by Dan Mann
I was twenty years old and the whole world was before me for the taking. All I needed was money to buy all the things I dreamed. I needed a cool car, a beautiful wife, a fine home, and power in the community.
The truth is, passion has a way of spoiling our dreams. I must have it now! By the world’s standards, I had a good job with potential for growth both with income and power. The income was definitely less than I needed but the future looked bright for growth. A little more OJT and the next higher grade would open up. It wasn’t the kind of work I loved, but there were certainly areas that I really liked. I loved the heavy equipment and moving and building new highways. The bigger the mountain, the more dynamite, and the bigger the trucks and diggers, the more I loved it. The job would have been acceptable but I didn’t like working for the government. I hesitated to tell people where I worked because everyone knew government employee’s never earned their keep.
I traded my highway department job for a desk job with the city. I was now in the design and drafting department, Sewer, Water and Street Design. I had started my job with the highway dept in their drafting and design department and then moved to surveying and construction. Now I was drawing the plans for the city engineers. It was better pay with the same benefits and no freezing temperatures in the winter.
Backing up a few years to the finding of a wife, I mentioned a beautiful wife and I would have been a wiser man if I had gone looking for a good match instead of a good looker. The passions of youth applied without wisdom can create a disastrous life. Two good people can make an awful mess when mismatched. Our times were spent having fun and chasing about.
There was no drinking allowed for me. I had made that decision early in my life and I wanted nothing to do with it. But the lady I chose to spend time with did not share my fear of drinking. I didn’t realize how much she liked to drink or why she seemed to need it. I figured when we were married she would put that part of her life behind her and we would together work at enjoying all that the world had to offer of the good life.
So now I had the cool car, the good looking wife and a job with a future. All I needed now was some time in place to gather the things that people think they need in life. Marriage is about being a team pulling together for the same dreams.
It wasn’t too long before we began to discover that we did not share the same dream. I loved cars and speed and having friends that had those same dreams. She loved the social life and having friends that made that a big part of their life.
Having a child brings a new dimension to the marriage relationship. More love for sure and more responsibility. I loved being a dad and wanting to make my son into a reflection of myself. Her parents impressed us with the need to have our son baptized and since I had never been baptized we decided he and I would get it done together. That is a special blessing although I don’t think I really knew why I was getting it done. The world, (those of the older generation) thought it should be a priority. Today, it is a wonderful memory to have and a special bond I have with Dan C as he was known.
Nothing really changed for me with respect to my decisions in life after that experience and I have no memory of anything special going on in the world regarding Jesus. That was in the fall of 1963 and there was no thought of the Jesus Revolution at that time.
The little boy was about nine months old the first time our family split. She took our son and moved in with another woman that was leaving her husband at that time as well. It was in my opinion a horrible place to take a little fellow and so in a fit of anger I kidnapped him. It was almost forbidden at that time for the father to have custody of the children and after a couple of days I let her keep him in that less than desirable environment. After a few weeks and after filing papers for divorce we worked things out and reconciled.
There were promises but nothing had been changed deep down in either of our hearts about life’s ultimate goals. I still needed a hot car, and fast friends and she still needed a social life. We tried hard to keep life moving forward. Buried differences have a way of making their way back to the surface and after about a year life was again becoming ugly. She was drinking and socializing with that kind of friends. I was getting angry and peace could not be found.
It was 1965 and we were on our second separation and divorce filing. The lawyers were making out well but our life was a wreck. We lived apart for about three months this time. She had taken an apartment in town and I was living in our house we rented in a small community in the country. This separation lasted longer and seemed like it was the end, but we tried again to make it work. I gave up the house we had and moved our things to storage since she had a furnished apartment. Later we
found a real nice house to rent up on the Eastside of town and we moved again. Now we had two children, a little girl arrived in November of 1966. She was beautiful and I thought we were finally going to enjoy real life.
I had filed away all my big dreams of having power in the world and was looking to just be satisfied with family and a job. I still had a need for speed though and I wanted her to share that dream with me. She put up with it, but very reluctantly. I put up with her socializing as long as she was faithful to our marriage. What I didn’t know couldn’t hurt I guess.
In 1968 there was one more separation. This one looked like it was going to last forever. She kept the house. I lived in my dad’s house that he wasn’t using at the time. She bought her own car and I had something to drive, but not much. This separation lasted several months and then once again we reconciled.
Nothing had ever been done to heal the long buried differences that existed under it all. Seemed like we were real good at putting band aids on and hoping for the best but that never works for long.
People at our work knew of our problems. We parked in my parking lot and she walked up the street to her office job. When she needed the car I would wait on the sidewalk for her to drive by and pick me up after work. For six years I worked at the City and she worked three blocks up the street so we were well known in that area.
There was a stirring in the office where I worked. Most of the people I worked with were Catholic. Our big boss had attended a retreat and had quietly been recruiting some of the other guys to attend one as well. No one was pushing me or twisting any arms, but I was watching. When a thirty-six year old confirmed bachelor agreed to attend several of us took notice. This guy was known for his drinking and carousing with women. Nothing was going to change him I figured. Wow, he came back to work the next week and he was a changed person. But, I was certain it would pass and he would be back in his old ways soon. He was the guy that got me my job and we were good friends and I was watching. The next guy to attend the retreat was my direct boss. He was a good family man, a man of the world with some money and, measured by the world’s standards, he was a good person. When he returned to work after the retreat there were now two of them expressing a new life! I was watching. Those two men began working together and went out recruiting people they knew in the community to attend this retreat.
