Whatever Happened to the Good Little Boy?

My dear mother often said to me, “Mark, you’re perfect.” She probably said this out of her love for me, wanting to encourage me. After all, we all went through quite a family tragedy. My parents’ only daughter, my beautiful sister, Dawn, just 18 months younger than me, developed a rare cancer and passed away just before reaching her seventh birthday.

I will never forget the funeral.  I sobbed uncontrollably and wondered how God could have allowed this to happen. I remember every detail of that day, and it really made me think about life and death and God at an early age. As life marched forward beyond Dawn’s death, I was a pretty good kid, not causing my parents any serious grief. Plus, I tried to go to church almost every Sunday, even through my teen years.

However, I knew I wasn’t perfect. This realization began about the time I was in 5th grade when I changed a mark on my report card. I received a dreaded “U,” meaning UNSATISFACTORY, for “Self Control.” I changed it to an “S,” meaning “Satisfactory,” to deceive my parents into thinking I was still their good little boy. The teacher caught it, and I was disciplined for lying. Since about that time, I saw myself as flawed and considered myself a “loser.” I was always bothered with not being the best—in schoolwork, sports, or appearance. I got involved with mischief, stealing, and perverted thoughts and actions. This demeanor accompanied me through high school and college, although I matured in some areas as I grew up.

In college my imperfection was magnified as I struggled through engineering school. I was humbled by the difficulty of the courses. I was depressed almost all the time. The rock music I listened to seemed to just fuel this depression. One band I listened to even made reference to God, but still I wasn’t getting life’s answers. My spirit seemed to groan inside me as I strained to find peace.

I graduated from college, married my high school sweetheart in the Philadelphia, PA, area and moved to —of all places—Parkersburg, WV, where I began working at my first career job. Jobs in my engineering discipline were not plentiful. I was eager to start making money, and this position was the only one available to me. (Looking back on this, it was all in God’s plan.) Once settled in Parkersburg, my wife and I decided together to find a church that preached the Bible and “salvation.” We didn’t come up with this idea on our own; a Christian coworker of my wife’s had been explaining the Bible and God’s plan to her throughout the previous year or so. We were on our own, newly married, in a new state, and in a new job. Even though I had never been to a Bible-preaching church, I didn’t object to going. It sounded like a reasonable thing to do. After all, I was still searching for life’s answers.

As we visited North Parkersburg Baptist Church, my “guard was up.” It seemed so unholy and sacrilegious because the people were so relaxed, and they seemed like they actually enjoyed going to church. They smiled, gave us a hearty welcome, and, of all things, they talked in church, not just whispered. My idea of a church was one where the altar was reverenced, being surrounded by statues, candles, crucifixes, and stained glass. I remember thinking, “God must be sick of all this ungodliness!”

As we attended over the course of a few Sundays, and particularly when the pastor preached from the Word of God, something began to get my attention. As the pastor would read and explain the Bible and I saw what the Bible said with my own eyes, I began to see the real me and my dismal condition. My sin was my problem! It was like God pulled the black curtains from before my eyes. For the first time, I saw myself as God saw me—hopeless and vile. On the outside, I was a cocky, proud man, with the new bride and a big engineering job. On the inside, I was still that depressed, empty, struggling young man, lacking true confidence and purpose.

The preacher gave me the answer to my sad condition by way of a particular Bible verse: John chapter one, verse 12— But as many as received him (The Lord Jesus Christ), to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name. He said that Jesus had gone to the cross to pay for my sins and to give me new life. For the first time in my life, I understood why Jesus had to die. I always thought, “If Jesus is really God, then why didn’t he just get down off that cross and show the world how powerful he really was?” He didn’t get off the cross, and I thought he was just a loser too, like me and my loser life. But now, with that preacher, and that Bible . . . It was all starting to make complete sense. JESUS HAD TO DIE —and he died for me! Yes, in the most inconceivable, seemingly senseless act of injustice,the sinless, perfect Son of God took MY sins upon Himself that I might be free from sin. What love!

Since that day, now over 35 years ago, I can assuredly say that the Lord has led my life all the way, both before I knew Him and after He became my Lord and Savior. He sought me when I wasn’t looking for Him. He led me through circumstances to get my attention. He made the truth plain and clear to me. He impressed upon me my corruption, yet He lovingly held His arms open to me, compelling me to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. He opened a whole new world to me, giving me His perspective on this world and the Creation in high-definition. He has richly, RICHLY blessed me with the perfect wife for me, six excellent children, glorious grandchildren, lifelong friends, trials and experiences, making this life a wondrous adventure—all with the hope of Glory in heaven. Someone recently asked me, “If you could be given one more thing in life to make you happy, what would that be?” I pondered that, but concluded in all honesty  that my answer is “Nothing.” Nothing physically: no possessions or experiences would add to my happiness. However, there is one thing that would bring me joy—that anyone who reads my story would be compelled to take an honest and humble assessment of their own life, and seek This Savior. The keys to life and this world are in the hands of Christ. I urge you to seek Him earnestly.

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