Part One: Change
The setting couldn’t have been more perfect. An abandoned shed in the middle of nowhere. The house nearby looked more dilapidated than the shed, the grass was overgrown, and the trees were rotting away. Yes, this spot would be perfect. But could I do it? What would happen if I changed my mind and it was too late?
My breath caught in my chest and I struggled to breathe as my hands shook uncontrollably on the steering wheel of my truck. With sudden vengeance, I stomped my foot on the gas pedal and peeled out of the overgrown gravel driveway. Not today. I couldn’t do it today.
Two months earlier
If anybody had asked me to describe my life in one word, I probably would have said “Perfect” up until today. I had two loving parents who had raised me to love God, two adorable twin sisters who did annoy me occasionally, but otherwise weren’t too bad, and a little brother who loved do anything with me.
My sisters names are Dalaiah and Deborah and they are fourteen-years-old. They both have a couple babysitting jobs, but otherwise mostly do their schoolwork and whatever girls do with their friends. Daniel is my nine-year-old brother and all boy just like me. He loves to play ball of any kind, rough house, build tree forts, dream about cars, and he really loves learning.
One of our favorite things about homeschooling is that pretty much anything counts toward school. Mom had specific things we each had to learn, but then we could branch off from there. I probably already knew more about engineering than most of the college students. Daniel’s favorite study at the moment is astronomy, Dalaiah’s is art, and Deborah’s is plants and trees.
My dad is the manager at a big department store and I think he does a great job. You can probably guess what Mom’s job is. Although, a few years ago, I saw a neat job title for what she does and have told her a few times that she should get a diploma made up or something. The title is: Research Associate in the field of Child Development and Human Relations. Pretty neat, don’t you think?
Back to today, I had just started attending the local community college to get a degree in Engineering. I planned to go to the community college until I could afford to transfer to a better one in a year or two. My first day of classes started out great! My professors were helpful and I learned quite a bit from them, even on just that first day.
Everything was perfect until one of the older students ran into me. I tried to avoid him, but it didn’t work and all of my books flew around the sidewalk.
“Watch where you’re going!” he yelled. “What are you? A clumsy fool?”
I gulped when I saw the size of him. Then I recognized him. This was the star quarterback for the college football team and the most popular guy at school. “I’m s-s-sorry. I tried to s-s-stay out of your way, but—”
Carl burst out laughing. “What’s the matter? Can’t s-s-say your S’s? What’s your name?”
My face burned. I hadn’t stumbled over my S’s in years, but it always did come out when I got extremely nervous or scared. “David Conyers.”
“D-d-d-david C-conyers are you related to Aaron Conyers the famous drunk?”
If it were possible for my face to get hotter, it would have. As it was, I feared my face would burst into flames. “He’s my uncle,” I whispered.
I hurriedly gathered my things and tried to leave, but Carl Matthews blocked my way.
He put his face right into mine. “You’re nothing. You’ll never be anything. Your uncle’s a drunk and your daddy’s a cheating scumbag.”
I glared at him, but knew I couldn’t defend my father. If I tried, I would stutter worse than I already had. He finally let me leave and I went straight home.
Mom asked how my day went, but I pretended I didn’t hear her. I stayed in my room until suppertime when I faked my happy smile and pretended my day had gone well.
It ended up not being as bad as I thought around the table. My sisters were bubbly and talkative. Apparently someone famous had come to town, and they had to share ever itty-bittty detail they knew about the person.
Halfway through the meal, Dad walked in, looking as dejected as I felt.
“Reuben!” Mom exclaimed. Even after 25 years of marriage, they still acted like newlyweds. It was rather cute. She jumped up, practically ran to him, and gave him a long smooch.
“Gross!” Dalaiah said, wrinkling her nose.
Deborah hit her twin’s arm playfully. “Don’t be silly, Dalaiah. They do this all the time. Sometimes I think they do it just to annoy you.”
“Probably,” Daniel stated.
I know they said other things as well, but I don’t know what it was, since I watched Dad closely instead. I had never seen him look so frazzled.
Mom finally let him go and they joined us at the table. Dad asked each of us how our days had gone, ending with me.
“It was okay,” I said. “The classes were good and I’m looking forward to them. How was your day?”
Dad sighed. “I had hoped to wait with that question. I suppose there is no good time to say this. I got fired today.”
Mom and the twins gasped. “Why?” Mom asked.
“They accused me of stealing from the company. I didn’t, but they had evidence that I can’t refute without breaking a confidence.”
“So you let yourself get fired instead?” Deborah asked. “Why? Is this confidence so important you have to get fired?”
Dad pursed his lips. “Yes.”
“What will you do?” Daniel asked.
“Tonight I’m going to spend some time with my family. Tomorrow, I’ll start looking for a job. Until I find one, we’ll have to keep a tight rein on spending. So no buying anything unless you need it for survival. If you aren’t sure, ask me or Mother.”
I pushed a piece of steamed broccoli around my plate with a fork. “What about college?”
