Author’s Story

Hello, my name is Johnny and I’m fifty-eight years old. I bowed my knee to the Lordship of Jesus some 26 years ago, in 1982. It was a dramatic and power filled conversion, attendant with the belief by others that I’d lost it and jumped off the deep end. Funny that. As long as I was partying and chasing drugs, sex and money with them, they never had a problem.

I’d like to be able to tell you that my life instantly became a shining paragon of virtue and humility. I’d really like to be able to say that. I can’t. All I can do, is remember and relate the excruciating pain of the refiner’s fire in those first years. And His incredible, incredible mercy. For you see, I was utterly depraved and that man needed to die. That he already had, was a fact I was yet to learn.

Born in Greenville, SC to John and Blanche on October 23, 1950, I was the oldest of two boys, with my brother Mitchell coming along five years later. My dad worked in a cotton mill as a loom fixer and mom took care of the house, as moms did in those days. And while we weren’t as poor as some of my cousins, we had others that weren’t as poor as us. But God was good to us and we never went without. (Try telling that to a teenager.)

In some sense, I was a little different than anyone in my family, cousins included. I loved books and the pursuit of knowledge. Summers found me sitting in the shade of the front porch, reading the World Book encyclopedias like a novel. Mind like a sponge. By the time that I graduated high school, I was generally acknowledged as being one of the “brains”. God had His reasons.

Entering the Air Force in 1970, I was afforded a selection of jobs from which to choose. I selected Cryptographic Equipment Technician, not having a clue. After a year of school, where I was blessed to graduate with honors, I was tapped for assignment to Strategic Air Command. So, in 1971 I found myself at Whiteman AFB, MO. Little did I know I’d just moved to a bulls-eye, for Whiteman was home to the 351st Strategic Missile Squadron. Minuteman missiles. Tip of a very, very sharp spear. It wasn’t until October of 1973, that the reality of what that meant hit home. The Yom Kippur War between Israel and a lot of the Arab world occurred. American strategic forces were placed on the highest state of alert, just short of all out war with the Soviet Union. I was, for the first time in my military service, faced with a bone chilling fear. We’d walked right up to the brink and stared into the abyss.

Owing to my military experience in technology, I found myself in the aerospace field after leaving the Air Force in 1974. I was blessed to work in a consulting capacity on various high profile commercial and defense projects. Among them, the Space Shuttle, F-15 Eagle, F-18 Hornet, Harpoon Missile, and many more. It was an exciting career for a geek kid from SC. But other forces were at work.

Paralleling my post-military career, was my marriage to a girl from Overland Park, KS. We’d met my last year in service and married shortly after my return to civilian life. Most hindsight is 20/20. Mine proved to be 5/5.

One of the lessons that the Lord has taught me is that our hearts are like a garden plot. Upon entering the Kingdom as a new believer, the deed changes hands. It still looks pretty much the same though, except now it has a resident gardener. He sets about the task of cleaning out the weeds and stones. In my case, mine looked more like an Osark Mountains “landfill”, if you get my meaning. Illegal dumping. And tares – many tares.

Words and actions are seeds planted in the heart of a child. And owing to the spiritual law that God stated in Genesis 1:11, they bear fruit after their own kind. Repeatedly beat a child bloody in rage and anger, and when those seeds mature into fruit bearing trees, rage and anger will abound. Add to that, early and ongoing mocking, rejection and ostracism of peers, and self-hatred is the crop harvested in later years. Throw in some repeated sexual abuse for good measure to produce perversity.  Then top it all off with a mix of a toxic blend of religious legalism and spiritual ignorance for fertilizer, and you have the makings of a world-class garden of horrors. Such was my childhood.

I was 35 before I came into an understanding that I’d been abused. By then, the crop had come in. And although the garden reeked of rotting fruit, the gardener was now in the patient process of digging at the roots. I won’t offend you by sharing the gory details of what had transpired, other than to say that my marriage added to it all and I allowed the trauma of it, coupled with what had come before, to push me over the edge into insanity. (Messed up people marry messed up people. They don’t marry healthy ones, as the healthy see it coming a mile away.) So it was, that I found myself utterly broken and deserving of prison. It’s only by His mercy that it hasn’t happened. “Chief of all sinners”. That’s what a once murderous brother wrote about himself a few years back. I can relate, more than you know. Thank God for the grace He extends for repentance.

The marriage, such as it was, couldn’t stand up to what we had done to each other. It ended in 1995, after 21 pain-filled years. Three daughters are blessings that I have from it.

I’ve not been to Bible School for a divinity degree. I don’t know that I could have gained there, what I’ve learned in the furnace of affliction, sitting at Jesus’ feet. But I do know, that I wouldn’t trade that for all of the sheepskin in the world. It’s far too valuable. One of the lessons that the Lord gave me in it is this: The river of pain that courses through some of our hearts, carves a canyon in the soul. How much greater a channel, once healing takes hold, for the love of God to flow through?

Now, am I totally healed? Is my character conformed totally to Christ’s? Not yet. But, I’m closer than I was six months ago, and I’ll be closer still six months from now. Forward momentum, that’s the key. But as life would have it, it often seems like three steps forward , then one back, three forward… Not that any of you can relate to that. 😉

Presently, my cross is to care for the people that began my tale. And I won’t lie about it – it’s hard. Very hard. It’d be far easier, had loving relationships existed in my youth. But they didn’t and all I have to draw on now, is the grace of God, as I’m now back to living in the home of my childhood (not that I wanted to be, but again God had His own idea about what would be best). My dad is 88 and has last stage Alzheimer’s, congestive heart failure and diabetes, not to mention macular degeneration. Mom is almost 89, 80% blind from macular degeneration and has lost her short-term memory. I’m caring for them round the clock, although dad is now in Hospice in-home care. They come in two to three times a week on average. And thank God for them, as I’d never be able to do what I’m doing without them.

So, that’s some of who I am. Thanks for stopping by and for patiently reading my story.

Update: 8/27/09

My dad went home to be with the Lord this past March. It was one of the most comforting spiritual experiences that I’ve ever had, such was the peace that attended his passing. And it left me with an indelible truth written on my heart: For a sincerely devoted Christian, there is nothing to fear in death. Nothing! Absolutely, nothing at all!!!

3 Responses to “Author’s Story”

  1. Ken Says:

    Johnny,

    Good story. I enjoyed reading it. Not exactly sure what the meaning of “hindsight…20/20…5/5 means,” but maybe that’s b/c I’m not familiar w/ opthalmological terms. (I’m guessing as I write this that you mean you have really sharp hindsight vision…)

    Blessings, and stay in touch.

    Ken (from the Vineyard days…)

  2. Johnny Says:

    Ken,

    Yes, it means extremely acute vision. Better than 20/20.

    Good to hear from you. Thanks for commenting.

    Johnny,

  3. appolus Says:

    Johnny, I was very blessed to read your testimony. I can relate on almost every level. I love the anology of pain creating a canyon in our hearts, that may pop up in one of my poems brother 🙂 God bless you brother………brother Frank


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