As a Lawyer, I Put God to the Test
MY PARENTS valued education. So, despite the financial burden, they sent all eight of us children to Catholic schools.
Each evening during the month of May, our family recited the Rosary. Occasionally during this month of special Catholic devotion to Jesus’ mother, my brother and I would set up at home a little altar for flowers and a statue of Mary.
Daily during Lent we would all get up at six to attend Mass. One summer while I was serving as an altar boy, I assisted at two and three Masses a day. I even considered becoming a priest.
Things changed, though. In high school I was quite involved in athletics, leading to a football scholarship that helped to pay my way at university. High school was also where I began to have doubts about my religion. I remember one class taught by a priest. We started with the premise that there is no God, and the goal was to conclude that there definitely is an almighty God. The problem was that by halfway through the discussion, the priest was unable to deal with our questions about evolution. It was embarrassing also to see him squirm over such questions as: “Why do we call you father when Jesus said we should call no man father?”—Matthew 23:9.
At the time, I tried to overcome my doubts and continued praying and attending Mass. But when my scholarship took me to the University of Washington, things got worse. As with many student athletes, my worship was soon totally selfish. Before every game I would go to Mass and pray for victory. After the game I forgot God while partying with my teammates. The Vietnam War was raging, too, causing me to question how things were done. By my last year in college, I was using marijuana daily.
Feeling We Did Not Belong
Next, in 1968, came law school at the Catholic University of San Diego. Here I tried to bargain with God. I felt that if I went to Mass, I could be assured that he would see that I got good grades. During my first semester I met Melinda; the following summer we got married. The day after our wedding, we got up to attend Mass but arrived a bit late. After standing in the back of the church for a while, we looked around and then at each other. We felt we simply did not belong. We left, never to attend Mass again.
By the time our first son, Joshua, was born a couple of years later, I was practicing law with a group of attorneys who defended poor persons accused of committing federal crimes. To me this seemed to be a perfect job, for I had become somewhat of a radical because of the unrest over the Vietnam War. I felt that I could frustrate a corrupt government by forcing it to use money in the courts. At the same time I might be helping people.
A Baby-Sitter Has the Answers
I once was assigned to represent a man being prosecuted for refusing to be in the military. It turned out that he was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and was determined not to kill others but rather to pursue the way of peace. (Isaiah 2:4) His explanations and the literature he gave me made no impression. From a different source, though, the matter came up again. Melinda used a baby-sitter who was a Witness. This became significant when Melinda was stumped by our son Joshua’s simple questions about God.
Melinda was raised as a Catholic and attended a Jesuit-run university. Still she lost faith in God. In fact, during a vacation in Rome, she prayed that if she could see the pope, this certainly would restore her faith. She did see him being carried on the shoulders of other men. Rather than building faith, this convinced her that this was not the simple way of Jesus.
It is easy to see, then, why Melinda might be stumped by Joshua’s questions. She was pleased, however, to find satisfying answers in the book Listening to the Great Teacher, obtained from the baby-sitter. Later, she met a former high school acquaintance who was now a Witness. Melinda asked her: “How could you possibly be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and how can you believe the Bible? It is so contradictory.” Wisely the Witness asked Melinda if she had ever read the entire Bible. Melinda’s answer, “No,” paved the way for a visit and a regular Bible study.
Cross-Examining the Bible
I told Melinda that she could go ahead with her Bible study as long as no one bothered me. Several months later I met the couple who were conducting the study, but I treated them very rudely. In reply to Melinda’s, “Why?” I said: “Those weren’t people. They were Jehovah’s Witnesses!” That led to quite an upset in our family. Finally, in desperation, I said: “Invite the Witnesses over. I will be nice to them, and I will show you what a fool you are for studying the Bible.”
The Witness couple, Dan and Sharon, arrived and, using just the Bible, withstood my intense cross-examination. I was frustrated that Dan seemed to have a Biblical answer for every problem I raised. There were three of those courtroomlike sessions. Finally Dan leaned back in his chair and said: “You know, I really like you.” That cut through the air of hostility. In the resulting relaxed atmosphere Dan showed me a marvelous prophecy found in Daniel chapter 9 about the coming Messiah. I was so impressed that I became angry—not at him but at the religious training I had received that had been so shallow.
With a study of this and other Bible prophecies, my attitude toward the Scriptures quickly changed. I began to think that my own rebellion against human government, and my use of drugs, might not reflect a bad heart but a reaction to a system that needed to be replaced by God’s Kingdom government.
My Drug Problem
I was thoroughly enjoying my Bible study with the help of the book The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life. Yet I was still using marijuana, reasoning, ‘If I got through law school under its influence, surely I can learn the Bible in the same way.’ I attended some meetings at the Kingdom Hall, but I did not want to continue as I had had enough of classes after 19 years of schooling.
I did agree to go to the smaller and more informal mid-week study with my wife. For the first three weeks, each time I was getting ready to leave the office a client would stop by and offer some powerful marijuana. After smoking it I certainly was not in any shape to attend a Christian meeting. So I would telephone Melinda and tell her to go without me. Finally she asked: “Don’t you know who is doing this to you?” That brought me face to face with something I had not thought about. I did not like being used, and especially being used by the Devil. The next week the same sort of temptation occurred in the office, but I refused the marijuana.
