It was around August 20, 1959 when a cry was heard . . . and heard . . . and heard! It was me. I was wailing, and wailing, or so I’ve been told by my mom who was probably traumatized by the event. I’m telling you, I was a mess. Couldn’t eat by myself, probably threw up on everybody and besides that I wet my pants over and over again. If you had been there, you may have been tempted to brand me as a loser who’d never make it, but you really needed to be more patient because, you see, I was only three days old. I didn’t need to be shot or even spanked at that point, at least. I just needed to grow up.
It was during the school year of 1970 when I met her. I thought she was the prettiest girl in the fifth grade. Her dad was a preacher and so was mine. I used to walk her home from school. I thought I was in love, but in just a few years I had forgotten all about her. If you’d have talked to me, you might have told me I was a hopeless romantic who would never settle down. But that really wasn’t the problem at all. I just needed to grow up.
Fast forward to 1976. I was driving by that time. Mom and Dad had gone to North Carolina for the whole week and left me alone because my Grandmother was very sick. They left me strict instructions not to allow anyone to ride with me in the car. I agreed to their terms, but my girlfriend was just down the road from me and I just really thought it would be cool to take her to the mall. Pulling out at an intersection, I was looking at her instead of traffic and plowed right in the back of some guy’s beautiful fastback Mustang. If you’d have been there you might have called me a careless liar, or a bad driver, or both. You might have said “You’re barred from driving forever, and you might have been justified. But, the truth is, what I needed more than punishment was time. I needed time to grow up.
Fast forward one more time to 1986. I’d been in full-time ministry for two disastrous years. Now I don’t call them disastrous because I destroyed the church I was in or because people didn’t like me. They were disastrous because of what was going on in my heart. In my heart I had checked out. I was burned out and fed up, so I left the ministry and, for 7 years, I tried to make my own way in the world. If you had been there, you might have written me off and said, “That Rusty’s a spiritual loser. He quit once; He’ll quit again. He cannot be trusted.” You know, there would have been a lot validity in those words, but the truth is, what I needed was not condemnation. I needed to grow up.