ENCOUNTER WITH THE STOVE MAN
One afternoon I staggered home drunk and dropped off to sleep on a couch. A Christian businessman, who had come to sell my mother a stove, shook me awake. He read me a simple tract about receiving Christ. I had heard this familiar old story all my life. He asked me to pray with him, and in a drunken stupor, I asked the Lord to come into my heart. I then rolled over and went back to sleep!
Later in the evening, when I awoke, I didn’t remember the encounter with the stove man and I was not aware of any change. My only thought was to return to my favorite bar; however, that night the people around the bar seemed to be babbling, slurring their words, and talking foolishly. The bartender was carelessly sloshing the glasses in dirty water. The room was smoke-filled and unbearably noisy. I didn’t have fun that night.
I found myself at the beginning of the end of my drinking days. In a matter of weeks, I longed for Bill’s way of life. The old way simply died away. I didn’t even remember the encounter with the stove salesman until I began looking back later on my changed behavior.
What followed in my life proved to me with abundant clarity that God will answer a sincere call for help even if the prayer is mumbled by someone who drinks too much, who slurs his words, and whose memory is blurred. Looking back on that event years ago, all I can remember of the discussion with the man in our living room is that what he said seemed to make sense.
I have a Ph.D. in marriage and the family and have spent my life studying, teaching, and counseling in the area of Christian living. Today, forty years later, I still cannot totally explain what happened to me when I was “born again,” or even why it happened to me. When Nicodemus, one of the smartest and most educated men of his day, asked Jesus, “What in the world are you talking about when you say, ‘born again’?” Jesus replied:
“What I am telling you so earnestly is this: Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. Men can only reproduce human life, but the Holy Spirit gives new life from heaven; so don’t be surprised at my statement that you must be born again! Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it will go next, so it is with the Spirit. We do not know on whom he will next bestow this life from heaven.” (John 3:5-8, LB)
“Now if I am doing what I don’t want to, it is plain where the trouble is: sin still has me in its evil grasp.” (Romans 7:20, LB)