My Beer Can Epiphany

I had an epiphany that night.

It was about 2:30 am - I know because the bars were closed and I was desperately wanting another drink. I was trying to make it back to my borrowed bedroom on the north end of Eldon, Iowa. I was drunk, but for me drunk and walking was not drunk enough. It was then that I spotted it; a discarded can of Budweiser lying next to the curb. I staggered over and picked it up. To my delight I found a bit of backwash left in the bottom of the can. I excitedly slammed it down.

It was then that I had the epiphany.

In Luke 15, Jesus tells the story of the prodigal son. Raised by a good father who loved him deeply, the boy failed to realize all he had. One day he asked his dad for his inheritance. Knowing full well an inheritance is not collected until the death of the benefactor, the boy was essentially saying, "Dad, I wish you were dead. But since you're not, how about giving me my share of your wealth now." The brokenhearted father did as his son asked, and not long after, watched his boy disappear down the road.

Easy money spends easily. The boy quickly blew through the small fortune and became homeless. Eventually he found a job feeding pigs, hardly a kosher job for a Jewish boy. Eventually he caught himself fantasizing about the pig's food. It was then Jesus says, "he came to himself."

I have loved that phrase for years because it sums up the night I drank someone else's spit. I had to come face to face with what I'd become. I had to admit how bad it was. And, like the young man in Jesus' story, only then did I think of the Father.

It wasn't immediate for me. It would still be a few more months of running from God before I would cry out to Him in another borrowed bedroom. But when I did, like the Father in Jesus' story, God flooded the room and accepted me with open arms. I will never forget it.

When I say God came into my room, I am not speaking metaphorically. He came, and I felt Him. I was absolutely overwhelmed. I hadn't realized how utterly lonely I was until that moment. He loved me through and through. And that love changed me. It accomplished what drug rehab hadn't. It made me want to live right; I didn't want to ever hurt my Father again.

My life has hinged on that experience to this day. It was not long before I would enter Teen Challenge. I then went onto Bible School where I would not only learn the Word of God, I would meet my wife of 27 years. We would go onto to have seven children and give our lives to ministry. But none of that would have happened had it not been for that night when a brokenhearted Father welcomed back a broken son.