke to the Lord and said,
“Lord, see all that I have done. I asked you to go away. How can you ever forgive me and make things right again?”
Then a passage of scripture came to my mind.
“And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
“But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.
Luke 15: 20-24
This was me! The Father still wanted me back!
I wept and I wept….The sin seemed to drain out of my soul like filthy water.
Not only would God take me back, but He was waiting and looking for me to come home and away from the filthy pig pen. Then he ran towards me, kissed me, and put on me his warm and comfortable robe of righteousness.
What a feeling! I was back home!
A few weeks later, Jerry (the new pastor of the church I once attended and who visited me in the hospital) re-baptized me.
Returning to the Start
I would like to say that I lived happily ever after, but as I mentioned at the start, the effects of 10 years of riotous living, eating anything I pleased, and drinking affected my health and my relationship with my children. In fact, the alcoholism went away slowly. My new life in Christ and my Jesus journey even caused conflict with my second wife and we would eventually go our separate ways.
The job I had received because of much prayer was eliminated due to a merger and I went to work for another bank which ended the same way. I found another job in a distant city and was there for 9 months away from my wife and my home. But, there was a purpose for me being there. God used me to help bring my son-in-law to Christ.
I enjoyed the people, but a new job offer in my home city came and I took it so I could be in my house and with my wife. But, the effects of the many arguments had taken a toll on both of us and after a nasty argument and the police showing up, we divorced.
Within 3 months of our divorce, I lost my job at the local bank. So here I was again. Divorced and with no job. I had enough money to last about 6 months. With my wife’s income and mine, we had bought a big house in the country. I loved it. I wanted to retire there one day. The big house was lonely. Only a couple of cats to keep me company. The winter of loneliness was like a wet cold blanket on me.
Same Troubles. A Different Response.
But this time, I gave all my worries and depression to the Lord. I told him that even if I lost the house and everything, I would trust him. I started to meet and talk with Him every morning. He reminded me to:
“seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
My favorite verse became,
Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
Meeting the Lord each morning for Bible study and prayer often lasted for hours. I spent more time walking and talking with the Lord than I did with searching for a job.
I trusted that God knew my heart and my needs, but I was willing to go through another bankruptcy and foreclosure if that was what was required of me as long as I had the Lord and his warm robe of righteousness around me.
I was so lonely, I began to inquire of the Lord about a third chance at marriage. I described to Him that I would like a woman who also was of the same faith, that loved Him, but was not too stuffy or religious.
Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4
The Lord gave me the desires of my heart. He found me a job in a different city. I didn’t lose my house, but was able to sell it. I miss it greatly, but I have another house in my new city with my new wife who loves the Lord and is my true soul mate.
An unexpected check in the mail came that was enough for us to put a down payment on our simple home and have enough left over for furniture. But, the first thing I did with the money was to give a tenth to the Lord and a “thank offering.”
I have been with this position at the bank for over four years. My wonderful wife of three years is so different and sweet. We enjoy each other’s company and love to pray together.
I was away from the Lord for 10 years and it has been about 10 years since He ran towards me and gave me that warm comfortable robe of His righteousness.
Our journey back to God can be difficult with slips and slides along the way. God let’s us see how weak we are without him so that we won’t tell Him to go away ever again. It is the difficult times and the decision we make to cast all our cares on Jesus that makes the difference.
Each one of us are on a journey with Jesus. Our experiences might be different, but Jesus is the same.
Jesus is true when He says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” This I know. I left Him, but He didn’t leave me. I came back, but some do not.
I think of the two young men who were just as on fire for the Lord as me when I first began my Jesus journey. They left the Father like me. But, I returned; they have not. Lord, save them a second time like you did me.
I can see how the Lord worked with me, but it was not until I took that single step back to Him that He began to work in my life to save me a second time. Then he built my faith up like a broken bone that is stronger when it heals back. My faith in Him is stronger now than ever. I now live it by faith and in obedience to His word. I am not perfect, but I have a big brother who is not ashamed to call me brother. He intercedes for me.
For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren
It is extremely important to remember that during my dark days there were people praying for me. I am a big believer in intercessory prayer because I am a recipient of its power. So, don’t ever give up on those prayers for those you love…that have departed and gone back into the world. There is hope only in Christ.
It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
Romans 8: 34-35
The Journey continues. The happy ending comes when Jesus returns. Until then, He is able to complete the work He started in you….but you have to choose. Even so Lord Jesus come…..