During the next set something strange started to happen. I kept on having to turn up my guitar because I just could not hear it above the other instruments. My girlfriend urged me to sit down and drink with her for the rest of the night. That’s how bad I sounded.
On the way home - driving under the influence for what must have been the 500th time in my career as a musician - my girlfriend started to drill me over whether I had ingested any pills. I told her I had not (that evening) and that much was true. I had stopped taking pills one year before due to a brief heart stoppage. That was around January of 1991. The doctor who responded to the emergency confronted me directly about my illegal drug use. He also bluntly warned me that I was killing myself. A stronger man would have had the good sense to stop using illegal drugs altogether rather than simply swearing off amphetamines and methamphetamine. But I was a very weak man.
In my defense, I had no idea that those joints were laced with PCP. And I had no recollection of the screaming and shouting that occurred when I got home from the bar that evening. Nor do I have any recollection of burying my head in my hands and apologizing profusely in between fits of rage directed at my girlfriend. PCP is a powerful drug, especially for one who had already consumed more than his share of alcohol.
Although I have no recollection of much of that evening, the pain of losing the girlfriend I loved so dearly will never escape me. It was more than just pain. It was a sense of profound isolation because it had come on the heels of another severed relationship that would cut to the very core of my being.
I think you know what other severed relationship I’m talking about. The PCP episode came shortly after my public declaration of atheism, which took place in a bar at Ole Miss called “The Gin.” I was playing at the bar that evening as one-half (the drunker half) of an acoustic duo. I would make the 100-mile drive home safely – although I was in my usual state of extreme intoxication. I was being protected by the God I had just publicly rejected.
Those two severed relationships, back-to-back, put me in the position you are in now. Mine was a state of complete emptiness and profound isolation. So I picked up the phone seeking some help.
When she picked up the phone I just told her I was checking in and wanted to know how she, her husband, and her three boys were doing. They were our oldest family friends so it wasn’t unusual to call them every now and then. But I think she knew something was wrong and so she asked how I was doing. I told her as much as I felt comfortable sharing. She asked if I would mind if she prayed with me over the phone.
As soon as that prayer began I started to feel the presence of the Holy Spirit fill that room. But because my heart was so hardened I would not let the Holy Spirit inside. And, so, regrettably, I did not follow the first piece of advice I am giving you today. After I share it with you, I’ll have to write to you again.
Key One: You cannot have a relationship without communication. Your relationship with God is no different. It is OK for someone else to get you started on this prayer journey. But, eventually, you must do it yourself. God’s existence is not contingent upon your feelings or perceptions. Prayer is, therefore, indispensible whether you are sure or unsure of God’s existence. Prayer will lead to an encounter with the Holy Spirit. What you do next is entirely up to you.