Dad’s gaze jerked to me and he stared at me for a full minute before opening his mouth. It shut almost as quickly. “I don’t know. We will have to see how my job search goes by the time the next payment is due. Is there any way you can pay the next payment with your savings if I can’t find a new job in time?”
I chewed my lip and thought through my finances. “Yes, I could as long as I don’t have any other unexpected expenses.” Our deal had been that Dad would pay my tuition if I paid for my books, car, and clothing. I’d been working at a fast food restaurant since I turned sixteen, but they didn’t pay much, especially since I didn’t work a lot of hours over there. Because of that, I didn’t have a lot in my savings.
“I’m sorry, David. I wish I could do more.”
I nodded. “I know. It’ll work out. Things always do.”
The next couple of weeks were really rough. No one would hire Dad because word had gotten out about his “stealing.” Carl bothered me every day calling me and my family names, harassing me about my stutter (which I always seemed to have around him), and just being a general nuisance.
Two weeks after Dad lost his job, he made an announcement at supper. “I found a job and have been accepted into the position. Mother and I have prayed about it, and we believe it is the right thing to do, even if it will be difficult.” He looked at me as he said the last part.
“What kind of job is it?” Dalaiah asked.
“And why will it be difficult?” Daniel questioned.
“I will be a manager at a grocery store in another town.”
The breath all left my lungs at once and I struggled to fill them again. Would we have to move?
“What town?” Deborah said.
“That’s what is so difficult,” Mom said. “We will have to move.”
“Where?” I asked.
“Tripoli,” Dad answered.
I closed my eyes. Tripoli was at least five hundred miles away and had no colleges. “What about college?”
Dad cleared his throat. “This house is paid off and I thought that maybe you could stay here if you wanted.”
I shoved my chair out and stood up. “I’ll have to think about it.”
I stalked up the stairs to my room. Too much, too fast, too many changes. I had never done well with change. In some ways, I had always been glad my siblings were so far apart. The changes were easier that way. Now not only would I lose my family, but I would have to figure out how to make a house run all by myself, cook my own meals, and probably pay for all the expenses of the house, my car, and food. Could I really do that?
Someone knocked on the door.
“Who is it?”
“It’s me,” Dad replied.
He stepped inside and closed the door. “I’m sorry to spring this all on you so fast. I think we should talk about it..”
“Go ahead,” I said, not turning around to look at him.
“Before you say no to my offer, I want you to know that I will pay your tuition, the utilities, and half of your car expenses.”
I spun around. “Why?”
Dad fidgeted. “Because I know you don’t have the money to pay for everything and probably won’t until you are done with college.”
I frowned. “Can you afford that?”
Dad chuckled. “Yes, I can. The position I have been hired for pays very well.”
“Will I ever see you all?”
Dad sighed and sank down on the bed. “I’ll be working at least six days a week, so the only way to see me would be if you came to Tripoli. Your mother and siblings could come visit you whenever, though.”
I sighed. “I’ll stay here.”
Dad took a deep breath. “I wish we didn’t have to leave.”
I nodded, but said nothing. Dad left me alone a couple minutes later and I pulled out a college textbook. I may as well distract myself somehow. Maybe it would make things better.
Dad moved to Tripoli ahead of the family to find a place to live and start his new job. He found the perfect house three days after arriving in Tripoli, and Mom, Dalaiah, Deborah, and Daniel rushed around to get everything packed.
Mom made sure she left plenty of household items for me, but the house still looked bare after the last box got loaded into the moving van.
Mom and my sisters took overly long giving me hugs goodbye. Daniel didn’t at least. His goodbye was a firm handshake and a promise to visit soon.
They left on a Thursday morning and I had to force myself to go to school that day and on Friday. Saturday I holed up in my room and studied all day, except from 3-11 when I went to work. Sunday I went to church, but it wasn’t the same without my family.
By Monday, my spirit was heavy and I felt as low as a worm. Classes were good and helped keep my mind off of things. But each day that week, and the next, and the next, Carl taunted me, berated me, and put me down and I got more and more downhearted about everything.
Part Two: Changed
Two months after the move
When I returned home, I paced the whole main floor back and forth, around the rooms, trying to get these awful thoughts out of my head. I was supposed to be a Christian. How could I think about such things?
I finally forced myself to do my homework. Even that didn’t distract me as much as I had thought it would. I fell asleep at my desk that night and woke up in the morning with a pounding headache, a crick in my neck, sore shoulders and leg muscles, and pretty much every other muscle in my body had something wrong with it.
Stretching hurt too bad, so I skipped it. I tried to find some pain reliever, but Mom must have taken all of that to Tripoli. I didn’t have time to stop anywhere to buy some, so I suffered through each lecture and class.
As soon as my last class finished, I packed my book, notebook, and pencil and made a beeline for the door. In the hallway, I tried to blend in with the rest of the students, but Carl found me anyway.
“Hello, Stutter-boy. How was class?”
“Fine,” I muttered.
