On Tuesday of the following week, I spent half the day packing to go to Sandy Pines. You may recall from the last chapter that my parents owned a trailer on a lot at Sandy Pines. My mom was going to drive Edward and I down there. My younger brother was already there, and had been there for the last week and a half. When mom dropped Edward and I off at Sandy Pines, she was to take my brother and his friend Terry home. My brother and Terry were planning to come back Friday night.
We arrived at Edward's house and Edward threw some stuff in the back of my mom's car. Edward's mom came out and talked to my mom for awhile. From what I remember, Edward never told his mom that my mom wasn't going, and Edward's mom wasn't too happy about that. But she let him go.
When we arrived at Sandy Pines, we unloaded all of our stuff out of the car. We had plenty of food like hamburger and hot dogs. My brother and Terry loaded their stuff in the car, and left with mom after awhile. Edward and I went in the trailer.
Then Edward and I took a deck of cards and played solitaire back and forth. We played cards until sunset, and then I somehow mentioned that Sandy Pines had a teen-center called the Happy Shack.
Edward asked, "What do they have there?"
"Mostly video games. They have a few pool tables."
"Let's go down there."
We walked into the Happy Shack and Edward liked it. People were loud and rowdy, the music was blasting, and he liked to play Galaxians and some of the other video games that were there.
While Edward and I played Galaxians, a guy walked up behind us and said, "Hi!"
I turned around and saw Dave, the guy I did most of my hanging around with last summer when I was at Sandy Pines.
"Hi," I said, recognizing him.
At about this time, Edward lost his last ship on the game while his score was still low.
"You stink, " Dave said. "I can do better than that!"
"Then why don't you?" Edward said.
"Okay," Dave said, putting his quarter in.
I thought about telling Dave about my new-found faith in Christ, as I had been praying for a chance to run into him. But I hesitated.
Dave got a better score than Edward did and, of course, made a few comments.
"Let's go to the beach," Dave said. "Maybe there's a few girls there."
So, Dave, Edward, and I walked the short distance to the beach. I never talked to Dave about Christ, a decision that I would later regret.
At about 11:15, we all went back to our trailers. Edward and I got something to eat, and then went to sleep.
The next day, Wednesday, was fairly uneventful. My parents had a golf cart, so Edward and I spent much of the day driving the golf cart all over the campground, and enjoying many of the recreational things that Sandy Pines had to offer, such as taking a canoe to the island in the middle of the lake.
Later in the afternoon while on the golf cart, we saw three young kids around 8 to 10 years old playing softball.
"Let's witness to them!" I said.
"You want to?" Edward said, stopping the cart.
"We should," I said. "But it's still hard for me to do."
"Not for me it ain't!" Edward said.
"Then let's go!" I said.
Edward turned the cart around and he talked to the three kids. All three said they'd already received Christ. We played ball with them for awhile and then took them for a ride on the golf cart. For a brief moment, I wondered why it was so easy for Edward to talk about Jesus. Why wasn't it hard for him? Then I thought, "Maybe he was filled with the Holy Spirit." I asked the Holy Spirit to fill me up.
That night, my attitude changed from one of wanting to tell others about Christ, to an attitude of only wanting to have a good time and forget about Christ. It started when Edward and I started walking the streets after sunset. Every time that a cart passed by us with a girl in it (or girls) we'd shout, "Hi!" And, of course, they would shout "Hi" back.
I began to get so into the experience that I no longer cared about Christ. This sort of problem of being easily side-tracked plagued my life in general. There were times when I seemed to be living my faith, but there were other times when I lost sight of my commitment to God because of trivial things.
As Edward and I began our walk, we passed by the bathroom center that was the closest one to my family's trailer. A girl came out and hopped on her bike.
"Hi!" we shouted as she rode by. But she ignored us.
"Hi!" we shouted a second time. But again not a word.
"We're not perverts! Really!" Edward shouted.
I burst into laughter because the way that Edward said it was so funny. The girl on the bike also burst into laughter, much to Edward's and my surprise.
"We got her to laugh!" Edward said to me with a tone of excitement. This gave us more motivation to see how many other girls we could get a reaction out of.
We continued to walk back and forth, saying "Hi" to girl after girl, until about 11:00 p.m. At that time, the beach and all the buildings around it cleared away. (There were several buildings: the Pavilion along with a renting place for sporting equipment, a Country Store with a snack restaurant, the Happy Shack, an ice cream place, and a bathroom.) Edward and I climbed on the life guard stand and started talking. My attitude suddenly turned back to favoring God. Being up on that stand at night was peaceful, and I looked at the stars and thought of God. Edward and I began to talk about God and His will. I said, "I guess God's got a will for my life."
