THE FIRST TIME I SAW GOD’S HAND
A friend of mine, looking for proof of God actually doing anything in this physical world, asked me what I had seen. I asked him if he wanted to hear my story.
“Randy, of COURSE I want your story!!!! Thats what I’ve been asking for. What did you see? What did you witness?”
So here is a short (still pretty long) version. I never tire of sharing it.
April 23, 1978
“Hey, Randy, we want you to teach the high school Sunday School class. How ‘bout it.”
This was my first foray into responsibility as an adult. I had left my church for my college years, got married, had a kid.
When we moved back to my hometown, we decided to go back to my home church.
“Sure,” I replied, l can do that.”
How hard could it be?
“They have just started the book of John. Chapter 1. You will pick up on chapter 2.”
Now, looking back, I was absolutely unqualified to teach anything, especially the Bible. I doubt that I had ever read more than a verse or two at a time.
Actually, I found it a little bit (or a lot) boring.
But I was a smart guy. I could do this.
April 30, 1978
“Turn in your Bibles to John chapter 2.”
I began to read, paraphrase, read, paraphrase….
I was right. It was boring.
The kids were looking at their watches, struggling to keep their eyes opened.
I even saw some eyes rolling back into their heads.
I figured maybe I could do better next week.
After church, I went to the church library, checked out a big heavy commentary to help me figure out how to make this a little bit more entertaining.
May 7, 1978
John chapter 3.
Apparently the commentary didn’t make this book more interesting.
Watch watching, eye rolling, boredom.
In this chapter some big religious guy named Nicodemus came to Jesus at night and tried to throw a little flattery Jesus’ way by telling him that no one could do these kind of things he was doing unless God was with him.
Jesus replied, “ I tell you the truth. No one can even see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
Nicodemus didn’t have a clue what he was talking about.
Neither did I.
I kept on reading out loud, hurrying to get past this statement. Luckily, no one asked me what it meant.
But, for the first time in my entire 26 years, a statement out of the Bible troubled me.
I continued to bore the kids and just pushed this verse completely out of my mind.
May 8, 1978
I was a route salesman/driver for Pepsi Cola at this time. I was pretty good at it. Top salesman three of the five years I worked there.
This Monday morning, as I drove to my first stop, I was really depressed. Tears behind my eyes depressed.
And I didn’t have a clue why.
I remember praying. I believed in God. I had been taught to pray to God when things weren’t going well, when you ate at a table with family, and before you went to sleep. Things were usually going pretty well for me, but my mealtime prayers were usually, “Dear, God, thank you for this food and help it go to the nourishment of our bodies.”
Bedtime usually something like, “ Dear, God, help me to do what is right and not what is wrong.”
But there was that one time, about a years before, when I had been cheating on my sales tickets a little bit at a grocery store, and I thought I had been discovered.
I had lost a job a couple of years earlier, before Pepsi, for falsifying records, and I thought it was going to happen again.
I considered myself a good person, too.
So when I was driving back to the plant the day I thought I was about to be discovered, I prayed, in abject fear, “Dear God, please don’t let me be fired again! I will do anything for you. Just please don’t let me be fired!”
I got back to the plant.
Back to May 8, 1978.
“Dear, God, why am I so depressed? If you go to church on Sunday, shouldn’t you feel good on Monday?” I really wanted to cry…
“And, what does it mean to be born again?”
I arrived at my first store, Skaggs Albertsons on Centerville and Broadway in Garland.
I walked in the back door, head down, not wanting to make eye contact with anyone for fear that the dam would break and I would start crying like a baby.
I stepped over a pile of dirt on the dock that was to be dumped into the dumpster.
There was a paper on top of the pile that had the words facing up, “HAVE YOU BEEN BORN AGAIN?”
I picked it up and stuck it into my pocket.
I needed to find the restroom, so I walked across the back aisle of the store toward the break room.
I stepped over another pile of dirt that had been swept up by the floor crew and hadn’t made it to the back room yet.
Right on top of that pile was a paper with the words up that said, “WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE BORN AGAIN?”
I picked it up and stuck it in my pocket.
When I finished the work in this store, I went out to my truck, started the engine, and read the first one, front to back, praying out loud the prayer at the end.
I set it down on the seat and picked up the second one, read it from front to back, praying out loud the prayer printed at the end.
When I looked up, my depression was gone.
The sun was bright, the air was clear, and I felt like I was seeing color for the first time.
Something changed in me that day, for real.
That day, I learned what it means to be born again.
Now, I have quite a few years behind me, and, every time I retell this story, I realize stuff I had never thought of before.
Like, without April 23, then April 30, then March 7, if I had stepped over those two piles of dirt, I would have kept right on walking.
If I hadn’t been depressed and prayed a desperate prayer, I would have kept on walking. If some young man (or old, I don’t know) hadn’t left those Bible tracts in the restroom to be thrown on the floor and swept up, I would have stepped right over the piles.
So many seemingly inconsequential things had to be in place for God to be able to grab the attention of this 26 year old self-centered “good person” and bring him to a life changing decision that changed everything.
42 years later, I love him even more than I did that day.
And, I believe with all my being, that my Jesus is extending his hand to you, as well.
“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your heart….”
“For God loved the world (me, you, them) so much, that He gave His only Son, that WHOEVER believes, in Him has eternal (forever) life. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”