Pilgrim’s (Alan’s) Progress
[The Testimony of Alan Richardson]
Part II- Salvation
(Go to Pilgrim's [Alan's] Progress Part I - Searching.)
Caught In The Act
Oft times I drove by an infamous spot near our high school, known as Hagar Park. “Hagar” was located behind an elementary school and is equipped with swings, basketball goals, and a backstop with bleachers for playing baseball. I was one of the young people who sought to meet there for the purpose of drinking and socializing. Sometimes there were those who came to get drunk and pick fights. One night I drove by Hagar with my buddy Dan in the1980 Buick Electra that Meck gave me after my accident. Dan and I always drank beer and smoked pot when we got together, and that night must have been the same. I recognized a group of our schoolmates gathered on grounds at Hagar, and I parked by the bleachers. Soon a couple of them came to greet us through the window of the car. A young man named Mark N. offered to greet Dan with a handshake, but Dan refused to shake his hand. There were hard feelings between Mark and Dan, because of a previous encounter at a neighboring park. After Dan refused to greet Mark, Mark wanted to fight. Dan was the bigger man, but there were several other young men present who I did not trust to stand by and be spectators only, if Dan and Mark got into a fight. I knew some of the people who were present there to be angry drunks who liked to fight, and fight dirty. I could offer Dan no defense as I was confined to a wheelchair, so I started the car and left the park. Dan quickly became upset after being threatened by Mark, and not allowed the chance to avenge himself. He wanted to make war! Dan may not have been totally prepared and battle-ready, but he was much provoked and plenty angry.
I felt responsible for the pent-up frustration that Dan experienced that night. So I took it upon myself to avenge him. Mark N. lived a short distance away, and I began trenching the lawn in front of his house. One night I was using the Buick to trench Mark’s lawn, when I was “caught in the act”. I had one of the car’s wheels in the lawn and the other wheel straddling the curb, when a car approaching from the rear and pulled up beside me, deliberately boxing me in between the yard and his car. A man came around to the passenger side of my car and tried to pull the door open, but I had locked the doors a few minutes before, and he was unable to gain entrance. I pulled forward to drive off of the lawn, but the other driver quickly cut me off. Then I put the car in reverse to leave that way, and collided with the other car in the street as it traveled in the same direction. Finally, I put my car in drive and was able to make it down the street and find my way into adjoining neighborhood just on the other side of the boulevard. Hagar Park lay ahead of me, and I approached it at a right angle. I was about to make a right turn and drive around its west perimeter, when the other car rammed me from behind. I was headed toward the curb and unable to turn, so I hit the brakes to slow down. But I quickly got off of the brakes before hitting the curb head-on, and coasted over the curb without causing any apparent damage to the front of the car. The other car continued to pursue me across the interior of the park, and I headed for the curb at the opposite end. Once I was near the end I made a sharp right hand turn and followed it immediately with a left turn, I angled the car off of the curb, and drove back onto the street. Once I was driving along the east perimeter of the park, I looked over my shoulder and saw the other car sitting of about fifty (50) yards from me, in the park’s interior, and the driver of the car beginning to run toward me. I believe that he resorted to pursuing me on foot after striking a small tree. The tree seemed to be close to the spot where I turned sharply to prepare to exit the park, and since he was traveling close behind me I may have led him into the tree just as I turned.
With the chase ended, the adrenaline could cease and my heartrate could slow to normal. I had escaped yet another sticky situation. I was relieved that God saw fit to bail me out of trouble again. I marveled at the way I was protected by my door locks that night, since I rarely use them when I drive. The man who attempted to gain access to my car that night was angered by my actions, and tried to get revenge on me. It would not have been difficult for the two men to join together to hurt me, steal from me, or even kill me. But the conflict came to an abrupt halt when something brought the other car to a dead stop. The Lord reached out to protect me again, that night, even in the midst of my reckless and vengeful ways.
