Saturday, August 01, 2009

My Conversion

I know this is long and probably a boring read but at least it is now documented in case I don't remember so well in the future. This happened around 1973/74 when I was 18.

I am a Christian because I have had 'experiences'. These most often happen when there is nobody to witness. When I was young I was a bit cocky. Smart, good-looking, dated the hottest girl in class and demonstrating leadership skills by my senior year. Got a little full of myself. My philosophy instructor and I had an ongoing exploration of the existence of God. We once climbed halfway up a mountain in Norway and looking out across the valley below us he asked me how could such beauty exist if there were no God? Not a problem, beauty is merely what we say it is.

This was my senior year of high school in Stavanger, Norway . The adults around me kept urging me to 'apply myself' but I wanted adventure. I ended up in Grand Isle, Louisiana aka seven miles of sin and sand. I worked as a contract production support. The natives of the island are decendants of the pirate Lafite. The older native islanders spoke French. So it was not unusual for them to be telling you something half in english the other half in french. They are an extremely tight group and untrusting of outsiders. As time went by and I worked and partied with them they began to say things like 'oh him, he's ok' when asked if I could be trusted. Later I became 'one of them'. Sort of like being a made man. No outsidder dare mess with me or they would likely find themselves beaten and naked 10 miles up the bayou on Hwy 1. Though once over distrust they turned out to be really nice folksy people.

That is where I was and my thoughts concerning God at the time of my conversion. In between I had come to realize that I wasn't being true to the youthful quest for truth. I had realized how easy it was to say God doesn't exist or there was no Jesus but when I get myself in a threatening situation who ya gonna call? Jesus.

Never having read the Bible, I decided that before I can make any critique I obviously need to read it. I committed myself to a three tier approach. First read it just to get the general idea, second time read it for detail and historical context, who di what, when and how.The third time read it critically and just try and break it as God challenges the reader. I was at stage one when I was converted. Just beginning to read it. Not skipping over the boring begats and census.

My current neighbors are very religious and recently we had an impromptu yard-work break conversation. She mentioned God answering those that call on him. I told her my experience was different and that is the point I will eventually get to. Brevity is not a virtue I possess and I apologize taking a while to get to the point. But to me the context is important and that is a setting that takes a bit.

Let me mention one other thing about Grand Isle. It has an almost perfect beach seven miles long. Nice hard packed walking sand and an offshore industry that washed up many curious things. Walking it was an adventure. I lived at the northeast end and all the retail was towards the middle. A good three mile walk but it was wonderful to make the walk. I had my Islander approved sandals and personally-discovered driftwood walking stick and walked as much as possible.

One night I had walked to the bar and had a drink or two with my sandwich, visited with friends then took off back down the beach back to the house. It was a nice semi moon night, calm sea and most pleasant walk. At the time I was contemplating Revelation where the beast rises from the sea and wondering if the sea meant humanity and how we all may have actually risen from the sea. Was my daily shower a yearning to return to my aquatic nature ?

My contemplation was broken when I noticed up ahead of me four people. As I got closer I saw them standing with their arms up praising Jesus. I'm thinking "oh no religious nuts'. I move up towards the dunes hoping they wouldn't see me. As I got parallel to them I heard someone call me by name. I approached and realized it was this guy name Eddie, biggest drug dealer on the island but that was a well kept secret to a few of us. He was not someone you messed with. I only knew who he was and frankly taken back a bit that he even knew my name.

I replied "Eddie? Hey man what's going on?" He asked me if I knew Jesus loved me and I told sure. It was Eddie, his sister, her boyfriend and another guy I'd never seen. Eddie was an islander but his sister and the two others lived in New Orleans. They were all fried on PCP., not really sure but they weren't drunk So I told Eddie I didn't know he was all into Jesus and asked what they are all doing.

He then explained to me that his sister had been raped and they know who it was and if I won't to run to New Orleans to kill this guy. He offered me some drugs and I told him I had never done the stuff and have to be on the boat in a couple of hours. At the same time I sat down on a big driftwood log and asked Eddie "dude let me understand this. You are going to go kill this rapist. What I don't get is at the same time you are asking me if I know if Jesus loves me? I'm not sure where you're coming from. Can you go over that again?" So he does.

As my neighbor said, those that seek God will find him. True indeed. But in my case The Lord found me! He grabbed me by scruff of the neck and told me "OK smart-fella, 'Mr. I'm not sure if He exists', just sit there and watch, I need your mouth for a minute." It was without doubt the oddest moment of my life, maybe even out of body like feeling. I was just a tool in His hands. Just an observer.

As I sat there and spoke, I don't recall everything but I know it was eloquent and I recall all four of them sitting in the sand looking up at me mesmerized by the words and gentle ogic. It was like little children listening to a story. That is what I recall the most, the imagery. Perhaps because only my ears and eyes were available for my personal use at the itme.

Truthfully... it freaked me out. I do recall something like this, "look it is great you have found Jesus, He wants to see more of you, but when your stoned like this how can He believe what you say? Would you show up at your parents house stoned like this? Jesus loves you and isn't all that upset about being wasted but He does ask that you visit him sober. The thing that does concern Him is that you accept his love but will not accept the love he has for another that has fallen like yourselves, the guy that raped your sister. After getting this far out of the hole why dig yourself in even deeper by acting on your anger? Let the police deal with this. Witness against him openly and let him pay for his violations within the law. Let him take his own fall.

