"The choices we make change
the story of our life." ©
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
August 22, 2006
Guest Blogger: Charles Gibson
When I was about 8 years-old, some of my friends and I decided that we wanted to dig a hole in my backyard. My parents said we could, so we got shovels and started to work. You see we thought we could make a lot of money doing it. This other kid who lived up the street, who was a 4th grader and two years older than us, said there was this guy, an old mining prospector, who would pay a lot of money for bedrock, which was supposedly really valuable. All we had to do was dig down to the bedrock below the dirt and this guy would pay us like $500 a pound for the stuff. We knew that $500 would buy a lot of candy and matchbox cars. We dug and dug in my parent's backyard in a spot right behind the house, until the hole was deeper than we were tall. The thing we exposed was not bedrock but part of the foundation of the house. The biggest financial implication of our labors was not money for bedrock but a flooded basement that came from a thunderstorm that night. It was a failed venture and my parents were unhappy to say the least.
It was all a lie. It was also a bitter way to learn that ordinary rock buried deep in the ground isn't worth any more than the same rock above ground. After my punishment was meted out, I was angry enough to confront the 4th grade kid about his "advice." He continued to insist that the "old prospector" paid for bedrock, we just didn't find real bedrock.
Growing up, I knew I wanted things like candy and matchbox cars. But the thing I wanted most was peace, I just didn't know it at the time. But looking back, many of the things I did were an attempt to find peace in the midst of often chaotic circumstances.
A chatterbox as a toddler, I started to withdraw more and more from other people as I got older. As me and my siblings tiptoed around my mom's anger, I learned fairly early that I couldn't count on my dad for protection. He seemed more interested in "keeping the peace." Every so often he had had enough and would verbally rip into my mom while I silently cheered him on, but those times were few and far between, and my dad spent the intervening times doing penance for his outburst. After all, my mom was justified because of her own chaotic childhood, at least that was the message that I received. I became scared to express my own feelings or problems, because I never knew what would set my mom off. Her pain and anger from her own childhood was never far from the surface, always ready to boil over with any elevation of emotional temperature.
I realized by the time that I was six or seven that I had to protect myself. My strategy was to bury who I was and retreat from the world, and I did just that whenever possible. I loved reading (and still do) and I buried myself in Hardy Boys books and a set of 1977 World Book Encyclopedias. That's right, encyclopedias. If the Hardy Boys books were about trying to figure out the mysteries of my world, then the encyclopedias were about trying to understand the world beyond my little life. I especially loved reading about geography and history. I wanted to visit every state capitol and every country in the world after that. I learned the encyclopedias so well that I became a much sought after trivia game player. I still remember that the 1977 population of Tokyo was 11,856,000, or something like that.
By the time I was twelve, after more painful and confusing events in my family, I realized I would have to figure out life somewhere other than from my parents. I became involved in the youth group at the church we were attending. It was the first church we had gone to where the gospel was actually preached and the Bible was taken literally, not metaphorically. The graceful atmosphere of that youth group was the first place I ever had a taste of true peace.
It wasn't until I was sixteen, four years later, that I found true peace, or at least the beginning of it. On a youth retreat at another church, I experienced the overt presence of the Holy Spirit for the first time. I didn't know it was the Holy Spirit, I just knew I had found what I was searching for and was moved to ask Christ into my life. It was a very emotional experience. I felt him enter my heart. I felt it physically in my chest. It was like He was so excited that my heart was finally open to Him that he rushed in to my life.
A few months later, the space shuttle Challenger exploded seconds after liftoff. It was an event that had a big impact on me as a new Christian and became the focus of my first U-Turns story. More about that tomorrow.