I vented my aggression when I was behind the wheel of my car because I was afraid to verbalize it and express it properly. As a child, I came to regard the Lord Jesus as always being peaceful and loving towards others, never displaying any anger toward anyone. I mistakenly believed that expressing anger toward another was a sin. I did not know about righteous anger (anger caused by sin and hypocrisy), or that the Holy Scriptures reveal moments when Jesus did express anger toward others. Because of my habit of holding on to my anger I was afraid of it and thought that if I did not carefully contain it I might lose control and live to regret my rash actions. When my parents and former pastor L.C. learned that I vented anger behind the wheel of my car by tearing up neighborhood lawns and destroying people’s trashcans, they were shocked. When I think of personal acts of my own where I ran red lights to escape a security van that I water-ballooned, and ran stop signs to escape an undercover police car that I egged, I determined these unrestrained driving habits of mine to be insane. Yet I continued on this way, and it eventually caught up with me.
Burned-Out Beside The Band Aid
I continued to take the risks of drinking, drugging, and driving into the following year (1988). The Spring season began, and like many other high school and college kids our age, we sought to make a run on the beach. My house in Houston was about 50 miles from the beaches of Galveston Island. With a little effort, my friends and I could enjoy meeting in the warm and sunny atmosphere of a place called Jamaica Beach. It was there that we sought to indulge in such things as beer drinking, pot smoking, and girl watching. But April 23, 1988 was a day in time that I will always remember – a day that I was changed under the Son:
That morning two (2) of my high school buddies drove to Jamaica Beach, and once we found a place to park on the beach, we got out of the car and began to relax. I was sitting with my friends in between two (2) parked cars when suddenly a young lady walked up to me and greeted me. Her name is Angie, and she was one of our classmates from high school. Angie was part of a dance team called the “Band Aids”. They performed a half-time routine at each of our school’s football games. Angie and I had a history class together, and I asked her if she remembered me. She said that she did, and that seemed to be an opportune time for the two of us to talk about things we had in common, but at that point I felt dumb, muzzled, or sedated (unable to speak), and I said nothing more. Instead, Angie spoke up and said, “I want to dance.” She looked happy as she made a few moves and kicks there on the beach.
I had a few moments to myself that afternoon, which I used to reflect upon my own life. I felt that I was at a loss for words because I had gotten high the night before, which caused me to be in a marijuana fog and unable to say anything more to Angie. Before going to the beach I got high at midnight with a friend. It was one of those times when I sought to smoke pot to relieve my queasy stomach and “hangover” from the previous day. The feeling that I was unable to communicate with Angie that day caused me to think, “That pretty and gifted girl from school gave me the chance to speak to her, and I blew it.” Seeing the clear evidence that pot handicapped me to that degree frustrated and disgusted me. For me this was a “reckoning day”.
Kicking The Habit
I had spoken with a drug abuse counselors and attended an AA meeting (Alcoholics Anonymous) the previous year (1987), but my chemical slavery had not become revolting enough for me to do something about it. The outrage I felt about my drug-addicted behavior on the beach that day - in combination with the “hammer” of my motorcycle accident – was what I needed to lay my pot pipe down and fight it. For the first time in nearly 4 years I set out to stay “clean” for 30 days. Fighting the cravings for the drug was very difficult the first month, but once I had accomplished that the biggest part of the war on my drug habit was won. The afternoon of April 23, 1988 was not just another day at the beach. It was a setup – a “kairos” moment (appointed time) that was ordained by the Lord. I did not know it at the time, but the Holy Spirit had brought conviction to my heart and life.
I had been told over and over that I had much potential with which to do something meaningful with the life that God had given me. Do I throw away the gift that only God can give?! God forbid. Determination to use one’s gifts to glorify the Lord can be simply but powerfully expressed in a few words spoken by the late Pastor John Osteen, who said, “I’m gonna do something, lest I do nothing…”
In 1989, I began seeing a psychiatrist by the name of Dr. Arlinghaus (“Dr. A”) at the T.I.R.R. hospital. Without the pot and beer, I began to feel the depression that I had previously treated (covered up) with drugs and alcohol. Dr. A got my attention during the first week of November, after I attended a rock concert with some high school buddies of mine. On the night of the concert, I drank and drove around with my friends. When I told Dr. A about it, she became upset with me, saying, “You might have run over my mother.” I doubt that her mother was on the streets between midnight and three (3) in the morning, but the important thing for me was that the words spoken by Dr. A got my attention. So that was the time when I chose to change my drinking and driving ways. I began attending AA meetings on a regular basis.
