“Sole Survivor: One Man’s Testimony for Christ”, by Rev. Paul J. Bern, rated 4.3 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.com!
Watch the video at http://youtu.be/5Bxi7x0nUc0
The next time I had an encounter with God – which interestingly enough never occurred when I was in church – was about a year later. By this time the abuse that had been going on had gradually gotten worse. The animosity between my parents and myself had grown a lot right along with it, and the beatings had become more frequent. I remember hating not just my parents, but my entire family situation as well as detesting school. Quite frankly, I was bored nearly to the point of insanity with school. Second grade was a rehashing of first grade, third grade a rehashing of the second, and so on, as if we needed to learn everything twice in order to grasp its meaning. I have heard some talk and read on the Internet about the “dumbing down” of America primary and secondary schools. Well, this has been going on ever since the 1960’s at least, and probably even before that. It’s just that no one noticed it at first because it began so gradually. To this day, education reform has been one of the causes I have undertaken in my adult life.
By the time I was age nine I had decided to take matters into my own hands. So I prayed to God and I told him, “Lord, I can’t stand my home life any more. But I can’t leave because I have no where to go (at this time it was during the winter, and Ohio winters can get very cold). If you won’t do something to make my dad go away or to get him off my back, then I will be forced to defend myself when the time comes”. At the time I got no reply at all, and I remember being concerned that God hadn’t heard my prayer. I had been saving the small weekly allowances my parents would give me, 25 cents here and 50 cents there, that sort of thing. And so I resolved in my mind that I was going to settle things between my parents and myself once and for all by spending what I had saved on a cheap handgun and shooting my parents. Fortunately, at the time I prayed this misguided prayer I barely had a third of the money I would have needed to buy a cheap 22 caliber handgun, and I had also forgotten to include the cost of ammunition, not to mention the fact that I was only nine years old. But I will tell you without a doubt that I was serious about wanting to kill my adoptive/foster father because I was very afraid of him. I couldn’t even stand to be in the same room with him. I recall that the consequences didn’t matter much to me at that time. As before, fortunately, I never got to carry out my dad’s assassination. But it is what occurred a couple of years later that made me understand why such a heinous act would be unnecessary. It was not just because it would have been a grievous sin and a capital crime. It was because God wanted to show me that I wasn’t alone, and that He was standing beside me.
After this prayer with no response, about two and a half years went by. Things were continuing to get gradually worse, and I continued to hate school all the more. I kept waiting for God to do something about my parents, especially my dad, but I saw no sign of change. So I would do things that would get me away from home more often so that my parents and I couldn’t argue about anything. I played in the band at school and took music lessons, and I discovered that I was good at music. I joined the Boy Scouts so I could finally have a chance at having a few friends, and because it was one of the few things my ‘adoptive’ parents would let me do. The rest of the time I was kept cooped up in that little house, and the tension at times was unbearable. One Saturday morning a year or so later some of the boys from the scout troop and a number of their dads went on a 10 mile hike in the Kentucky countryside. My foster/adoptive dad went along too, much to my surprise, since he only occasionally took me anywhere. So we left Cincinnati in a small caravan of cars and drove south down I-75 into Kentucky to our starting point, with our destination being a monastery near the central Kentucky town of Bardstown. I recall that there were about 20 or maybe 25 people altogether. So we started out on our hike together on a mild November day, and we’d been hiking about 3 hours or so when my dad suddenly stopped walking and crouched down on one knee. When one of the men asked him if he was OK, I remember him saying, “I’ve got this pain in my chest”. So we stopped for five or ten minutes and rested before starting out again after my dad said he felt well enough to finish the hike (at this point the monastery was in sight in the distance).
Unfortunately for him, we had only walked a few more steps when my dad abruptly collapsed to the pavement. I remember turning around in complete surprise, only to hear that little soft voice within me that I had heard three years before saying to me, “Now watch what I do for those who wait on me.” It was the same low, soft voice that had told me how I couldn’t possibly imagine what God has in store for me. It was only then that I made the connection to my misguided prayer nearly three years earlier about shooting my parents, a prayer that by this time I had almost given up on. Even though God saw fit to wait until just after my 12th birthday, I saw my dad collapse into a heap on the ground and I stood there and watched him die. God took my dad’s life to prevent me from attempting to do any such thing myself. He knew I would have been making a horrific mistake in my young life long before I ever could have. What I still failed to understand at the time was that God was interceding in my life on a regular basis, and that this happens with all people whether they realize or believe in it or not. God had something really good in store for me. I didn’t realize it at the time because I was still too young to comprehend the insurmountable power of God.
I was in the sixth grade when my dad died, and I remember feeling an enormous sense of relief at his passing. As I began to get older I gradually started doing better from a mental health standpoint, but I still hated school and I stayed bored most of the time. This was also a period in my life where I began drifting away from God. I had never cared for all the ritual, pomp and circumstance of the Catholic masses I was required to attend as a child (in Catholic schools the kids go to mass every day). So I was never really drawn toward the God of the church. It was not until much later that I learned that the true God does not live in buildings, he lives inside human hearts. But long before this occurred, my disconnecting from God as I understood him at the time had already begun to take me down the wrong road. This is usually what happens to people who turn from God like I did.
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See the video at http://youtu.be/5Bxi7x0nUc0 Thanks so much! Shalom….