I loved alcohol and violence. Then one day I received some tragic news that caused me to reexamine my life. Let me explain.
I WAS born in 1943 in Rubottom, Oklahoma, U.S.A. Throughout my childhood, violence was my way of life. During my senior year in high school, I began to drink. Since my father was a violent alcoholic, my drinking led to an odd type of friendship with him. We went to dances and other social events together just to drink and fight.
I married in 1966, and my wife, Shirley, and I had two children, Angela and Shawn. Nevertheless, I continued abusing alcohol. To supplement my income, I began to grow and sell marijuana. I also worked as a bouncer at local bars, which afforded me the opportunity to satisfy my thirst for alcohol and violence. At that point in my life, I was not afraid of anybody or anything, and I cared little about the feelings of others.
“Don’t Bring Anybody to Talk to Me!”
Shirley’s cousin moved to California where, after studying the Bible, he became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. On his return to Oklahoma, he shared what he had learned with Shirley, who quickly recognized the ring of truth. After a thorough study of the Bible, Shirley too decided to become a Witness, and she was baptized in 1976. I wanted nothing to do with her religion. “Don’t bring anybody to talk to me!” I said. “It’s not going to work.”
Shirley never compromised her loyalty to Bible principles, and she continued to show love for me. In fact, before she and the children would leave to attend Christian meetings at the local Kingdom Hall, she would kindly invite me to go with her. Likewise, Angela would say, “Dad, we wish you’d go with us.”
Because of my involvement with illegal activities, I often carried a pistol. Moreover, I would disappear for days at a time, which created marital tension. Upon my return I would try to smooth things over with Shirley by attending a few meetings. The Witnesses always treated me kindly, and their teachings seemed to make sense.
In time, a congregation elder offered to study the Bible with me. I accepted his offer. Unfortunately, though, what I learned had little effect on me—primarily because I continued associating with my old friends. Aware of this, the elder shared with me some Bible principles about the dangers of bad association. (1 Corinthians 15:33) Even though his advice was based on the Bible, I took offense, stopped studying, and became even more involved with my former activities. How my foolish pride hurt Shirley and the children!
“We Still Love You”
In 1983, I received some tragic news. My nephew, whom I had grown quite fond of, had died. This affected me deeply, moving me to reflect on my life. I could see that I was hurting my marriage and my family—yes, all that I considered worthwhile. This sobering realization was my turning point. At my nephew’s funeral, an elderly Witness named John kindly put his arm around me and said, “I just want you to know that we still love you.” That was the encouragement I needed! I called John the next day and said that I wanted to resume my study of the Bible, hoping that this time I would make some rather belated changes.
During our first study, we discussed prayer and I told John that I would give it a try. The next day I began searching for honest work, but without results. While driving in my pickup, I prayed out loud, “Jehovah, if you want me to stay in this area, you had better find me a job.” Then I thought, ‘This is silly—driving down the road talking to myself.’ Clearly, my faith in God as the “Hearer of prayer” had a long way to go—as did the quality of my prayers! (Psalm 65:2) Amazingly, though, I received a job offer the very next day!
Realizing the power of prayer increased my love for Jehovah and boosted my confidence in his guidance
Thereafter, I began to pray more often and in earnest. Time and again, I saw Jehovah’s blessing. I had always believed in God, but these experiences helped me to see the truthfulness of 1 John 5:14, which says: “No matter what it is that we ask according to his will, he hears us.” Realizing the power of prayer increased my love for Jehovah and boosted my confidence in his guidance.—Proverbs 3:5, 6.
When I began to attend Christian meetings again, the Witnesses warmly welcomed me. Moreover, I began to appreciate that they really did “love one another intensely from the heart,” and this moved me deeply. (1 Peter 1:22) I also began to appreciate the truth of Proverbs 13:20, which states: “He that is walking with wise persons will become wise, but he that is having dealings with the stupid ones will fare badly.”
For years I had caused hardship and pain to my family, but now I was trying to be peaceable as well as a better husband, father, and communicator. I began to apply the Bible’s counsel that “husbands ought to be loving their wives as their own bodies” and that fathers should “not be exasperating [their] children, so that they do not become downhearted.”—Ephesians 5:28; Colossians 3:21.
Understandably, the changes I was making had a wonderful effect on my family. Because of this, Jesus’ words at Matthew 5:3 rang loud and clear: “Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need.” At last, I had found true happiness!
In June 1984, my daughter, Angela, was interviewed at an assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses. She described the kind of person I once was and then spoke about the changes I had made. She finished by saying how thrilled she was to see me sitting in the front row among those who would be baptized that day.
How thankful I am that Jehovah does not give up on people like me! I am also very grateful to Shirley and our children for not giving up on me. A genuine Christian, Shirley loyally applied the admonition at 1 Peter 3:1: “Wives, be in subjection to your own husbands, in order that, if any are not obedient to the word, they may be won without a word through the conduct of their wives.” Her loyalty, patience, and fine conduct through all my wayward years kept the door open for me until I finally came to my senses.
Since my baptism, I have often used her example to encourage others who have unbelieving mates not to give up on them. “When the time is right,” I tell them, “Jehovah can use the power of his Word, the Bible, and your good conduct to help your marriage mate change—even if at first that may seem unlikely.”