Note: I extend a word of caution concerning AA and similar 12-step programs. These programs can become an idol (object of worship) in a person’s life, because “God” (the “higher power” of AA) can be any “God” that one chooses. I benefited from the AA meetings I attended because the Lord Jesus Christ used them to bring added conviction to my heart. I must give the credit and the glory to the Lord Jesus, who has been faithful to help me and guide me in being free from alcohol and marijuana. The Lord Jesus is the only begotten Son of the true and living God, who said, “…I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” - John 14:6 (KJV)
Jack In The Van
I knew that if I drank and drugged, I was going to end up driving my car in an intoxicated condition. And I knew that if I was going to cleanse my life of the alcohol and drugs, I had to make changes in my lifestyle – meaning the people who I chose to socialize with. So I stopped going to gatherings where I knew that there was going to be drinking and pot smoking. Giving up alcohol was difficult at first as with the pot, but it got easier with each passing day. On a few occasions, I drank a beer while reclining in front of the television. That’s when I found that I did not want to have more than one drink when I was alone. Dr. A told me that she had a male patient in a wheelchair who was interested in meeting other disabled people, and said that if I was willing I could meet. She said that if it was acceptable to me, she could have him give me a call and we could get acquainted. Within a day or two I met a young man named Jack.
Jack was also involved in a traffic accident that left him with the medical condition called quadriplegia (total or partial paralysis of four limbs). Jack is what is called a “high functioning quad”, because he has strength in his arms that enables him to push a manual wheelchair. Jack and I had no trouble getting around, in fact it was going places and meeting people was the most fun for Jack. He and I got along pretty well, and we found some exciting things to do in the big city. But when Dr. A learned about the type of entertainment Jack and I were engaging in, she let us know that it was not what she had in mind.
Jack wanted to meet people, girls, in particular. Jack was a successful running back for his high school football team, and he was well received among the young ladies at his high school. He once told me that he could approach a random line-up of ten (10) girls, and he could have his “pick” of them. I had no reason to doubt this, since Jack was gifted with good looks (ladies verify this, though Jack is presently engaged). When I went out with him he always took time to see that he looked his best. I also found him to be a person of strong will, who didn’t give in quickly when it came to having something he desired.
Jack had a full-sized van equipped with a wheelchair lift that made it easy for us to go out together. I was able to roll into the van behind him and wedged my wheelchair in between the seat and the side door. Jack and I got into a partying routine where we were going out four to five (4-5) nights a week. We began a routine of sleeping in late and getting out of bed in the late afternoon, in preparation for nights on the town. I ate a meal and waited for nightfall before driving to Jack’s house. We loaded up in his van there, and often made our way to the Yucatan Liquor Stand (a popular singles bar at that time). The addictive atmosphere there combined strobe lights, loud music, alcohol, and attractive and available young women.
During some of our outings, Jack either tired of singles bars where we hung out, or was dissatisfied with the amount of attention he received. Jack’s statement about having his “pick” of women was made during a time of frustration, when he felt he no longer appealed to the ladies as he had in times past. But Jack was not a person to give up easily. One way we sought to remedy the feeling of neglect and rejection was to attend strip clubs (topless bars) in our area. We began to visit and take pleasure in these places of “adult” entertainment (“live” pornography).
One of the things that made going out exciting for Jack and I was the danger regarding traveling on the streets combined with an intoxicating alcohol “buzz”. Jack enjoyed drinking and loosening up at the bars. I also enjoyed getting out and interacting with Jack and others, within the bar scene. Yet I chose to abstain from drinking because of my lack of control with alcohol (alcohol tended to control me). Over time, I became less comfortable riding home with Jack since he drove the van “buzzed” and feeling good and giving less than his full attention to driving. Both of us were full of youthful exuberance and seeking excitement in those days, but after two (2) Summers of carrying on like this, I stopped going to the bars with Jack since I was uncomfortable with the drinking and driving. I felt that we had become another motorized accident just waiting to happen.
Porn Star Devils
There was a certain strip club that Jack and I were partial to, which I began visiting by myself. One night in November of 1993 I visited a strip club on the far side of town. The attraction for me that night was a “porn star” (person that stars in “triple X” rated films) that was going to perform as a stripper. Club patrons were given the opportunity to have their pictures taken with the porn star after she did her strip routine. I was ushered to the front of the line to have my photo taken, and asked by one of her crew if the woman could sit on my lap for the picture. I said “Yes” and the woman sat on my lap and we had our picture taken together. Within two (2) weeks, I began having bizarre symptoms that included dizziness, fatigue (my body mass felt extra-heavy), and a persistent feeling of faintness. It took great effort to fight the symptoms and keep from keeling over and passing out. The only physical evidence I could produce that something was happening was to show that my forearms became numb. I showed this to my mother by pinching my wrist with a pair of pliers. It was evident to both of us that there was more to this than just mere thoughts or feelings. Something was really manifesting in my life.
