One year ago today we were gathered around the hospital bed that had been placed in our dining room. As my dear husband lay there absorbing the love of his family, we started singing some of the songs he loved. "It is Well With My Soul" "But Until Then" and the one that he requested with his last audible words, "Where Could I Go but to the Lord"
He died that evening after a restful sleep. His hand was still holding onto my arm where, in his last display of physical effort, he had placed it earlier that day.
The words of the song he requested were a reference to a time earlier in his life when he had given that as an answer to the Lord. I would like to let you read an excerpt from his life story that we worked on together just before he died.
"I was changing a window display one Monday afternoon. It was hot in there with all the lights generating heat. My head was pounding, and I had the flu. Lyle was looking after the floor, serving customers and getting me things I needed for the display. A young lady came in the store. She talked to Lyle for a few minutes and then left. I had come to edge of the window for two things: To get some relief from the heat, and also to look at the girl. In my eyes she was a knockout. After she left, I asked “Lyle, who was that?”
He answered casually, “Oh, she's my sister.”
I found out her name was Linda, and she had been out west with Lyle, but when Lyle came back to Ontario, she had stayed for a while with her other brother. Now she was back at home with her parents.
The next time I was asked to go to church I readily accepted. I did my best to get Linda to go out with me, and before long, we started dating, going for pizza after church, or driving the few short miles to Niagara Falls.
I went to church whenever she went to church. On one particular week night, the service was ending, the preaching was finished, and everybody was standing and singing, clapping, praising, and in general having a good Pentecostal time. All I was thinking about was where we would go after service, but then something happened.
A Voice spoke to me. It was not an audible voice and yet I heard it clearly. That Voice that I'd been yearning to hear from my boyhood onward, that Voice that I was searching for as a little child up in a pear tree, that voice said to me:
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. You step out in that isle, and I'll meet you.” God had broken the silence; He was talking to me.
I grabbed hold of the handmade pew in front of me. I was shaking. The pew was bouncing on the floor. I was shocked with fright. After a few minutes I began to think, “What will happen if I step out.”
I took that step, and the next thing I knew, I was at the alter on my knees. People were all crowded around me, some saying do this, and others saying do that.
Some time before all of this, I had talked to the Pastor and asked him, “How does somebody like me join your church.”
He said, “You can't join. We don't have memberships.” He also told me I needed to ask Jesus Christ to forgive me of all my sins, and then I needed to thank Him for taking away my sins and for His Sacrifice on Calvary for me. He said I needed to turn away from sin and follow Christ.
I hadn't done anything about it at the time, but now, down at that alter, I did exactly what the pastor had instructed me to do. I asked for forgiveness, and then I started thanking Him.
A heavy load dropped off me that day and landed right at the foot of the Cross of Calvary. When I got up I knew something wonderful had happened to me. I was beginning a journey with my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. He promised never to leave me, and He hasn't. Not for a step, not for a second.
Winston Churchill once commented after losing an election. “I lost my appendix, my seat, and my party.” He had to start afresh. I was starting afresh, also. Within a short time I lost my job, and my girlfriend, and I was facing an unknown future. I didn't know anything about this walk of faith in Jesus Christ, but I had his promise that He would meet me. I was about to find out that He was true to His word.
The very first thing I did after I started my walk with God was to become familiar with him. I wandered downtown that first morning and discovered a Christian Book Store. I entered to have a look around. I must have seemed lost because a lady in the store came up to me and asked “Can I help you, young man?”
“I don't know, I guess I need a Bible.” I replied.
“Why do you think you need a Bible?”
I was eager to tell of my new-found faith. “Last night in a little church on Carlton St. I got Saved. Now I think I need to get a Bible and read it.”
She showed me where the Bibles were and told me to look them over and choose one that I liked. “If you have any questions,” she said, “I'll try to answer them for you.”
I found one that I liked, a Holman King James Bible. I took it and its box to the counter. I told the lady this was the one I liked but that I'd have to come back when I had the eight dollars. I explained that I had just lost my job.
She told me her name was Ruth Miller and that she was the owner of the store. “Bruce,” she said after I had introduced myself, “you take that Bible with you now. You can come in and pay me when you have the money.” She wrote my name in a book she kept under the counter. I thanked her and said I would be in to pay her soon.