"You guess?" Edward said.
"I mean, 'I know He does.'"
There was lightning and a low sounding thunder in the distance which made things seem more peaceful. A thunderstorm started at exactly the time that we went to bed.
Thursday started basically the same way that yesterday had. We spent the day doing basically the same things that we did the day before. As we were driving the golf cart around, we saw a golf cart full of girls and decided to follow them around. They didn't want to be followed, so they pulled over until we passed and got out of their sight.
My mom had asked me to call her a few times so that she would know that everything was okay. I called home during the early evening using a pay phone at the public bathroom. My parents told me that my older brother was leaving to go back to Alaska. I talked to him on the phone and we said our good-byes.
After I made the call, Edward and I went back to cruising the streets on foot to say "Hi" to all the girls we saw. When we got to the beach, we spent some time in the Happy Shack. After awhile in there, Edward and I walked over to the pop corn stand. There was a woman inside.
"I want to witness to her," I said. (My mind was on God again.)
"Why don't you?" Edward said.
"I can't think of how to start it."
"Come on. I'll start it."
So we walked over and we started talking. After awhile, Edward said, "What religion are you?"
"Presbyterian," she said.
That opened the door for me. She professed to be a Christian when I asked her. We talked to her for a little while longer and then went back to the trailer. Another day had passed.
The next day, Edward and I did the same basic things. But today was Friday, the day that my younger brother and his friend Terry were to come back to spend the weekend. Edward and I were to leave Saturday night.
That afternoon, my brother and Terry were brought down by mom. I wasn't happy about that because I knew that I would no longer be able to "control" the situations that would arise. You see, I dealt with situations by trying to manipulate them into what I wanted them to be. I wasn't mature enough to understand that I didn't have to control the situation in order to live what I believed. I didn't yet understand that I could live my values in spite of what was going on around me. I therefore often tried to control the situations and the people around me in order to avoid things that made me uncomfortable. If I was unable to control the situation, then I went with the flow and did what everyone else did. Thus, I was either controlling the situation, or I was being controlled by it. (An example of this problem is described in the previous chapter. When I rode around with Edward, Jerry, Lou and my brother in Lou's car, I tried to control what was going on. When it was just Jerry, Lou, and I, I was able to control it. But when Edward and my brother started riding along, I failed in all of my attempts to control what was going on, so I gave in to the situation and went with the flow.)
A pizza party was held at the Happy Shack that night, so all four of us went down to have some pizza. By the time that we got there, the place was already loaded with people and music was blasting out the door.
Dave (my friend that Edward and I had talked to on Tuesday night) was there and came up to talk to us. My brother ended up having a disagreement with him, and Dave walked away mad. I didn't like this turn of events because I wanted a chance to witness to Dave. Now my chance to do that had probably slipped away. It now seemed unlikely that Dave was going to approach us again.
We all slept in late on Saturday morning until 11:00 A.M. At that time, someone came knocking at the trailer door.
A girl's voice shouted my brother's name and said. "Open up!"
Outside were three girls that my brother knew. Edward and I got ready to go to the showers while my brother and Terry went out to talk to them.
Throughout the day, Edward and I went with my brother. My brother knew a lot of girls! Almost everyone I met through my brother was a girl. Later that day, two girls named Becky and Jayne picked up my brother, Terry, Edward, and I on their golf cart and we rode all around the lake.
At that time, I was thinking that I was having the time of my life. Then I thought, "Maybe I should witness to these girls." But then this thought was suddenly followed by a more sinister thought: "No! They can go to hell for all I care! I just want to have fun!" I was afraid that if I started talking about God, then maybe they wouldn't want to talk to me anymore. After I made this decision, my attitude went into the toilet. I no longer reflected the character of Christ in the things that I said and did. I acted in many ways like I had acted before I became a Christian.
When we got back to the trailer, some more of my brother's girl friends came by on a golf cart. The girl who was driving was named Lisa. There were two others in the cart, one of which Rod didn't know. Edward and I started talking to them.
In the middle of this conversation, Dave rode by on his gold cart. We insulted him, mocked him, and laughed at him.
It was Saturday night, and Edward and I had to leave. But my brother and Terry were going to stay until Monday night. All the way home, Edward and I talked and laughed about all the fun we had.
Edward was dropped off at his house and I went home. I took a bath, and deep misery overcame me.
The next day my misery was worse. I woke up feeling so bad that I didn't want to do anything. Regret had set in. I thought about the things that I had done. I thought about how I had put off witnessing to Dave, and then I later laughed at him. I had betrayed my friend. I thought about the fact that I was ashamed of my faith, that I wouldn't tell people about Jesus because I was afraid that they would reject me. I thought about the bad attitude that I had, realizing that I cared more about myself than about Christ.
