When my dad had died of cancer when I was 16, his sudden, permanent departure left me feeling even more incomplete than I already did as a confused teen. That’s why the things that I had grown up to believe were important, suddenly weren’t anymore. Like school. What was the point?
So, my brothers and I would get up in the morning and load our boards into our early 60s, blue, Ford Fairlane, and head on down to the beach knowing that we’d get to school when we darn well felt like it. Because in the water, sliding down the front of the waves off the north side of the pier, felt exciting. Most of life didn’t present anything like that. My hair was long; my body was tanned. The blondes who were also on the beach, with their long hair and tanned bodies looked good too, and for a young guy hoping for a little respite from a painful life, it was the perfect arrangement to take advantage of. And so, regrettably, I did.
And, of course, my head and my thoughts were steeped in a cloud of pot smoke at nearly all times. Surfing, girls, and pot—they were three highs that I rarely came back from. I think back on that period in the 70s, and I see how close I was to sinking into that life forever—living on the beach submerged in the I-don’t-care lifestyle. I had seen older dudes who had lived it; salty guys who knew their way around a wave and a waitress, but couldn’t do life. I’d see them under the pier, sleeping off a drunken stupor or a pot-induced high. Their hair would invariably be long and grey, their skin would be beaten down by the sun, voices rough, eyes a touch sad, vocabularies filled with man and dude as a badge of honor to say they never gave in to society. These were guys who had stepped off the sidewalk of life one day, and it felt so good out there on the sand that they just simply never got back on. I knew their world. I was from their world. Like me, they just wanted to feel good.
So that’s where I was headed: toward a long life in the shadows of the pier where I would probably spend my days chasing down another wave, another hit, and another conquest. And I would likely spend my nights lying in a beat up car with a surfboard laying across the cabin, nursing some broken dreams and a couple of sexually transmitted diseases, smoking pot and falling asleep.
But God had other plans. When I accepted Jesus into my heart, it took hold of me like nothing else. I couldn’t believe God would do so much to claim me for Himself, as if He just had to have me.
When I began reading the Bible, the words seemed to jump off the pages like a pop-up book. It was unbelievably thrilling, especially for a lost guy like me.
And while I was thrilled to know there was a God who loved me, I think part of the reason I read the Bible so voraciously was because once I realized this God was a personal God, I really wanted to know what He wanted me to know. I think I was looking for a father figure to tell me what to do. That’s what happens when something deep inside tells you that you are really aren’t a whole person. And so with my Bible in hand, I read it like a boy looking for a secret message from his dad. But it wasn’t until I came upon a book called Proverbs that I nearly fell off my chair. There it was: Instruction.
The practical nature of Proverbs blew my mind and ignited my heart. My dad never taught me how to do so many of the things in life that I was looking to him for. Suddenly, from the quill of Solomon, King David’s own son, came guidance for how to work, how to live, how to spend money, how to marry…I couldn’t believe it. You mean I don’t have to figure out life all on my own?
The best thing about Proverbs was that it wasn’t just telling me what to do, it was trying to tell me how to be, how to think, what principles to build a life on—all for my own success and joy. The possibilities almost seemed too much to fathom. Here I was a dumb kid right off the beaches looking into a sea of wisdom. Was I really about to become…wise? Me?
As I began to read Proverbs, the words and concepts began to jump out at me. They were all the things I wanted for my life. Things like:
How to have integrity (2:6-9)
How to gain favor and good repute among men (3:3,4)
How to work (10:2-5)
Why you should be slow to speak (17:27,28)
What to love (21:17)
Why you should maintain a good name (22:1)
The importance of humility (22:4)
What being generous will bring you (22:9)
Why you should pay a fair wage (22:16)
The more I looked, the more I saw my path, like a cobblestone road being laid out before me as I walked. That’s why when it came time for running a business, I thought, why change now? I felt no need to read a textbook or find a consultant or hire an MBA. I just kept doing what I had been doing—reading Proverbs. I worked hard, prayed, entrusted every aspect to God, believed that He would prosper me—as long as the money was never the goal—and took King Solomon’s words to heart. And sure enough, my little company grew bigger than I could have ever dreamed.
So let’s review. I was a father-starved, pot-smoking, unambitious, uneducated ne’er-do-well, who God ultimately gave a super successful business that provided a great standing of living for hundreds of people, and funded many Kingdom-building endeavors—using nothing more than Proverbs to guide the way. If that’s not a miracle, I don’t know what is.