For two (2) months I stayed in bed and slept when I didn't have to be up to eat or go to the restroom. I was not even able to sit through the two (2) elective classes I signed up to take at the community college. Two months later (January 1994), I ran into a familiar young woman named Cassie while waiting on a doctor to give me a physical at an office next door to T.I.R.R. I originally met Cassie through our mutual friend, Cindy. Cassie was feeling depressed after her mother was killed by an enraged boyfriend. Cassie and I renewed our friendship and offered support to each other as we struggled to cope with depression.
I often spent time with Cassie over the next few months, and we smoked pot to get high. Once I gave in to the temptation, it seemed like I was getting high every day. I found that when I was high, the faint feeling did not affect me, and I was staying conscious during the daytime hours. Before I began getting high with Cassie, I was sleeping my days away. I was for all practical purposes nonfunctional. What was most disturbing about these experiences was that I could have explained them away, had I been high on drugs. What I began doing to “mask” these strange symptoms was drink a certain kind of cough syrup on top of the pot I smoked. Some friends helped me to learn about the powerful combined effect of the two drugs in our earlier experimentation. Cassie and I started doing the drug combination. One afternoon I pulled in to the parking lot of the apartments where Cassie was staying, and had a most bizarre experience. It was early in afternoon, and I was completely sober, with nothing to smoke or drink. I opened the car door and told Cassie, "I don't expect you to believe this, because it's happening to me, and I don't believe it: I feel like I'm high on the cough syrup”. These symptoms of mine had become so strange and so strong at that moment that I could no longer tell the difference between the powerful “mind-altering” combination of the cough syrup and marijuana, and being stone cold sober! This is the kind of awful and elusive symptom(s) that were handicapping me, every day of my life.
Demonization really happens to people. It is the influence of sin and Satan that drives people to both participate in unholy behaviors and to lose their minds. What I experienced as the result of my perverse behavior (sexual sin) in 1993 was far beyond anything that I had lived with before. It was many months later that I was able to accept and understand that it was by my own choosing that my life had been plagued by these “demonic” manifestations. It was not me that had suffered a forced invasion, but it was through exercising my own will and giving into the sinful enticement of the strip club that I became ensnared by the devil. I alone had to bear the responsibility for the physical and emotional bondage that I had fallen in to. It is only by God's grace and love that I escaped the strongholds that resulted from my frolicking about on “Satan's playground”. I am one who has learned that disobedience to God (sin) can result in bizarre and tragic happenings.
Prodigal Come Home
In March of 1994, my high school friend Cindy invited Cassie and I to attend the San Antonio Miracle Crusade, held by Benny Hinn Ministries. Cindy gave us a thirty (30) day notice before the event was to take place. Then Cindy called to give us one (1) day’s notice before the time we were to leave for the Crusade. Cassie was reluctant because she did not think she had time to get ready for the trip. Through persistence and tenacity Cindy talked Cassie into committing to the trip. And I’m so glad that she did. Cindy and her husband Jeff drove in their car, and Cassie and I followed behind them in her car. After we left the Houston City limits and approached the setting sun, I had a strange sense of well-being, that there was goodness waiting for me, and that I was receiving a blessing on this journey.
Cindy had an aunt that lived in San Antonio, and a sister named Gloria who drove down from Iowa. The five us all stayed at their aunt’s house for the weekend Crusade. Being in San Antonio at that time was very different for me, in that I remained conscious during the daylight hours without the use of marijuana. The bizarre symptoms that I had been feeling were peculiarly absent. After four (4) months of living with the harrowing symptoms, being loosed from them was like living in a dream. I thought to myself, “This is great!”