Meanwhile, I was living a wreck of a life with pain being inflicted on those in my house. She was mean, I was mean and the children cried. Drinking was not a big part of my life, but I did attend some Christmas parties with the people I worked with. Fast cars were still at the front of my mind. Our family life seemed as though it would continue to be destructive and unending sadness.
Then one day those two apostles leaned on my desk and said they wanted me to attend the retreat. Inside I knew I wanted to go but I didn’t want to let them know that I was so desperate to know if God was REAL and could possibly fix my broken life. I told them I would think about it and let them know, but I knew I wanted to go as soon as possible.
So in March of 1969, the third week on Thursday night I packed my sleeping bag into the church and said I would listen to these people for three days and nights, but one thing they were not going to do was make a Catholic out of me. I had nothing against Catholics, but I just didn’t want to be one. I was baptized Lutheran after growing up nothing and I just wasn’t into changing everything.
Three days and three nights with the windows covered, the doors locked and no other faces except those attending the retreat with me. Each day was filled with prayers, speeches, discussions, and more prayers. The speakers were mostly laymen with a Priest giving only one message each day. This was regular men giving their testimony of how Jesus changed their life giving peace, hope and love beyond measure. How Jesus made every part of their life mean something. There was no dramatic alter call, but the message was, your life can have meaning too. You can straighten out your marriage and have a real godly family. There was no dramatic touch; there was nothing spectacular but just a certain desire to live for God. I came home on Sunday night having made a decision to find out who Jesus really was and follow his plan for my life.
While I was away nothing had changed with my wife. I suspect she might even have spent some time socializing. It was now up to me to straighten out MY life and become the best person I could be. I set about doing that and at first I started reading books about Christ and then it came to me, I should really be reading His book and learn the things He said if I wanted to know Him so I put aside the other reading and began at Chapter one of the New Testament.
It must have made a reasonable impression on my wife since she on her own signed up to attend the next retreat for women. She came home from that retreat with a willingness to pray and read her Bible, but not with me or in front of me. There was no togetherness in this new life with God, still we were separated. Nothing ever happened to change that and even as I grew in my walk with God and as she worked on her relationship with Him, there was no improvement in our relationship and the fighting continued.
This was 1969 and our marriage would last another two years and then just as the wind blows out a candle, it was over in August of 1971. But the fire that God started in my life was growing and I had peace in the midst of the storm. I told her when she said she again wanted a divorce, that I would work with her to fix the broken parts of our life and that I did not want a divorce, but that I would not fight her if that was what she wanted.
When I came home from the retreat, I had a new and good reason to attend church. The in-laws had insisted that we should change our church membership from the church we were married in to the church just down the street from our house. We moved into that neighborhood in 1965 and church attendance was not on my list of worries. I didn’t argue, we just changed to make them happy, but when I came out of the retreat I wanted to make contact with the church and start attending regularly.
My first Sunday there a tall slim dark haired lady sat down beside me and introduced herself. She said “you will have to meet my husband!” I did meet her husband all 6’7” of him. He was a giant of a man with hands the size of a grizzly bear and the heart of an angel. We became instant best friends and studied the Bible together. Shortly, I met both pastors of the church and my life in the faith was taking roots.
Not long after my experience at the retreat I learned that there was a Lutheran minister that had made the retreat and was developing a program similar for the Lutheran Church. I made contact with him and we discussed how I could help with that and at the same time our local pastor was working on a visitation program along the lines of Evangelism Explosion. My giant friend and I teamed up with the local pastor and we went out sharing the Four Spiritual Laws with the willing visitors from our church.
Lives were being changed and that was making the old-timers in the church uncomfortable. New people were coming and our church was growing. Tuesday night was visitation and Thursday night was a beginners Bible study. People were choosing Jesus and it was disturbing long time believers theology and yet the church was growing. In addition we had adopted the Lutheran pastor’s retreat program and new people were coming through that program to the church too.
With so many new believers, and so many needing teaching, pure theology was getting lost in the rush. It was almost like we were living in the Book of Acts time. It probably didn’t help that many of the new believers congregated at the front of the church for worship. We wanted to be right close to where the action was happening. After all, the seats were available because so many of the veteran members quietly took to the back of the church. It was an exciting and challenging time to be alive. Nothing is as exciting as being surrounded by a group of new believers.
Confusion abounded and some people were expressing their new faith with lots of exuberance. That made the long time members more and more uncomfortable. They weren’t sure they approved of the message of the Four Spiritual Laws from a theological perspective. Too many new people were shaking the church. The Jesus Revolution was swinging in the aisles and dancing as well and then there was the outbreak of speaking in tongues.
For some it was just more than they could take. Satan is the author of confusion and there was plenty of opportunity for him to work. When the wolf stirs the sheep, killing the shepherd starts percolating in the community. I’m certain that more than one great pastor lost his job in the confusion of the revolution. My beloved pastor was one of them to bite the dust. Not only did the pastor lose his job, but the church split as well. New ideas and movements were breaking out all over. There was the Discipling Movement and the Shepherding Movement and people moving in and out of churches seeking to be closer to God.
So it is the same in the community of faith today as it was when Jesus walked the streets of Jerusalem. People have not changed and they still are seeking the Gospel even if they don’t know it. It is not the message that divides people, it just the subtle works of Satan.
But in spite of all the problems brought by the Jesus Revolution, I firmly believe that all of us that lived and loved in those times are better off today than we would have been had there not been a revolution! Maranantha!