by Billy Beasley
I have no idea why I wrote this, (I was not even writing a blog at the time) other than God knew real change was coming and maybe he wanted me to see where I had been before he took me to the next step.
It was nearing the end of summer, in 1976, as I walked that night in my neighborhood. It was unusual that I was not high on some substance. I was nineteen, troubled, and the walk, much like my life had no particular destination. A girlfriend that I treated badly walked away and decided to fill her own emptiness with someone else. It was not until she was out the door that I realized that I actually loved her, though that was the last thing I desired.
I don’t recall a thought as I walked. I do recall gazing at the sky for much of the time. I can point to the place over forty years later, where life abruptly changed forever.
I felt a whoosh that began in the top of my head and permeated throughout my entire body. I hear a whisper with unmistakable clarity. “Come and admit that you are wrong. Come and sing my glorious song.” One lone tear dribbled down my left cheek. Decades later I still don’t know why this happened to me.
It would be pleasant if this story was joyous and that I turned from my life immediately and walked a different path with happiness and harmony. I did turn from my life of promiscuity, drugs, and parties that saw the sun rise on a regular basis. New life began with that supernatural moment and I thought that there would be so much more to come but I had to learn to live in the natural, and by faith, which proved an obstacle I could not overcome.
I made a rash of hurried decisions and the worst was a marriage born of a small church group that had all the answers and from loneliness. Remember the girl that found solace in another? I blocked all that away. I married someone while still in love with another.
I spent ten years unhappily married-never letting go of my Damascus Road completely, but at the same time when home is misery for both of you, how can you walk a fruitful path?
At age 32 I was separated, alone, and depressed. My festering anger toward God grew exponentially for the next twenty years. Often my prayers turned to cursing at a God powerful enough to whisper to me on a dark road and change my life but who seemingly was so distant when I needed him most.
I had several failed relationships after divorce. I sought love and intimacy and found it, however fleeting it proved to be. I was flawed, vulnerable and I found the same in partners. Some of the experiences were enthralling but the downside grew too steep.
Depression loomed, but I could always flip the switch and walk out of the darkness but twice the darkness became so severe that I reconciled myself to the awareness that I was not Superman after all. One night, as I drove around listening to Bruce Springsteen and drinking heavily, I drove into the garage and left the music playing and the car running. I was playing a game. It won’t really be suicide if I just fall asleep drunk never to wake again. I don’t know if I fell asleep but at some point my beautiful son’s face appeared and what I could not do for myself, I had to do for him. I cut the car off and walked inside.
During this dark time I attended a Saturday night church service with my son. The minister’s theme was what is holding you back? What is keeping you from turning your life completely over to God?
“What’s keeping you Dad?” Micah has no recollection of this event. This from the kid who can recall events from his childhood with such clarity. It was God speaking through him but I still had my plans, dreams, and desires. Let me achieve those first and then I will get around to God.
It was a Saturday night and I was talking to my mom on the phone. During the course of our chat she mentioned that Jim Glasgow was back at Myrtle Grove as the senior minister. I was a member but I had not attended a service in years. I had always liked Jim. He is a humble man with a heart for the broken. Something clicked when Mom spoke and I decided I would attend Myrtle Grove the following morning.
I attended sporadically for the first three years. My anger at God for circumstances that he refused to change would surface and I would in my mind, defy him and refuse to attend for several weeks. Still, I kept returning.
There was no life changing voice this time but as I reflect back now I see a few events that did not seem dramatic at the time but have had a profound effect on my life.
The first I can recall was sitting alone at the end of the pew-as usual refusing to reach out to anyone. I had to keep a distance and protect myself from any religious people. It was before church began and without thought I picked up the Bible in front of me. I opened it to Galatians 5:7. You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?
The second event was when a man brought his potter’s wheel to church and began to mold as a woman spoke. I can’t recall any words spoken during that service but something gnawed at me. What I sensed was God saying, “You have tried to mold me into what you think I should be. I am the potter you are the clay and it is not the other way around.”
Still, as our world has become extremely liberal haven’t we assumed God has moved with us? I know I have. But I return to the reminder of the potter and the clay. I need to not only understand but accept that I am the clay.
There is no Damascus Road this time and the process slow but the foundation more sturdy and I have more hope in finding the path God calls to me. As I search for the next step, what I sense in a world of outwardly trappings is that God wants to make me beautiful from the inside out.
It seems appropriate to end this letter of journey with a quote from, What’s So Amazing about Grace, by Phillip Yancey.
"As a child, I put on my best behavior on Sunday mornings, dressing up for God and for the Christians around me. It never occurred to me that church was a place to be honest. Now, though, as I seek to look at the world through the lens of grace, I realize that imperfection is the prerequisite for grace. Light only gets in through the cracks.”
Two weeks after writing this, I would attend Passion 2012 in Atlanta. An event I had never previously heard of. A week after that, while driving on the road, I would say, “Lord, I have messed up everything I have touched. You take the wheel. I will go where you say go even if it is not what I desire.” I met Julie later that year and we were married in the Spring of 2013. During that same year I sent my novel, The River Hideaway, written in 1997 to one publisher. It was my first attempt in years. I did it to appease my new wife so she would stop pestering me to try again. The day I received an email offering me a contract to be traditionally published, I wept in my gratefulness to a God who never gave up on me.
He is there for you as well.
About the Author
Billy Beasley resides in Carolina Beach, NC with his wife Julie and their Australian Cattle Dog, Teke. They are active members of Lifepoint Church in Wilmington, NC.
Billy is the author of The River Hideaway- a traditionally published work of faith based fiction and the newly published novel, The Preacher's Letter. He shares two simple beliefs with his favorite character in this novel. Faith in God and a conviction that ‘Hearts have no color’.
You can read Billy’s “Sunday Inspiration” column on the 2nd Sunday each month here at Pandora’s Box Gazette.