SIMPLE TRUTH: Plain vanilla

Published 4:42 pm Thursday, October 11, 2012

By Charles Christmas

“By the grace of God, I am what I am … ” (1 Corinthians 15:10).

The date was Feb. 20, 1927. Joe and his brother-in-law, Bascom, were on their knees in the barn crying out to God to have mercy and not let Joe’s wife, Antie, die.

She had brought this pregnancy to the birth point, but did not have any strength left to deliver. In the old farmhouse, she and Dr. Hicks had exhausted all procedures and efforts. Nothing was left but God and prayer, or death. God answered prayer, and after several more hours of agony, a huge 12-pound baby boy was born, the last of eight. I was that baby boy. After several days, when my mother was able to think clearly, she said, “The baby will be named Charles; not after my brother, Charlie, but after Charles Rogers, who was my first pastor when I was the 16-year-old church organist.”

Our family atmosphere involved love, total participation in work, a father-led table blessing three times each day, church on Sunday and happy times with kinfolks, neighbors and friends. Each of my older siblings was a positive role model for me.

At age 10 there was a desire within me to know that I was a child of God, and that death would mean heaven for me. I came to understand that I could not do enough good to make myself right with God.Then my heart became open to God’s one and only son, who died for my sins and was alive to live within me. This was the beginning of my Christian life.

Financially, times were very challenging for our family, and our ever-present Federal Land Bank Mortgage was never far from our minds. My diligent father did not have the means to provide more than our necessities through high school. But six of the seven worked their way to the college level. When I was 13, my father allowed me minimal hours away from the farm work to have an afternoon and Sunday morning bicycle paper route, and a Saturday job in a meat market/mercantile store.

My church leaders in teaching and training organizations were the spiritual growth influences in my young life. In my early teens, I developed a personal conviction that God had an individual plan for each believer’s life, and I wanted to know and do his will for mine. I consistently asked God to make this known to me and not let me miss it. I was also convinced that a true believer was to be different.

At age 15, sitting at our farmhouse table on a Sunday afternoon, I wrote on a sheet of tablet paper the following commitments: With God’s help, I will lead a Christian life; read my Bible daily; pray daily; give 1/10 of my income to the Lord; marry a Christian, if I marry; do my best in my church life; go to college; ask and trust the Lord to lead me in choosing my life’s vocation; and treat all people alike and with respect. With God’s help, I will not smoke, steal, cuss, drink alcohol, have premarital sex, date a girl of questionable reputation, be ashamed of Christ or consider myself better than my fellow man. My direction would be these commitments.

By the 11th grade I knew that God’s plan for me was to serve him and others either in the medical field or as a pastor. I would certainly not go in the pastoral direction without knowing beyond any doubt that this was God’s singular calling on my life, so I took steps toward preparing for medical work. This included moving 13 miles from home to a room-and-board residence for my senior year at Dothan High School because my small town high school did not offer chemistry, physics or geometry, and I needed each subject.

My father could not underwrite these expenses but he did something far better by allowing my absence from the farm. I secured the longest bicycle paper route in Dothan after school and on Sunday mornings, and a shoe salesman job on Saturdays. These more than paid all of my expenses.

After previously securing two on-campus jobs, I arrived at the University of Alabama by Trailway bus on D-day, Wednesday, June 6, 1944. It was impossible for me to enter the large auditorium of Calvary Church for regular Wednesday night prayer service because more than a thousand people were crying out to God for their family members and our men who took part in the invasion of Normandy. Summer School was busy, affirming and enjoyable.

At the September fall Baptist Student Council planning retreat, I met a sophomore girl, Louise Anderson, from Thomasville, Ala. By November, we had become so acquainted that neither of us ever looked in another direction, nor did we look back! ‘Plain Vanilla’ Charles had met ‘multi-flavor Neapolitan’ Louise! Would it work?

“By the grace of God, we were what we were.” “In all your ways acknowledge God, and He shall direct your paths” (even to each other).

Next week: “Was it Faith or Were We Fools?”

—Charles Christmas is a religion columnist for The Clanton Advertiser. His column appears each Thursday.