Ruth and I had that arrangement for all the years that I lived in St. Catharines. Whenever I was browsing and found a book that interested me I'd let Ruth know, and she'd let me take it and pay for it at payday.
I took that Bible home and started reading at Genesis Chapter 1. The more I read of the Bible, the more I wanted to read. While I was out of work I spent most of my time reading, I just couldn't seem to get enough.
There were many things that I didn't understand, and I would save those questions for my talks with my Pastor. Most of his answers cleared up my ignorance of the Scriptures, but sometimes I had to dig for answers for myself. Other questions had to wait to be answered in God's time, and some are still waiting to be answered.
It was amazing how quickly, after being saved, I was forced into growing. About three months into my new life in Christ, the Sunday School Superintendent ask me to teach a boys class of 8 or 9 to 12 year olds. I didn't think I could do it, but she assured me they would supply me with quarterly Sunday School aids to help me.
I started the class trying follow the Sunday School quarterly, but I found I just wasn't using it. After about six weeks I went to the superintendent and asked her not to buy the next quarterly. I wanted to teach my students from what I was discovering in the Bible for myself. She said “Okay.”
That was the beginning of a new adventure in teaching for me. When we started that next quarter I was writing all my own lessons. The boys loved it and so did I. Years later one of the boys in that class visited me in Cambridge, Ontario, at my office. During our reminiscing he brought up those lessons and told me he still remembered them after all those years.
Now, as I lay there in my reclining chair, so close to death's door, thinking of how it had all turned out, I continued to talk to the Lord. “Lord, you know that I have tried to follow you since the day I walked down that isle. I never shook my fist at you, never turned away from you, even though some people thought I would.”
Because there had been no tears accompanying my salvation some of the people in the church had watched me carefully wondering if my experience had been real, or if, in fact, it was only a ploy to hold onto Linda. They knew how badly I wanted to win her hand.
From that day in the shoe store when Linda walked into my life I had done everything in my power to woo her. My first entrance into the little church on Carlton street happened because I had wanted to be where she was. I had used all my newly acquired management skills to try to convince her that I was the one for her. I had convinced myself that I was succeeding. I thought she would someday become my wife. I was confident that she was part of God's plan for me.
For close to a year I held on to that hope. Linda and I continued to date.
But I had not been raised in a Christian home; I had not had the example of a Godly father to model my behaviour after; and I was not even established in a respectable career. I guess, to all outward appearances, I wasn't much of a catch. What I didn't know was that God had a better plan.
Linda ended our relationship, and her parents took her with them on a three month trip to the States.
I was devastated. I had been so sure she was the one for me. How could God have allowed this to happen? Didn't He know how much I loved her? Hadn't He put her in my path? How could I possibly go on without her?
I kept on attending church while Linda and her parents were away but the emotional pain was almost unbearable. I couldn't eat or sleep. It was hard to keep going, but I was still determined to wait it out and fix it up however I could. It wasn't until Linda fell in love with someone else that I knew for sure that I had to give up my hope of ever having her back.
During a service one morning, I got up and slipped downstairs where I could be alone with God. I had to do some serious soul searching. My heart was so heavy I just couldn't bear it. What was I going to do?
All my hopes, my dreams had crumbled. What was left? The Lord spoke to me. He asked me a question. “ What will you do? Are you going to continue on, or will you desert me now?”
I didn't realize, when I answered, that I was almost quoting, word for word, the words of the disciples as they answered the same question. “Where would I go, Lord? You are the only one that has eternal life.” I knew that there was nothing back where I came from. Nothing in my past would help me over this. Only God could sustain me. Only God could bring me through this trial, and I depended on him more than ever.
I still struggled, but then one day the Lord sent a lady from Ottawa, Sister LeBranch, to visit our church, and while she was there, she told me she had had a vision of me. She saw me walking down a road filled with potholes and lots of hills and valleys. When I would stumble or the hills were too high or the valleys too long and deep, she said, “remember this. The Lord says 'I've got hold of your right hand and I won't let you fall, and I'll be with you to take you over every high hill and through every valley.'”
Lord, You have been faithful to keep Your word. I can sing that song, 'I know Who holds tomorrow and I know Who holds my hand.'"