My life was full of uncertainties during the summer of 1983, and I didn't have much of a sense of direction as I made the transition from high school to college. I was scared about the future, not really knowing what I was going to do with my life. The future seemed blurred, as if lost in a thick, hazy fog. I was turning the page, and a new chapter was beginning. Life went on, however, and I tried my best to trust in the God who I had given my life to. I held on to a hope that some day, and in some way, God would show me what he wanted me to do with my life.
I continued to work during the summer of 1983. I made a special request to go back to working at the elementary that I had worked at during the previous summer, and my request was approved.
"Oh, it's you again," Ronald humorously said as I started my first day of summer work. I knew that he was glad to see me again, and I smiled.
"I knew that someone was coming, but I didn't know it was going to be you again," he said.
"I asked to come back here," I told him
Ronald seemed rather happy about that.
"You're a good worker, and I'm glad to have someone like you back," he told me.
There was another guy who was working with me that summer, but I don't remember his name. He was a year or two younger than me, and he was easy to get along with. Derek came to work with us for a week or two in July. You may recall that I had briefly worked with Derek during the previous summer. I had spoken to him about Christ, and he had told me that he would give his heart to Christ.
"Do you remember me?" I asked him. "I worked with you for a couple of weeks last year."
"Oh, yeah," he said. "How are you doing?"
We had a brief talk, and then I asked him, "Do you remember when I spoke to you about Jesus Christ? You said that you would accept Jesus Christ as your savior. Have you been living for God?"
He dropped his head slightly, and said softly, "Well, I'll be honest and say that I haven't been doing a real good job at that."
I appreciated his honesty, and I encouraged him to give his life to Jesus.
"It's the greatest thing that can happen to you!" I said.
"I believe you," he replied.
His friendly attitude toward me didn't last for more than a day or two. Derek and the guy who regularly worked with me suddenly started to make fun of my name by the middle of the week. They gave me the nickname of "Ra-boob-oh." They would laugh and call me "Ra-boob-oh," and they started calling me that every time they spoke to me. It started to bother me greatly. I, however, determined that I was going to show them the love of Christ. I decided not to get angry with them, or to respond by mocking them in return. When Derek left after a week or two, the guy who I worked with lowered the number of times that he called me "Ra-boob-oh," only doing it a few times for the rest of the summer. We still got along fairly well.
I had some integrity issues to deal with that summer. Ronald had a habit of over-extending his breaks. He would break for 30 minutes when he was only allowed to have a 15-minute break. All of the workers extended our breaks as well. The breaks started to get longer as the summer went on. We finished cleaning the school in July, so we began to sit in the janitors' room and talk all day. This had also happened during the previous summer, but I was only now beginning to believe that it was a sin to get paid for taking breaks that I wasn't entitled to.
"I don't want to report that we're done because they'll transfer me to work at another school," Ronald said. He wanted to take it easy. My conscience, however, started to bother me greatly. So I asked Ronald to give me stuff to do. I ended up pulling grass out of the cracks in the parking lot and cleaning all the wastebaskets in the school while Ronald and the other student worker sat in the janitor's room.
Ronald said to me, "When I was your age, I used to feel the same way as you do. But when you get older, you'll change your mind. You'll realize that when you work very hard, you're entitled to take an extra break now and then." However, I knew that my concern was rooted in my desire to reflect the character of Christ in all that I did. The very idea that I "deserved extra breaks because I worked hard" was something that was contrary to my Christian ethic. I thought to myself, "I hope I never come to the point where I feel that I have a right to take extra breaks," although I never said this to Ronald. I wanted to my life to be a "witness" for Christ, but I didn't want to offend Ronald either.
I couldn't live with the guilt I was feeling because of what I had done. I eventually told Kristi, my new job coordinator, that I had taken extra breaks. She was very confused about what I told her.
She asked me, "If what you did bothered you so much, then why did you do it in the first place?"
She was right, and I felt very ashamed. Kristi ended up docking me several hours of pay to make up for the time that I had taken for excess breaks. This was not the end of the problem, however. I struggled between my old and my new values, and I again started taking extra breaks near the end of the summer. Once again, I felt guilty. I told Kristi that I had once again taken extra breaks. She was even more confused about my actions.
"If it bothers you this much, then why do you keep doing it?" she asked.
I didn't know how to answer her. Kristi docked more pay from my paycheck. I didn't tell her that the other guy was doing the same thing, and I didn't tell anyone that Ronald was taking extra breaks. Kristi didn't investigate the matter any further than the things that I told her.
My changing values didn't hurt my relationship with Ronald. He respected my beliefs, and we continued to develop somewhat of a friendship. Ronald even took me and the other student worker out to eat at a restaurant on our last day of work.
"I've never done this before," Ronald told us. 'This is the first time that I have taken my workers out to eat. Do you remember last year, Bob? I didn't do this, did I?"
I said to the other worker, "No, he didn't. He's right."
Other then my job, my summer was fairly uneventful. Edward and Tom were out of town, and I didn't hang around any friends much. There was no youth group meetings at church, but I did go to the Sunday services.
I was outside a lot, and the sun bleached my hair. My hair actually changed from brown to bright blonde by the end of the summer.
As a result of completing the youth Word of Life program at church, I won a scholarship of $135. I used the money to go to Word of Life Camp in the Adirondacks Mountains during the month of August. Most of the youth of my church went. We loaded into the church bus, and rode for 24 hours, going through Detroit, southern Ontario, and Niagara Falls. "Brother" Mark did much of the driving. He was from Ontario, so driving through Ontario was like visiting home for him. The camp was located at Schroon Lake in upstate New York, which is on the northeast corner of that state. It was on an island in the middle of a lake. I was surprised to see mountains in New York because I didn't even know that there were mountains in upstate New York! It is amazing how clueless I was back then!
I was surprised at how quickly the summer came to an end. Before I knew it, I was on my way to Grand Rapids Baptist College, and to the start of a new chapter in my life. I had no idea what to expect, and I'll admit that I was very scared at the uncertainties that were ahead of me. Where was I going? What was God's will for my life? What was I going to study at college? How would I handle the responsibilities that were now facing me as I made the transition to adulthood? These were questions that I didn't have the answers to. But I told myself that I was God's child, and he would guide me through.
I was now firmly grounded in my faith in Jesus Christ. This was the foundation that would guide how I would live my life during the years to come.
Nonetheless, two challenges would come to my faith over the next two decades:
(1) Life would not always be easy. Over the coming years, I would experience intense times of failure, pain, and loss that went far beyond what I even imagined I could experience. There would be periods where I would be driven to the edge of despair ... and beyond. At times, it would seem as if God was distant and uncaring.
(2) I would be challenged with many questions that I would find no answers to. In fact, I would have more questions than answers. I have learned that what little I possess in the way of answers, I possess only by the grace of God. I am merely one person existing in a world that is far beyond my ability to fully comprehend. "For now we see through a glass darkly."
Through all of the failures, questions, and pain, however, I would never forget that Jesus Christ had reached out to me when I was 16 years old. He transformed my life at a time when I wasn't even looking for Him. Though my faith would be challenged, and though I would stumble, I would always rise again.
Go to the Table of Contents