Who am I?
I am a man that grew up in the small American town of Oak Harbor, Ohio… that is where I grew up. Where I didn’t think twice about playing on someone else’s lawn. I could ride my bike with reckless abandon. Where, besides the fact that my territory occasionally got invaded by a passing car, the block was my world.
My family is made up of my father, Robert, my mother, Agnes and my brothers James (Jim) and Robert (Bobby) and my sister Linda. I am the youngest of the children and have always been treated accordingly. I was born into a family that was at best on the outside appeared moderately “traditional” in the way of the early 1960’s.
My Dad worked and my Mom raised the kids.
While it was far from ideal, I did not have a terrible childhood and I don’t blame anyone for my decisions and failures in my life. We weren’t poor. I have seen poor in my life and that would not have best described us. On the other hand, we were not rich either. No silver spoons to eat with, just the lower level of Middle America. We never owned the house that we lived in, yet my dad always had a new car in the driveway.
On November 5, 1970, my brother was killed in a car train crash. Robert Allen Lee was born on June 9, 1956 and was the second of four children born into my family. Bobby loved the outdoors and animals. He loved to hunt and trap. He always had some kind of pet whether it was a rabbit, a hamster or a bird.
On that fateful day, he was in a car driven by my cousin (Larry Mills) that came to pick me up from school. In the car with him was his best friend Harold “Buster” Chandler. They picked me up from school and we headed for home. Larry was going to drop me off, then take Bobby and Buster to where they had some trap lines to check. As we pulled into the driveway, I asked Larry if I could ride with him to drop the boys off. He said that my Mom had told him to drop me off first. I opened the car door and my Mom opened the front door of the house. I asked her if I could go with them and my mom said no. Like any other kid, I asked again and when she said no again, I shouldered past her going into the house. I bumped into her and was mumbling under my breath about how stupid it was that she would not let me go.
Just a few minutes later, two blocks down the street, …they were hit by a train. All three were killed instantly. Larry was 18, Buster was 13 and my brother Bobby was 14. I was 10 at the time and I am thankful for the time that I had with my brother. I still miss him and think of him often. I wonder what he would be like today.
To this very day, my Mom cannot tell you why she told me no. 98% of the time she would have said yes… I am so thankful that she said no.
As a result of his death, I was led to the saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ two days later in the back of Robinson’s Funeral Home in Oak Harbor. My whole family found the Lord as a result of it.
My teenage years were marked with the same bumps, bruises and awkwardness that most teenagers go through. I experienced my first “love”, first kiss and closely followed by my first heartache and the first breakup. There would be more as the years passed. I played sports and have wonderful memories of being on a winning and losing teams.
I survived high school.
I was the only one of the family that had the opportunity to go to college. I was educated and trained at Liberty University, where I learned that there was much more in this life than my little world in Ohio. While I was a student at Liberty, I was part of a music team that traveled all over the United States promoting Missions and our obligation to evangelize the world. I traveled to almost every state in the union and I traveled around the world and spent extended time in Brazil, where I swam in the Amazon River, and South Africa, where I was in Soweto just outside Johannesburg during the time when Apartheid was flourishing.
I met and even had the opportunity to shake hands with President Ronald Reagan and then Vice President George H.W. Bush. I had the accomplished all of this before I was 23.
After graduating from college, I spent the next 12 years of my life (from 23 to 35) as a Christian High School principal. I was blessed with the birth of two sons, Nathan and Adam. I have wonderful and cherished memories from that time of my life as a teacher and principal. I had the wonderful opportunity that most people never have. I got to do and be exactly what I wanted to be for 12 years of my life. I felt I was doing what God had planned for me to do.
As the years passed, I started to watch other people find abundant joy in their relationship with Christ. I realized that I never really had the joy I saw in other people. Why was I so miserable? I kept trying to be good, but I always failed. I was doing everything I had been told, really trying to be a good Christian but…never really had that joy I saw in other believer’s lives. On the outside I was serving the Lord, on the inside I was struggling and I lost focus on my priorities. I was busy “doing” what I was supposed to do, but was not “being” what I needed to be. My focus was on me and not on the Lord.
It manifested itself into a very dark period of my life. I resigned my ministry and tried to find another path in life. I took a long journey away from the things that were so much a part of who I was.
I spent a number of years on “the backside of the desert” and it took a long time to find my way back. Without excuse, I hurt a lot people along the way and was deserving of the criticism and disdain I received from friends and fellow believers. But as hard and unforgiving that they have been on me… I have been harder on myself. It took years for me to forgive myself for what I allowed to happen in my life.
The bottom line is this…I have finally come to the point in my life that I have honestly come to terms with my failures. I am learning that Grace of God is intended for those who have failed…if no one failed there would be no reason for Grace.
I write because I know there is more for me to do.
I write because I know I have something left to give.
I know that I am more than I have been.
I am a simple man looking for grace and forgiveness.
When it is all said and done, at the end of my life, I am sure there will be many things said about me. I have left a trail of failure and some footprints of success. I am sure that the words to describe me will vary about as much as the times I have been successful and the times I have failed.
Say what you will.
I can think of no higher honor than to have words that describe me as a man the loved his God, his wife Pamela, his children and future grandchildren…and that I was simply a “mommas boy”.
That is … Just Me.