Story of Reb
Reb was born in the early fifties, the second of four children. His father worked a blue-collar job and his mother stayed at home to raise the kids. His parents and grandparents on both sides were dyed-in-the-wool Democrats.
By the time Reb was two his parents decided he was old enough to start learning some self control; and so like his older sister before him, and like most of the children in his neighborhood, Reb received a spanking each time he refused to obey his parents. The spanks were always delivered in a calm and restrained manner, and never in anger or out of control. Subsequently, neither Reb nor his siblings developed violent tendencies—to the contrary, they grew up self-controlled and respectful of authority.
Living off of one income, his family didn’t have much extra money. This meant that neither Reb nor his siblings had lots of “stuff.” They had necessities, but weren’t indulged by any means. Time after time he watched his parents count out their loose change to decide if they could afford a purchase. Countless times he heard them cancel an errand because they wanted to save the gas. To say they lived frugally puts it mildly.
Reb, like his sisters and brother, had few expectations, and was appreciative for everything he was given. There were even times he refused a dime from his mother for ice cream, just to save them money.
Reb’s parents had been raised in the Great Depression, and knew the meaning of hard work and responsibility. It was therefore something they wanted to pass on to their children. This meant that Reb had to do chores—daily and weekly. He never liked jobs like pulling weeds—in fact, he hated them—but it never crossed his parents’ minds to exempt him from hard work, just because it was hard. In this way Reb was forced to learn the meaning of personal responsibility—faithfulness in duties earned privileges—laziness, deceitfulness, and irresponsibility merited disciplinary consequences.
Reb’s training at home paid off in life. He got above-average grades, never got into trouble at school, and kept the same after-school job for four years until he went away to college.
Although his parents were diligent in his training, Reb was a self-determining individual who had to decide what he would do with the lessons they had taught him. It was in his heart to be respectful toward adults and he generally tried to obey all rules, but he had his times of misbehavior. When he was young he would sometimes sneak off before he could be assigned a chore, other times he would read his sister’s diary, and of course, he and his siblings had their share of squabbling. Not outrageous behavior in comparison to some, but he violated his conscience just the same.
By the time he was a senior in high school Reb had forsaken many of the morals his parents had sought to give him. He was still self-disciplined enough to exercise some moral self-restraint, but he started smoking marijuana occasionally, drinking at parties, and gratifying his prurient interests.
Within a few months of his senior year Reb had stopped smoking weed, because he didn’t like the way it clouded his thinking. He continued to drink at parties, but two beers was his limit, and he refused all hard drugs. He lacked confidence with girls, so when graduation rolled around he still had no girlfriend.
In the summer after high school Reb was having the time of his life. He found a store that sold alcohol to minors, drove a racing Mini Cooper, and was having more success with girls than he had ever had. That summer, with a girl he hardly knew and cared very little about, Reb lost his virginity in a one-night stand. He was on the top of the world and felt like things couldn’t have been better.
(Here’s the part of this scenario that some readers may be afraid to read, for the following is a brief, but straightforward discussion of “religion.” Some are uncomfortable with such topics and don’t like to be trapped into reading them, so this warning might help prepare you for what follows.)
Reb had grown up going to church with his family and was a strong believer in God. He believed in Him because he didn’t have enough faith to believe that the universe could exist by chance. Everything from the design and power of the atom to cellular regeneration to the beauty of sex spoke to him of an intelligent and powerful designer. When Reb looked at humans he saw intelligence and personality—evidence to him that the Creator was more than an impersonal force. God, he was convinced had personality and was therefore knowable.
Interestingly enough, Reb’s belief in God didn’t make him a religious person—just the opposite. Since Reb believed in God he knew he was answerable to Him and accountable to get to know Him. But Reb loved running his own life too much, so chose to ignore that God existed. He was too self-consumed to be religious—a relationship with God just wasn’t convenient. This was his thinking up until the summer after high school graduation.
