“Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.”
PSALM 46:10 NLT
Sitting in the waiting area just in front of Air Jamaica’s ticket counter at Miami International Airport around the 5th of February, 1973, reading a small pocket testament containing the books of Proverbs, Psalms, and the New Testament, was this long-haired, bearded hippie with all his earthly possessions in a small backpack. It was me, and it was one day after the gun had been put to my head. I was on my way to Montego Bay, Jamaica, to finish the dope deal that had gone bad and to recover the money I owed my partner in crime, David M.
Traveling to Jamaica was something I did very often. The “Ganja,” as it was called (or marijuana, as we know it here in the states), was cheap, readily available and of very high quality and potency. Jamaica was also a place where many would-be, and “want-to-be big time dope dealers” would go to try to make the deal of a lifetime happening. Such was the case with me.
I knew my way around the island pretty well. I had Jamaican friends with farms up in the hills, where I would go and hang out and smoke the Ganja to my heart’s content. There was a little beachfront town called Negril. Today, it’s a huge tourist area, but back then it was just for the locals and for the “in-the-know hippies” who came to Jamaica to do what I was doing. On the beach one night, something tremendous happened to me but more about that in just a bit. How did I get there, to Negril? Let me tell you the story.
“Bob, how would you like to work for the lieutenant governor of Florida, who is running for the U.S. Senate seat on the Republican ticket?” my friend said. Sandy and I were old friends from back in my high school years and someone I had run around with after coming home from Vietnam. He had moved into the area of state politics and was now work- ing as the assistant to the lieutenant governor of Florida.
Sandy called and asked me to come down from White Plains and interview for the position of personal aide and traveling companion to the lieutenant governor. “What an opportunity,” I thought. “I’ll just take a break from my aviation career plans and do this for awhile. It can’t hurt me; and it will only help me,” I thought. I mean, how many people get a chance to do this kind of thing?
With my mom’s blessing, I went down, interviewed and got the job. I moved to Tallahassee, Florida, shortly thereafter. Here’s something interesting: I was using pot on weekends while in White Plains, like many use beer and alcohol just a little bit, and only on certain days of the week. It was my little secret.
Here’s another secret that is kept hidden: Sin is a sin, however, you may describe it or disguise it or live it. Wearing a three-piece suit, flying around the state, meet- ing all the bigwigs (and I mean “Bigwigs”), staying at fancy hotels, being picked up at airports by the Florida State Troopers, being given personal escorts, and so on, did not erase what I was doing. Here I was, rubbing shoulders with the top Republican political people in Florida (By the way, many of them who were young at that time are now well known and seen on TV all the time.), carrying a little bit of weed in my suitcase and smoking it in my hotel room.
I used to get a big kick out of seeing the state trooper pick up my bags from the plane, put them in his trunk and then drive me and my bags to where I needed to go. All the while, he never knew what was in my bag. “What a blast!” I thought. Was I ever in the dark about what is truly cool and important in life.
Do you remember the tragedy at Kent State back in May of 1970? The ideological revolution that took place among the youth of our nation in the late sixties? Stemmed flowers being placed in the rifle muzzles of national guardsmen on college campuses? Yep, I wound up doing that very thing on the campus of Florida State University. I had “turned on, tuned in, and dropped out” as we used to say. Literally, I quit my job and joined in with what was happening around our nation.
That grip of sin was. and had been, tightening its grip on me without my knowing it. You see, as the campaign for that Senate seat wore on and I did my job, I had to find connections for buying weed. Little did I know that it was weed that, for me, was becoming the real connection to the counterculture.
Imagine a bunch of long-haired hippies, sitting around cross-legged on the floor, listening to the Beatles, Jimmy Hendrix, etc., and there is this young man on his lunch hour, wearing his three-piece suit, toking on the joint as it’s being passed around. That was me. All the while, I was thinking, “This is so cool, that I have this job; and I also have this other secret life.” The grip of sin and the devil were at work and pulling me right out of my job into what I thought was a whole new and exciting life. I started let- ting my hair and beard grow, met new friends and smoked more and more dope. Now it was not only on the weekends, but it was nearly every night and would soon be every day, in fact, all day long.
Not too long after I quit my job and due to the cost of weed, I would buy a little more than I needed and sell that extra bit to help offset the cost of what I used myself. It seemed harmless and cool. And it worked. Pretty soon, I met more and more people who were into this life of drugs, music and rock and roll. “Wow!” I thought, “Now this was really the very best thing that had ever happened to me.” Oh, I forgot to tell you that back in NY I had tried LSD once or twice. I remember my friends, Tony and Ted and Ben, offering it to me. “This won’t turn me into one of those hippies, will it?” I asked. “No way,” they said; “It’s cool; you will enjoy it.” And I did. We used to “drop the acid,” as it’s called when we would drive into NYC to go to clubs. Just the acid and the joint. Nice combination … or so I thought.
Hair grew out now to shoulder length … big old scraggly beard … selling ounces and pounds of weed in plain sight of the state capitol building I used to work in, I started using cocaine and then selling grams of coke — using hashish, opium and any and all other hallucinogenic drugs I could get my hands on. Not uncommon for many in that generation. A flight to Jamaica was cheap, and the pot was everywhere. So, back and forth, Tallahassee to Montego Bay, I went. Many, many times.
One day, I rented a car from a Mr. Oliver H., who had a car rental agency in Montego Bay. I allowed one of my Jamaican friends to use it, and he banged it up a bit. I turned the car in without any acknowledgment that it had been damaged. Well, Mr. H. had me summoned to his office; and there I sat in front of this man who was about to be used by God to change the course of my life for eternity. I don’t even remember him talking to me about the car and the damage done to it. I only remember him talking to me about the damage I was doing to myself. “If you keep this up, you will kill yourself,” he said to me. “Using this Ganja will destroy your life. Living the way you are will ruin your life,” he said. And then he pulled out the little pocket Bible that I mentioned earlier. He opened it to Psalm 46:10, read it to me and then gave the little Bible to me.
As I sat there in front of Mr. H., I started crying and sobbing. From deep inside me came this feeling of being naked emotionally and not knowing what was happening to me, except that Mr. H.’s words were piercing my soul … hitting me like a knife … stunning me inside. Nothing like this had ever happened to me in my life. I don’t think I had cried since I was a child. The only other time was sitting aside my dad’s coffin. But now, here in this car rental office, my life was about to change. Mr. H. went on, and every word cut like an arrow into my life. There was no response from me to him, that I can remember. I wonder what he thought as he was speaking to me and after I left his office … “no hope for this one.”
Can I tell you something I’ve found out over these years of knowing Christ? It’s about the Bible. The Bible is God’s Word to man, and He uses it to change lives, just as He did with me. I didn’t know then when that little pocket Bible was given to me, that it would become my most treasured possession. I’ve long since lost that very Bible; but the Bible is my everyday companion, for in it I have found a relationship with my Father in heaven through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit of God. If you are in a turmoil and tailspin at this time in your life, like I was, may I direct you to that very same Scripture, Psalm 46:10 — “Be still, and know that I am God.” May God bless it to your soul, as He did to mine.