The Miracle Crusade took place at the San Antonio Coliseum, and consisted of three (3) weekend services: Thursday night, Friday morning, and Friday night. Thursday afternoon I was cleaning up in the bathroom in preparation to go to the first service. I was feeling good while playing Pearl Jam on my boombox, when I was suddenly interrupted by a voice from another part of the house. It was Sister Gloria, and speaking these words from the kitchen: "You're going to give up that rock n’ roll, and start listening to Christian music!” I had a strange feeling when I heard those piercing words from Gloria. The strangeness was not in being addressed through the closed door of the bathroom from another part of the house - but in the content of the message. The words that Gloria spoke rang of truth. I didn’t know how she knew I would change the way I listened to music, but somehow I knew that the words she spoke were going to come to pass.
Sister Gloria and I took her car to the service that evening, and we arrived early. After we were seated, Gloria left me with the seats for a while, before returning to sit down a short time later. During my moments of solitude, something beautiful happened. I began to weep in my chair for no apparent reason. The Bible declares, “…In thy [God’s] presence is fulness of joy…” - Psalms 16:11 (KJV). Amen. The choir had not yet begun rehearsing for the service, yet I sat there weeping tears of joy in the presence of the Lord. After members of choir gathered behind the platform and began rehearsing, I noticed a young Hispanic man pushing his wheelchair down the aisle next to where I was sitting. I call him by the name of “Juan”. Juan had a thin-looking face, and he wore a tan suit that draped over his slight frame. He appeared to have lost so much weight, as to be on "death's door".< >
Eyes Of Understanding
The service began, and the congregation was led in a worship service to the Lord. As Pastor Benny led the service, he encouraged those who felt the healing touch of the Lord to begin lining up on either side of the platform. The young Hispanic man that had passed by me before the beginning of the service was the third (3rd) person to appear standing on the platform. Upon seeing this, I opened my eyes wide, and under my breath I uttered a few words of awe. I desired to stand up on my feet, so that I might get a better view of this awesome event. In Acts 2:11 the Bible declares, “…We do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.” Although I had no knowledge of divine healing before that moment, I had come to know the “…Demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” - 1 Corinthians 2:4 (KJV).
Young Juan had been welcomed onto the platform by a minister named Joan. Joan spoke to the congregation about her efforts to move Juan closer to the platform, but that she had to seat him once again, because of his pain. Juan’s physical problems were related to the A.I.D.S. virus, and he was convinced that he was healed during the worship service. He showed the pastor and the congregation the I.V. he had in his chest and the morphine pump he wore on his side. He reached into his shirt and pulled out the I.V. before Pastor Benny could stop him (so that he might be examined by a doctor), but Juan was too fast. He testified that God performed a miracle in his body by delivering him from the killer disease of A.I.D.S. Pastor Benny asked Juan if he had any children, he said, “No, but that’s going to come to an end [I’m going to live! I’m going to have kids]!” When Jesus comes, even A.I.D.S. must die! The Bible says, “[That] the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his [Jesus’] inheritance in the saints…” - Ephesians 1:18 (KJV)
The Greatest Miracle
Seeing the love of the Lord Jesus Christ revealed through His willingness to heal sinners seemed like the thing I had been waiting for all my life. When I saw Juan struggling to push his wheelchair from one end of the building to the other, then saw him standing and miraculously restored, my unbelief toward God as the One who heals was shattered. This is the event that created my desire to glorify Jesus, by giving my life to Him. I was also able to see that through serving the Lord, I could receive a miracle in my own life, witnessing to the goodness of the Lord. I made a public surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ at the time of the altar call on Friday night, during the third (3rd) and final Miracle service. The date was March 4, 1994. Since that time I have been striving to seek and serve the Lord through His Spirit of grace.
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” - 2 Corinthians 5:17 (KJV)
I returned to Houston forever changed. I had experienced the beauty and presence of the Lord that weekend as never before. It was a “close encounter” of the God kind. After coming “face-to-face” with Jesus Christ, the closeness one feels is unlike any experience with even those people who we feel closest to in our lives. Amen. For Jesus is ever-present, and He knows our every thought and desire we have. He is the Author and the inspiration for the holy desires we have! I was given a tape of the Crusade Choir by Sister Gloria, and I took it back home with me. It seemed that I couldn’t go to sleep without playing it beside my bed. It brought the joy and the wonder of the Crusade experience back to my room: “When my body has been broken 'til it's racked in misery - when the doctors shake their heads and look forlorn - He (Jesus) makes my bedside a cathedral of hope and love - He sends peace into the midst of the storm...”
