Singing, serving, smiling -- but looks can be deceiving.
by Don Cox as told to Muriel Larson
In my home, I was the king; my family members were the peasants. At least that was the way I saw things. Whenever there was the slightest resistance to my will, my violent temper could assert itself. For twenty-five years my wife, June, suffered under my verbal abuse.
Our three sons also felt my wrath. One day when Alan, the oldest, was in high school, I noticed his hair was a bit longer than usual. “Why haven’t you had your hair cut lately?” I asked angrily. “As long as you put your feet under my table, you’ll wear your hair short!”
Later, Alan was furious when he came home from the barber. As we prepared to go on a picnic, he said, “I don’t want to go. I’m going out with my friends.” So we left without him.
When we came home, we found Alan in the carport so drunk he could hardly stand. I’d never had any use for people who drank, and now my temper exploded. I grabbed Alan by his shirt and started hitting him again and again.
“Don, stop it!” my wife screamed. “You’ll kill him!”
She stepped between Alan and me. When I realized my blows were striking her, I came to my senses.
After that, Alan’s problems seemed to worsen. He started skipping school, taking drugs. But I refused to blame myself in any way. After all, I was always right, and everyone else was always wrong.
People at our church had no idea how I behaved at home. At church I was Mr. Pious personified and an active worker; only my family knew the truth. Once Alan asked June, “Mama, how can Daddy lead the singing in church and live the way he does at home?”
I had wondered the same thing about my own father. Both my parents had attended church regularly as I grew up. Mother lived as a Christian, but my father drank a lot. Looking at my father’s church friends, I had noticed the same hypocrisy. They went to church every weekend and lived the way they pleased the rest of the week.
So I had resisted whenever I had felt troubled about my need to become a Christian. I had heard about the thief on the cross who had turned to Christ as he was dying. When I’m close to dying, I reasoned, I’ll accept the Lord.
After June and I had been married four years, I had made a “commitment” to Christ. June was thrilled. She thought I had received Him as my Savior and would be changed. But I had only turned over a new leaf; I soon went back to my old ways.
The church chose me as music director and June as pianist. I enjoyed being a “good guy” in others’ eyes, but at home I was still the same old tyrant.
Eventually we changed churches — twice. At the second church June and I got involved with the bus ministry: She coordinated it, and I drove one of the buses. During Bible school and church I would sit in the kitchen with the other drivers, downing coffee and doughnuts until it was time to drive the children home.
During evening church I usually stayed home to watch TV while my family went to the service. One evening our teenage son, Eddie, came downstairs and said, “Daddy, are you going to church tonight?”
“I don’t know,” I grunted. He knows I never go to the evening church service, I muttered to myself. So why does he ask?
Then Eddie said something else I didn’t expect. “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away,” he quoted. With that, he turned and went back upstairs to get ready for church.
“I’ve got a mind not to go!” I told June angrily. She didn’t say a word, but walked upstairs to get ready for church.
As I sat there, a thought came to me: Well, I haven’t much excuse not to go, so I guess I will.
The service that night wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. The singing was good, the Bible was preached as usual; but I had heard it all my life.
Finally, a man and his wife began singing a hymn as the invitation to receive Christ was given. The song seemed to last forever. When are they going to finish? I wondered nervously.
My uneasiness grew until, during the third verse of the song, the walls of the church seemed to close in on me. My fear was so great that the lights seemed to sway before my eyes. I got the distinct impression that if I went out the church door that night without turning from my sins and receiving Christ as my Savior, I would miss out on eternal life.
Under deep conviction, I grabbed my wife’s hand. Pulling her after me, I charged down the aisle to the altar and fell on my knees. Tears of repentance coursed down my face as I prayed, “Lord, forgive me for all the wrong things I have done in my life, for rejecting You for so long. Thank You for shedding Your blood for my sins on the cross. I receive You now as my Savior and Lord!”
That night God answered twenty-five years of my wife’s prayers. I became a new man! The profanity I had used daily now disappeared. There would be no problems with my temper for the next six months. After that I would slowly and painfully learn to rely on God’s power and the Bible’s advice to help me discipline myself not to blow up.
Our family life became far happier and more peaceful. I told Alan I loved him — the first time he remembered my ever doing so. June was no longer my scapegoat.
I’m still not perfect. But God has given me the power to control my temper, the desire to read the Bible, pray, win others to Him, praise Him, and sing for Him. Now the smile on my face is no longer a sham: It’s the joy of the Lord.