I was about 4 years old and had only one good friend to play with, in our small Dutch community. The fact that he was over twice my size and was not of Dutch heritage made little difference to me, and in fact, I was happy to play with him because he was not like the other kids. He seemed more genuine and even protective of me… and at four years of age, who doesn’t want a Goliath on their side.
One afternoon, during play, I threw a rock at Gordy and so he threw one back at me. I don’t think he threw it that hard, but it happened to hit a small artery in my forehead and blood began squirting out. A neighbor lady saw the blood and within minutes the whole community was around me. There was a lot of discussion about “Polock’s” and “Retarded kids” and then someone suggested calling the Police. It was unanimous, except for me, and I began to cry.
The adults around me coached me to say nothing about throwing the first rock; only to say Gordy threw one at me. I became nauseated when the police arrived. I didn’t need to say anything, everyone told the story they had agreed on and the only thing the policeman asked of me is, “Tell me son, is all that these people said true?” I wanted to say NO but instead nodded my head in agreement, hoping it wouldn’t count. I went home feeling ashamed and went straight to my room wishing the day had never happened.
The following morning, I had forgotten all about the near-death experience and as I ran out the door with the intention of playing with Gordy again, Mom stopped me and told me that I could not go over to his house anymore. I sat on our front porch the rest of the day and watched as a large truck pulled up to Gordy’s house and began putting up a chain-linked fence all around it. Although Gordy and his family continued to live in our community, Gordy was never again allowed out of the cage and I was never allowed to go into it. I bore the weight of Gordy’s imprisonment every time I passed that fence and obviously still do. Gordy was sent to an institution when he was 18 years old and I never saw him again… but I learned an important lesson that day… I learned that it is alright to tell a lie if it is for the good of the community.
My first job out of high school was that of a nurse’s aide in Building One of Pine Rest Christian Hospital. As I ascended the basement stairway with a pile of clean sheets in my arms, a patient ran by me in tears saying that the President had been shot. It was an emotional time for many and as the stories began to circulate it got more and more confusing. It would be years before people realized that it was, in all likelihood, an inside job, but I suspected it nearly from the beginning… because I had learned that it is alright to fabricate a story if the Truth may hurt the community.
A few years later I found myself in Vietnam… a Hospital Corpsman assigned to the Seventh Marines. We had been told how Marines always took care of their own, but Operation Allen Brook proved to be a suicide mission for the enlisted members of our company, and most never returned home (the officers had been called back to headquarters when fighting broke out).
A few years later, after telling my story to a group of missionaries, I was approached by an active duty military officer who was upset that I had painted such a negative image of Officers. “The enlisted men are the Pawns of any war… their duty is to follow the orders of the Officers who have a better understanding of what needs to be done… there is nothing wrong with sending men on suicide missions if it is believed to be for the good of the country.” I was speechless at the time but understood exactly what he was saying… to him, I was just a peon and my life had little value.
I returned to work at Pine Rest after my discharge from the Navy and one evening was approached by one of the new patients who was complaining of severe chest pains. I was quite sure it was a heart attack and called the supervising Nurse immediately. She was new and didn’t know what to do and so I called the Psychiatrist on duty. He told me not to call for Emergency assistance because it was only an anxiety attack, but to give him a sedative instead. I followed his orders and wrote everything down in the nurse’s notes as it happened. The patient died a short time later and as I was administering CPR the doctor walked in and asked what had happened. I said, “I guess he died from anxiety, sir.”
When I returned to work the following day, I found my time card had been changed and I had not worked the day before. The Administration had called all of the staff together before I got there and explained that I was suffering from PTSD and might make up stories that could hurt the reputation of the hospital and so if anyone were to ask them if I had worked the previous day, they were to say no. I was forced to resign shortly after that and realized that my reputation had little significance compared to that of the Hospital.
