Sunday, April 29, 2012

Billy, Stop Humming.

Panic Disorder
No one knew the mental torment I was going through, and I managed to keep it hidden from my parents, sisters, and friends through all my years in elementary, junior high, and high school. The problem was a blend of some sort of panic disorder accompanied by an obsessive-compulsive disorder. I first experienced it in the car returning home from my tonsillectomy surgery. As the car approached our home at the crossroads in Longs, SC I suddenly felt different and strange in the head. I thought to myself, “Something isn’t right.” I was only eleven or twelve years old and did not have the maturity or vocabulary to explain this strange mental abberation to anyone. I suffered with the problem for another six years, and revealed it to no one until I told my wife Laurel when I was twenty-two years old.

The next major episode was a full-force attack while I was sitting in my sixth grade class room. I suddenly felt crazy. This weird, unexplainable consciousness came over me, accompanied by a physical reaction in which everything turned green for a couple seconds. Everything literally felt surreal. I immediately went to the teacher and said, “Something is wrong. I don’t feel right.” She called my Dad who picked me up from school and took me to our family doctor.

“What’s wrong today,” the doctor asked.
Unable to explain it, all I could say was, “I felt green.”
It is difficult for an adult and impossible for a child to describe what it feels like when the mind or consciousness goes into that surreal state. One person described it as “feeling separated.” But I could not communicate this to the doctor.
Turning to my father he said, “You know how kids are. They look for ways to get out of school.” So I went home suffering with a real malady that would silently torment me regularly and intermittently for the next six years, and no one knew about it but me.

Most of the time I felt normal, but these weird mental torments would occur intermittently and occasionally every day or so. I remember thinking, “I am going crazy. Everyone has such high hopes for me, but I am going to end up in a mental institution. Daddy and Mama and everyone will be so disappointed.” It was frightening and I did not know how to tell anyone about it. I did not know there was a name for the condition and that there were others who suffered with it. I was just a little kid who thought he was going crazy.

Compulsive Disorder
Then came the obsessive-compulsive behavior. It manifested itself in many ways, all of which were tormenting and inconvenient. I went through a phase in which I would compulsively hum some song or familiar tune at the table during the family meal. My father would look at me with a stern look and say, “Billy, stop humming.” I would immediately stop, but since the humming was compulsive and done almost unconsciously, a minute or two would pass and I would look over and see my Dad staring at me again, this time more frustrated. “Billy, I said to stop the humming.” My mother and Father saw the problem only as a bad habit. They had no idea the problem was deeper.

There were many other symptoms. If I ran around a tree or the old well in the front yard while playing with other children I would be compelled to retrace my steps back around the tree or the well. It was as if there was an imaginary line attached to my back and anchored to some other point of reference in the yard. I had to retrace my path so I would not tangle this imaginary rope or wrap it around the tree or the well. I could not walk past a door without stopping to look behind it. There were times I had to swing a door back and forth looking behind it ten or fifteen times before I could leave it. Everything had to be symmetrical. I could not let my shoes fall to the floor and leave them as they lay. They had to be side by side completely straight and parallel. I could not leave a piece of clothing or sock in the opening of a partially closed drawer. When writing I had to retrace any word or letter where the ink had skipped or was not as dark as the rest of the line, sometimes retracing a word or sentence many times. I don’t know how I managed to keep all of these problems hidden from family and friends for so many years.

Obsessive Disorder
The obsessive side of the problem attacked me most severely when I was in the tenth grade. That was the year I tried so hard to walk with the Lord and apply myself spiritually. I took my Bible to school. I studied it and shared my faith with others. But I found myself beginning to be tormented with obsessive tendencies. My thoughts began to race uncontrollably and run on their own, especially in the area of my Christian experience. I felt myself losing control and it scared me. As a result I decided to not be spiritually aggressive. I was afraid of going insane.

My eleventh grade year of high school, therefore, was my period of lukewarm Christianity, a time when I backed away from real spiritual activity. I was simply a nominal church member. I believed in Jesus, tried to behave, but was reserved about my walk with God. I survived the year, but decided I could not live a life without an intimate, real, and deep walk with the Lord. I did not want to live a life without God, but I was afraid that if I tried to be spiritually aggressive I would become obsessive again and go crazy. I had to have a supernatural answer. I decided to go directly to God.

