ALíS SALVATIONBy Willard A. (Al) Meservy March 1978
As a child who went from one denominational church to another, hearing different viewpoints and doctrines were very confusing to me. I became cynical about God and convinced that if He did exist, He must delight in confusing us: more than likely there was no God at all. Otherwise, how could so many people get a completely different message from the same Bible?
Frustrated with religion, science and math became absolutes to me. No more confusion for this boy! I didn't believe God existed: where was the proof?
Somehow, I retained the basic moral teachings: especially about divorce. Marriage was for life! While searching for who knows what, I met Fran. We agreed on a lot of basic issues and fell deeply in love. (After becoming a Christian, I realized I fell in love with the fruit of the Spirit she bore.)
Just before we married, I joined the Navy because I could not find a good job. The Navy taught me electronics. Absolutes, authority and rules were preferable to confusion. The Navy offered all these things and I progressed rapidly in my new field. Since I had a natural gift repairing electronic equipment, I was sure of my ability to get ahead in life.
Our marriage was good for a while but Fran didn't like being subordinate to a military man. (She wanted to be asked to do something: not ordered.) Seeing her frustration and knowing she wasn't happy with me didn't help matters any. A good husband didn't play around, drink or gamble and came home with a paycheck to take care of his family: what else could she possibly want?
I loved Fran and the kids but a void grew between us. Going to clubs and racing cars, planes, boats, etc. was an escape from an unhappy home. Fran went with me even though she didn't like it. An insane jealousy would creep in when someone made a pass at Fran or if she were out of my sight for over an hour. If she wasn't happy with me, she must be looking elsewhere. To a man, that thought can be escalated into almost anything. The nature of Navy life forced Fran to be independent. She had to make decisions while the ship was out to sea; but she could have consulted me when I was home. On top of that, she was constantly preaching or nagging me to go to church or something. She must want a different person: I was still the same person she fell in love with and married. Why did she want to change me?
The ERA and women's lib movement arrived during this time. Common sense said Fran was a women's libber. Didn't they want men to change so they could rule the world?
The preachers she brought home were good at their job, nevertheless, no match for me. They only hardened my resolve not to go to church. One pastor spent almost three hours talking to me. It was hard to convince him I simply did not believe God existed. In desperation he challenged me. He said, "try to grow one blade of grass without a plant or a seed and see if it can be done." Since I am scientifically minded, I looked for a way; but found none. The old "which came first, the chicken or the egg" question planted a seed of doubt in my scientific mind. You see there is no answer unless you acknowledge the existence of a creator. God would later water that seed. For now, no church for me, especially if Fran was going to be my teacher.
God used Fran to plant another seed through the years. She would help people and they would turn and hurt her. I was always a loner myself for that very reason and could not understand why she kept doing it. She always said "One day when I need help, God will repay me": nothing else mattered to her. Years later when our house burned down God fulfilled Fran's words. WOW!!
By now our marriage was rocky but somehow we survived. Fran had gone through years of depression and wouldn't even clean the house. Her doctor once asked, "Do you want sex or a clean house?" Sex wasn't to be hoped for: I said "a clean house." Was that too much to ask? Why did Fran want to change me? God wasn't doing her much good. Why would anyone want what she had?
Fran started doing more and with the help of medical science, came out of the depression. Four years later things began to change. The changes were subtle but I noticed - no more preachers at my door or sermons at home. Fran even seemed to care more about going out and having fun with me. Free at last!
Now our troubles really started: our house burned down. Then a miracle seemed to happen. The Navy gave us a new apartment (unheard of in Navy housing) and people started bringing us money, furniture, food, clothing, dishes, etc. (everything you could imagine). We had so many living room suits, beds, etc. that two other burned out families received enough to furnish their homes from our leftovers. We went to a motel that night because there was so much in the house we could not find the beds.
It kept coming back to me what Fran had said about God providing when she needed it. I had never seen such an outpouring of love in my whole life. In the midst of tears, the realization hit me: maybe God really did exist after all.
Two weeks later we decided to go on vacation. On the way to the airport, a truck hit us broadside. The accident almost killed Fran and Stephi. David and I were OK; but, it took a long time before Fran was normal again.
Here it was the blessing and the accident. I didn't know what to think. It seemed as though life was a big practical joke on me. Go to work, get paid, pay bills and one-day die. There was no purpose or reason to exist. To me, dying was to go to sleep and cease to exist: just rest in peace. No more useless work or fun that turned to frustration. Why bother? Death seemed more pleasurable.
The next time the ship went out to sea, none of the equipment broke (highly unusual) and I had a lot of spare time on my hands. An unusual curiosity about the Bible compelled me to read it from front to back. I wanted to find out what this book said and if there was a God in Heaven. By the time I got to Luke, I had fallen for Jesus.
