The Wilderness Wanderings
It is funny how your perspective as a young child is incredibly small and self-focused. Or maybe it was just me. I assumed I would be fed and I assumed I would have a home to go to and a bed to sleep in. Though my father traveled a lot I assumed he would come home and I always knew my mother was there, ready to give a hug. What I didn’t know what that as a youngster my father struggled to pay our bills. I was number six of seven children and times were very tight. We would drive to church each week and would pass our second car parked in the parking lot of a gas station, waiting to be repaired. We would wave at it and us small ones would laugh, thinking how fun it was to see our car there. Never realized it was there for months simply because there was no money to fix it.
I say this because there came a time when my Dad told the family that we were moving to California, someplace called Carmichael (a suburb of Sacramento). Littleton, Colorado was soon a place of my past. To me, it was an adventure, something filled with excitement. Unknown to me it was because my father was transferred by his company. Even more unknown was that he was transferred to get him out of the “way” since he was creating problems by standing on actual principles rather than merely a pursuit of profit. I never gave it a thought that my parents were leaving the church they loved. We were just moving.
Once we arrived in Carmichael life changed a lot for me. My two oldest brothers moved out and things were just different from there on out. The 60’s were in full swing and the Henry home was not immune to its effects. We went to another Brethren church but it was not the same. It was small and cold and we never seemed to really connect there. We eventually left it and started, for a short time, to meet with a few other families in a home. All I remember from that time was that when we celebrated the Lord’s Supper that we used a common cup and it was real wine–something they forgot to tell me. A ten-year-old needs to know that sort of thing before he takes a swig of something he believes to be grape juice. I doubt the stain ever was removed from that carpet. Again, in my youthfulness I was unaware that the reason we had left the church was due to open racism against a black family. My dad stood against it and paid the price.
We then left the Brethren and ended up in a E V Free church. Again it was just a church and we just sort of went there. Nothing stands out in this church because it just existed. And so did we. We continued to live in Carmichael until the middle of the 7th grade for me. From there we left for Idaho, where my father had left the company and bought a partnership in a insurance agency, a long time dream of his. But, spiritually speaking we still just wandered. The town was Nampa, and there were only 34,000 people living there (second largest city in Idaho) and so there were not a lot of churches to choose from. We tried Brethren churches, the few that were there were colder than ice. Then it was Bible churches, but no help there. Ultimately we landed in a Nazarene church, a huge one of over 2,500 people. It was the best we could find but it was not much when it came to breathing the gospel into the hearts of its people. Mostly it was about the “Manual” and keeping all of its rules. It was this church where I stayed until I was 21 and moved out on my own.
I write all of this history not to bore, but to contemplate the effects a father has upon his home. My father loved and still loves Jesus. But when that company kicked him down for doing right it was the entrance into a time of great spiritual depression for my father. And the result was a great famine in the life of his household. He kept pressing on, but for some reason the Lord did not see fit to bring him and us into a sound, gospel-centered church It is sad that I cannot look back over almost 13 years of living and have any significant spiritual memory. But that was the way it was. Not only was my dad in a funk, but I ended up there as well as I entered into adulthood.
I threw myself into karate and tennis. I love my dirt bike and my freedom. And I thought I loved a girl whom my father forbade me to see. Just before my 18th birthday I saw her drive by me while I was on my motorcycle. I knew she was headed to her home and I turned quickly around to catch up to her. A couple blocks down and suddenly a car was in my lane coming the other way and I struck it head on. The injuries where ones filled with grace, for they removed by force some idols of my heart. But there were many more in there and over the next few years the Lord faithfully and painfully scourged me.
I look back now and I see also something else happened that was devastating to my spiritual growth and health. The gospel got lost somewhere. I am not sure where, but I am pretty sure that our seven years in a Nazarene church did not help. The faithful believers there were always busy trying to be “entirely sanctified;” while the others were busy either just playing by the rules of the Manual or getting re-saved every other Sunday.
The gospel became cheap and I began to view is as a way into the Kingdom of God but not something I needed to continue in. Now it was time to be busy doing Christian ‘thing’ and get holy. And over time the cross became less and less in my vision, and my soul suffered deeply for it. Sad really, every Sunday I would attend church, and somehow my soul is not washed in the gospel.