“David looks like he needs another shot…!”
The scene is at Gabe’s house just off Georgia College campus in Milledgeville, GA. I was about twenty years old, and we would gather at Gabe’s almost every night. There was always a half gallon of George Dickel Bourbon around that we would drink through and then head to the Opera House to drink beer.
I have vivid memories of excitement whenever we heard the crack of labels from a new bottle opening. Because we were poor college students, the bottle was usually plastic and had a handle.
Every time things got a little quiet or sleepy, Gabe would look at someone and say, “So and so looks like he needs a shot” and he would poor a shot glass and implore you to down it. This scene defined my early twenties. Sitting in this room with a couple of rag tag friends with Primus and Jane’s Addiction raging in the background seemed like the life to me. During the day, we would attend class and then ride mountain bikes on single-track trail and then congregate at Gabe’s house for the night. Honestly, I don’t know how I kept up the pace…
Although—I had been building up to this routine for years.
Middle School is a time of upheaval for all young people. Their bodies are changing, growth spurts happen, and they struggle with insecurity. Some more than others, but for me, I remember, it was an especially upsetting time.
My mom was dating; glasses were added, along with braces; and I changed schools. By the time 8th grade hit, I was quiet, insecure, and not happy.My mom re-married the music minister at Brookhaven Baptist when I entered 8th grade. I liked the guy okay, but the truth is he really had no chance. My dad had been dead for two years, but his memory hung over everything. Mike, my new step-dad, had unfair competition for my love and really my mom’s love as well. Things were messy, and my mom ended up divorcing him two years later.
As a result, my mom and I left Brookhaven church officially, and so did Mike. I continued to come on Wednesday nights to the youth group.
I had a girlfriend at the church and continued to attend off and on until I was seventeen.
My best friend at the time had a brother that worked in a package store. Every time I would spend the night with him, my friend would ask me if I wanted his brother to bring something home. I resisted until my girlfriend dumped me. At an emotional low-point, I said yes to the offer of alcohol.
That night I mixed a half-pint of rum with a big glass of Kool-Aid.
That started my path with alcohol which subsequently opened up other behavior. Things built from there to the point that I graduated with a 1.9 GPA from high school and was drinking heavily multiple times a week. The truth is that I ended up in Milledgeville because that was the only school that would take me in Georgia that also allowed me to move out.
The government paid for college, mostly, because my dad was a Veteran. The money would only cover in-state tuition.
At this point, I had a horrible relationship with my mom’s third husband, who was also the father of my half brother.
Yes, my mom married again when I was in 11th grade. I had a really rocky relationship with him. He also never had a chance with me, but I think he would admit that he handled some things wrongly with me as well. He has a very different demeanor than my mom’s second husband. Basically, he did not take any of my hostility. I believe this resulted in both of us saying things that we just did not mean, and we have rectified completely since then.
However, at this point, I was young and could not get out of the house fast enough. Forgiveness was just not on the table…
So,…I headed to college.
The first thing I did was join a fraternity. My standards in choosing a fraternity was to look for the most run down house. I was searching out the best party…
I remember that first year that I would perch myself near the keg at parties. That was how I met people. I literally sat directly on top of the trash can of ice that held the keg and poured beer for people as they came up.
That Spring quarter, I failed every class I took.
I lived in the dorm, and I remember the Lord gave me a room mate who was a Christian. He was a good guy and spent a lot of effort sharing the Gospel with me. I actually went to a few Bible studies with him. He must of thought of me as such an enigma because I knew so much of the Bible already, but I had no interest in following Christ.
He would start the Roman’s Road and I would finish it. He would quote the typical salvation verses and I would finish them. I already knew all of this stuff, yet I was wandering. Actually, I was running…and I am sure my lifestyle troubled him.
The next year I returned to Milledgeville amidst threats from my grandfather on grades. I moved out of the dorms to an apartment and my alcohol and drug use escalated. Although, my grades improved.
I became committed to history and philosophy and dove full-fledged into intellectualism. I became an environmentalist and even became a card-carrying member of the Sierra Club.
Christianity became ridiculous and elementary to me. To me, man was destroying the earth, and I spent time swimming in the famous secular philosophers, old and new. When Leslie and I met, I was working in a book store and had a graduate assistantship in American History at Georgia State University. Basically, they were paying me to go to school, and I had completely bought into the “church” of intellectualism and secular humanism at the University.
For about four years, I spent a lot of time and energy pontificating about the ridiculous-ness of religion. I was an intellectual elite-tist, with long shaggy hair and those around me were the same. I remember staying up late into the early morning drinking and talking philosophy with one of my best friends often after a night of playing pool.
Then something happened…
My friend came to know Jesus Christ as Lord. He surrendered to Christ, and then he started inviting me to church.
Keep in mind here that I was not hostile to Christianity. I thought it was silly and elementary, but I was not hostile. I looked at it as another worldview—as just another mental construction of reality. Jesus was a real person in history, just like Mohammad, but he was not divine.
So, church was no big deal to me. What I did not know is that my friend had his entire church praying for me!!
One day, I acquiesced and went to a college outing with him. We met everyone at Border’s Book Store in Duluth, GA,—which is no longer there. Then we went over to one of their friend’s houses to hang-out.
I remember walking into Border’s and seeing Leslie. She had long curly hair and bright eyes, and from the very moment my friend introduced me to her, I knew she was different from every other girl I had ever met.
Leslie and I literally talked the entire night…
Then my friend invited me to come to Destin, FL., for a college retreat with his church. I agreed!
Going to the beach sounded fun…
I have vivid memories of getting up at 6 am the morning we left for Destin,—hung over and un-showered. I literally climbed into the back of my friends car out of bed and still effected by the partying the night before.
I slept in the back seat the whole trip from Atlanta while Leslie and my friend talked in the front seat. This is how it all started…
Next week, I will finish the story and will tie everything together. By God’s grace, it’s just starting to get good