In process- It is by grace you have been saved
Glen Doss, Major
“For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” So they began to celebrate (Luke 15:24 NIV).
“Everything was dark when my eyes popped open. I shook my head to clear it. I lay flat on my back among garbage cans alongside a brick building. Staring directly into a hazy sky above, aware of a horrible stench, I suddenly grasped what had happened: I had done it once again—overdosed. How many times had it been now? Four? My stomach heaved; I turned over on my belly and vomited. …Then a feeling of urgency came over me—I needed a fix and I needed it fast.”
Walking with my friend Conrad Watson through the twists and turns that comprised his life, I experienced a rollercoaster ride of deep despair contrasted with great delight. Conducting interviews for his memoir, I alternately cried and rejoiced. I kept asking myself: How can a person survive all this? But then I remembered: I hear stories like this over and over at The Salvation Army—there are so many trophies of grace.
As I vicariously lived Watson’s life—an abusive childhood followed by 25 years of hustling for alcohol and drugs on the streets of San Francisco and Los Angeles, and then 23 years of service to The Salvation Army—I knew I was witnessing an amazing demonstration of the resurrection power of God. I was reminded: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed; and God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved (Lam. 3:22; Eph. 2:4-5). What an Easter story his life has been!
(The excerpts below were taken from the book On the Nickel: Doc Watson, available through Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com.)
A life redeemed
Rescued from the sick, sordid world of Los Angeles’s skid row, called the Nickel:
“I lived in two worlds: one in which I empathized with others and, at a subliminal level, hungered deeply for God, a world that lay just beneath the surface of my façade and manifested itself in genuine humility. My other world was the one of which my five senses fed me information: the streets, the drugs, and the dog-eat-dog lifestyle of the Nickel. I knew I was really a small dog in a big dog world because I wasn’t as ruthless as most. Yet I had certainly learned to do underhanded stuff—I knew how to survive.”
Then came the day:
“Returning from the run, I shuffled painfully down the hall, some clarity returning to my thinking. Glancing down at myself, I noticed for the first time in days that my clothes were filthy and I hadn’t bathed since I couldn’t remember when. …Stopping at the door of my fleabag hotel room, I slowly turned the key, stepped inside, and dropped down on the cot. Lying on my back, I stared at the ceiling.
“‘Some people can get clean and sober, but I can’t. I’m doomed. At 42 years of age I’m going to die. I know I’m going to die living like this.’ …I closed my eyes, and my face muscles relaxed a little as I slowly fell asleep….
“‘Gimme all your money or I’ll kill you!’ I was aware of a knife blade at my throat and the heavy force of a hand upon the back of my neck. ‘I said, give me all your money or I’ll kill you!’ In the dim light, I spied the stocking over the man’s face and knew he meant business.
“‘Man, all I got is a dollar and some change in that drawer there,’ I said, nodding as best I could toward a bedside table. Still holding the knife at my throat, the man used his other hand to pull out the drawer and grab up the money.
“He demanded, ‘Where’s the rest? I mean it! I’ll kill you, sure as I breathe.’
“‘Man, you don’t want to do that. I don’t have no more. Think: Would I lie with a knife at my throat? Look around. I ain’t got nothing. I’m a poor bum just trying to survive. I ain’t got the rent for this place. I’m gonna be on the streets come morning. That’s how broke I am. I ain’t got nothing!’
“With an epithet the man snorted. ‘I’m coming back. And if you don’t have more money, you’re a dead man!’ With that he stormed out….
“For the first time since I was a small child, I suddenly found myself on my knees. In a way only the dying can do, with tears running down my face—I poured out my heart to God.
“‘God, please help me out of this trap I’m caught in: the heroin, the alcohol, the violent lifestyle—stealing, hustling. Is there no hope for me at all? Or am I doomed to die in this vicious lifestyle? Please help me. Tell me what to do.’
“A quiet reassuring voice sounded within my heart: Go back to The Salvation Army Harbor Light, to that safe place. It’s not too late—to live right, to learn to live clean and sober, to get right with God. And I trembled at the voice of hope.”