Long-time friend Toivo (George Nordling) gives us today’s Hole News. Check him out at www.yooper517.blogspot.com His story depicts a view of our religiosity we seldom think about. His book, Walking to the Light, tells the full story. Anyone battling booze will find it helpful. Sober for 25 years, Toivo teaches the men’s Bible class in his church.
It was Friday the 18th of December, 1970 that I accepted Christ. I didn’t fully understand it, but then eternity in hell was the other option, as I was told by my uncle Jim, chairman of the Board of Deacons at First Baptist of Ironwood. He was stern about this, and that scared me; he was usually a soft-spoken, gentle man.
The first option, as I understood it, was that I must live a sinless life or lose my salvation. Uncle Jim quoted me the verse in Hebrews about a dog returning to its own vomit. My chances to reach heaven were infinitesimal, as I understood it. People in the Baptist Church were perfect: no cussing, no drinking, no movies, no chewing, no adultery, not one hair out of place. In other words, NO. I thought it would be better to die right away and forgo all the temptation I would face.
One Saturday in February, 1971, I was shoveling away the aftermath of a blizzard. The bartender from the Wigwam tavern just down the street walked by, “Hey, George. You’re workin’ too hard there. C’mon down to the bar and I’ll buy you a beer.” I was tired and thirsty. I hadn’t had a beer in almost two months and this offer was too generous to resist.
This was about 3:00 p.m. on Saturday. I woke up on the floor at home at 8:00 Sunday night, my dog licking my face and whining. I didn’t know if it was day or night. The TV was on; the kitchen messy with a full ashtray on the table and the garbage can overflowing with beer cans. I was headed straight for hell! I blew it! Well, I didn’t think I had much of a chance anyway. Damned Baptists were too strict. But they know everything there is to know about salvation of the soul.
I played church for the next month. I wouldn’t tell Uncle Jim what happened and disappoint him. I hated this because whatever the preacher said condensed to, “You’re going to hell, George, eternal hell.”
Hell! Hell! Hell! I had nightmares about going to hell. I replayed those nightmares over and over, wishing I had never talked with Uncle Jim. After all, ignorance is bliss. Depression revisited my life.
In March, Uncle Jim suggested I try a Moody Correspondence Bible Study. That’s how I discovered God’s grace. The dark pall hanging over my life lifted. I felt joy. The study was Romans- the Epistle of Grace.
I still wasn’t perfect; still frequented the bars when I had a weekend off, vowing the next day to get on the wagon. The next weekend off I did the same thing. Eventually I would quit drinking via much prayer. Anyone who wants the whole story should get a copy of Walking to the Light. I wrote it; it has touched many lives.
Thanks, Toivo. You’re an honest friend.
Old Grandpa Lloyd