Autobiography (part 5): The Winding Road Years

The previous 4 articles of my autobiography:

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At the age of 40 I had experienced a wonderful life as a husband, father pastor and scholar.  I had also experienced the shameful loss of marriage, ministry and educational pursuits.  My relationship with my children had been severely damaged.  Almost all of my Christian friends either ran away from me or considered that I had run away from them.

This article is about my journey following a winding road that sometimes veered near where I should have been.  At other times the road steered far away from the path on which I should have been.

Divorce

After the latest episode, we again started meeting with the counselor from Southern Seminary.  He had counseled with us after the adultery a few years previously.  After a few weeks of this, my wife decided that she could not continue in the marriage.  She filed for divorce. I did not want this, but shoulder all the responsibility for it happening.  To this day I hope that she receives good for the evil which I brought her.

My Children

I love my four children very much.  I hurt each of them deeply.  My relationship was strained with all four of them.  I had betrayed their mother.  Cameron, the oldest, became his mother’s protector.  All of them rallied around her in her pain.  For this I am extremely grateful and proud of them.  They did what they should have.

They did not push me away, but there was clearly a distance between them and me.  My youngest, Bethany, was effected the most.  As a young girl she had to grow up with Mom and Dad living separate lives.  I did not do a good job of being there for her.

As the years have unfolded, all four of the kids have demonstrated a tremendous level of grace toward their fallen father. When I see them or talk to them, I am overwhelmed with gratitude to God for restoring my relationship with them.

My Church

With regard to the church I had founded, I responded with anger and a growing bitterness. I met with the elders but we were clearly on different pages.  Actually we were in different books. I finally left.  The church later merged with another church and relocated. I attended one of the early services after the merger and was alone in a crowd of people. I never went back.

The response at the seminary was a mirror of the church. Only recently have I stepped foot back on the campus.

The Exception

The lone exception during this time was Brian Vickers.  Brian had become an elder at the church and is now a professor at the seminary.  Brian asked me to meet him for coffee one morning.  We continued meeting for a long time.  After my 3 year hiatus in Florida, Brian and I have picked back up our weekly coffee meetings.

He would meet with me, listen to me, challenge me and encourage me.  Had it not been for Brian I don’t know if I would ever have returned to church.

Away from the Church

For the next few years, I attended church little if at all.  I met a young woman and dated her for almost two years.  Our backgrounds were so opposite.  She was a vegetarian, feminist social worker more in tune with an earth goddess religion.  Our time together was at times exciting but at other times destructive.  As we neared the end of our relationship, she encouraged me to return to the church.  She was not a Christian, but knew that I was probably a better man if I was living as a Christian man.

About the time she was encouraging me to return to my Christian roots, Brian encouraged me to talk to Daniel Montgomery.  Daniel was and is the pastor of Sojourn Community Church in Louisville.

So I met with Daniel at Highland Coffee.  I was not going to make it easy for him.  I now had a few years of bitterness piled on top of my own sinful actions.  Part of me hoped that the meeting would go well.  I was tired of being angry.  I was tired of being bitter.  I was tired of crying at night.  I was tired of feeling estranged.

I unloaded my whole pitiful story on Daniel. I painted an ugly picture without much hope.  Daniel listened.  He then said to me (words that I won’t soon forget), “Frank, it seems that you still have a desire for God.”

I sat back and thought, “How did he get that out of all that I had just told him?”  Yet, he was right.  More than anything I wanted to be close to God.  I wanted to really know that God could forgive and restore me.

I wish that I could say that the rest of the story was all rosy.  I drew near…I pulled away.  This was a pattern that I kept repeating.  Yet, each time I was drawing a little closer and each time I was pulling away a little less.

Suzie

One night I met Suzie. We began dating and in 2004, we were married.

Suzie was not a Christian when we met (I don’t recommend this, but God was gracious).  Early last year Suzie did become a Christian.  We were attending First Baptist Church of West Palm Beach.  Suzie was baptized in the Atlantic Ocean and my heart rejoiced.

This past summer (2008), Dr. Jimmy Scroggins came to West Palm Beach to pastor our church.  Guess from where he came?  The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  Jimmy provided wonderful care and biblical teaching to our lives.  He helped heal the wounds that I have had with the seminary and with the church in Louisville.  He helped Suzie in the early days of her Christian journey.

We have recently moved back to Louisville.  I miss the sunshine and the beach of South Florida, but I love being back where my life fell apart.  I love being around my children and my two grandchildren.  I hope to see my life flourish in the city in which it was nearly destroyed.

This is my story.  It is still ongoing.

I am a blessed man who has been given another opportunity by God’s grace.

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