I talk to a lot of men – older men mostly. Sometimes these conversations occur at the mall, where I go intending to initiate spiritual discussions. More often it’s during a casual get-together – the sharing of a meal with acquaintances or a game of bocce ball at the senior center. Other times it may be a more formal spiritual advisory session across a conference table. Still, regardless of the occasion, I never get used to hearing about the bitter and cruel upbringing that many men endured as children and which continues to affect their lives and the lives of their loved ones.
I know that kids today have a difficult time dealing with the evil so rampant in our modern culture. And I’m sure, as the Bible says, things are “waxing worse and worse” as the end of days approach. But I always thought of the former days, as innocent times – with children generally insulated from the harsh world that may have affected their parents. I was wrong! Many men have dark memories from their childhood. And from the beginning of time, the mind of man has been such, and the enemy of mankind will always be such, that the dark memory of a person’s past will be forever-played in their mind’s eye every day – many times a day – unless and until they are set free from these attacks by God.
I’m so glad that my childhood was generally pretty good, though mundane; because I remember much of the minutia. I remember the halloween costume I wore in the first grade, and the final score of the football game my brother sat on the sidelines and didn’t play in. I remember themes and parts of poems I had to memorize in elementary school – and I’m not even a fan of poetry. Why would I remember Gunga Din, Rudyard Kipling’s poem about a regimental water-carrier in India told from the point of view of a British soldier, whose life the man saved. As the black man lay dying from the wound received while moving the soldier to a safe place, the soldier declared that his fellow troops were not worthy to lick the boots of the man they daily insulted. And at the oddest times I find myself reciting the soldier’s words: “You’re a better man than I, Gunga Din.” Could it be that, though it’s a secular poem, there’s nevertheless some spiritual lesson God wants to teach me?
The mind of man is an amazing instrument. I knew from studying the Greek philosophers (Plato, Aristotle and Socrates) and the Christian theologian Aquinas in college that the human soul is made up of the mind, the will and the emotions. And common sense told me that the mind was more than a complex computer that evolved over billions of years. Its ability to reason, to emote, to seek self-fulfillment, to write music and to seek an Objective Moral Agent outside of itself could only be explained by the existence of a non-material substantial form that controls these processes. But only after I made Jesus my Lord and Savior did I begin to understand the extent that the devil could feed the mind evil thoughts to destroy the man, or that God’s Word could feed it righteous thoughts to produce life.
As I talk to these men, I find many more reject than accept my reasoning and the “good news” I present. They seem more willing to live with “trouble, trouble everywhere” than to change their behavior. And when these are close friends and relatives, it grieves my spirit to know where the path they are on will lead. In those cases, it doesn’t make it any easier to recite the words of the Apostle Peter, “If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.”
I wish there was a way to rewind these men’s lives – to erase their bitter memories of childhood abuse and addictive behaviors – to replace them with mundane memories of boring family dinners, baseball games and time spent memorizing the Gettysburg address. But that’s not going to happen.
So what’s left for me is to introduce as many as possible to the loving God Who can erase those memories – Who is able and willing to heal the hurts and restore the childhood years they lost. What is left for me is to exercise all the authority and power over the devil and his demonic cohorts, which Jesus delegated to His spiritual army, the Church, (of which I am a soldier). What’s left for me is to disciple other Christians to do the same. What’s left for me is to simply obey Christ – to go into all the world – to preach the Gospel, to free the captives.