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Theological, Doctrinal, and Spiritual Musing - and whatever other else is on my mind when I notice that I haven't posted in a while.
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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
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[He has] good posts, both the serious like this one, and the humorous like yesterday. [He is] the reason that I have restrained myself from making Canadian jokes in my posts.
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Friday, September 23, 2005

I would like to say a word or two about the freedom I experienced from a sin that was so entrenched into my being I didn’t even know it could be removed – having no frame of reference I did not even have the capacity to imagine an existence where it didn’t exist - since I had no idea it could be separated from who I was.

The story begins in Holland during World War II.

I can’t be certain, but if I am correct my grandfather came from a poor urban family. In his early childhood he was something of a wizard with snares. He snared birds, rabbits, foxes, and even mice and rats. What could be sold for food he sold, and if not, he would skin it and sell its hide. In this way he helped to support his family even from a young age (he was one of seven children I believe).

I am not sure if it was because the Germans began to occupy Holland, but during the war food was rationed. You couldn’t go and by butter or bread – you were given a certain amount of food tickets and you went and stood in line all day to get a tub of butter, etc. I am not sure how my grandfather came to be involved in black market smuggling – but he became quite wealthy from it. He would go over the border and buy powdered eggs or something in exchange for tobacco or whatever, and bring it back and sell it etc. He wasn’t entirely a mercenary about it – he has a few stories about some of the families he helped out and what not – but really, he was making out like a bandit. The Dutch people couldn’t just buy food – everything was being rationed out. So if your family needed bread you went and stood in line all day, and if the line moved fast enough – you might get some bread that day. It wasn’t a good system, so my grandfather, through the barter system and over-the-border smuggling, did quite well.

When the Germans came into Holland – they lined up the city officials and executed them. From that point on the Germans ran the city. One of the things the Germans did was enlist (less than willing) Dutch men into the German army. They would go into a bar, round up all the men (young and old alike) and take them away to be soldiers. My grandfather escaped one such “recruitment drive” by jumping out a restroom window and running all the way to the next town to escape it. He stopped in at a pub there to hide out for a while (where else could he go?) and the Germans came to that pub and gathered up all the men there too. They lined them up outside and began to march them.

My grandfather however didn’t look like your typical working class stiff however. The war made detergent and whatnot scarce, so most of the people were dressed in dirty or patch-worked clothes, while my grandfather was in a pristine and clean long coat and stylish hat. So when everyone turned right at one turn, my grandfather kept on walking straight. It would have been suicide to do so, since shooting someone who doesn’t listen is a great way to make everyone else listen – but my grandfather threw his shoulders back and walked as though he was not affiliated with this group. A couple of german soldiers saw him and came to attention – assuming him to be an officer, or perhaps a nazi. He stood still while the men marched by, and looked to be inspecting them or something – then continued his unhurried walk until he was out of sight – and ran like the dickens.

It was during the smuggling years that my grandfather met my grandmother – she was a smuggler too, and they were wed and had children.

Prior to the war my grandfather found employment in the Phillips plant working on an assembly line making parts for radios. He was a bright and industrious fellow and soon was introduced all sorts of ways to increase his production. Eventually he was made the floor “hand” – the guy who looks after everyone – and because he excelled in this, he was noticed and selected as a foreman trainee. Over the course of a few years he went to school in the evenings and when all was said and done he was a tool and dye engineer and foreman. By the time my grandparents left Holland (about a decade after the war had ended) my grandfather had become a foreman authority over all the plants in three countries.

One day my grandfather’s superiors at Phillips came to him with a light bulb filament that a Japanese manufacturing company had sent to Phillips to “woo” them to purchase Japanese technology. The idea being that the Japanese manufacturer was saying, “Do you not see how sophisticated our technology is? Surely you will want to use our technology in your technical efforts!” They brought this filament to my grandfather for his appraisal – it was an impossibly fragile, thin sliver of metal. My grandfather took it, and with his own tools (that is tools he made himself) drilled a hole through it lengthwise – effectively turning it into a little straw. They sent it back to the Japanese manufacturer with a “thanks but no thanks” note. I mention it not just because it is a cool true story, but to give you an appreciation for where my grandfather was at in his career at Phillips when they decided to move to the US.

The decision to move to the US came in the mid 1950’s when it seemed to my grandparents that a third world war would break out. By this time my grandparents had had three children – Marius, Franciscus, and Robertus. Marius would soon have to go into the army (it was mandatory in Holland at the time) so my grandparents sold everything they had, and boarded a boat to the US.

