I lived what most people would call a typical happy life. Apart from the usual teenage difficulties things were going smoothly. Our family adhered to the Lutheran tradition. Every Sunday (well, most every Sunday) mom and dad would dutifully pack us all off to church. There I learned to parrot back lots of doctrine but nothing took hold. Honestly, it was all very boring to me.
In 1973 I was 20 years old, in Germany, in the midst of a 3 year hitch in the U.S. Army. There was this weird guy there (and almost 30 years later he's still weird) who was also a Lutheran. He was different. He was a Christian. Aren't all of us Lutherans Christian? I certainly thought so. Wrong! Nothing he said took hold either.
One day I went to the joke that passed for a book store on our post to get something to read, simply out of boredom. I had in mind science fiction. There was this book that had a really catchy title and great graphics on the cover. Hmm, The Late Great Planet Earth, by Hal Lindsey. Never heard of it or him but it looked like a good story.
I do not remember my reaction to the discovery (after the purchase) that this was a religious book but I do remember devouring the whole thing. I just couldn't put it down. There were all sorts of scripture references in there so I got myself a Bible and looked them all up. Hey! This stuff really IS in the Bible! What an awakening since I had been so utterly clueless before. On the very last page there was printed the sinners prayer and an invitation to accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. That seemed like the logical thing to do. There were no thunderbolts, visions, or overwrought emotions. The Lord simply walked me over from death to life.
Life got considerably more interesting after that. I can not say that the Lord did all of the following but there were some lessons I needed to learn, the hard way. Since all things did work together for good the evidence (to me, anyway) points in that direction. After leaving the army I went back to the Lutheran church and I was angry. Why hadn't I heard any of this stuff before? Why hadn't I heard how to be saved?
Actually, I had. Remember, it just didn't take. Now I knew it all and I could see that there was nothing for me in the Lutheran church. What an attitude! I had set myself up for a big fall and fall I did. I spent two years in the Local Church cult of Witness Lee. It wasn't nice but it was a necessary experience. I had to learn that I didn't know it all and also how to be discerning. I never had any intention to leave that bunch but after some time it just became impossible to stay. The Lord's doing? I think so.
Life went on. I completed my education and took a series of crappy jobs. Finally I was hired by a great company. The work was physically demanding but the pay was spectacular. The best part of it was that nothing short of attempted murder could get a person fired. Knowing that it was then that I had my Titanic moment, you know, "even God couldn't take this job away from me!" Instantly I was horrified by that thought and I repented but, guess what? Soon I was on the outside looking in. No, I wasn't fired, I quit! Anyone who thinks that God doesn't have a sense of humor is just plain wrong. What better way to get my attention than to make me do something and make me think it was my idea? I needed to learn humility and I was about to get a very big lesson in it.
I went to Arkansas and after 6 months of fruitless searching for a job and exhausting almost all of my savings I decided that in Boston I could, at least, get a job flipping hamburgers. I returned to Boston but couldn't even get that hamburger flipping job. Homeless!
My darkest hour had now arrived but through it all the Lord was gracious. Some time before I quit the good job there was this guy who the Lord was calling. I did my best to answer his questions while the Holy Spirit was convicting him. He was gloriously saved. That guy, knowing my situation, offered me yard work. It was heavy labor but at least I had money for food now. Shortly after that another gent arraigned a summer job for me at a railroad museum. There I lived in an old freight car but again had money for food, a place to bathe and access to laundry facilities. It took almost two full years but I was eventually rehired at my old position.
Praise God! I wouldn't change any of that. All things do work together for good, for those that love him. Had none of the above happened I wouldn't be where I am now. I wouldn't be living where I am. I wouldn't be married to the same woman (if at all.) I wouldn't have my dear son.
There is much more I could write. To paraphrase the Apostle, I suppose there wouldn't be books enough to contain it all. That is not hyperbole. The Lord truly is good!