I grew up in a home of mixed joys and sorrows. It was the sorrow in our home which caused the spiritual crisis in my own life, leading to my call to the ministry. But first I want to speak of the joy that was in our home.
That joy flowed from my dear parents who genuinely loved the Lord and nourished us in the love of God. Our family life was built around habitual family worship with reading of scripture, prayer and hymn singing. We never missed Sunday worship, morning and evening. Both of my parents were “pastor-preachers” in the Methodist tradition. My Father was the main preacher but my Mother would, on occasion, preach for one small congregation in our rural setting while my Father preached in another. There was a genuine joy evident in their ministries as well as in our family.
But there was also sorrow in our home. My Mother suffered from periodic depressions and neither my Mother nor my Father really understood the doctrines of grace that are so precious to “Reformed” believers. That sorrow in our home came to painful focus in my oldest sister, Georgianna, when she was 18 years old. All of us dearly loved Georgianna and we were absolutely bewildered by her progressive loss of ability to function rationally in our home, school, or any social situation. She could neither eat nor sleep and seemed to be falling apart right in front of us. We were all deeply puzzled and even terrified by what we were seeing.
Doctors diagnosed Georgianna as “schizophrenic” and my Father plunged into serious study of this “illness”. During his study he came across a book which described Schizophrenia as a “snake pit”, and he found this description as an apt picture of what was happening in our dear sister. I was only 16 at the time, but Dad persuaded me to read the book and I came to agree that this terrible idea of a “snake pit” really fit the dreadful condition that seemed to be overcoming my sister. I do not remember the name of either the book or the author, but feel that this awful term really fit her condition.
During Georgianna’s recovery, all of us tried to forget this sorrowful event in her life. When I was 19, however, Georgianna was once again overcome with all the dreadful symptoms which seemed to make her life a snake pit. My personal sorrow and bewilderment over her second collapse into “schizophrenia” drove me into a frantic search for the meaning of this horror. I turned to Sigmund Freud, reading his OEDIPUS MYTH AND COMPLEX, and searching through this and other such psychological tomes for an explanation of my sister’s dilemma. I was driven by the paralyzing fear that I would fall victim to her dreadful condition, that I would sink into that snake pit.
I spent only a few months in this pursuit of secular psychology. As well as Freud I dipped lightly into Otto Rank, Carl Gustaf Jung, Heidegger and a few others and found myself coming to a surprising opinion. By no means did I have a mature grasp of psychology or of the Bible, but I was coming to the opinion that Psychology was an attempt at theology, the theology of the Fall into sin. Freud’s Oedipus Myth seemed to me to be his clumsy effort to describe the Fall into sin and then to trace all abnormal behavior through that hopelessly inadequate construct. In none of these varied psychological schemes did I find any suggestion of an almighty God or of that God promising eternal life. There was no Savior from sin and no Holy Spirit to restore me to life. Freud and friends could not save me from the snake pit.
Though that opinion was not based on years of research and thorough knowledge of either psychology or the Bible, it was, nevertheless my opinion. And it was at that very point that the Holy Spirit used Romans 5:1 to convince me that I was the child of God through faith in Jesus Christ. At the moment this reality dawned on me I knew that I was not saved just from the snake pit of schizophrenia but from all my sin and guilt and every evil that Satan could ever devise. I was overtaken by the cross and Resurrection of Christ and my heart and soul were forever captive to these great wonders given freely to me by the Savior who had redeemed me through his infinite love. Hallelujah!!