They arrived in New York after an uneventful sea crossing, but when they got there the US had already met its quota for Dutch immigrants – meaning they would have to go back to Holland. Since they had sold practically everything, this was not a great option. The Canadian embassy was right there, and because Canada was still accepting Dutch immigrants, they determined to stay in Canada until the end of the year and then try the US again when the quotas were reset.

It was during their first week in Canada that my grandfather’s tools were stolen.

A word about tool and dye making: no one sell tools for this trade – you make your own. An apprentice uses his master’s tools to fashion his own tools, until he has enough tools to manufacture the other tools he will need. The tools are pretty proprietary from there on in, differing according to the training and style of the smith. In short, they were not only irreplaceable; they were the very bread and butter of my grandfather’s trade. You cannot get a job as a tool and dye smith without your own tools.

My grandfather therefore became a Janitor, and much of what they did bring with them was sold to keep them alive during the first few years. These were the formative years into which my father grew up. They moved to Winnipeg, and lived in the lawless parts of town. You know, where the people who can’t afford to live anywhere else live. For two years straight my father’s diet was rice and molasses. It was all they could afford.

I suppose this made my grandfather somewhat miserable – I mean he was no saint to begin with, but this downturn in life may have influenced his character as a father. He was a strict authoritarian, and a harsh disciplinarian, and because of the abuse my father suffered at the hand of my grandfather, my father was allowed to move out at 15 and become a “ward of the court” – that is, he quite school in grade eleven, got a job, and supported himself.

My father met my mother when he was sixteen and she was fifteen, and after dating for a while she became pregnant with my older sister. They were married at the ripe old age of seventeen and sixteen – and in the space of seven years had five kids. To put that into perspective, I am going to be forty next year, and my dad isn’t even sixty yet.

I mention all this so that when I say my father was not the best father in the world, you (the reader) might appreciate that there were mitigating circumstances surrounding his parenting. He was just a kid himself when he started his own family, his own history contained much abuse – both physical and emotional – and my mother, bless her heart, had a very meek and submissive personality.

So it was that from my earliest memories my father was a terror to us all. He was an expert in exaggeration (what you might call a pathological liar), and a great promoter of his own interest (perhaps you might use the term “braggart”). What he lacked in integrity and kindness he made up for with charm and wit. The man on the outside was not the man on the inside, and only those who lived with him knew the man on the inside.

My purpose is not to bring disrespect upon my father however. It is enough to say that he had problems and his parenting reflected that. We were not corrected as children so much as we were punished – and punishment came in direct proportion to my father’s anger. If dad came home angry, snarky, bitter, or otherwise “not cheery” you could expect to be punished if you interacted with him for any length of time. You never knew what would set him off – and so when he came home angry or something the whole house tip toed around him to avoid being the vent of his frustration with life.

My brother and my sisters and I endured his parenting – and all five of us moved out as soon as it was legally permissible. We all “escaped” however we could. All of us used drugs. All of us had serious intimacy issue - my sisters were either prostitutes or strippers (though they are neither today), and my brother became couldn’t hold down a job to save his life (though he is now both employed and employable). None of us sank as far as we could have, but we all sank somewhere - and that is where my story about freedom really begins.

As I grew I began to hate my dad. I mean I loved him of course, but I couldn’t stand being around him. I guess all my siblings and I had a love/hate/fear relationship with our father. But when I moved out, I found my life was a mess and I could trace every ounce of it back to my upbringing, and my father became the target that I drew my hate arrows against.

For years I nurtured this hatred. I blamed everything that was wrong in my life on my father, and developed a rather dark disposition. I would say things like, “I will be happy when…” and fill in the blank with whatever I momentarily imagined would make me happy.

Truly, I was in a dark place when the Lord came back into my life.

I had given myself to the Lord at 18 or 19, but having come from a twisted sort of atheist (father) / catholic (mother) background, the first sin I committed after giving my life to Christ made me believe that I had blown the whole deal – that I had somehow messed up the prayer or something since I was clearly not sinless and perfect as I expected I should be. In that ignorance I walked for years, was married, and had my first child before the Lord brought another true believer into my life. When I learned the truth, I was on fire – and beauty began to replace the ashes in my life.

This is where the “freedom” comes in.

Immediately as I understood who I was in Christ, that is, once I began to read and study scripture, I found that I stopped cursing and blaspheming without having to exert any effort in doing so – frankly, the idea of cussing, even words that used to seem harmless – now it made my mouth feel dirty to say them, and made me feel icky just hearing or thinking them.

