was raised in a typical, semi-religious, southern home in Tennessee. We attended church but it was more social than spiritual. I “joined the church” and was baptized at age 9 like most other children. However, the Bible, God, and Jesus had no impact on my life. By the time I was 16 my life was empty, angry, and meaningless. Football, girls, and self were the focus points of my life. My dad had started drinking and I was watching our family fall apart. At age 17, I was working as a carhop in our family owned drive in, and I became incensed with people. My heart became very bitter and angry. I reached a point where I had no love for anyone. In fact, I rejoiced when I saw people in pain.
One night I saw a newspaper headline announcing the death of 120 people in a plane crash. I said, “Good! I wish it had been a thousand!” When I said that, I suddenly realized something was badly wrong in me.
How could I be glad at such news? For the next few days, I was deeply troubled at my hardness of heart. (I know now that the Spirit of God was convicting me of sin). A few nights later I was weeping after I had gone to bed. I thought maybe I was losing my mind. (We lived near a mental hospital and I had seen many hardened people while I worked there a few weeks as a helper to a man who repaired mechanical issues.) As I was weeping in my bed, I felt hopeless. I believed I was the worst person on earth.
I cried out to God, “Please help me know how to love people! I am so empty and angry!” In that moment, a mental picture popped into my mind. I saw the cross on which Jesus died. It was as if God was speaking, “This is love. My love for you was so great that Jesus died for you.” I immediately received that love and believed Jesus died for me. I was filled with love for Him and for others. I then wept tears of joy! My life was radically changed that night. The next morning I told my mother, brother, and fellow students and teachers that I loved them. It was true!
The hate in my heart had been replaced with love. My emptiness had been replaced with purpose, my hopelessness had been replaced with meaning.
Three days later I sensed God’s call to proclaim His love to others. I knew He wanted me to be a preacher of the Good News of His love. From that day until the present, over 60 years, that love has never stopped, in fact, it has increased. Love for my family, fellow believers, and even for enemies has flooded my heart.
I know that all my sins were forgiven by Jesus’ sacrifice for me on the cross. I know His Holy Spirit lives in me and pours out fresh love daily. I know my future is secure in both life and death. My greatest joy is to share this love with others.