As my alarm clock went off, it signaled that another day had started. This time as I put my uniform on, I felt a little lonely. Half of the squadron was home on leave, at home with loved ones, but I had to go to work. Not only did I have to work both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but I had volunteered to do that! Somebody had to watch the place while everyone else was gone for the holidays, and since I couldn't get with my folks for Christmas, (they lived in Pennsylvania and I was stationed in Virginia Beach), I decided to let others get with their families.
As I drove to work, listening to a favorite gospel singer on tape, I remembered the Guidepost's story I read a while back about a stranger that dropped in on a family on Christmas Eve, leaving a harmonica and love behind him. That moved me to remind the Lord that if he needed someone to do something this Christmas Eve, I was available.
He heard me. He used me. This is the story of that use.
At about noon, the Commanding Officer and the Executive Officer were the last people to leave, wishing those of us left behind a Merry Christmas while we 'held the fort.'
I went home to an empty house just off base at about 5 in the evening, only to find out that all this faith was intermixed with doubt. It didn't take long for me to get depressed and feeling sorry for myself. After all, I was alone, and it was Christmas, and it was my own fault. No tree, no ornaments, no family, no friends, no ... a lot of self-pity, though.
I had to stay by my phone, so I couldn't go anywhere or drive around town looking at Christmas lights. I changed into jeans and sweater to get a little more comfortable, at least on the outside.
Soon I was complaining to God about the situation He'd put me in. After all, it was his idea that I volunteer for Christmas duty. Oops. That thought snapped me out of it. If it was his idea, he had something planned, that he wanted me involved in, instead of someone else. I told him I was ready for whatever he had going.
Less than 5 minutes later the phone rang, it was another lucky young man who had to stay at the squadron. True, at least I got to go home, such as it was. He told me that one of the men had called in, saying that his mother was sick and he wanted emergency leave to go out of state and visit her. I called him, and as he repeated his story to me, I could just barely make out a woman's voice in the background. She was very upset, complaining about him being drunk, lying, something about violence. Before I could ask too many questions, he hung up on me.
"Lord, is this what You wanted me here for? If it is, I'm ready."
I waited a few minutes then called again. This time a very angry female voice answers, demanding to know who I was. When I asked to talk to her husband, the reply was a curt, "Why?"
"Because I want to help."
"Well if you want to help this bum, you better show up here real quick like with the police and get him out of here, or I'll kill him. He's tearing this place up. The kids and I can't take it. I want the Navy to help me file for a divorce and take me and my children home."
(OKAY Lord, this is definitely it!)
"All right, I'll be there shortly, where do you live?"
Ever ask a hysterical person where they live and for directions on how to get there? It is not a very easy way to get the information. Finally, amid the sobs, she gave an address and a general area of where they lived. Somewhere near the airport.
"I'll be there in half an hour."
Leaving the house, after calling in and telling the squadron where I was going, I prayed, "Lord Jesus, I don't know what I'm doing. I'm a bachelor, and don't know what its like to live with someone. I've got no experience at mending marriages, or at pulling people out of a fight, either. You have done both thousands of times over the years. Everybody there is going to need You. I can't help them at all, unless You are the one using me."
The thought occurred to me that I forgot to grab a Bible to take with me. Some Christian! He reminded me that I didn't need Him on paper, but in my heart. Speeding through the Tidewater area, knowing only that I was somewhere near the airport, near their house and thousands of others, I needed help.
There it was! Ahead of me a taxi drops off two young couples at a disco. In my best TV policeman maneuver, I cut off the taxi before it gets going again and jump out of my car. Reaching for my wallet, I say, "Merry Christmas! Here's five dollars for getting me to this address. You lead the way and I'll follow in my car. Okay?"
"Sure! Merry Christmas."
Many turns and blocks later, the cab driver points at a house, and drives away when he sees me pull over.
"Lord, your book says not to worry about what we're going to say because the Holy Spirit will speak through us. You must be here now."
"Hi. I'm the duty officer."
"Its about time, come in."
For the next three hours we talk. I don't really remember what was said, but I do know we agreed on a few things.
1. His opinion of her is that she is a great wife, mother and housekeeper.
2. However she is intolerant of his drinking.
3. Her agreed that he is a hard worker, dedicated to providing for the family.
4. However, he is a very jealous husband.
5. The bottom line: he drinks and smokes more than she thinks he should.
She also tells me that she had been personally visited by Satan. I remember saying, "That's great news. Because remember that Satan knows a lot, and if he personally came and visited you, it means only one thing: he knows the beautiful potential that this family has, and rather than trust one of his other demons to take care of it, he felt it was important to disrupt this particular family personally."
I remember quoting some verses, and parables:
Matthew 21:28-31 "But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and told him to go work in the vineyard. The son refused, but afterward regretted it and went. Then the man went to the second son and told him the same thing. The son agreed to go work in the vineyard, but never went. Which of the two actually did what the father wanted? That's right, the first one. That's why many sinners will enter heaven before some religious people."
Matthew 7:7-11 "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who ask receives, and whoever seeks finds, and to him who knocks it shall be opened."
Matthew 18:10-14 "Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven. For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost. What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the 99 and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the 99 that did not go astray."
Mark 11:24 "Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you have already received them, and you will have them."
We agreed that there was only one solution, so we bow our heads and pray:
"Lord, we come to you this day because we really need you. Satan is here because he knows how beautiful this family will become when he leaves. He knows he has got to stay. Jesus, you beat him for good on the cross. he is already defeated. Thank you for coming down, now, to touch our hearts, and to guide this couple, this family, towards the life you meant for them. In your precious name we ask this. Amen."
Weeks later the husband took me aside at work, to thank me for the new wife he had. The gleam in his eyes as he spoke told me that not only did the children also have a new father, but this new wife of his also had a new husband. They still had more struggles ahead, but now they knew the source of strength and the road to that source.
Lord, thank you for the best Christmas I ever had.
(For those of you that have read this, you may have noticed that when I was self-centered I was miserable. The misery was reduced ended when the self-preoccupation was reduced. For my definition of evil, see my "Open Letter to Satan".)