I Am Second

I was pushing myself to find meaning in my own activities and to dull the emptiness and the feeling of being alone.

My life changed when I was 15. I remember it was a cold winter Saturday afternoon and one of my school friends was at my house visiting. When my mom came through the door her whole face was in tears. And I could tell something was wrong. Something happened to dad.

I grew up in a family. With Dad, Mom, 3 brothers, a sister, and me the oldest. I grew up in Montana living in many small towns. We moved around a lot because of dad’s job. I grew up in catholic church and schools; so I went to church a lot. I thought this made me a good person. As a family we did things together like fishing, camping, country drives. And I played baseball.

On Dec 3, 1972, dad passed away. It was a brain tumor. Nothing could be done. That day changed our family. Life was turned up side down. Depressing. I lost my friends. I don’t fault them. They just didn’t know how to relate to me anymore. It was painful… an insecure, empty feeling.

At 17 we moved to California to be near relatives. That was culture shock. And it turned out the relatives were too busy with their fast paced life. We were alone again. I quit going to church. I thought by being a good person in my eyes I was OK. So, I poured my self into school and baseball.

At 18 in my last baseball game before high school graduation I had a major knee injury that ended any dream of playing competitive baseball. Not knowing what to do, I tried to join the Army. I passed the written exams but was rejected due to my recent knee injury. I limped for 2 years. Up to then I had excelled at whatever I did – school or sports. Now I had neither.

At 19 I worked for the local AAA MLB team. That was a lot of fun and long work days, but then they moved the team to another town. I was alone again. Searching for meaning.

I went to college, but I dropped out twice. One time I took a semester off to help my mom and us children move homes. I fixed up the house and yard to sell it. It sold in a week. That was unheard of back then. Looking back, God was providing for a widow and her 5 children.

I was searching for meaning and feeling alone. In college I took as many as 9 classes per semester at two colleges; and I worked two part time jobs. Pretty much got no sleep from Friday evening to Monday morning.

I was pushing myself to find meaning in my own activities and to dull the emptiness and the feeling of being alone. It came about that one day as I was leaving campus a person was passing out small New Testament bibles. I took that special little bible home. I put it on a shelf for safe keeping. I didn’t read it. Not at all.

And due to the extent of the knee injury I could no longer move sideways very well. So I started bowling more often. Lots of competitive bowling. I advanced near the top of the junior bowlers in tournaments. But it was a spoiled group of immature kids. Lots of money. Lots of alcohol. I was selfish about me and didn’t even know it. I used my situation as an excuse for bad behavior.

Alcohol and carousing gave an adrenaline rush. It gave a sense of belonging to a group and not being alone. Things and people were taken away and I turned to something and a group of people to be comfortable.

I thought we were good people. Just made some bad choices. But I was on the path to destruction because of the way I was living. I was on my own and didn’t need anyone else. Life was chaos. I was worn out. Couldn’t keep going like that. I felt like I needed help.

I was sick of it. Tired of it. Drink, carouse, get sick, hide it, do it all over again. But couldn’t stop. I dropped out of college again for a semester. I saw no future in it. Meaningless.

But something happened and one day I decided that I should at least finish college. Just finish 3 more semesters and see what happens next.

In our new neighborhood I was invited to a church by neighbors. Then I started reading that little New Testament bible I got at college. Devoured it. As I read I recognized some of it from my early life in church. But much was new. And I never really understood it before. It was really exciting to read. My heart and mind were eager for the truth of God.

I read that whole New Testament bible in a couple months. It just gripped me that my own ideas were wrong. I read that hell is real, that I was not going to heaven by being good or by going to a certain church, but only by calling on Jesus as Lord. That was not what I always thought it was about. I thought I was basically a good person and that was all it took.

But I had doubts about what I read and wondered if it was the real. God’s truth was that I was hopelessly lost on my own and under God’s wrath that I deserved. Jesus bore my sin to cleanse and save me. But I was chasing the wind, an empty feeling. I was failing with earthly things like carousing and alcohol. I was miserable.

I read Romans 10:9-10 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. And it hit me. God opened my heart and mind to come to Him by faith.

One night in September at age 22 I had a dream. The Holy Spirit stepped aside and let the Devil get close. My bedroom became absolutely dark and cold. I was scared and jumped out of bed. What’s happening? God showed me that hell is real and the devil is real. I was headed there without Jesus.

I prayed to Jesus and thanked Him for his work on the cross for me and that Jesus took God’s wrath which I deserved.

I know something happened to me that night. I instantly lost my interest in alcohol. I felt compelled to read the bible every day. I found that I no longer wanted to run with the bad crowd of people I was used to and do evil things. They didn’t really want me around them anymore either. I regret how my involvement with them probably led to the ruin of others.

That year I met my wife to be. This wonderful woman and I often studied a Christian financial and family planning book from my mom. We’d bicycle to a park, eat ice cream, and talk about the questions in the book. They were questions about godly life goals and marriage expectations. She was super to let me do this on our dates. We grew in faith and our commitment together.

Did God have some people do something for me? Yes. God used someone to give me a bible. And my mom didn’t give up on me and provided support. There was a neighbor named Mr. Campbell who took an interest in me for some reason. He got me started listening to the radio. A man named John McArthur explained the Bible to me. Every day for years.

The Holy Spirit used my New Testament bible and the radio preacher to teach me that by God’s grace I am eternally secure in His salvation.

And God blessed me with a beautiful, godly woman to love. Well, we both graduated from college, got married, and sought out a Christian church. We experiencde some pain in our first years of marriage. We only found comfort in each other and seeking God. We have been blessed with 6 dear children.

I’ve been involved in baseball, a career, my family, my community, church, and helping my mom now that she’s by herself. I still make mistakes with sin. I continue to learn to repent and turn away from my sin and be cleansed by His forgiveness.

And I’ve suffered hardships along the way. But, I am not alone.

I understand now from the scriptures that before I came to Christ I was under God’s wrath, but ignorant about it. I wasn’t obeying him at all. I thank God He opened my heart to Him and changed me and continues to change me.

I know there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. And nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus my Lord.

I live for Christ. His purpose, his kingdom, his glory. He is first.

My name is Jim Reiner and I am second.

March 4, 2013