I returned to the resort and paced back and forth on the grounds. Time ticked slowly by. I thought my heart would break. I was scared and excited at the same time. I arrived at the church well before 6:00pm. I have no recollection of the service. My distress must have been obvious, for after the service ended I was approached by a small group of ladies. Their caring looks and compassion drew me in. Big men should not cry. Wrong, I did cry. They held me; they listened and they made it safe. After a time Pastor Harold, the pastor of the church, came over. One of the ladies was his mother. We spoke for a while and he invited me to join him on Wednesday for his Bible study.
I made it to the lesson on Wednesday. Pastor Harold announced that he was going to discuss five ways a person could know they were drawing closer to God. I remembered what my sponsor had told me and listened attentively. I understood four of the point’s well, a growing sense of God, willing to forgive, getting closer to family and a sense of global peace. The fifth confused me. He talked about a growing interest in “His Word”. Eventually it came to me, “His Word” probably meant the Bible. When the lesson ended I went forwards to thank Pastor Harold for his lesson and to ask if I was correct in my understanding of “His Word” being a reference to the Bible.
“I know just what you need” he said, and went off to fetch a small, thin, blue book from his office. It was promotional copy of the Gospel of John, issued by the publishers of the New International Version of the Bible. Handing it to me with a large smile he said "If you read this and come back on Sunday I will give you a whole Bible". I turned away in disgust. I had no interest in a Bible. How typical I thought, hypocrites, besides if I wanted a whole Bible I would buy one myself!
Getting back to my apartment I flipped the Gospel onto the bed. So much for that I thought, and headed out for my evening soak in the hot tub. Getting back an hour later, I noticed the Gospel lying exactly where I had flipped it. The words of my masseur in Palm Springs came back to me. “Contempt prior to investigation" he had said back then. Was I repeating the same wrong attitude that I had originally shown to AA, I thought? I stretched out, picked the blue book up off the bed, opened the front cover and began to read the publisher's foreword.
There is a God shaped hole in our heart it said, that we try to fill with money, or relationships or sex or power. Yes, I thought, I understand this. It said that only Jesus could fill this God shaped hole. I was not convinced but for some reason I continued reading. Turning the page I found my way to chapter one of the Gospel of John. There was a sense of peace as I read; Jesus was God from before the beginning of time; Jesus came to forgive me for my sins; Jesus loved me so much that he would die on a cross for me.
At twenty past ten, on the tenth of October 2001 I stopped reading and looked up for I was not alone. The room was empty, yet I heard “I am the way, the truth and the life, follow me". I do not know what prompted me to turn to the back of the Gospel. But turning there I found the prayer that so many before me have said. I got up off the bed and walked out onto the balcony of the apartment. Looking over at the full moon shining across the water I knelt down and confessed aloud to Jesus that I knew I was a sinner. I thanked Jesus for saving me, and I promised Jesus that I would follow Him for the rest of my life.
I felt my spirit lifted up, while my body fell to the ground. I wept at the heartbreak I had caused to so many, for my children and their mother, for Angola, for my own situation and for the relief of knowing that God had forgiven me through the blood of His Son Jesus.
I wish I could say that I stood up and rode off into the sunset of Hollywood bliss. The process of maturing as a Christian has many parallels to that of a child maturing into an adult. Pastor Harold was right though. I developed a hunger to know the Bible. I joined a church and was baptized. The pink cloud of infancy ended. Life went on, my family was still hurt by my past actions and not everyone was as excited about my new found faith as I was. My father wrote to me and said that he thought I had lost my mind! My family have asked that I please keep my beliefs to myself.
Four years later I met a wonderful lady in church, and we got married. With this came a new set of challenges. I found that I am far more broken that I realized. Far more sensitive than I knew. But there is one thing that has not changed. I still see the images of Angola. But the need to drink over them has not returned. The nightmares come and go; but I have the tools to work with them today. I thank Jesus for saving me. I thank God for the many wonderful things that have followed, and for the new purpose I have in my life.