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What a terrible savior am I

Yesterday I posted an encounter I had with Jesus when I was a teen. This second of three posts describes my attempt at cleaning myself up and taking charge of my destiny. Like so many others, I decided that if I could get good enough, I probably wouldn’t need to upend my life by receiving Christ. The thing I didn’t reckon with was this: I sucked at being my own savior. Therefore, I have entitled this part “What a terrible savior am I”.

My testimony Part 2:

After Jesus appeared to me while I was in an opium-induced hallucination back in January, 1972, I decided that I needed to stop all my drugging and drinking. After all, I would be a Christian some day. This began a very frustrating, legalistic season in my life. I stopped drinking; I stopped doing drugs; I was working my way to Heaven.

This lasted a good year and a half…but then I went to college. There was no way I could attend Party School, USA, and not join in on the fun! Therefore, I compromised with my savior (who was, frankly, me, myself, and I at the time): I could drink all I wanted to, but no dope.

Quite honestly, I learned something profound through that decision. Improving myself was not the same thing as being a new creature. I had tried to be good for God; however, I was terribly bored with that lifestyle, and deep down, I knew I still wanted to party.

I jumped into freshman year with gusto. Five of us—three gals and two guys—became a close-knit band, gallivanting from party to party, kegger to kegger, and bar to bar. I taught them camp songs that we sang at the top of our lungs through the streets of the campus following our nights of drinking; after that we would return to the dorm and buy chocolate milk as a chaser, always throwing the empty cartons on the roof of the dorm lobby. After the five of us parted ways for the evening, it was my practice to sit on the landing of the seventh floor stairwell and talk to God about the evening’s adventure.

Life was good; I was a good person—I wasn’t doing drugs and I was keeping the lines of communication open with God. I was pretty much in charge of life and doing a darn good job of it. And then came the summer.

I had been assigned the role of primitive camp director at my summer camp. I loved that camp, I loved the woods, I loved primitive camp, I loved the magic of it all. However, there was one problem. I made a lousy primitive camp director. I could build fires and shelters with the best of them; I could spit a watermelon seed further than most; however, I had no clue how to build a diving tower, the premier project every summer at primitive camp. You’d think I’d just tell the camp director that neither I nor the young man hired to assist me had any idea how to manage that job, but as a daughter of the seventies, “I was woman, hear me roar,” and I couldn’t swallow my pride enough to admit “WE NEED HELP OVER HERE!” Two sessions later—and no tower—sent up a big red flag back at main camp: Get a skilled male counselor over to primitive camp and do it now!

Although I felt relieved, the whole thing mortified me. No one else thought anything about it (except probably the male counselor who lost his job); however it left me feeling like a total failure. My fantasy of being a super woods-woman was crushed; frankly, by the end of that summer, I was spiraling into disillusionment and near self-loathing.

Sophomore year couldn’t come too quickly. My two female friends had joined sororities, but I still had my trusty partners-in-crime, John and Charlie. We partied our way through first semester, and on Halloween, I decided to take a little alcoholic trip down memory lane. I purchased a bottle of Boone’s Farm apple wine and a six-pack of beer—the first smorgasbord of liquor I got pass-out drunk on back in high school. Dressed as Mary Poppins, I downed all of it as I wandered the campus with Charlie, John, and a few others. And I discovered something that utterly shook my already-fragile frame of mind—I wasn’t getting drunk; I wasn’t even tipsy. I needed far more alcohol to achieve far less! And then it dawned on me—I had become an alcoholic, just like my dad.

The next morning, November first, I woke up early, fighting a growing, gnawing sense of panic—I’m out of control! I’m not in charge of my life; I’m a mess! My fantasy about my personal invincibility had been eroding rapidly ever since the diving tower fiasco; and now here I was—an alcoholic at nineteen years old. And I knew I could do nothing about it.

I grabbed a Good News for Modern Man: New Testament and Psalms which I had acquired earlier in my quest for truth and headed out to the only place of refuge I could think of—the woods toward the edge of campus.

I made my way to a creek, and with tears streaming down my face, I trudged down the dried up creek bed, ashamed to speak to the God I once thought I had all but figured out. The sense of guilt and unworthiness overwhelmed me as I carefully held the Bible, frightened of the contrast between its purity and my sin.

It fell open. Fearing to read it, but needing to with every fiber of my being, I saw the heading: Psalm 51.

1Be merciful to me, O God,
    because of your constant love.
Because of your great mercy
    wipe away my sins!
Wash away all my evil
    and make me clean from my sin!

I recognize my faults;
    I am always conscious of my sins.
I have sinned against you—only against you—
    and done what you consider evil.
So you are right in judging me;
    you are justified in condemning me.

I remembered the jury in that hallucination so long ago. I continued reading.

7Remove my sin, and I will be clean;
    wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

I wanted nothing more than to feel clean again.

10Create a pure heart in me, O God,
    and put a new and loyal spirit in me.
11 Do not banish me from your presence;
    do not take your holy spirit away from me.
12 Give me again the joy that comes from your salvation,
    and make me willing to obey you.
13 Then I will teach sinners your commands,
    and they will turn back to you.

With all my heart I desired that.

17 My sacrifice is a humble spirit, O God;
    you will not reject a humble and repentant heart. (Good News Translation)

Feeling lifted but still heavy-hearted, I picked my way back out of the creek bed, through the woods, and back to the dorm.

© 2015, Dorothy Frick, and updated 2017.

Next: December 29, 1974Jesus to the rescue