Dave Roney That Day On the Couch

I met George MacDonald three years ago; but better, I think, to say that God introduced me to him. Yes, I am sure that was the case; and here, in brief form, is the story of that encounter and what resulted from it.

My life had been a roller coaster of highs and lows, mostly lows I think; I had been an active alcoholic for nearly fifty years and, by the time I entered recovery everything in life dear to a man had been lost. From earliest childhood I suffered the abuses of my father, who was a very hard, angry, man; he beat me physically with belts and clubs and fists, and even today I carry some of the marks of that treatment in my body. But worse, he beat me down emotionally, psychologically, intellectually, and made me to think of myself as the worm, as unfit, and unworthy. And this father took our family to churches where God was presented to be quite like my him. Thus my initial god-image, that of my father, was further substantiated from the pulpits.

But when I was in my teens I grew to hate my father, and it followed as natural that I would also hate this god he represented, and so, turning from both, I became an atheist. Some years later, atheism being insufficient, I returned to belief in God, yet it was the same God I had feared and loathed; but, knowing of no other god I resigned myself to the task and submitted myself, ever striving but never able to satisfy the demands this god placed upon me. And through the years I struggled, and suffered, had bouts with mental illness, suicidal tendencies, battled migraines and alcoholism. The very things I detested in my father and in God, which I had sworn never to be, I came to be in my own self. Angry, seething with condemnation for others, judgmental, brutally harsh, as I slipped back and forth between dedicated service to sheer apathy. One day in anger I confronted a street gang and was shot several times, nearly perished, underwent several years of reconstructive surgeries to my face, sunk into depression, committed myself to the psych ward at the V.A., but found no relief, no healing, lost all hope, trudged on in an alcoholic stupor.

Over the years I, having somewhat of an analytical mind, pursued philosophy and logic, self-taught; and when I returned from atheism, began to explore theology. Trying to find the peace that always evaded me, I visited all the major sects and denominations, and in their turn gave myself over to Arminianism, Pelagianism, Semi-Pelagism, and finally came to rest upon Calvinism. And Calvinism was the most exciting to me because of its depth; it intrigued me by its very intellectual and analytical nature, and by the arguments set forth so clearly. And for several years I steadily grew in the doctrines, coming to know them quite well, studying for hours, bottle at hand, until my mind became so fogged that I must lay the Scripture aside.

But when Calvinism, cold and cynical, had run its course I found that my inner suffering had not been assauged by it but, rather, had been increased to a feverish pitch. I despaired again, as I had as a boy; but this was worse by far, because to my mind I had by now explored every possible avenue and had found the lot of them to be bankrupt. I was doomed to a dark life of religion under a grim God.

And this brief summary, which leaves more unsaid than said about a broken life, is what brings me to the above title and the couch. When, finally, all was darkness to me and I was sure it could only be worsened by the further passing of time, I sat down on our couch, alone, on a certain day and began to weep the bitter tears of utter despairing. In this moment I cried out to the god who considered me the worm, with little hope he would give me peace but with high expectation that he would willingly crush me; “God, either deliver me from this misery or else kill me! I cannot live another day in this pain!”

This was a heart's cry for “suicide by God.” I could not bear the thought of doing it to myself because I would spare my dear wife the trauma of coming home to the scattered remains of my skull. But who would question the bloodless death of an aging man taken by a heart attack, a stroke, or by an aneurysm? Thus my death would be as tidy as my Calvinist doctrines. This was the best I could hope for from the brooding God as I then understood Him.

But in that dark moment a miracle which no true Calvinist could accept happened; it was the Voice, speaking to me words which my ears could not hear. “Come up here!” said the Voice, and I obeyed; “Sit in My lap!” the Voice continued, and again I obeyed. This Voice told me He loved me, that He was my Father, that He desired to hold me, to be my All in all, and feed me from His bosom. And I wondered after this; What could it mean that He should feed me thus? And the Voice knew and told me what the milk of the word is; it is the Divine Love, and He would nurse me on that rich diet. I did not then know much, if anything, about the true nature of our Father; but for the first time in my life I felt loved by Him, warmed, secure, at peace. And though my body had all the while been sitting on the couch, I had somehow been transported to the realm of my Father. I cannot explain this.

Several days after that encounter, I was about the house and in a foul mood, even cursing, when the Voice spoke to me for the second time saying “Come up here!” And I replied aloud, “But Father, I cannot; I am all dirty!” But the Voice would have none of it; “Did you clean yourself up before you came to My Son?” “No, Father, but came as I was.” “Then, do not attempt to clean yourself up before you come to Me! I and My Son are the same! I will cleanse you!” And I felt I was in the Divine lap again, and that He by some cloth which I do not know began to wipe away my grime and dirt, and to cleanse me. And for the second time I felt the peace of a small child held by his father.

These two occurrences have never been repeated, although I have prayed that they might. Perhaps the Voice, our Father, will speak again; but if not in this life, surely in the one to come. Now these encounters both gave peace which I had never previously known, but it also left me in a quandary; for how would I then return to the former beliefs which portrayed another god? And that brings me to how I met George MacDonald.

During the following week a casual friend and I were together and I related the events with the Voice to him. And this man asked me if I had ever heard of George MacDonald, which I had not; he, therefore, suggested that I read the Unspoken Sermons. And when I returned home I went online and found them, and began with the first, “The Child In The Midst,” and was fascinated to discover that what I read and what I had discovered in the Voice were very much the same thing. This first Sermon was the, THE, pivotal point in my understanding and in the changing of my heart; I continued to read the Sermons, incessantly, hour by hour, and came to “Abba.” And here my heart nearly exploded with the joy found.

Scripture relates to us that “At the right time” Christ Jesus came. And in like manner, I think, when the soil of my heart had through misery been well prepared, the right time came for the Voice, my Father and yours, and the introduction into my life of George MacDonald. The Divine Coincidence was at work, is at work, continues to work; and it all began one day on the couch...

Dave Roney