This was a freedom that I had never expected or planned it just happened immediately.

I have been freed from other sins in a similar fashion, but the freedom that I began to write about however came one day when I was pondering forgiveness. I realized that I hadn’t forgiven my father. It wasn’t that I was nursing a grudge or anything, I hadn’t really thought of my father much since I came back to Christ, but as I began to meditate on forgiveness I realized that I hadn’t forgiven my father for all that I imagined he had done. So without much else, I simply forgave him in my heart. I thanked the Lord that I was able to and that would have been the end of it, but the next day when I woke up, I was an entirely different person.

I can’t explain it – but I woke up that morning and the world was brighter. Something was different and wonderful, but I couldn’t articulate it for a few moments – then I turned to my wife who was lying in bed beside me and said, “Something is different – I don’t hate my father…”

Now I have mentioned to you before hand that I hated my dad – but truth be told I didn’t realize that I hated him. I was clueless – utterly clueless. I would have told you that I could care less about my dad, but I would have told you that I loved him as much as he was lovable. But that morning I woke and a dark cloud that had always oppressed me all my life was utterly gone – it was freaky. Even now I can hardly remember it, but I used to be constantly in a gloom – there was no joy in the moment – joy was something that could only be achieved by doing something, and it was something that I longed to have, but knew I didn’t. That morning, I had it, and I knew it. It is not as if I made some choice to be filled with joy, and or some choice to not be filled with gloom – I didn’t even understand that I –was- filled with gloom until it was suddenly, inexplicably, gone!

It is not that I couldn’t hate my father again if I wanted to – I suppose I could work myself into a regular frenzy if I had a heart for it – but that is it, I no longer have a heart for it. It used to consume me, and now in the place of that ever present desire to hate and blame – there is only forgiveness and joy. The Lord in His grace and goodness took this thing entirely away that day and when I noticed it I felt like an entirely different person. I was barely able to contain the joy that was in me. My wife recalls the events of that day as clearly as I do – since it so stood out in my life. I woke with tremendous peace and joy! If someone had told me that fruit follows the plow, I would have not understood it, but having lived it, I know now how it works – or at least how it worked in me.

I truly gave it up to the Lord, in sincerity and from the earnestness of my heart, but it was not an emotional thing – just a settled rational understanding – my father was a sinner just like I was, and there was no point in expecting him to be anything other than he was. I forgave him entirely, and experienced nothing profound in that moment, nor did I anticipate anything. When I awoke the next morning, delivered from a gloom I didn’t even know existed until I was free from it – it came as the most pleasant surprise in my life.

posted by Daniel @ 12:10 PM  
  • At 12:37 AM, September 24, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Thanks for sharing this story of your life and family, Daniel!! Incredible...I am part Dutch too. Good chance we are of Jewish extraction as well, you know as I understand something like 80 % or so of the Dutch were up to WW2.

    My story is different from yours as concerns my dad, but both one brother and I were released following our mom's memorial service from hating our dad. Yes, we still recognize him and "his tricks"...but I see God working on him...even at 78 years old. He is very hardy and though with health problems, leads a very active life, still works in his shop some,etc. But what changed our hearts was seeing his grief at the loss of our mother. He never appreciated her much in our opinion, but he has certainly missed her and grieved for her in the years since. No one left on earth to love him as she did. A great light left our family when she died, but one must go on...no choice. I had not intended to have any more contact with my dad following her death...but the Lord placed mercy in my heart for him. He has not apologized to me for all the beatings, but he told my son that he realized he raised us much too harshly. But I did forgive him....many times in my life....but it gets hard when the offenses continue. But since my mom left us, it has been different.

    You write very well, by the way.

  • At 10:16 AM, September 24, 2005, Blogger David said…

    That's an excellent testimony, and inspiring. Have you read The Freedom and Power of Forgiveness by John MacArthur? I think you would appreciate it. Thanks for sharing your story.

  • At 7:29 PM, September 24, 2005, Blogger Daniel said…

    Elizabeth - "you write very well..." - I just know how to use a spell checker ;)

    My father didn't apologize until years after that - and when he did it was sincere, though had I not known the Lord I would never have been satisfied with it. As it was when he did apologize I was quite happy - not to get the satisfaction of an apology, but to see him getting some freedom from the suffering he also went through.

    David - I haven't read that one, though I have read a few of MacArthur's books. Sounds like it would be a great read! If I get my hands on a copy I will certainly give it a read.


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