Seeing the real me for the first time, I realized I was like the sinner who was afraid to lift up his eyes to heaven. I wanted to be with Jesus; but He was in Heaven and I was headed for hell. Reading that this type person is forgiven: I praised God for the first time in my life.
Fear crept in. Jesus said you had to be baptized and there was no way on the ship. Then, reasoning said that if the ship sank I would be baptized as it went down. I finished reading the Bible and started over.
No one had taught me that miracles no longer happened; therefore since the Bible said "ask anything" - I did. Funny thing though, miracles kept happening. I asked God to stop a terrible storm once because I had a cold and didnít want to get wet. The rain stopped (lightning blew a power station to pieces a hundred yards away) but the rain stopped. God answered all my prayers. I couldnít figure out why only mine. It was a while before I realized God also knows how to test our faith. For now, I was baptized and began to grow as a Christian.
My only problem was Fran: She was mad as hell and I couldnít figure out why. She always wanted a Christian husband and now she had one. What is her problem? God sure made women strange: totally illogical. I went back to reading my bible and praying for her. She had a big problem! Thank God He answered that prayer also. She forgave me! I assumed it was automatic for Christians to forgive. It never occurred to me that I should ask her to forgive me for all the pain I caused during the past thirteen years.
My tour in the Navy was almost over and I decided to get out. Surely God didnít want me to be separated from my family. Now my test would come. I prayed for God to let me out early as was customary when the ship is going on a six-month cruise and you won't complete it. No way: I had to go. Fran and the kids went home to Texas to wait and I left with the ship.
My relief had come aboard. He was good and "gung ho" to boot. He took over everything. The only thing left for me to do was babysitting the biggest troublemaker we had. He was my last responsibility and my most hated.
Scotty was short, fat, liked drugs, booze and women. He was so foul-mouthed that we nicknamed him "diarrhea mouth" because that's all that came out. If you showed him a picture of your girl, he would turn her into a tramp in two or three words.
Scotty hated to work. I had already put him on report for breaking a metal door when forced to go to work. Why Scotty: anybody but Scotty. "Lord why don't you answer my prayers any more?" To a baby Christian trying to be like Jesus, my worst nightmare had begun.
Here I was, no prayers answered, stuck with Scotty on a floating jail from which I had to die to escape, and no answer from God. Just a nightmare that got worse and worse.
Everybody received orders to leave dates and flight times except me. Mine refused to show up. I prayed even harder for God to prove He was real and not my imagination. Eighty-nine days at sea with Scotty and faith began to dim. I hated Scotty. There were only three days left before my hitch was up and still I'm stuck with no orders, no flight, and no reprieves in sight.
I hated Scotty. I couldnít stand to hear him talk. The last day, sitting next to Scotty, I wanted to kill him: Just need to figure a way to get him over by the catwalk and throw him overboard.
We were watching "Heidi" on TV and Scotty started up with what he would do with her. I wanted to shove my fist right down his throat and shut that mouth forever. Knowing I would go to jail is all that stopped me. I was at my wits end: no possible solution!
Silently I bowed my head and said "Lord, Jesus, you said love could solve any problem. How can it solve this?"
Instantly I was taken in the Spirit. God ripped all the anger, fear and bitterness from me and enveloped me a beautiful loving bliss. I never knew so much love was possible. There is nothing on earth like it: it was like being in paradise.
It felt like God reached inside me ripped pain and anger out and threw them away. He filled me with His love. Then, God showed me the real Scotty. I saw everything about him in an instant of time. On the inside, he was like a big teddy bear who just wanted someone to love him. All his life he had been taught and believed that a man had to act mean and vulgar to be respected. It was all a big front to cover the real Scotty. God does know all about us!
God gave me a message to tell Scotty and, suddenly, I was back in the TV room again. It took me ten to twenty minutes just to get hold of myself so I could tell Scotty what God said. "Scotty, if youíll take down the wall you've built between you and everybody else in the world with the words out of your mouth and let them see you as you really are, they will find a warm, decent human being on the inside." In that moment Scotty's face changed and he smiled (Aug 1978).
Within an hour my orders and flight times came in and I was packing to go home. The next morning I was on my way home and two days later discharged. I don't know what happened to Scotty but I'd sure like to see him again one day. (post script - Scotty)
Thus began my walk of faith with God.
Psa 77:19 Your way was in the sea, Your path in the great waters, And Your footsteps were not known.
Psa 107:23-24 Those who go down to the sea in ships, Who do business on great waters, They see the works of the LORD, And His wonders in the deep.
Eph 4:17-24 This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.
2 Cor 12:3-4 And I know such a man; whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows; how he was caught up into Paradise Ö
1 John 4:8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
Picture of the USS John F Kennedy from the official US Navy Web site