The earthquake violently ripped through my 13-story hotel in the middle of the night, causing it to sway precariously. I was seven floors up, and the walls and floor swayed so dramatically that I braced myself, expecting tons of concrete to collapse above, burying me at any moment.
I hit the deck of the aircraft carrier fearing for my life as a US Navy jet slammed into the ship.
What is in the heart of a little boy who has no father? No father to run to and say, "I hurt myself today" or "I had a fight today, but I won" or "Will you play soccer with me today?" And then, after getting a step-father, having the mother say, "Never disturb him, he is too busy."
This had a powerful effect on one little boy, me.
I grew up feeling insecure and afraid. My father was either away from home or drunk. My mother was also usually gone. She had to work long hours to make enough money to take care of four children and pay the rent. I often feared that something horrible might happen to my parents and that I would be left alone. I wanted to be sure that I was a good child so that they would not leave me. I wanted everyone to think that I was a good boy and worth loving.
I knew all the best hiding places on our family farm. If my father found me, he would put me to work doing chores that often demanded more physical and mental endurance than I had as a young boy. It should have been a positive experience working side-by-side with my father. But it wasn't. I felt like an absolute failure when I didn't live up to the daily expectations I felt he had of me.
Hiding was my escape and my place to find rest and solace. Even today, I treasure time alone and away from the demands of work and parenthood. Time alone is when I think most about God.
As I nervously peered down at the ground 100 feet below, my balance shifted. In a brief moment of blind panic, I realized I was going over the cliff's edge.
There was no turning back. That's how I felt when a group of friends took me rock climbing a few years ago. The idea sounded like fun - until we arrived at the rock face and put on climbing gear to rappel down. I've never been fond of heights and didn't take much comfort in my only lifeline being a climbing rope thinner than my index finger.
The sharp blade of a "bolo" knife sliced through my hand and as I lay in the blood stained snow, the reality of death hovered over me. "Was I really going to die?" I grew faint and stumbled into the house and found myself praying to God...not for my life on earth, but for my afterlife.
I always seemed to have everything I wanted, BUT was never satisfied! In High School I was an officer in my sorority, on the Homecoming Queen's Court and enjoying life, but something was missing. I was heavily involved in my church yet, again, felt something lacking! I went on to Michigan State University and found myself with thousands of students from different backgrounds and religions. Which was right? During my junior year I was contacted by an acquaintance of a friend.
My Mom was the daughter of an itinerate preacher. She saw to it that my brother and I attended church every Sunday, beginning at a very young age. However, as I grew older, I drifted away from the teachings of my youth only to make a lot of mistakes.
But God wasn't through with me yet. It was many years later as I waited for my daughter at a bus stop that a little old woman with a kind face asked me, "If you died tonight, do you know where you would spend eternity?"
"And it's hard to say who you are these days-but you run on anyway
You keep running for another place to find that saving grace..."
Tom Petty, "Saving Grace"
Even though an American rock and roll star wrote this song in 2005, it describes me perfectly in 1982. I was in high school then in Kansas City. My life was what every teenager of the 80s desired: I had my drinking buddies, a girlfriend, and I was even captain of the track team. The gods of high school smiled upon me.