For a recent church job application, I was asked to share with them my testimony on how God has touched my life. My wife told me to not forget the part on such-and-such. Wise counsel! When I wrote this testimony, the part she asked me to include brought me to tears.
I’m putting it here so you know what has been on my heart.
I will do my best to be brief. We know that God is faithful. What I learned over time was that God was faithful to me even before I knew him. As a young boy when I was being abused for a number of years (ages 8-12) by two men at my father’s place of work and wanted to die, my heavenly Father knew me and loved me; I just didn’t know it as yet. (I learned about the abuse when God began a healing work in my life at the age of 50.) As His grace enveloped me, counseling and complete healing followed.
My father was having financial difficulties in the late 1950’s; he was about to lose his business. Why did my father lose the successful business he started after he returned from World War II? Recently, the Lord reminded me of something that happened before my Bar Mitzvah. A young African-American quit working for my father in the lumberyard. His name was Jack. He was always calm in the face of racial prejudice and smiled a smile I couldn’t understand. I believe Jack knew that I had been abused for years. He also understood, as I do now, that my father knew about it but refused to stop the abuse. I think Jack quit because of that. Looking back, I believe Jack was a Christian and prayed for me. Prejudicial acts may be restrained by Law, but the laws of a nation cannot take away the “hate” in the hearts and minds of men; it takes the work of the Cross and Grace to change a heart. The Lord took the business away from my father to rescue me from being abused. God loves me so much. I just didn’t know it as yet.
To continue…. My family refused to go to Temple. My father and the Rabbi were always arguing because my father didn’t have enough money in order to reserve a seat in Temple. My father never did pledge money to the Temple, but somehow, the Rabbi agreed to train me for Bar Mitzvah. It was much more important to me than to my family. (It must have been important to my grandma Goldie Meyer; she gave me a tallis, a fringed prayer shawl, for my Bar Mitzvah that I still have. I went to Hebrew school after regular school and studied for my Big Day. In the Sanctuary, the Rabbi would teach me one-on-one. I loved to hear the Cantor sing; I tried to sing like him when I chanted the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4) or prayers in Hebrew. One day, I arrived before the Rabbi and took my place in the empty Sanctuary. The heavy wooden doors were partially open. I could hear the Rabbi and his wife having a discussion just outside the doors. The Rabbi’s wife raised her voice and said, “Why are you wasting your time on the Slaff boy?” I was crushed; being in the Sanctuary was the only peace I had ever known. I prayed to be with the Lord God in his Temple always. Psalm 27 was to become the cry of my heart! My Father in Heaven heard my cry. I just didn’t know it as yet.
While on a combat tour in northeast Thailand in 1972, an Army chaplain told me the gospel for the first time. The chaplain asked me if I’d sing in the church choir. I said “yes” but wouldn’t sing the word “Jesus”; good Jewish boys don’t even say the word “Jesus”. Yet, in my stiff-necked prideful rejection of the Messiah, he didn’t reject me; he pursued me. I thought I was so smart. He loved me first. I just didn’t know it as yet.
In the few years prior to when I was saved, I didn’t know that I wasn’t healthy enough to be in a healthy relationship with a wife. Dysfunction attracts dysfunction. I was in a tough marriage and was on orders from my first 3-year tour in Germany to an assignment I didn’t want in Superior/Duluth, Minnesota. I tried to get out of it. I had a good reputation there, so was encouraged to go see the Commanding General of the whole unit. He said, “I’m a General; I’ll get you out of this, Sergeant!” Two weeks later, he called me into his office and said, “I’m a General and I can’t get you out of this. You have to take the assignment.” God outflanked and outranked the General. I just didn’t know it as yet.
Why did I have to spend the next few years in the frozen northland of Minnesota and Wisconsin, where a temperature of minus thirty-eight degrees Fahrenheit (-38 F = -39 C) without wind chill was a typical winter day? The truth of 1972 took root and came alive in 1980; I came to the end of myself and confessed that Jesus is Lord while walking to my office in Superior WI. Subsequently, I was well taught by the Pastor and men of Bethany Baptist Church in Duluth MN and baptized the following year. Pastor Mark took me under his wing. So did the Lord. I just didn’t know it yet. (There is much more but I promised I’d try to be brief.)
I was a soldier for 20 years. The Lord God protected me – from others and from myself, because I was willing to do more than God would permit. He knew what was best for me better than I did – God’s choices for me were always better than what I wanted or what I thought was best for myself. I just didn’t know it as yet. Yes, there were troubles and divorce along the way, but He kept me from destroying others and kept me from destruction time and time again.
Let me close with this. The Lord has blessed me with the Highest Blessing – I have a beautiful loving wife – there was a time when I thought sweet love and laughter was like the blues song, “But Not For Me.” What a privilege to know love so sweetly – a loving wife, a loving heavenly Father. I know now. “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
My prayer is that many would know what I now know.
I hope that reading about a tender part of my past helps you today. May He be yours. The Lord Jesus is most certainly my help. May the Lord bless you and keep you today.