How I Ended Up In the Freak Show Part 5


Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The past is forgotten, and everything is new.
—2 Corinthians 5:17

“Sometimes when you look in his eyes you get the feeling that someone else is driving.”
—David Letterman

*   *   *

thinmanREAD PART ONE in which I relate my rise from the dank dungeons of Midwestern religion to the heady heights of heroic hedonism.
READ PART TWO wherein is recounted some stoned adventures in Churchland and an encounter with a rather curious clergyman.
READ PART THREE which tells of a trepidatious visit to a cliff and of my precipitous leap from it.
READ PART FOUR that describes a surprise invasion by an invisible being and the strange transmogrification which resulted.

*   *   *


I rolled into the parking lot a few minutes before my 1-9 PM shift. The powerful soul-quake that had rocked me earlier now burned in me like magnesium. This Holy Ghost thing was profoundly unlike the highs I was used to. I was immersed in unmediated reality, shockingly alive. Everything around me blazed with a nearly unbearable actuality. The heavens and the earth, and my place in them, had come into sharp focus. The Living God had swallowed me whole. I felt utterly clarified.

Like always, I entered through the back door into the workroom where the punch clock was. Nobody else was back there so I slotted my time card, adjusted my suit jacket, and headed toward the sales floor.

The store was quiet and empty of customers. My boss and the assistant manager were chatting at the service desk in the middle of the shop some thirty feet away, but the instant I stepped onto the floor they both quickly looked up as though startled. Before I could say a word, my manager yelped, “What in the world has happened to you?”

fireeaterMuch later I recognized the significance of this moment. I was showing up for work at my scheduled time as expected, coming through the same door that I used every day, wearing a suit I’d worn to work many times. My hair looked like it always did. I was wearing my usual face too, as far as I could tell. There was absolutely nothing in my demeanor or appearance that was different from any other day that I’d spent with these two guys. Yet, like antelope grazing on the Serengeti that sense sudden danger, they both had snapped to alertness when I arrived. They had immediately detected a change in me, some new force field that had abruptly disrupted the normal tranquil frequencies.

It was my first indication that the Jesus thing was not a mere inner experience or a metaphor for some private, personal enlightenment. The Spirit was not a philosophy or religion; he was not my own anything at all. No. This was the Holy One himself made manifest in me; this was the boundary-shattering Presence of the ancient and ineffable Other crashing the party. And although he was in me, he was decidedly not contained by me. The world was his and everything in it—and my buddies, though they could not have named it, could not ignore this striking visitation.


At that time I thought none of this. My boss and the assistant manager were staring at me. Even from across the sales floor I could see the nervous uncertainty in their eyes. Without a moment’s hesitation I spread wide my arms and blurted out, “I received Jesus as my Lord and Savior!” Their jaws dropped with an audible clang. I don’t recall what happened afterward, only that all I wanted to do from then on was tell anybody who came into the store about Jesus. Unfortunately, my sales plummeted. My coworkers could barely stomach me. It was only by God’s grace that I wasn’t justifiably fired.

A few nights later I stopped by my drug dealer’s house just to say hi. He was also a good friend, but I hadn’t seen or talked to him since my rather radical remaking. I parked on the curb, climbed the steps to his front door, and knocked. Being a supplier of dubious pharmaceuticals, my friend was understandably cautious. The bluegrass music I had heard from the stereo inside ceased. I could hear some quick activity that I knew from experience reflected certain precautionary measures. I waited. Finally I heard footfalls coming toward the door. The porch light flared on, then the curtain over a small side window moved aside just a bit. A single eye scrutinized me. The curtain fell back into place and I heard the clicks and clacks of unbolting locks. The door slowly opened to admit me.

“Guess what?” I asked.

He looked at me carefully, then narrowed his eyes and spat. “You became a Christian.”

(Somewhere in the night a dog barked.)

*   *   *

NEXT: Epilogue: Freakonomics


One Response

  1. Oh Fred,
    How dramatic and classically antithetical to being a ‘regular guy’ your conversion experience actually was. A great and awesome commentary!
    In contrast, I found myself many years ago awakening in an unknown-to-me hospital, a triplegic. My only memory from 6 comatose weeks was a profound memory of a God-dream/vision,literally telling me to “Live My way and you will have life,” the result of a near-death, auto-accident-induced traumatic head injury. So, I was just blessed with a strong testimony,which, after the blood of the Lamb, defeats our foe, the devil.

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