I could go on and on with similar stories of injustices in my Life, however, my reason for writing is not to brood, for I am sure most of you, who are reading this, have had similar experiences in your Life. Most of us start off being born to parents who are young and inexperienced, and although they do the best they can, mistakes are made, and ideologies are taught that have not been well thought out. That Old Time Religion just keeps on being good enough for many… but as time goes by, for others like myself, it grows stale, as any wine will do when left out in the open and not tightly sealed.
I began questioning Life at an early age and over the years have concluded that almost everything I have been taught was wrong and everything I was told was either half-truths or lies. My parents are gone now… fortunately they were good people, but even so, I now realize that not everything they taught me was right. The old-time religious leaders who I once thought were great men of God, turned out to be only actors on a pedestal. The gospel singers that could send shivers down my spine, were only good on stage but left much to be desired in their personal lives. President Kennedy, whom I once respected was known to be sexually deviant as was Martin Luther King. Both were, in all likelihood, assassinated by the government that I offered my Life to when I enlisted in the Navy to be a Marine Corps medic. None of these theories have yet been proven, but then, neither has the supposed Truths, that I was fed growing up. For all I know, the Roswell UFO Incident was for real and extraterrestrial beings have been visiting and living amongst us for many years.
So where does that leave me?
I would be lying if I told you that I don’t miss the old-time revivals and hymn sings of the Olivet Reformed Church in Grandville, Michigan. I would also be lying if I told you that I don’t miss my conversations with Jesus, many of which lasted long into the night and sometimes even into the early morning. It was comforting to believe that I was one of the Chosen Ones, and the loss of that Blessed Assurance, that the sacrifices I made in this life would be rewarded in the hereafter, was not easy to surrender… but there came a time when I saw through the curtains of fabrication and realized that, the people I had held in high esteem, were no better than myself, and that their concept of Truth was only a supposition based on hearsay and folklore.
Unfortunately, once you leave the religious community, deny the existence of a God entity, and come to the realization that all of the conversations you had with Jesus, were merely one-way communications with the ceiling… the foundations of your Life begin to crumble, and you are left with an emptiness not easily filled.
I lost confidence in the adults of my community at an early age… the government was next to go after my experience in Vietnam, but I held on to my religion until I was in my fifties. I can still remember the night I renounced my belief in a God Entity, who controlled my every move. I was sitting all alone in my darkened room, at the edge of the bed, wanting desperately to talk to Jesus… but I knew he wasn’t there. A sense of panic began to overtake me, as I realized that I was, as a sailor swept overboard by a giant wave, drifting all alone on a sea of doubt and uncertainty. If God was not directing my Life, then who was? And if Jesus was not the one who provided me with the assurances that got me through all of those difficult times of my Life, then who did? There was only one answer of course, but it was a difficult one for me to accept.
The realization that I was solely responsible for all of the good and the bad things in my Life was scary at first, but I also found comfort in knowing that my destiny was no longer preordained by some unseen entity but would, in fact, be determined by the choice of reactions I made, each and every day, to Life’s activities.
I am still learning to Live in the Present… although still find it hard at times when things don’t go the way I would like them to. Letting go of the desire to control is, however, necessary to experience all that Life can offer and, as it is recorded in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8:
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
I have experienced all of these activities in my Life and perhaps the best lessons were learned during those times of pain and suffering. In looking back, I don’t regret the Journey that has gotten me here… although I wish I could have done more to stop the wars and heal the wounds of hatred. I do not have much hope that humankind will be able to solve these problems on their own, for we have been on a self-destructive course, it seems, from the beginning of our inception… refusing to accept responsibility for the world We have created, and unless there is some intervention from the extraterrestrial beings who have been observing us, I fear we will never reach the status of Cosmic Beings.
Yes, you heard me right… I now lean toward the theory that we are not alone in this Universe and while other Life forms may appear different than us and may occupy their form for longer periods of time than us, we have one thing in common. Sooner or later, death will come to the form we occupy, and the Energy that was us will be reunited with that One Eternal Energy we all know as Life.