Room To Grow
The week that followed the Crusade was the greatest week of my life. But I found that after being back at my parents’ house a short time, my mysterious symptoms returned. I was 29 years old, and changes were taking place. I had always lived with my folks, except for the 6 months I lived on campus at college. My mother felt that it was time that I begin living on my own, and my turn came up on the waiting list for an the apartment at Independence Hall, a place for the disabled and elderly. It took me several days to go and see the place, because my symptoms were incapacitating. But I accepted and rented the apartment the same month that my friends took me to the Miracle Crusade where I gave my heart and life to Jesus Christ. Moving to my own apartment at that time was a relief for my parents, for I had just been “saved”, and my newfound zeal for the Lord created tension between them and me. But this can be expected. I believe this was God’s timing, for the Holy Spirit was taking over as my Comforter and my Teacher.
My encounter with the Lord Jesus changed my life, and He gave me a thirst and a desire for the things of God (His Word and His Spirit). One of the things that I hungered for was to watch the television program “This Is Your Day With Benny Hinn”. The show included portions of Miracle Crusades just like the one I was saved at. When I watched the program, I felt energized – as in the “wired” feeling – that I experienced over the four (4) months prior to the Crusade. But the energized, wired feeling seemed to be appropriate at the moments I watched clips of the Miracle Crusades, as in the anointing of the Lord reaching forth to touch people’s sin-sick hearts and disease-afflicted bodies. God had come into my life like a flood, and He continued to have me sacrifice the things in my life that were not good for me, but that only served to hold me back in my past. One of those things was my decision to stay sober, no matter how weird my symptoms got. With the Lord’s help, I have been drug and alcohol free since May 5, 1994. He also dealt with me through Gloria about turning in my rock n’ roll music for holy and anointed (Christian) music for the Lord. I had collected about two hundred (200) rock music CDs in the 5 years prior to the Miracle Crusade. One afternoon I asked my friend Alicia to help me throw them in the trash dumpster. Even though Alicia and I knew each other from church, she was astonished to see me trash my secular and rock music CDs. “You’re really serious”, she said. She was right. I determined I was “goin’ on with Jesus”, and that I would not forsake the Lord.
Two (2) months after I attended the Miracle Crusade in San Antonio, a friend of mine named Doug began taking me to Lakewood Church in Northeast Houston. This was another case of God’s providence in my life, as the Lord used Doug to help me begin growing in Him through church attendance and teaching. After I received a glorious and wonderful revelation of the person of Jesus Christ, I was hungry for all that He had for me. I attended an A.L.I.V.E service that included an altar call for those who desired prayer to receive the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. The Lord had been dealing with me about fear that week, and when the minister gave the altar call I knew why. I felt fearful intimidation come at me. But because the Lord prepared me for the fear, and I desired the gift of God (the Holy Spirit), I pressed through the fear and the minister laid hands on me and prayed in the name of Jesus for me to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5). He told me that the gift of tongues (Acts 2:4) was a channel used by the Spirit of God for prayer and praise, and he encouraged me to yield my tongue to the Spirit of the Lord, and speak what I felt bubbling up inside me.
After waking the next day I reflected on the ministry and experience I had at church the previous night. I desired to use my gift, and I raised my hands to heaven and I began to worship and praise the Lord. I remembered how the minister encouraged me to yield my tongue to the Spirit of the Lord, and that Jesus would give me a prayer language that would function as praise and praying the perfect will of God. As I began to meditate on this, I felt unintelligible syllables echo in my mind, and as I yielded my tongue in faith, I began speaking in “other tongues” for the first time in my life. I raised my arms in praise and thanksgiving toward God, and I felt a tingling sensation like that of electricity in both of my forearms. That is when I had the thought that the numbness I experienced in my forearms the previous year was an attack of the devil in anticipation of the day I would receive “ power from on high” (Luke 24:49) for ministry. The date was May 28, 1994.
Strategy Of Satan
During the first three (3) years I lived at the Independence Hall apartments, the Summer months were particularly difficult from a spiritual perspective. The demonic opposition and oppression became greater from one Summer to the next. During the first Summer (1994), I experienced a ten (10) week period in which my concentration became incredibly weakened. It was so poor that I was unable to make a list of tasks to perform for the day, and it was plain that if I was incapable of even making a list, then I certainly could not do any tasks. I spent many nights feeling “wired” to the extent that I couldn't sleep, and a few times I couldn’t even lie on my bed. The unrest I felt was such that I wanted to jump out of my skin.
