My story begins in Mobile, AL on a hot, sweltering afternoon at a small fiberglass boat repair business owned by my brother. I was working outside to finish repairing a live bait well on a small flat-bottom boat while keeping my eyes on the growing clouds rolling in from the Gulf of Mexico. The afternoon squalls arrived most every afternoon and the clouds looked as though I had about thirty minutes before the bottom dropped out. I had my eye on that one particular rain-filled cloud as it slowly darkened the sky overhead.
This afternoon was different, however, not because I was rushing to finish the live well before the rain ruined my work but, rather, this day was different because I was arguing with God. It was 1986 and I had not yet learned at that early point in my walk with Him that God does not lose arguments—or anything else for that matter.
But, I’ve gotten a little ahead of myself and need to back up to the previous day to give context to the discussion I was having with God. On that previous morning, God filled me with His presence and love in way I had never before experienced. My eyes could see the world around me but at the same time I had spiritual eyes that saw a light that was not of this world. I was entirely enveloped in a cocoon of light and love.
From childhood, I was intimately familiar with anger and fear caused by abuse, so the harsh, stern picture of the Father I carried in my heart was in stark contrast to the warm, loving embrace I was experiencing. Fear creates relational separation and nurtures a pent-up silence, so I couldn’t help but wonder when my version of reality would take hold once again.
That first day was pretty much God holding me in His loving embrace. I fell asleep that evening in His presence and woke up the next morning feeling His love surround me even more strongly. During the second day I began talking with God—not to God—something I’d never done before.
As I was preparing the final coating for the live bait well, called gel-coat, God said, “Don’t put that on yet.”
I knew He was referring to the imminent rain which would ruin the gel-coat I was about to apply, so I replied, “But… You’re God! You created heaven and earth! You can hold off the rain.”
“Don’t do it.”
“But, You can make it rain everywhere all around me but keep it dry right here.”
I was mixing the various components of the gel-coat together at this point.
I could sense amusement in His voice when I heard, “Don’t.”
As I walked toward the boat while carrying the gel-coat, I argued, “But, You are God! There’s nothing You can’t do! You can make that cloud go around me.”
God didn’t reply, and I began coating the inside of the live well with the gel-coat as that dark, menacing cloud hung right above me. Just as I finished painting, a large single drop of rain ruined my efforts with an audible splat right in the center of the live well. Then, a second raindrop followed by a third made their marks in the gel-coat. I quickly put the lid on the live well, but I knew the damage was already done and would require a considerable amount of rework to remove the gooey gel-coat that would never cure correctly.
As I turned around to run out of the rain, I heard His voice. “I told ya.”
I had to laugh in spite of the ruined gel-coat in the live well, but I also asked Him to forgive me for my disobedience.
Later that day, I asked Him, “How much do you love me?”
Without hesitation, He replied, “If I showed you how much I love you, it would kill you.”
I knew Father was referring to my physical body and not my spirit. What I didn’t know at that time, as a young Christian, was that His response was in agreement with His Word where God told Moses, “You cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” (Exodus 33:20)
God revealed to me as much of His light and love as my physical body was able to handle. I was immersed in His perfect love for three days. I learned my Father loved ME. I didn’t grasp why, but I understood for the first time in my life that He wasn’t up in heaven waiting to punish me when I made a mistake. What I realized later on was that He was training me to listen to His voice and obey not out of fear but rather because I wanted to serve and please my Father with a love that was of Him and not of me.
This is the God I chose to serve.
A few months later, I had an entirely contrasting experience in which I was overwhelmed by an unrelenting evil and blind hatred that cannot fully be expressed with words. The setting was again my brother’s shop. As before, I was able to see in the spirit, but this was utter darkness, an absence of light of any kind. Fresh out of the Marine Corps, I was able to handle myself in a scuffle. However, a palpable fear gripped my body. I knew that I had no way to defend myself from this evil in my own strength. I heard Satan say, “If it’s the last thing I do, I’m going to kill you.”
As I stood there in the middle of the shop floor, engulfed in that suffocating hatred, I called out to Jesus, the Son of God who defeated the evil one when He rose from the dead after being crucified for my sins. As though way off in the distance, I sensed a sliver of pure light that pierced the absolute darkness. As the Lord got nearer to me in the spirit, the darkness diminished and was replaced by the familiar light and love of God.
With the darkness completely gone, Jesus said spoke to me. “He can’t touch you unless I let him.”
Micah 7:8 says, “Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me.”
John 1:5 states, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
What I witnessed was an incredible demonstration of the power of light to overpower darkness. The same is true when it comes to spiritual darkness against the spiritual light of Jesus Christ. Our Messiah, the Light of the World, will always pierce even the darkest of days. We have but only to call out His Name and He will come to our aid.
The evil one has been true to his word in trying to kill me. I’ve been poisoned with chlorine gas (my lungs were healed), healed from cancer, diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and was healed. I have suffered a broken back (long story, was later healed), fallen from the face of an 80-foot waterfall (an angel guided my hand to grab a bush I didn’t see), lost control of a sports car and almost drove off a cliff (an angel told me to let go of the steering wheel and instantly the car was back in control). I was far too close to a large rocket engine that should have instantly killed me when it was ignited (a longer story), and I was hit by an ocean going barge in a 36-foot sailboat (in all known instances like this there are never any survivors, a very long story). The key word is “trying”. Okay, okay… Maybe one or two of those instances were because of my own stupidity, but I can still glorify Him for saving me from whatever mess in which I become mired!
In life, mankind will find himself as a servant of one Master or another master. You can serve the Creator of the Universe and the God who unconditionally loves us, longs for an intimate relationship with us, and desires to partner with us to accomplish His will on earth. Through His death, Jesus “destroy[ed] the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.” (Hebrews 2:14) Or you can serve a created being whose very existence is defined by utter darkness, a “thief [who] comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” (John 10:10) He is defeated. “Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.” (Revelation 12:9) The narcissists might think they can opt out of the game as a third choice and serve only themselves, but this is delusion. There is no grey area and no sitting out of the game on the sidelines while light and darkness battle it out. The bleachers are empty. Whether we like it or not, everyone is out on the field playing the game called Life.
The question is, whom shall you serve?