“What’s the matter? You don’t look too hot. Oh, that’s right, no girls will go out with you because you were homeschooled.” His laugh grated on my nerves at the best of times, but today, it was like a giant had picked me up and started grating me like cheese.
I tried to push past him, but he grabbed my arm.
“I’m talking to you, Home-boy. And when I talk, you listen. And listen real good. You’ll never make it out here in the real world. No one will ever hire you after your dad’s big mistake. No girl will date you, let alone marry you, unless she’s blind and stupid. You. Are. Worthless.”
The saddest part of all Carl’s taunting, was that it worked. I had long since stopped reading my Bible and praying. I had even stopped going to church, and had lied to my parents about that, too. I really was a failure, worthless, and no one seemed to care about me.
My family loved living in Tripoli and even though they had promised to come for a visit, they never had. It had been two months since they moved out there, and I barely heard from them. It was like they had forgotten me. Even when they called, it was only for a few minutes because they had so many things they were doing, they didn’t have time to talk to me.
I shook his hand off my arm and looked away. “Can I go now?”
Carl sneered at me. “Sure, Stutter-boy. Go home to Mommy and let her lick your wounds.”
I wish I could, I thought. But I don’t think they would really care, and I don’t have the money to pay for the gas to go there.
Friday rolled around. I only had one class that day, and never saw Carl on Fridays. This week, I didn’t even have to work in the afternoon, so my plan would finally work. After school, I went home, put on an old pair of jeans, my black hoodie, and a pair of sneakers.
Then I wrote my note, leaving it on the kitchen table with a rock on top in case a breeze came through. I had no idea who would find the note, or how long it would be before someone might miss me enough to look.
Once the note had been written, I grabbed the rope I had prepared, unlocked the front door, and went to the garage where I parked my truck.
I climbed into the cab throwing the rope onto the passenger seat and started the engine. I drove on autopilot, trying not to think about what I was about to do. I knew if I thought about it, I would chicken out again. I couldn’t do that this time.
I drove my truck all the way up to the barn this time, barely making it through the tall grass. I grabbed the rope, jumped out of my truck, and went straight for the dilapidated door.
A little light streamed through cracks in the walls and door, but not enough to see well. I located a rafter I could climb up to and went up there to tie the rope to it.
After getting down, I pulled the hood up over my head and looked at the floor, trying to muster up the courage to climb on the stall partition, put the noose around my neck and jump. I tried not to think, knowing if I did I would chicken out.
A minute ticked by. With a chest feeling like it was being squeezed into smithereens, I got up on the stall wall, steadied myself, and put my hand on the rope.
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me.”
I shook the verse out of my head. This was no time for ancient memory verses to come to mind.
“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
“No!” I shouted, the word echoing off the walls. “I won’t listen.”
“For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”
My legs buckled underneath me and I fell to the floor of the barn with a loud crash. The pain didn’t register at first, but after a minute of sobbing my heart out, my arm began to throb. I touched it gently and knew without an x-ray that it was broken at least once.
Before I could do anything with that, I had one thing to do first.
“God,” I whispered, “I know You’re here. I know I’ve done wrong. I… I’m not even sure I ever surrendered my life fully to You. Growing up in a Christian home, I learned exactly what I needed to do to live like a Christian, but I never truly made it personal. Or if I did, I don’t remember and slid backwards very quickly. Forgive me, God. I need You. I need Your salvation. I need the freedom I can only receive from You. I need You to take charge of my life, no matter what that means. Father, I give my whole self fully to You.”
I stayed in that stall for another few minutes, but the throbbing in my arm intensified so much I couldn’t stand it anymore. I had no idea how I would drive, and for the first time in a long time, I was grateful the truck with the manual transmission hadn’t been available.
I drove myself to the hospital left-handed. Four hours later, I walked out with a blue cast on my arm and a smile on my face. A broken arm was worth every bit of pain and would be a great reminder for six to eight weeks of God’s redeeming grace in my life.
Over the next week, I packed all my things, told my professors I was dropping out, stood up to Carl, and went to church. One week to the day after my surrender, I got in my truck again. This time, the back was full of my things, my stereo played my favorite CD, and I had a smile on my face. Oh, and I was dressed in nice jeans, a t-shirt, and my leather jacket. The hoodie and old pair of jeans had been taken to the dump with the rest of the garbage.
On my way to Tripoli for a surprise visit (and hopeful elongated stay), I sang praises to God at the top of my lungs. Fittingly, the last song on the CD as I drove into my parent’s driveway was “Faith is the Victory.” The last verse perfectly described how God changed me.
To him that overcomes the foe,
White raiment shall be giv’n;
Before the angels he shall know
His name confessed in heav’n.
Then onward from the hills of light,
Our hearts with love aflame,
We’ll vanquish all the hosts of night,
In Jesus’ conqu’ring name.
Faith is the victory!
Faith is the victory!
Oh, glorious victory,
That overcomes the world.
This story is copyrighted by the author. Shared here by permission.