Fall 1995 to Fall of 1996 was a period during which I suffered from the fallout of a series of events that brought me to my spiritual knees, as it were. A friend of mine named Paul was a member of my home church, and he also had a ministry at a nearby Spanish Church, serving as youth pastor. Paul felt led of the Lord to invite me to give my testimony to the youth of the Sunday School class he taught at the Spanish Church. It was through Paul’s invitation to speak to the Spanish youth that I met Sister Miriam, one of the members of the Sunday School class. A few weeks later I was back at one of the young adults services at my church, when Miriam walked into the room. I was pleasantly surprised to see her, and that she’d decided to visit us. After the close of the service I was able to greet and speak to Miriam while the other young adults continued fellowshipping. Miriam spoke with me and another Sister named Annette, before she began walking toward a group of young adults that were heading out for local restaurants to get something to eat. A Brother named David approached me and began a short conversation with me as I was walking Miriam out toward the parking lot. I allowed myself to be distracted from my conversation with Miriam, and at that time I failed to excuse myself from the conversation, or to say “goodnight” to her. I felt that I had “snubbed” Miriam in this way, and that it was a poor way to treat a guest. The devil took advantage of this and used it to harass me with feelings of guilt and self-condemnation.
When most everyone had left the church, Brother Charlie and I were driving through the parking lot to go home, when we ran into our good friend Brother Kirk near the main lobby of the church. This gave me the opportunity to speak about the guilt I felt for neglecting Sister Miriam. After I spoke about the way I felt, I was able to see that the way I reacted to Miriam upon her visit to the church that night was very much like the way I reacted to another Sister at church who I was fond of. Miriam reminded me of her.
Before Charlie and I left the parking lot that night, Kirk suddenly stepped in front of me and delivered a prophetic word to me. As he turned the palms of his hands upward, and stretched them toward me. He said, “In a few days, someone is going to reach their hands out toward you, like this. When they do, take their hands.”
I was convinced that what Kirk spoke of me referred to me receiving prayer for my healing. Two (2) days later I received a call from Rebecca, who was a Sister I met when she gave a testimony at an A.L.I.V.E. service one night. Sister Rebecca called and told me that during her time of prayer, the Lord told her He had healing for me. She said she would pick me up and take me to an African church, for their Sunday morning service (Rebecca is Caucasian, and almost all of the church members were first-generation African immigrants). I replied that I was tired from staying up late the night before, but I would attend the evening service with her, later that day. She picked me up in time to make it to the evening service, and I got my first taste of an African Church that night. After the pastor’s wife led an anointed time of praise and worship, the pastor gave an altar call to those who wanted to receive prayer. He asked those of us who had come up for prayer to stand side by side at the altar, and he would go from person to person and pray for us by the laying on of hands. I wheeled up to the altar, and remembered the prophecy spoken by Brother Kirk the previous Friday, saying, “In a few days, someone would stretch their hands toward you like this…take their hands….” Almost immediately the devil attacked me with fear and guilt about my awkwardness with Miriam that weekend. The devil reminded me that the Halloween outreach Paul invited me to attend at Miriam’s church was two (2) days away, and that if I got healed, I was going to have to face her. The dread of facing Miriam was effectively blown out of proportion, and I was intimidated by it. I aborted my opportunity to receive prayer that night, by keeping my eyes closed as the pastor approached me. I was overcome by the wiles of the devil.
When I perceived that I had missed my opportunity for my miracle, I was distressed and downcast beyond what words can describe. During the ride back to my house, Sister Rebecca chastised me for my failure to receive my healing. When we pulled up to the curb, she told me that it would be a long time before I had another chance to be healed. This caused a stronger belief and sense of regret in me that I really had missed out on what God wanted me to have that night. After listening to Rebecca a while longer, she unloaded my wheelchair from her car, and I went inside. I felt that through my inaction that night I had failed God, my friends, and myself. I went before the Lord and worshiped Him with a song and a cry from my heart. I longed to give Him glory for who He is, and felt that if I did not praise Him, that I would perish. Feeling that I failed the Lord in this way was very difficult, but I survived the ordeal and looked to the Lord for a second chance for His will to be fulfilled in my life. I am also thankful to the Lord for my spirit of love and forgiveness toward for my beloved Sister, Rebecca.