On the Housetop
It was the summer before my senior year in high school. I was 17 years old. I came home one Saturday night and decided it was time to reach out to God for help. In desperation to get into His presence, I went outside and climbed on top of a storage house in our back yard. I lay on the roof, looked up toward the sky, and called out to God.

“Lord Jesus, You are God. I know You are there and You hear me. You know me better than I know myself. You know the struggle that I have been dealing with. I cannot live without You. But I don’t want to risk going crazy like when I tried to serve you before. Therefore, Lord, I need you to visit me, touch me, and give me an experience with you that will make me what I am supposed to be. And show me what you want me to do for you with my life.” I knew He was hearing the cry of my heart.

Jesus Reveals Himself
The next day I went into the woods and prayed. I remained isolated most of the day just reaching out to the Lord. Later that evening I was riding with my Uncle W.D. in his pick-up truck. I turned to him and said, “W.D., I think the Lord is calling me to preach. Then suddenly and powerfully, God answered my prayers. Jesus revealed Himself in that pick-up truck. He was there. The Holy Spirit moved in me and I was instantly changed and Jesus became so real, as if I could reach out and physically touch Him. In that moment He said, “That’s right. I am calling you to preach, and I am with you.” I began to bounce up and down on the truck seat and rejoice. The revelation of Jesus Christ in that moment transformed me.

W.D. stopped at the Dairy Maid, a hang-out for high school kids in the small town of Loris, SC back in the 60s. I jumped out of the truck and in my excitement ran up to some of my high school friends and began telling them, “I just had an experience with Jesus! He is real! He is alive! And He has touched me! And he has also called me to preach the Gospel!”

Jesus Healed Me
I knew from that moment that the Lord’s call was on my life. In the days that followed I began to realize that He had also healed me. The panic disorder and the compulsive-obsessive torments were gone. I was a new person. Jesus had become so real it seemed I could reach out and touch Him, and I was free from the mental vexations that had afflicted me for so many years. That was the beginning of a wonderful adventure in faith and walking with God.

There are some people who can ignore God and somehow live their lives with what appears to be relative ease. There are some Christians who appear to be satisfied and comfortable as lukewarm Christians. But there are also those for whom there is no “safe” area outside of God. Their choice is to walk with God or face disaster. I was among that group. To survive and live a normal life, I have to maintain my walk with the Lord. I recognize and appreciate the grace of God which has enabled every success and strength in my life. I also see so clearly the precipices, snares, pits, and helpless emptiness that would have been my portion had I not met Jesus Christ. He is truly my Lord and in its most real sense, my SAVIOR.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set a liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” -Luke 4: 18-19


Low-Lee said...

That is a moving and inspiring account, Billy. You may never have shared with me the detail of this that you did with Laurel when you were 22, but I remember as clearly as if it were yesterday when you told me that you had certain experiences in high school that drove you to a sense of desperation for more of Jesus. You told me about going out on the rooftop and, as I recall it, praying pretty much all night, then telling W.D. about being called to preach - and how vividly real Jesus became to you at that moment. Billy, I believe that your memoirs would make a terrifically encouraging book to a lot of people: These stories of your childhood quest for more of Him, your call to preach, attending ORU and literally having a miraculous ministry during your student years, the remarkable way God used Caleb to introduce you to Laurel, the car from heaven (:-), where life took you during early years of marriage and parenthood, the experiences of your church in NC and the sense of being somewhat displaced for some time now. I have no idea whether that would be of any interest to you, but I would love to work with you in writing your story. It is a great pilgrimage and one that should be shared with a wide audience. Now, back to your cray-thu-ness for a minute, when did you recover from sleepwalking/talking/running/hanging-from-doors??!! Ith-uh, ith-uh, you still cray-thuh??!!

Anonymous said...

Great blog; I really love the Lord more, knowing that He knows you so intimately and that you know Him that way as well. Exposing our weaknesses helps others to relate and have hope.
your friend ( and your best earthly friend),
John :)

Anonymous said...

You share from your heart, out of the real you - for my money, that's the place the anointing comes. That's the place where we really encounter the Lord - without it, our preaching is just 'sounding brass and tinkling cymbal'.

When I read your articles, I'm brought back to something of what communicating Jesus is all about - thank you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this beautiful story of God's power and grace! You are such a good writer, Billy. You really are! Such a gift for clarity with creativity!