“When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger!
LUKE 15:17 NLT
I looked up just over the barrel of a .25 caliber pistol that was pointed right between my eyes and saw David M.’s eyes looking back at me. He then moved the pistol to the right side of my head and fired off a round. He moved the pistol back to the middle of my eyes and said, “If you don’t get me the money you owe me (the money was from a drug deal gone bad … more about that later), you’re in big trouble with me; and I’m going to hurt you.” Off to the left, my friend, Russ B., was laughing as if all this was really funny. It was not funny to me. It was terribly frightening.
At that moment, I wondered a number of things. How could my friend, Russ, be so cruel as to laugh when I was so scared, and this was no idle threat? And then, more than anything else, I wondered to myself, “How did I get to this spot in my life? What had happened to me that I had wound up in this situation?” It was one of those “your life flashes through your mind” moments. I thought to myself, “How did I go from being a normal, everyday kind of kid from a pretty decent and normal family, to getting myself into this kind of a fix?” Little did I know that I was “coming to myself,” much like another young man had done many years ago.
Happy childhood memories are in my memory bank, like most kids: lots of friends down the block, spending the night at your friend’s house and playing all day long, or so it seemed; summers that would never end; and childish, naughty things that your parents did not know about. You see, I could never have imagined, as a young boy, that my life would come to where it had come.
My parents put me in an all-boys’ Catholic boarding school called St. Boniface in a suburb of Winnipeg, Canada, where I had been born in 1947. Even then (and even though I only saw my parents once a month for about an hour), life was fun. Recess was my favorite. Playing in the sandbox every day, swinging on the monkey bars, and learning to play baseball filled my days.
The dorm was huge, as all things are for young children. There must have been dozens and dozens and dozens of single-spring, mattress-type beds lined in row after row after row. The nuns taught the classes; the priests conducted the Masses every morning and heard our confessions every week. I had lots of fun and very little trouble or sadness in my life.
Speaking French, thinking in French, and hearing the church services in Latin and in French was normal and common for me. Staring at Jesus upon the cross up behind the altar was an everyday thing for me. Little did I know that calling out to Jesus was what would happen the night when that gun was pointed at my head. “Jesus Christ” was something my dad seemed to say often (along with other words that I knew were not right to say) and meant that he was very mad about something.
In all those Masses and other religious services, I had no idea that Jesus was even alive, that He was someone I could know, who truly died for my sins and then had been raised from the dead; no idea that heaven was truly a place where a person can go once they leave this world; and most of all, I had no idea of the events that would lead up to that gun being placed right between my eyes.
What I’m about to tell you is, in fact, not uncommon; and what happened to me is indeed a miracle. Perhaps if you need to, you also can “come to yourself” as the boy in the story did in Luke Chapter 15. I was “coming to myself” looking up over the barrel of that gun. You see, the boy in the story — known to us today as the prodigal son; “prodigal” means “wasteful” — he had it pretty good, also; and he went out, leaving his father and home to live it up, only to find himself at the bottom of the barrel of life. But, he “came to himself,” realizing that what he had been doing had only ruined his life. That’s what happened to me; it’s not uncommon. In fact, it’s quite common and normal for many people.
What brings a person to ruin? It’s simple. It’s a one-word concept given to us in the Bible. It’s called “sin.” You see, one thing that people have in common is the problem of sin. The Bible says that all have sinned — Romans 3:23 — “… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Sin came into this perfect world that God had created and brought ruin and destruction to man. Man created his own problems, but it’s God who will solve them if you let Him. You see, the answer to sin is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross for our sins. Here’s what the Bible says in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” And John 3:17 tells us, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”
I want to tell you my story of how God took a young man who had made a mess of his own life, miraculously changed it, and is changing it and will change it more and more. It’s simply a common miracle, and I pray that you might find that miracle to happen in your life.