One November Night
Three (3) nights later was the 1st of November (1995), and Brother Charlie headed over to pick me up for church. I also had my mind on our friends and fellow church members, Elder and Lanette, who were at the hospital expecting the birth of their first child. I called the hospital to check on their progress, and on the other end of the line I heard the voice of my bright, young, and bubbly Sister, Tyara. She was at the hospital to offer support to the mother and parents to be. After Tyara gave me an update on the status of the parents-to-be, she said that her grandmother had recently passed away and that she needed to see me. I said, “I’ll be there.”
Charlie and I got in his Mazda pickup truck to head out toward the church, and the devil attacked me, immediately. He filled me with guilt and regret over my missed opportunity to be healed, with agonizing and paralyzing results. As we drove toward town, I thought about Tyara and what an encouragement it would have been for her to see me walking. But I found myself wallowing in spiritual darkness and despair. It seemed to be beyond my ability to speak up and ask Charlie to take me by the hospital so I could keep my promise to Sister Tyara. In my despondency I kept silent. Within myself I wanted to die.
I failed to ask Charlie to take me to the hospital to see our friends. Instead, we continued driving on the freeway and we arrived at church a short time later. Once inside, I remember sitting in the lobby of the church where I could see the platform on the opposite side of the sanctuary. I thought to myself that I should be rejoicing and demonstrating encouragement to the church members with the miracle I should have received from the Lord that week, but instead I found myself sitting there in the church lobby and thinking that I let the miracle get away from me.
I was painfully aware of the pay phone that stood across the floor from me, and that Tyara was waiting for me at the hospital. I felt I at least owed Tyara an explanation of what had caused me to miss seeing her that night, but I did not make the call. The pain of failure seemed so profound that it caused me to be fearful that I would lose my composure if I told her about the things that had happened. Later in the week I called her and said that I had gone to church instead of seeing her at the hospital.
It was five (5) months later (April 1996) when I felt that Tyara showed some hard feelings toward me. It happened after a Sunday morning service, as I was about to exit the church sanctuary. When I saw Tyara walking toward me, it seemed that she turned to walk in the opposite direction. That is when I began believing that she was avoiding me because I had stood her up and neglected her at the hospital. Of course, the devil was willing to promote this belief and view of her behavior, and my failure.
For one (1) week I called Tyara’s place each day and left a message on her voice mail in an attempt to encourage her. I was really motivated to do that because of the guilt I felt for standing her up at the hospital. At the end of the week, I learned that she was dating a Brother named Rey, who attended church with us. Rey and Tyara became close during a mission trip to Mexico that they both took part in. After learning that Tyara was seeing someone, I felt foolish in my efforts to encourage her, and like I was on the outside looking in.
One day Rey drove over to my place and asked me to come over to Tyara's place, where she would cook lunch for the three (3) of us. Tyara cooked and served us a satisfying lunch. Rey and I sat down in the living room while Tyara cleared the table. During the time we talked, I noticed Rey picking at Tyara about having a facial feature similar to the one he saw on one of the cover girls featured on a magazine that was laying out. The following day, I told Rey that he should apologize to Tyara for teasing her that way. He did, and something unexpected happened. She blew up, and they had been fine until he took my counsel to apologize to her. I blamed myself for their apparent break-up, and was overcome with guilt. The spirit of suicide invaded my life, telling me that I was not worthy to continue living. But I was able to resist the spirit of suicide, thanks to my faith in God and His word, knowing that suicide puts one in a much worse and also an eternal form of suffering.
My decline into the depths of depression developed through the following perceived failures and losses: 1) Fearing Miriam’s face, which resulted in my rejection of the African pastor’s prayer for my miracle. 2) Breaking my word to Sister Tyara when I stood her up in her hour of need. 3) Feeling inept in my attempt to make up to Tyara by leaving daily phone messages for her. 4) Ruining Rey and Tyara’s relationship with my advice (yet they were still dating at the time of Rey’s sister’s wedding in 1998).
(Go to Pilgrim's [Alan's] Progress Part III - Testing.)
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