Then suddenly it was like I came out of a trance. I did notice how calm and relaxed I felt, almost a kind of being spent but not exhausted. Actually , I was thinking 'where did that come from! ' They sat there for a minute still staring at me. Eddie's sister began crying and saying "he' s right" between her sobs and finally, of her own accord, said "I forgive him". BOOYAA Holy Spirit-5 Satan-0.

They begin to rise and I was getting ready to finish my walk down the beach. Eddie grabbed my walking stick and said "You can't leave yet. I want you to come to the house and tell my wife exactly what you just said. We go to his house and it is two in the morning. He ran upstairs two steps at a time and brought her down with the sleeping baby girl in her arms . "Listen to this."

It was still sort of fresh in my mind but it didn't originate from me so I gave it my best recalling. She listened intently and began that slow subdued crying of a person facing hard personal realities. Once I said what I remembered of it I begged my way out and wished them well. I do have to add this. These two people were stunningly attractive in that Cajun, dark-haired, dark-eyed kind of way. Both were eye candy to the opposite sex. They had everything going for them and about the cutest little baby girl you ever saw. Life was their oyster, unfortunately polluted by crime and drugs.

Two days later I unloaded Eddie's wireline machine on the deck. When he got to the top deck he looked for me. When he found me he came up to me, put a huge bear-hug on me and kissed me on the check. Keep in mind this is one of the most notorious and feared people on the island. Cross him and bad things will happen. Additionally this is not something you see in the oilfield every day or that you want seen! When he pulled away he was choking up yet there was a radiant countenance on his face. Tears of overwhelming joy forming in the corners of his eyes. He grabbed my upper arms and sort of shook me slightly while saying "You saved me man, you saved my family! I will never be able to repay you. You saved my life! You saved our lives" So I asked him if he was sober and what's this all about?

He told me that after I left he and his wife sat at the kitchen table with the baby and had a talk. So they came to a decision to put their house on the market and move back to their house in New Orleans near a little church where the pastor is an old friend of theirs. Do things right for their own sake and for the baby. This was no place to raise her. In fact he took his entire drug stash, drove to the bridge and threw it into the sea. He said it felt good, like getting out of prison.

I told him I hadn't done anything. I was just like him, a witness. That may have been my mouth but those sure weren't my words. Thank yourself for making the call and Jesus for answering. It isn't about me, I was just borrowed for a minute. I was just walking on the beach and the Lord needed a mouth.

I believe he invited me to the house for jumbo that night and he invited the 'Christian spiritual leader of the island' over too. I seem to have gotten the impression this was the person on the island that had gained respect for his spiritualism. I also recall the guy felt challenged. But I made sure he understood that what happened was a once in a life thing. What I was trying to say was just because you hit a hole-in-one on a short par three does not necessarily mean you are worthy of being a golf instructor. I recall the urge to reject outside influence because I wanted to form my own opinions as I read through the Bible.

That's my first experience and it sealed the deal for the rest of my life. At that point in my spiritual growth I never expected to be side-swiped by God. Never saw it coming. Fortunately I wasn't wearing my seatbelt :-) It burned neural traces into my brain so deep I have never forgotten the event. Will not turn away and definitely will not turn back though I do stumble often. I completed my quest and my Bible, the very same one I was using at that time... in fact I think I may have bought it at the grocery store there, now looks like a scratch pad where I have made notations. I have others more ornate or with a better reference section but that one is my pride and joy.

I deal with a lot of people that think it was just a dream I am recalling or I am just making it up. That's fine. I understand. Hopefully it will happen to them one day so that they can understand.


nanc said...

i will be back monday morning to read this in full - too busy right now and want to focus my full attention on it. good rest of the weekend to you, iopian. working toward 275 jars of homecanned goods - tired!

IOpian said...

Thought I'd share it with you. Only you and another friend would appreciate it. But it was the moment that made me who I am. Nor am I taking too much license with it. I would tell the story the same way in front of God. I'm sure he would laugh and say something like "you sure were a stubborn little fella but I think I got your attention." Indeed.

nanc said...

okay - i'm going to get a fresh cup of coffee and get dressed and read this upon my return.

zgirl at her first golf meet of the season this a.m. - she SHINES!

nanc said...

it is said the Lord will use foolish things to confound the wise - 1 cor 1:27. even though you were a baby, HE got one over on the enemy that day.

i cannot pinpoint my conversion - but do know i've had a grand interest since the age of nine when i was sure i could take apart the book of revelation and have it make sense to everybody! unfortunately three-plus decades had to pass before it took me apart.

great recollection, iopian. thank you for sharing it and i do look forward to more - you may wish to check out a blog on my sidebar - the watcher - who's having some eye-opening experiences lately - i believe THE LORD is bringing many of us together in these last days.

IOpian said...

I do recall your tire woes/money thing some time ago. The sum of little things are affirmation too.