The persistent proselytizer
by Glen Doss, Major –
Walter Mullins had no right to exist.
His spit-shined shoes, perfectly creased shirt, and confident demeanor were an insult to me. An egoist when I was in the navy, I viewed everything only as it related to myself. From the moment Walter reported aboard ship (I was there when he first walked across the brow, sea bag arrogantly slung across one shoulder, hat cocked on the back of his head), he bugged me. I took his walk for a swagger and his smile for a sneer. I think it was that self-satisfied look he fixed on me, as if he were judging me somehow, sizing me up to be something small.
You see, Walter Mullins was an evangelical Christian. He made absolutely no secret of his faith. Challenging me early on about my self-proclaimed atheism, we got into it more than once.
The reason I state in such stark terms that Walter had no right to exist is because there was absolutely no place for someone like him in my belief system. In my concrete worldview, religious people—particularly Christians—were uneducated, uncouth simpletons, so in need of a crutch that they invented one and called it God. Walter was the first person I knew who flatly did not fit that stereotype. I found this exasperating.
I recall one late evening, when making my rounds, I opened the scuttle to the missile fire control radar room to find him and a few others sitting in a circle, each with a Bible in hand. At first I didn’t grasp what was happening. When it dawned upon me, I was completely thrown. “You guys really do get into this nonsense!” I snapped.
Without batting an eyelash, Walter replied, “Sit down and join us, Glen. We’ll catch you up. We’d love to have you; wouldn’t we, guys?” They all murmured in the affirmative.
“You’ve got to be kidding me!” I snorted, storming out of the compartment.
The next day I found a note on my rack—a folded piece of paper upon which was scribbled a Scripture verse: “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10), with a comment: “A wise person would ponder this.” I find it eerie that I recall this across so many years. Perhaps not coincidentally, this same verse played a significant role in my coming to Christ a decade later. At the time, I simply snickered, arrogantly wadded it up, and tossed it into the trash.
But as the notes continued coming, I became annoyed, and finally angry. I scowled and stormed about ship, questioning everyone I met: “Who is putting these notes on my rack?” No one owned up. But I suspected it was Walter.
Meanwhile, Walter’s reputation grew; he became more and more respected for his competence and leadership skills by both the officers and his peers. One day when I had finally had enough, I happened upon him up on the fo’c’sle talking with a couple of his Christian cohorts. I interrupted. Standing nose to nose with Walter, my face flushed with anger, I waved a note in front of his face. “Are you putting these on my rack?”
He smiled calmly back at me, as always cleanly shaven, his hair perfect in every detail. Greatly irritated, I waved the note wildly, shouting myself hoarse.
“Glen, why does this bother you so?” he asked, shouting above the ocean roar. Then, for the first time I saw something in his face that upset me even more—I could read it in his eyes—Walter sincerely cared about me; he was really deeply concerned. And that disturbed me most of all—he had no right to care!
Wiping the salt water off my face, I said, “Don’t you go pitying me, you, you…I don’t need your compassion. Leave me alone!” Oblivious of the small crowd that had gathered round, I lost control, my anger and resentment taking over.
“I don’t need your God! And I don’t need you!” I envisioned myself slapping and choking the man. Today I recognize that I was sensing my worse fears were being realized—my vision of the world was shattering into fragments. Deep within me my heart was screaming: “This man defies everything I have come to believe—he can’t be real!”
Shortly afterwards, the notes ceased. Still, every time I encountered Walter, the anger seethed within me—I had no idea why he and no one else disturbed me like this. This was the rule with my emotional life in those days—I had little say in my feelings; I was entirely reactive. Why I felt such antipathy toward Walter I hadn’t a clue.
I wish to address everyone who actively witnesses for Christ: Don’t give up. In retrospect I know that from that time forward, within the deepest recesses of my being lay the realization that my view of reality was deeply flawed—the Spirit of Christ in Walter was recognized for what it was. It took 10 years, but I eventually came round. The seed we plant in those to whom we witness may not be evident at the time—but can make all the difference later on.