It was just a few weeks after his “initiation into manhood” that Reb started dating Jade—a sweet and innocent girl that he liked very much. Little did he know that she would prove to be his undoing—in a good way.
One evening while sitting with Jade on the side of a mountain, Reb was trying to share with her a bottle of Boone’s Farm Apple wine. After resisting his offers, she finally told him she wasn’t interested because she was a Christian. Nothing could have distressed Reb more—he didn’t want to date a Christian—he wanted somebody with whom he could “party.” Making matters worse—she told Reb he needed to give his life to God. “Oh great,” he thought, “now she’s evangelizing me!”
Reb felt in his heart an obligation to give his life to the One who had made him, but he was so aware of his own moral failings that he didn’t believe God would accept him, and he told Jade so. What he didn’t know at the time was that awareness of one’s moral failings opens the door to reconciliation with God—it doesn’t close it.
Having grown up in church Reb had heard many times what Jade was trying to tell him. “Jesus died for your sins. They were already paid for,” she insisted. “Jesus died only for sinners, Reb. He doesn’t reject them when they come to him for forgiveness and a fresh start.”
It all sounded too good to be true, but Reb had other things on his mind that night. Needless to say, he gave up on getting Jade drunk, and they left the mountain.
The next day Reb was still feeling the impact of his conversation with Jade. Reconciling with God didn’t sound too impossible after all. Maybe there was hope for someone as rotten as Reb. He spent the day pondering—could God really love him enough to have someone else die in payment for his sins? Without realizing it, he was on the edge of a dramatic transformation.
It seemed too good to be true, but by the end of the day Reb found himself willing to believe it. And before he knew it, in just one day, his life had changed.
How does one describe a radical, spiritual conversion experience? It is not a person deciding to subscribe to a new creed, and then turning over a new leaf to change himself—it is not a self-generated experience at all. It is a person’s mind suddenly becoming clear as a result of being touched by God. It is new life flooding into a lifeless soul, instantly changing who a person is. Reb had not attended a church service, recited a formula prayer, or participated in any religious rituals. He hadn’t done anything but embrace the conviction that Jesus was the Son of God and had sacrificed his life to suffer the penalty for Reb’s sins. That is all Reb had done, but he found himself suddenly transformed in his heart and his mind. He felt like a burden had been lifted off his shoulders and he was clean and new on the inside—none of which he knew to expect.
Hardly knowing what had happened to him, he realized he had lost his desire to get drunk and to sleep around. His values had suddenly changed and he sensed he had power to be different. He had gone through a radical metamorphosis in just one day—in minutes really—he felt like he had been reborn.
The next morning Reb woke up madly in love with God.
As Reb walked in his new life he couldn’t believe the changes he was experiencing. It seemed to him like he had new eyes, and was stunned by how differently he saw life. He had once lived in fear of what others thought of him, but now he discovered that his insecurities no longer ruled him. For the first time in life he felt free to be different. He found himself bold to speak of Jesus to others, even though he knew many would react in anger and spurn him.
With a new outlook on life, Reb was determined to make a difference in the world, so went to college for a degree that would allow him to help people in need. After graduation he found employment in the mental health field, but soon became frustrated with the lack of significant life change he saw in most psychiatric patients and the lack of long-term freedom he observed in substance abusers. Leaving that field, he took a job with a utility company while he went to seminary at nights. He decided that the best way to help people find deep and lasting change was to be a pastor.
In the midst of working and going to grad school Reb got married and started a family. When he had children of his own he found himself appreciating the principles of discipline, respect, and accountability he had gleaned from his parents. Not only were these things invaluable for the rearing of his own children, but they dovetailed with his understanding of human nature, which proved critical in his counseling and teaching when he did become a pastor.
There’s a lot more to Reb’s story, but that’s all there is time for now.
(Excerpted from Born Liberal, Raised Right -- Appendix D)