The new beginning
by Glen Doss, Major –
The following account is excerpted from the recent volume Thirst for the Spirit: One Man’s True Story of Addiction and Redemption relating the life story of Conrad Watson, former Los Angeles Harbor Light administrator. The incident described took place in 1983.
At the Los Angeles Harbor Light chapel service on Sunday, Conrad hung on to the preacher’s every word as, holding his Bible aloft, the minister quoted Scriptures that stung. Conrad was moved. Tears streaming down his face, he hastily wiped them away with his sleeve for fear others would notice and perhaps ridicule him. Yet, no sooner had he dried them than they returned in abundance.
“I praise You, Lord Jesus! Restore me to sanity! Make me whole!” he prayed. At the altar call, he felt as if the Spirit of Christ lifted him off his feet and carried him down the aisle. He floated as in a cloud adrift among others lost like himself. On his knees, Conrad gripped the altar with both hands. Tears flowing, he accepted the infilling of the Holy Spirit in an invigorating, purifying way.
The preacher continued: “’Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he will lift you up.’ And not only will God lift you, gentlemen—he will use you.”
“Thank you, dear Jesus, for your forgiveness this morning, for making me whole. O Lord, I will serve you for all the rest of my days,” Conrad prayed. He now knew that it was this connection with Christ he had been seeking for decades. Christ was the soul mate for whom he had longed for years and the true parent he had sought as an abandoned child. And he knew God had a plan for him, a way to use him to reach out to others. “I will tell others, dear Jesus, what great things you have done for me. I will not let you down. You and I together will make a winning combination!” Whole again, God was now part and parcel of Conrad’s life. As he stood up from the altar, he stepped out with a brand new vigor in his stride and a glow to his face.
Over the following weeks he avidly pursued Bible study, even as he aggressively participated in AA meetings. Now that he had accepted Christ as his true Higher Power, he set out to know him more intimately. The first time his dorm mate entered to find him praying by his cot, Conrad leaped to his feet, startled and embarrassed. In the street world he had known for so many years, praying was considered a sign of weakness. But today he knew he needed divine intervention in his life. Without God he would not succeed, and it was necessary that he work an honest program. This certainly included being open with others about who he was, and today he was a praying man. The next time a person caught him on his knees, he remained there. In time it began to feel natural.
Conrad soon learned that the Twelve Steps of AA were derived from the Bible. He found integrating the principles with Scripture not only easy, but fascinating—like putting the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle together. “If you remain faithful, then God will bless you,” he had heard the preacher say over and over. As more and more little blessings came his way, he knew it was a consequence of his surrender to God and therefore was confirmation he was doing God’s will. If he needed certain items of clothing, though unsolicited, someone would offer them to him. There was no doubt in his mind that God was working in his life and that he was where he was supposed to be. Consequently, he gave the program his all.
Eventually staff members began complimenting him on his efficiency and attitude. For the first time he felt useful and productive—so unlike his recent past! He liked this grand new way he felt and knew it was all God’s doing—for there was no doubt in his mind that he could never have done it on his own! More and more Conrad was overcome with deep gratefulness to God.