This is the preface from a truly unbelievable story that I was sitting on for almost 40 years. I had been threatening for some time to write down my years before Christ, saying it would be a tale “no one would believe,” but that it needed to be written anyway. Seems like the Lord agreed—I was provided a mountain retreat for two weeks and the project simply took wings.
Rescued from Hell: An Odyssey of Deception and Discovery
In the weeks and months that followed my conversion to Christ in 1982, I had a great desire to share what my lost years had been like and to tell the story of how Jesus rescued me out of them. In the beginning it was surely a lot about my own need, because it felt so good to be able to express the craziness and horror of those years in the past tense—and find in return some soothing measures of sympathy and understanding. That believers were inspired and encouraged and that unbelievers occasionally came to faith added immeasurably to the wonder of having a story like mine to tell.
I began to notice, however, that the more I shared my testimony with all of its bizarre and wildly insane aspects, the more I felt my otherness from others—and that was not what I needed. I desperately wanted to recover a sure sense of my common humanity—to feel human at last. Yet, sharing my testimony made me feel like a freak all over again, because I never once came across another testimony remotely like my own, nor could I avoid colliding with the emotional wreckage I was still wading through, pain that no one I met had a good remedy for or prior experience with mending.
People would tell me to trust the Lord, encourage me to give it to God and slap me on the back, saying how great it was that the Lord had delivered me. All of that was true, of course, but I had no idea how to do it with the internal damage that was still screaming for attention. Jesus rescued me from hell! Yet, I had been dropped back on earth with a ton of still scary stuff that was clinging to me like glue.
There followed then a long season of seeking inner healing: every conference I could go to, every book I could read, every prayer line I could find. All that grace gives as ways of bringing our hearts to God, I started applying in earnest. My journey through those years has brought me to a place where I am no longer in conscious touch with on-going emotional damage. There may still be pockets of resistance, some even with surprising depths, but in terms of the day-to-day I am living way above and beyond my past, not because I am trying to push it down, but because I have pulled it all up—everything I could find. I have vigorously thought about it, prayed about it, given it to God piece by remembered piece in so many effective ways. I have actually become glad and grateful for all the experiences that I went through—a seemingly impossible turn of events!
My heart’s desire is that this time around my story will not be about me (though I am on every page), but about telling truth in a way that will help people out there, especially the ones who feel that their own path has been so tortured, so strange, so completely inexplicable to others that they feel isolated and estranged from the common run of humanity. Take heart if that describes you—for in the early days of my recovery I often challenged God saying (not politely), “Are you sure you can do this? Have You ever brought somebody back from this extremity of insanity and bondage? Will I ever feel human again?” How brash and belligerent! Yet I was desperate to believe that I wasn’t stuck with being broken and freakish for the whole of this life—that God could indeed pull it off. Perhaps, however, your interest is not for your own healing, but for gaining insight and understanding that will help others—I definitely had you in mind as well!
I hope that you will enjoy taking this strange journey with me and that the Lord Himself will intercept us just as He did those unsuspecting disciples on the road to Emmaus, bringing liberating words of resurrection across their horizon. May these words enlighten or enliven you to see Him striding the heights beyond even those boundaries of fear and hope which may encompass your own life.