Saturday, June 2, 2012
It wasn't the first time the thought had crossed my mind. It was a late night in the winter of 2003 and I found myself on the long, winding stretch of Highway 2 that runs along the Wenatchee River. The road was narrow with many blind turns. It wasn't uncommon for parts of the rocky hillside to give way and block the roadway with rocks and mud. "It would be okay if a semi came around the corner in my lane...too late to get back", I would think. "Or even if it just ended up forcing me off the road into the river. I could never survive that current or the icy waters." At the time, there were parts of me that just wanted it all to end but I didn’t have the strength...or courage perhaps, to end it myself. The lie of a life that I was living weighed heavier and heavier on me each day, crushing the life out of me. On the outside my life was near perfect. A great job. My wife was falling back in love with me after nearly destroying our marriage with the same lies and deceit only three years before. "If I was just killed in an accident or something", I thought "there would simply be grieving and sadness and no one would know my secrets...no one would get hurt."
Those memories came back to me this past week as a series of events unfolded in the community where I once lived. I had received a text from my Pastor's wife. "Dan was killed in a motorcycle accident today. Pray for the family." I had attended church with Dan years before. He was the son of a prominent evangelist and his wife was a close friend of my wife. While we weren't close friends, I had been to his home on several occasions and he'd invited to me to enter into a business venture with him, but it was one of those tiered marketing prom fans and it didn't really suit my personality. I had lost contact with and his family after my arrest and incarceration and didn't know that he had prospered greatly over the past ten years and had accumulated considerable wealth.
I didn't attend his service, but talked to some who did. It was in our old church...the entire seating for 1000+ filled to capacity. He was spoken of highly with pastors and friends recalling their memories of a man who they remembered as loving and generous...always willing to help others. When I heard my friend speak of the funeral, it made me think for just a moment that at one time in my life, I might have been remembered like that.
But over the course of the next week, things changed as things about Dan's life were revealed. There were people coming to the family wanting to know where their money was. Apparently Dan was into Forex trading and a lot of people had invested with him and now they wanted the return on their investment. But there was a problem...no one knew where the money was. No one could find any records of money being invested. Millions of dollars had disappeared. A couple of days later the FBI was at the old church. The following day, they raided Dan's former home. The stories appeared in online blog sites that Dan had been running a Ponzi scheme, bilking his friends and others out of untold amounts of money. "Dan had been under investigation before the accident", the articles said. Some accused him of intentionally driving his motorcycle head on into the semi truck that killed him instantly. The man who had been praised only days earlier was now being accused of a heinous, selfish crime.
I don't know if any of what has been said of Dan is true...only time will tell. But that's when it struck me that my life and Dan's life were on similar roads for a number of years. If what was being said was true, then like me, the Dan people saw was not the real Dan. We were both on a slippery road that we both knew could cause our live to crash at any time. We were both Christian men who were prominent and successful in our community. We both had a lot to lose. And in both of our lives, the FBI took an interest in our secret lives and put everything we had worked for at great risk.
And that's when I think we chose to take different roads out. We came to a fork in the road where we had to choose one direction or another. One road was very short. It literally "dead ended" very quickly. As you looked down that short road, you could see the semi truck already coming right at you. But as you looked down the other road, it turned quickly and you couldn't see what was coming...or how long the road was. You could see that it was going to be a difficult road as it started to climb up the steep, rocky hillside. When we got to that point in the road that make up our life story, he turned one way and I chose the other.
I know that God knows all things and that He can prevent bad things from happening I our lives. But I also believe that He allows many painful things to happen because He knows that our story can be used to help others who are lost in their own sinfulness. He lets us make choices (both good and bad) and then gives us opportunity to do something with the consequences.
I'm far from perfect, but when I chose the road I did when the FBI entered my life eight years ago, I was put on a path to help other people. I'll never know how many lives have been impacted in a positive way by publicly acknowledging my weakness and accepting the consequences of the choices I'd been making. I don't know how many men I might have given hope to that were in the same trap I was in. God has used me, and my life story, to bring others out of the darkness and blindness that pornography suffocates a man with.
And that makes me think of Dan and the story his life might have been had he taken the other road...the one that looked so difficult at the fork. So many in our world are trapped in greed. There doesn't seem to be enough money to satisfy them and they don't care who gets hurt as they do anything to accumulate more. If what is being said about Dan and his running a Ponzi scheme is true, his testimony could have been so powerful to those who are consumed by the selfish greed that he was blinded by. A gifted speaker in his own right, he could have shared the actual cost of living that lie. He too would have been used by God to help others.
We are all on a road in our life story and the road is never straight. And we don't always know where that road might lead, even when we think we do. There are blind curves with danger around the corner. And there are forks where we will have to choose which road to travel next. That road is the important one.