Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.
Saint Boniface to Negril, Jamaica: 4th grade to age 26 (from a normal kid to running from the cops in Montego Bay and all around the island).
Let me take you back to the first time I ever smoked a joint in New York City. No one had ever asked me that question before, but I remember it like it was yesterday. Sully was my friend, and he had a friend named Fox, who lived in New York City. Sully and I worked together at the Westchester County Airport in White Plains, New York. We pumped gas into private and commercial airplanes. Little did I know what I was about to get into and where it would take me. Sin, by the way, is like that. It’s deceptive; it makes promises that it does not deliver. The Bible says in Proverbs 16:25, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Boy, did I find that out!
Fourth grade was finished in Fort Myers, Florida. We moved there from Winnipeg, Canada; then very quickly moved to Clearwater, Florida, where I spent my elementary, junior high and high school years. Wow! Little did I know that I was on a downward slide, like the prodigal son. Little did I know that I would meet Jesus face to face and that Jesus would change my life.
“Do you want to get drunk?” “Sure, why not?” I said to my friends who posed that question to me. My dad got drunk almost every night. Why not? And so I did, a number of times. I’m not blaming anyone because I have done the same thing myself … that is, being an influence for bad on others. My, what trouble we can bring to others in our thirst for fun and excitement and our misguided youth.
“Have you lost your virginity yet?” That was the big question in those years. “Not yet, but I’m sure trying and hoping to soon,” I said. Sure enough, it was not too long after that it happened. Through those years, the power of sin was casting its grip upon my life, even though I thought I was having a good time. Little did I know where I was headed. It’s pretty common, isn’t it? To not know what is happening to you and only find out later — in my case, just before it was too late.
I got in my car after receiving my high school diploma in June of 1966 and headed for Canada to spend my last few months before going into the Marine Corps. I left my mom and my dad and rushed off headlong into more and more sin than I could ever imagine. I figured if I was going into the Marine Corps, there would be a good chance I’d go to Vietnam; so why not “live it up,” I thought.
From June to September was a blur of sin and sensual delight, as they say. Boot camp at Perris Island, South Carolina, was a wake-up call; and so was landing at Danang Airbase in South Vietnam in March of 1967. I was sure I would be sent home in a body bag, so while in Vietnam, as much as I could, I continued living it up. Down deep, I knew the things I was doing were wrong.
I couldn’t wait for Sundays to roll around because the Catholic priest would give what is called “general absolution” for our sins. That was the point in the Mass that I would wait for. When he said it each Sunday, I was so relieved. Everything was now OK, I thought. But then I would go right back out and live like the devil. The bad thing was that my life was on the line each and every day. Somehow, that was not enough to scare me into changing my ways.
Then my sergeant told me that word had come that my father was dying of cancer and that I was being sent home to see him before he died. And he did. He died in January of 1968. When I got home, the terrible problem of cancer had all but taken my dad’s life. How kind my mom was to care for him in his dying days. I don’t know if he ever made his peace with God or not; I hope he did. We had never talked about God in all the years he was alive. The only thing he ever said about God was the “the family that prays together, stays together.” But we had never prayed together. By the way, that is true. Prayer, as I have found out, does wonders for a family, marriage, etc.
When my dad died, my mom and I moved to White Plains, New York, to try to start over in our lives. Prior to moving, the Marine Corps took a long time to resolve my case. I had asked if I could remain stateside, so as to be close to my dying father. The months seemed like decades to me, wait- ing for a response from USMC headquarters.
Finally, the answer came. I could either go back to my parent unit (2nd Battalion First Marine Division) in South Vietnam or take a discharge by reason of hardship. The Sgt. Major asked me to think it over through the weekend. There was nothing to think about, as far as I was concerned, but I got back to him on the following Monday. “I’ll take the discharge, Sir.” And the process started, which led to my discharge some months later.
My mother and I were all that each other had. There was no money, no estate, only bills that my only and older brother, Bill, paid. He is one of those quiet people who has sacrificed his entire life and is always ready to help someone else. It was many years later before I found out all that he did to clear up bills that were left behind. He did this for the sake of the Grenier name, and because he is a man of character.
Once in White Plains, we found a little room to rent; the bathroom was down the hall, as I remember. There was a hot plate to cook on, one bed to share, a table, a chair … that’s about it. I got a job at the Westchester County Airport in White Plains, New York, pumping gas with the hope of moving up into the world of Corporate Aviation. I had used my GI bill after my discharge from the Marine Corps to get my Commercial Aviation Certificate and my Multi-Engine Rating. Starting at the airport held all the promise of moving up the proverbial ladder.
It was interesting that while in Vietnam, I had no interest in drugs or in smoking pot; but one day, I was in New York City for the day with a fellow line jockey from the airport. Someone pulled out a joint and said, “Hey, do you want to smoke a joint?” And I did, and did I ever like it! I wondered why I had not tried this years before. “This is the greatest feeling I’ve ever had,” I thought to myself, laughing and feeling great in the back seat of that Chevy Corvair, in the middle of New York City. This was great, I thought. And that began my use of drugs, from the weekend joint to everyday use later on.
Now, I can look back and see how temptation got the best of me. I wish Christ had been in my life, but He was not. He would have made the difference, as He does today in my life; but evil is something that destroys, and Satan is the master destroyer through temptation and sin. Sin is in each and every man, and Satan, who is the god of this world, loves nothing more than to help people sin more and more and more. He knows that it will ruin their lives, all the while thinking they are having a good time.
Well, that was me: having a good time. By the way, there’s something very interesting about sin. It’s pleasurable, but only for a season. Too bad it’s pleasurable: people wouldn’t sin as much as they do if it weren’t. It’s a lot of fun to sin; however, it’s only fun for awhile. I had not found that out yet, but I was going to find out soon. That’s common for people, isn’t it? To be going along, having a good time only to be heading for disaster.
Looking back now, I can see where the Lord was being merciful to me. He kept me from dying in Vietnam, and at other times, as well. Perhaps God is doing that for you, right now, as you read this. Or perhaps you can also look back and say, “Hey, I have that in common with you, Bob. God has kept me, also.” I pray that He has, and I pray that He will.