The "incident" harmed more than my neighborhood witness for Christ, it also caused me to forget about Bible College. What kind of person calling himself a Christian would have done such a thing? I couldn't pray. I couldn't witness. I barely could drag myself to church. Even though I still believed the deception that what I had done was justified to protect my daughter, I had no peace. It took about two years for me to realize that my violent nature was not news to God; He knew, and knows, exactly what I am. Apart from the good that results from the work of the Holy Spirit, I am a selfish, unloving, evil man. Slowly as time passed, I began to understand that I had not hit Timmy because I was protecting my family; I hit him because he was practically saying, "I can do whatever I want and you can't stop me, old man." I hit him because he challenged me. It was my pride, not my paternal instincts that had energized my attack on "the impertinent jerk."
God had shown me from His Word that all of the disciples ran for cover when Jesus was arrested (Mk. 14:50). It was bad enough that Peter, knowing the Lord's prophecy that he would deny Him three times, did so (Matt. 26:34, 69-74), all of the disciples abandoned Him. And yet, God used those men to change the world. God showed me that my self-loathing was also pride. I apparently thought that I was too spiritual to act with such venom. God was not surprised by my actions (He knew me and yet He loved me!); my surprise revealed that I though more highly of myself than I ought (Rom. 12:3). With the humility from failing to live in a Christ-like manner, came the realization that I was still the fallen son of Adam apart from His Spirit living within me. Just like everyone who knew me had expected more from me, so had I. Today, nothing I think, say, or do surprises me. In 1 Timothy 1:15, Paul uses the present tense to describe himself: "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of which I am chief." God used His Word to humble me, and in so doing, made me understand more clearly that His love for me was unconditional. He loved me while I was lost (Rom. 5:8). He loves me while I continually struggle with my sin nature (Rom. 7: all). And only when I am completely like His Son (1 Jn. 3:2), will His love for me make sense. I truly understand the meaning of the word "grace." It is God's unmerited favor. I didn't deserve to be born again (Jn. 3:3-8); I don't deserve to be sealed for Him by the Spirit (Eph. 1:13; 4:30); and I will not deserve the change into the Christ-likeness of eternity (1 Jn. 3:2)! To God be the glory for the great things He has done, is doing, and will do for us!
By 1986, I was finally able to forgive myself enough to enter seminary. My circumstances prevented me from finishing my college at Grace Bible College, so I graduated from Indiana University. The same situation limited my seminary education to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The school was a bastion of liberalism, with some professors denying Scripture on a daily basis. I would spend the next four and one half years defending the Word against the very people I had hoped would prepare me for ministry. I found myself actually being a "protector" of those having little or no knowledge of the fundamentals of our faith. To be continued.