Growing up in a small Southwest Virginia town in the 1950’s, growing up in a Navy man’s house, and spending most of my days on a 550+ acre farm, I learned how to work hard very, very early in life.
Slopping hogs, feeding chicken, gathering eggs, feeding cows, milking cows (200 head), cutting hay, raking hay, bailing hay, putting the hay in the top of the barn, planting tobacco, working tobacco, harvesting tobacco, grading tobacco. . .and on and on, will do one of two things to you–it will either make you a working man with a strong ethic, or, it will make you run! I didn’t have enough sense to run, I guess.
I remember going to grade school at Stonewall Jackson Elementary. We had good teachers, plenty of room to run wild during recess, and a cafeteria staff that knew how to feed a bunch of farm boys. And boy, did I eat! I remember going to Sears & Roebuck about two weeks before school every year to get my school clothes. Five pairs of Roebucks (the darkest, stiffest denim you every saw), five short sleeved shirts, 5 long sleeved shirts, white Converse All-Stars (real Chuck Taylor’s) and almost always a brand new book bag. My mom always told my dad to buy my jeans at least 5 inches too long in length and at least two inches too big in the waist. You want to talk about baggy pants, I had ’em.
My pants had to be purchased too big in the waist because I was growing like a wild weed. You might think they bought them too long because I was getting so tall. Not so. After age twelve, I was as tall as I am at 59. The length was to patch the knees and the seat because when I wasn’t in school and wasn’t working on the farm, I was playing.
Do you remember playing? We played stick ball, baseball when we had a bat, football, basketball, hide-and-go-seek, rode bikes, flew down the hills on skateboards that actually had skates nailed or screwed to a board; we were members of every branch of the Armed Forces with make-believe machine guns and airplanes and, or course, bombs to scratch the enemy.
Sliding into home, falling of my bike, rolling down a grassy hill while escaping the enemy–that’s why I needed baggy pants. And it’s a good thing; I had a strong belt because in my day you did not dare show your tighty-whitys in public.
When I was about nine years old, one of my best friends invited me to go to church with him. It was his mother’s idea. I went. . .I didn’t understand a thing, or so I thought. From that day forward, I knew something was missing in my life.
My parents never took me to church. The never went to church. They were busy achieving the American Dream. My dad worked hard and my mom was a stay-at-home mom. The fed me well, dressed me well, and taught me good morals. They had my teeth fixed when they broke and they sat with me when I had bone cancer. They did everything they knew to do. They didn’t KNOW God. Sure, they knew ABOUT God–he was certainly for little children and old people. But they didn’t have time.
So I grew up, bought my own not-so-baggy pants, started my own hard-working, somewhat morally-upright family, watched my wife give birth to our son, and went on my merry way without God in my life and with no real hope for the future.
Then, one night, on the verge of taking my own life, I ran head-on into Jesus. My wife was a Christian and had me in church. I heard the Gospel. I knew that the Lord Jesus Christ was truly the Son of the Living God. I knew that He came into this world to die for sin–we have all sinned. I knew that He came back to life after laying graveyard dead in a tomb for three days. And I knew that He did that for ME–Jesus died for me! He defeated death for me!
Thirty-three years ago, I received Jesus as my Savior and Lord. There are still a lot of boys out there wearing baggy pants.