Dan forgot to pick me up for the Sunday morning church service, and that made me feel worse. I began thinking, "I need to go to church tonight."
So I called Dan.
"Dan?" I said. "Are you going to church tonight?"
"Yeah," he said. "Why?"
"'Cause I'd like to go," I said.
"Would you?" he said surprised. I never went on Sunday nights.
"Okay. I'll be there, but I won't be driving."
So I went to church that night. Pastor Walsh was absent in another city, so "Brother" Mark (the youth pastor) gave the message. The message was titled "The Four Keys." It had four parts to it: seek God first (Matthew 6:33), know that whatever you sow, you will reap (II Corinthians 9:6), stay and meditate in God's word (Psalm 1:1-2), and something else that I can't remember.
When he asked people to walk to the altar in response to the message, I went forward. I was crying on the altar. I felt my misery drain away. I told God that when I went back to Sandy Pines, I would live my life for Him, and that I would share Christ with the people that I met.
That wasn't the only thing that I said at the altar. I also told God that I would quit going to movies made by Hollywood, and that I was going to stop reading science fiction books. There were two reasons that I made this commitment. First, many of the movies that I was watching, and many of the books that I was reading were filled with things that directly went against what I believed. Sexual content, profanity, and violence filled these things, and I didn't feel that these things were helping me in my faith. In fact, I felt that they were harming me. Second, I was responding to pressure from the people in my church who told me that these things were wrong. You may recall that I have already said that my church was very "legalistic," meaning that they often went overboard when they took stands on issues. My church did more than stand against the immorality of society; they went so far as to teach that we should avoid completely the things that the world produced. For example, it wasn't just that we should avoid movies that were immoral, but that we should avoid movies period, even if the content wasn't immoral.
I can understand why my church stood against dancing, rock music, movies, and many other things. Society was far from God, and much of the entertainment that was out there was in the gutter. Thus, the church had every right to be concerned, for Philippians 4:8 teaches that Christians should think only on those things that are pure, lovely, just, and of good report. I knew that we had to put into our minds those things that honored God, and much of the entertainment industry did not honor God with the things that it released to the public. At the same time, however, my church needed balance. It needed to understand that even though the church needed to avoid the immoral elements of our culture, it did not need to stand against culture itself.
I would hold on to my commitment to not watch movies or read science fiction books for the next two years. After two years, I would go back to watching some movies, and reading some science fiction books, but I would do so with discernment. After a couple of years, I would conclude that I still had to avoid the filth of the entertainment world, but this did not mean that I couldn't support something good that came out of the entertainment world, whether it was music, film, or literature.
The next day, I went to Edward's and told him about my regret and change of heart.
"You regret what you did?" Edward said.
"Yes!" I said. "I 'backslid!'"
"But I don't see how we did anything wrong! I don't understand! We 'witnessed,' didn't we?"
Later that day, my mom took Edward and I back to Sandy Pines. But something that I didn't expect happened. My brother and Terry decided not to go home like they were planning to. I had originally thought that Edward and I would be there alone. After mom left, the four of us were alone. My brother cranked on the music. Whenever I hear the songs "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor, "You Should Hear How She Talks About You" by Melissa Manchester, "Eye in the Sky" by Alan Parsons Project, and "Jack and Diane" by John Cougar, it brings memories of this exact week.
After awhile, all four of us went to the beach. My brother and Terry went into the Happy Shack; Edward and I decided to walk the streets.
The next day, we got up and went to the showers. We then came back to eat breakfast. We all hopped on the golf cart with my brother driving. We rode by the trailers of all the girls that we knew.
Later in the afternoon, we went back to the Happy Shack to play video games. The jukebox got stuck and kept playing John Cougar's "Jack and Diane" over and over again.
That night, Edward and I went walking again. As Edward and I walked toward the beach, we shouted "Hi" to a golf cart full of girls. They said "Hi" back.
Okay, this next part is a little strange. After these particular girls said "Hi" to Edward and I, I remember thinking, "Wow! This is fun! But I'm a senior this upcoming year, so this is my last year that I can meet all kinds of girls. I won't be able to do this anymore . . . unless, of course, I go to college! Yeah! I'll go to college!" So, I made the decision to go to college! My decision wasn't based on wanting a career. It wasn't based on wanting an education. It wasn't based on the idea that God was calling me to go to college. I hadn't even thought about making plans to go to college until this moment. My decision to go to college was made at this moment, and it was based on the fact that I was walking the streets of Sandy Pines and meeting girls. I wanted to keep meeting girls, and college seemed like a good place to do that.
Edward and I later met my brother and Terry at the beach. Then Dave rode by in a golf cart with someone else. My brother and Dave again had a disagreement.
