Parents are so uncool. And sarcastic! Dad asks about how to get a baseball cap like mine, since he can only find them with a peak at the front instead of the back.
And the music! He’s into all these classics, so the car radio is welded onto Mozart, or Beethoven. Or some other dude who needs a real name. He always competes with my brother about naming whoever wrote any boring dirge whenever they turn on the radio.
Just now it sounds like somebody’s trying to demolish a piano: hammering any notes that leak from the keyboard; as tuxedo-clad weirdos fight each other for the biggest fragment! Dad says it’s a counter melody. I ask if it isn’t a counter-acting melody…
“Khachaturian!” he shouts. “Gesundheit!” I reply. Has he sneezed? No, some radio voice is offering free records to callers identifying this composer, with other names like Aram Ilyich! Why give kids such weird names? Why not be honest? Tattoo on their foreheads: “Free to a good home – we didn’t want this one!” Go figure!
School is a drag, and church is a pain. Sometimes I pray about being better, but why suffocate all that supposed joy under all those rules? It seemed to make sense when I was a little kid, but I want to have more fun before I plug into anything that serious.
Girls are cool, but I feel so awkward one on one. All of us guys are super-aware of sex, and it sounds exciting; but scary. All the bragging; and the pressure they try to push on you…
Saturday sport has to be the greatest. Cricket in summer and baseball in winter: two games that feed each other’s skills. And breaking into senior ranks; where it’s pretty cool to call any teachers on the team by their first names, but it’s not worth trying at school…
Sport is my life, but it almost ushers in my death.
Looking for our baseball club’s end-of-season party, I’m unaware of being in the wrong block in a very dark part of town. A slurred voice from a shadowy house yells for me to stop. I go to walk away…
“Don’t move!” slurs the voice again – this time with menace. I turn.
A distant street light reveals his nearness - and the rifle he is pointing at my head! My mind is now racing, in the reality that at sixteen I could be killed, and I know – even from boring preaching - that a Christless eternity also faces me. From point blank range!
With his breath reeking of alcohol, he marches me into his house to meet his wife. “Do you know him?” he demands.
“I’ve never seen him,” she replies.
“You’re lucky!” he says to me, “if she had, you’d be dead by now.”
He lets me go, and somehow I find the party in the next street; where I garble in shock about a drunk with a gun. They call the police, who come and return me to the house. They order him to open up.
He opens up: firing head-high through his front door! We scatter: the police to call reinforcements and me - at their orders - back to the party!
God has a great sense of humour…
Modesty had never infused my adolescent reluctance to commit to Christ, for I wanted the whole town to know when I became a Christian. The shooting episode – with my name included – headlined our local paper. But three days later, when I went to our youth ministry’s eight am prayer meeting, everyone was too polite to express any surprise at my arrival.
Though I’d wanted my conversion to be front-page news, others were unaware of my silent prayer: “Lord, I’ve made a mess of my life. I want you to come in and take over.” But I knew, for immediately his peace flowed through me. Peace that has never left – after over forty years.
Though for years I was constantly trying to be like somebody – anybody – else, and though I’d tried to keep God at a safe distance, he made me feel complete for the first time ever. That this was how he had created me to be: accepted for who I was; and forgiven for all I had done.
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