I wonder what would have happened if I had been raised in the church. As it turned out, I was a sometimes Catholic. Sometimes I went — more often — not.
I went to two Parochial schools and failed both. I was self-centered and felt the world should revolve around me.
I was born in 1934, almost a year before my mother was first married. I grew up gaining and losing seven step dads. A kid really needs a dad and there was no authority figure in my life. We traveled so much I felt at home on the trains that plied the West coast and knew most rail schedules by the age of 12. I got to be an accomplished shoplifter by the age of 8. I didn’t need to steal and can’t tell you to this day why I did. I started smoking grapevine by the age of 12, and stole a car at the age of 14. I was going to drive south, but drove instead into a man’s garage and pushed his car into his back yard, so I went to jail! From that time on I was on probation continuously. At barely 15 I put a bullet in a fellow teen’s arm. The judge put me in foster care.
The foster home was five miles beyond the electric lines in the logging country of Washington State. I learned to cut trees over eight feet through, at least as long as we still had those huge trees. I carried all the water from the spring to the house. I learned to plow using logging horses. Believe it or not, I seemed to like it. I believe now that this was the beginning lessons in discipline.
I went to church there, but I never listened to what the pastor talked about. He seemed to be talking above the kid’s heads. I really couldn’t reach the concept of a personal God.
I was paroled home at the age of 16. One year later, at my probation officer’s suggestion I joined the army. I was a demolition man in the Korean War.
I went to a Billy Graham meeting in 1951, in South Carolina, and went forward to accept Christ. I think I really wanted the Lord then, but there were things I didn’t want to give up. I didn’t want to appear different from my friends. Within six months I was back in my former habits. I just wouldn’t listen to God. And God was a gentleman, as always; he didn’t force me.
After the army, I went to a Protestant church in Southern California and was re-baptized. I only thought I was serious, so I started playing church, but God knew.
Nothing went right so I went into the Air Force, still running away from myself. I was sent to the Far East and tried to drink it dry, but failed. I was transferred back into the U.S. and found a beautiful Texas girl and we married. Lo and behold, her father was a Pentecostal preacher. Then the change started. I didn’t know that Christ was closing in on me while I was still playing church. We spent three years in Chateauroux, France, a couple of years in Reno, then off into civilian life.
After the Air Force, I had one job after another: salesman, aircraft worker, deputy sheriff, truck driver . . . One day, working as a life insurance agent in Seattle, my financial world started coming unglued. We had been attending a church close to our home, so I went to see the pastor. I poured out my problems for about 30 minutes. He listened and then, with tears in his eyes, he said, “Bruce, God sure must love you.”
He explained that sometimes God lets our little house of cards get knocked down to show us that He is the One to turn to. So, there with Pastor Jim Nicholson and God, I gave my life to Christ. In prayer I asked Jesus to come into my heart and save me.
Oh, I lost the job that I had, but God had a better idea. Soon after that, at home, my wife, Joy, and I received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and a new prayer language.
I realize now that in all those prior years of running wild I was looking for something real. When I stopped playing and came to Christ and let Him have my life, I found that something I had been looking for. You know, I don’t feel unwanted anymore.
Christ is all I need. Praise the Lord.