"You better watch it!" Dave said. "This kid don't take none of that! He'll smash your face in!" And they drove off.
"The other kid's from Wyoming," Edward said.
"Is he?" I said.
"Yeah! He goes to our school."
But I really didn't care. All I was thinking about at that moment was that Dave probably hated my guts and I had blown my chance to lead him to Christ. That made me miserable. However, I got over those feelings (a little too quickly, I might add!), as just after that, a golf cart drove by with two girls in it. They shouted, "Hi!"
"It's Becky and Jayne!" My brother said. Then he shouted, "Hey! Come back!"
So they drove back and we all started talking. They had their radio on. We all hopped on and we cruised around
WJBL, the Christian radio station, was in between two of the rock stations. When one of the girls turned the radio from one rock station to the other, the dial passed through WJBL long enough for me to recognize the voice of the Terry VanAelst, the early evening dj who played Christian rock during the Music by Request show. Then I remembered what I had promised God on the altar on Sunday. I was supposed to be a "light" for Christ, but I wasn't doing that.
I believed that I was sensing the Holy Sprit call me back to the commitment I had made. But I resisted. I cried out in my mind, "God, will you leave me alone!!!" But that only made me more miserable. Then, as if I was blaming my misery on God, I cried out in total defiance, "All right, God! If that's the way you want it, then that's the way you got it!" In the next moment, I tried to harden my heart against God as much as I could. I tried to "run" from Him. I tried to escape the misery that I was feeling, and I thought (in my own twisted way) that God was making me miserable. I figured that if I could get away from God, then I could escape the misery. This, however, only made me more miserable than I was before.
All of this happened within my mind while I was riding around in a golf cart with 5 other teen-agers. I never verbally expressed the conflict that was raging within me.
Becky and Jayne eventually dropped Edward and I back off at the beach. My brother and Terry kept riding with them. Edward and I started walking on the beach and we saw two little kids on the swings and slide.
"Hey!" Edward said. "Go witness to them!"
"I ain't got the strength," I said.
"Come on! You didn't fall away from God again, did you? I'll be over here and you go witness to them."
I walked over to the little kids and started talking to them. We talked about anything but God. I was feeling too miserable to witness to them. I felt like a hypocrite because I knew that when I got back out on the streets, I wouldn't be living for Christ around the people I was meeting. I could share Christ with little kids because it didn't cost me anything. It didn't matter if they rejected me because they were only little kids. But it mattered if the people on the street rejected me. So, because I felt like a hypocrite, I didn't witness to these kids. After ten minutes, they left. Edward came over and said, "Did you do it?"
"You did it again, didn't you?!!" Edward screamed. "You fell away from God!"
"Edward!" I screamed with a desperate voice. "We're not living for God! I can't live both lives!"
But Edward wouldn't answer me and he walked away. All the way back to the trailer I walked behind him and neither of us said a word. When we got back to the trailer, Edward cleaned the inside of the trailer, probably to release the anger that was inside of him. He was confused about me. He could not understand how I could have fallen away from God again. In a way, I don't blame him for not understanding. I was an insecure person who was always desperately looking for people to accept me, and this desire too easily side-tracked me from the things that were more important. Edward had a lot more confidence in himself, and so could not understand the extent of my insecurity, and how my desire to be liked could so easily take control of me. On the other hand, I was confused about Edward. He wasn't any more open about his faith than I was. In fact, he had even hid it from me during the time when I didn't know Christ. He did the same things that I did. I didn't understand how he could not be feeling at least a little guilty about the way that he was living.
This was the start of the biggest self-pity party that I threw for myself while I was at Sandy Pines.
The next morning, Wednesday, started out with the showers again, and then breakfast. Then we decided to go to the beach, so we hopped on the golf cart.
We decided to play tennis. I played terrible. All three of them got mad at me for playing badly and they told me to play right. After awhile, however, they stopped being mad at me and started laughing at how badly I was playing. Even the spectators were laughing.
"You wanna' play?" Edward said to a spectator.
"No," he said. "I think Bob can handle it!" Everyone laughed.
But as far as I was concerned, I didn't care. I was engrossed in my biggest self-pity party of the week. I acted as if I hated myself and everyone else. If I was going to be miserable, then I would be as miserable as I could be.
My mom arrived later to take us home. So we packed everything in the car, and locked the trailer up.
I told myself that I'd never come back to Sandy Pines alone with anyone. I was deciding to stay away from places and situations that I felt were "causing" me to compromise my faith, and I figured that if I could avoid Sandy Pines, then I could avoid compromising my faith. Of course, my problems were much deeper than that.
One final note: my younger brother would receive Christ as his Savior in the early 1990's.