‘Could it be,’ I wondered, ‘that my smoking marijuana is more of a hindrance than I realize?’ When our family took a ten-day vacation, I determined to put Jehovah to the test, as it were. With his help I would not use marijuana for that period at all. It was amazing how good I felt by the time I returned. Also, our study of the Bible each day of the trip convinced me more than ever of the truth of God’s Word. What a blessing that trip produced!
I remember the first meeting after that. Instead of my being the moping man in the corner, I was an eager participant. What a thrill it was for Melinda to see the difference in my personality! Soon our old friends and drug associates were replaced with warm, clean friendships among the Witnesses.
My Legal Career—A Trial
In 1975 Melinda and I symbolized our dedication to Jehovah God by water baptism. Later that year our second son, Jesse, was born. It certainly seemed that I was enjoying Jehovah’s blessing. My practice in criminal law, though, required many trips to distant cities, meaning absences from my family and the congregation. I began to resent this schedule as my love for the Christian ministry grew.
On one trip, I met a number of fellow Witnesses who were lawyers and doctors. Two of them particularly impressed me, for they were devoted men who, while lawyers, had spent years in the full-time service of Jehovah God. It sparked in me a desire to use my legal skills in defending God’s people and serving him in a greater way. A major step in that direction was when I began to devote 60 hours each month to the Christian ministry. For several years I did this, missing only a month when our third son, Ryan, was born.
One day an elder in our congregation brought up the possibility of my becoming a full-time minister. “There is no way I can do more than I am doing right now,” I responded, “with my business to run and my family to care for.” But for the next few days, I was plagued with the question, ‘Really, why can’t I be in the full-time ministry?’ I took the matter in prayer to Jehovah, having in mind his words at Malachi 3:10, where he invites humans to put him to the test and see if he will not bless them.
Three Obstacles to Overcome
Analyzing my situation, it seemed that I had three obstacles to my being in the full-time ministry. I certainly would need financial security to cushion the loss of income if I decreased my legal practice. So barrier number one was that I owned a house that I would have to sell. Connected with this was barrier number two. A fellow Witness lived in the house, and I did not want to force him to move. The third barrier was that I was in a law partnership.
I prayed to God: “If you want me to be in the full-time ministry, help me to sell this house without causing problems for my fellow Witness and help me to end my law partnership. If these three things can be done, I will enter the full-time ranks.” About a week later, that Witness came with a startling message. He said that he hoped I would not be upset, but he was going to have to move because he was taking a job in another city!
The day of his move I drove over to help him finish his packing. On the way, I stopped by a hardware store and purchased a small “For Sale” sign. After we loaded his truck, I put the sign in the front window and locked the door. When I reached home, Melinda told me that a woman had called and left her phone number. Telephoning her, I was shocked when she said that she ‘just had to have that house.’ What house was she talking about? She said that before she got married, she told her future husband that she would marry him upon his promise that if ever her dream house came on the market, he would buy it for her. She meant the house that I now wanted to sell. Of course, I said that she could buy it!
Soon thereafter one of my law partners told me of his decision to take another job and thus to dissolve our partnership. I could hardly wait to get home to tell Melinda and my sons what Jehovah had done. All agreed that it would be fine for me to begin the full-time ministry, which I did in June 1979.
Has He Blessed Our Family?
In September 1979, I was appointed to be an overseer in our congregation. Melinda shared in increased service for many months and now is my partner in the full-time ministry. Our three sons, too, are active in the Christian preaching work and bring us great joy. Through the help of God’s Word and the congregation, Melinda and I have learned to be better parents, and this has brought a blessing to the children.
Over a year ago another blessing developed when I was accepted to go to the headquarters of the Watchtower Society in New York to do temporary work in the construction going on there. The first couple of days of manual labor were a different experience for me. Then a special opportunity opened up because of a temporary need for additional legal assistance at headquarters, and I enjoyed being useful.
Now I am back in San Diego, and I must say that for me the greatest blessings and joys come in the day-to-day preaching work. For instance, one day I knocked on a man’s door, but he brusquely turned me away. I went on to occupants in other apartments in the complex. As I left the building the same man came out and asked me to step inside. There he told me that actually he had been praying to God for some help with his life, which was all messed up. When I knocked, it upset him because I disturbed his prayer. After he had rebuffed me, he realized that perhaps my call was in answer to his prayer. “So,” he said, “whatever it is you have come to tell me, I know that I am supposed to listen.” He did and after a year of Bible study has become a baptized minister.
Responding to inquiries from those in the local jails has brought me a special blessing. Conducting Bible studies with men in the San Diego County Jail, as well as with many others I find in the ministry, can make for a very busy life. Sometimes I have to adjust my law practice and my career as a full-time minister. Usually, however, I can schedule my court appearances for the early morning and still have most of the morning left for the field ministry. My office hours are in the afternoon. In the late afternoon and early evening I can get back to the ministry and my Bible study activity.
When I think about where my life might have gone with my use of drugs and my rebellious attitude, I can really appreciate how Jehovah has blessed me by drawing me into a relationship with him and with the Christian congregation. Without his blessing, I know I would not have the happy family life that I enjoy, in addition to being part of a united worldwide Christian association. Let me assure you wholeheartedly that if you put Jehovah to the test, he will pour out upon you a blessing until there is no more want.—As told by Jim McCabe.
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‘Could it be,’ I wondered, ‘that my smoking marijuana is more of a hindrance than I realize?’
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I study the Bible with prisoners
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Our boys enjoy sharing in worship with us