Lawrence: Dealing with the interior walls, where the war takes place
October 6, 2017
I've found some of the best testimonies are among men and women in their golden years. American culture is obsessed with trying to stay young and defy mortality, but the aging process is a beautiful testament to the Lord, the Creator of time. Every day is a gift, to walk with the Lord and know Him better. The church has not escaped this cultural pressure to favor younger generations, and it's harder to find these sages integrated in the leadership of the church. This does make me sad, because, there is a lot to be learned from these old-timers. Obedience, when combined with perseverance and the gift of time, grows wisdom that can't be produced any other way. It takes seasons of storms, tears, trials and faith for a life to come into its heritage.
I've recently had the privilege of writing Kennie Andersen's memoir. Many of you may have frequented Andersen's Salvage on the east side of town, looking for a miscellaneous car part. If you don't know Kennie, I wish you did. You can find him pulling apart carburetors or unloading his truck most days. You may even catch him dumpster-diving for aluminum cans.
Kennie describes himself as a short man who's tried to overcompensate for his size, but I've found his heart to be large and generous. Kennie's story is about a man's struggle to let go of the exterior of a self-made man and deal with the interior walls, where the war takes place. Before he was a Christian, Kennie would say he thought Christians were sissies. He liked being the gruff, salvage yard owner with a mean bark. Though he started the yard with roughly $250, a cutting torch and his dad's pickup, he later found himself to be a successful business owner in the recycling industry. As the business grew, the pressures grew, and he found himself battling addiction, dependent on alcohol.
His beloved late wife, Sandy, to Kennie's horror, began having Bible studies in their home in 1980. He could hardly stand it and even tried to offend this group of believers with his whiskey breath. But it didn't scare any of them off. The Lord began to draw him in, and at first, he didn't want anyone to know. He wasn't about to be known as one of those sissy-weirdo Christians.
Around 4:30 a.m. on Oct. 7, 1981, he woke up and something happened Kennie can't explain fully. He knelt by the side of his bed, and the whole thing shocked him. He kept thinking, "Kennie, what are you doing!?" He prayed, "Jesus, come into my life." He waited for sirens to go off or a heavenly choir to fill the room. He heard nothing, except the sound of a man drowning in his tears humbled before Almighty God.
Kennie described his conversion to me somewhat like this: "It was kind of like being buried in your sins for a time before breathing again. On the floor, I relived 44 years of my life and recalled the bad things I had done. For more than an hour, these visions flashed through my head of people I lied to, lied about, cheated or humiliated, and a whole string of nasty things. No one heard me, though the sobs were now uncontrollable. Finally, I managed to move my bent knees to stand, and I walked out in the yard free for the first time from the weight of my sins."
Recommended Stories For You
Kennie's story of transformation wasn't all at once. Though saved, he still wrestled with alcoholism for 10 more years. More pressures, more drinking. Nothing helped. Kennie became suicidal and wanted to die: "Jesus, either you take my life or take my desire to drink." Miraculously, God answered his simple wager. Kennie's been sober for more than 25 years. As a man who understands recycling, he sees his life as one salvaged by Jesus. God took the wreckage of his existence, applied the holy smelter and a new life emerged.
What I love about a testimony is it reveals how the Lord answers us according to the exact grace we need and proclaims, "God is faithful! Our wise Father knows how to deliver each one of us."
I don't think the Lord is finished writing Kennie's testimony. If the Lord prompts him, he will ask a man on the street, "Do you know Jesus?" He doesn't overlook a street sign operator or someone in need of a ride. He loves opportunities to introduce His Savior.
I'm celebrating an overcomer's life today, and the faithful generations who have walked longer with the Lord than I have. I esteem them, and I believe an army is rising: "And it shall come to pass … I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; … old men shall dream dreams." — Joel 2:28
— Tracey D. Lawrence is an adjunct faculty for biblical studies at Colorado Christian University.