Having just pondered here a season of darkness for me, I wanted to illustrate how those days were not *all* dark. With a head fake too; you've been warned...*smile*
Almost immediately after renouncing my faith (or trying to...) some friends in town showed up within just a couple of days. It was *very* awkward for them; what does one say when tragedy has struck a family & you walk into it? Here's what they said: "Um...uh...so...we're going to hang out...wanna go?" I recall looking @ Mom, & seeing her smile & say "you should go." So I did. I can't tell you how absolutely great that gesture was, & how much it meant...means...to me. I have no recollection of exactly where we went or what we did; I just remember being amazed at how much fun it was just to hang out & do normal stuff again. Basically, a reminder that life goes on, even when we don't really see how it could.
These guys were just some of many HS friends who stepped up large in December, 1974, and during the weeks & months after. Beach trips. Concerts. Waterskiing. Meals. Ice cream. Pranks. (both on me, and with me as a participant). Yards rolled. (Guilty! And we were pretty good at it, I must say.)
Some of those HS friends then are still friends now, and I remain ever more grateful for their friendship & encouragement then and now. I am still rather amazed that so many would hang with an angry, confused, self-centered, flaming...jerk like me back then.
Basically, those friends helped me see that, though it seemed the world went gray in 12/14/74 when Dad died, it really hadn't changed. There was still laughter & beauty & fun & music &...(etc.) An invaluable blessing to me back then.
One of those guys actually went on to room w/ me in Broward Hall @ U. of FL. We had a blast, despite me being perhaps the worst roommate in the world. A couple of others also went to UF. Unlike me, they all got it done in the classroom part. But they helped me laugh & learn & have a blast & keep on recovering & moving forward. Thanks, Jim...Barry...Cyndy...Rick...
Fraternity. I learned so very much there, much of it good & valuable info to know. (Well, some things, not so valuable...but the valuable stuff was great!) The good stuff learned was endurance...patience...getting along with others...pursuing a common purpose...discipline (for me a latent piece of knowledge, but it started there in the LXA house)...sacrifice for the good of another. (I still remember one guy tying another guy's shoes every morning, because the one guy had crippling arthritis.) And of course, I learned a lot about good music.
As a related aside...One guy is an IT type down in S. FL...another is an aerospace engineer...another teaches engineering in college part-time when his full-time gig as TX Instruments allows...another is an accountant in GA...another is a senior guy w/ one of the Federal financial institution regulatory agencies. (Among other success stories from my friends back then; I'm proud to be associated w/ those guys!) And some are still in contact & are friends today, after all these years.
Enjoyment of college sports. I already did, but it was elevated there, despite some epic-ly awful Gator teams. The football record one year was 0-10-1...brutal. And I still loved the games!
Scuba diving. Got certified @ this w/ yet another fraternity brother. Which led to some of the coolest life experiences ever! Ginnie Springs...the Manatees' home harbor down there in SW FL...diving off Key Largo...
Junior college. Academic redemption. For the first time in a *long* time, I discovered that I could, in fact, succeed in the classroom as a student. Went to juco w/ a friend who, like me, needed to re-boot his academic life. He now a retired military officer with a Master's degree, and is one of the senior managers of a hospital system in south FL.
Alabama. Roomed w/ my cousin Gary. By which I mean, he & I shared a room in an apt. Again, I was likely the world's worst roommate, and yet Gary hung out me & loved me & demonstrated faith to me by the way he lived. And there were others, who showed me how to have a *blast* without getting intoxicated. (Sadly, that was a big revelation for me.)
Plus, there was this coed who lived upstairs across the breezeway...26.5 years ago, she put a ring on my finger in a small church in SW AL.
The college & young adult class @ Hopewell Baptist Church. The pastor, Billy Austin. I started singing the hymns again (see previous entry for back story). The young marrieds class @ First Baptist Church. The pastor, Rick Lance (now director of Alabama Baptists). *Great* preaching! Richard & Lori, our Sunday School teachers. Don Bennett, Director of the Baptist Student Union.
The three professors @ UA that I've written about in this space before.
Just a sampling of countless bits of grace I received...
So, you see, even in the midst of great spiritual darkness, there were grace notes added to the symphony of my life, as God wooed me back to Himself. I would not have chosen the path, but I now cherish it. And *that* is how I can sing w/ the southern Gospel song "I wouldn't take nothin' for my journey now."
I am so very blessed, and was during those 10 years of denying it. I am so grateful for the people & places & events of those years. I am so very humbled by the love & grace they showed me.
And now for the head fake. Read back through this. Think it was about me or about people & circumstances from back in the day? Think again. While I am eternally grateful for the people and for those events & circumstances, this entry was really about you & your future. Notice in these examples how VERY easy it is to be a huge blessing & grace note in the hands of the Master Composer in someone else's live. Go thou & do likewise!
Thankful for much grace in the darkness...and in the light,