Hi, my name is Gary Corder,1 and I’d like to ask you a question. Do you have a sense of fulfillment in your life? If you feel the same void in your life as I did, the answer is right at your fingertips.
I was about fourteen when I first became aware of the hopeless pattern of life in which the people around me were caught. From my vantage point in the doorway of a Dayton, Tennessee, pool hall, I would watch people going back and forth to their jobs. I saw that most of the passers-by looked as if they were living the last day of their lives — guilt-ridden, into themselves, and burned out, living for weekends, holidays, and vacations. The realization that I was about to get caught up into this same pattern of life awakened me to action. I started keeping my eyes open for a lifestyle that would really give life.
At this time, my cousin was driving a tractor-trailer rig from state to state. This lifestyle appealed to me at first, but the excitement fizzled out fast at truck stops. By talking to the truckers, I found out they had the same problems as anyone else — lonely, tired, bored, just looking at the world through a windshield.
When I turned seventeen, the service caught my attention. So I enthusiastically enlisted in the Navy, being sure this would satisfy me. Believe me, it didn’t take long to grow faint-hearted there. Even though we traveled from one foreign land to another, I felt trapped by my obligation, and peace eluded me again.
When I finally got out of the service, I renewed my efforts to find the life that would be worthy of pouring all my energies into. During the next few years, my life went through so many changes. It seemed like a carnival that pulled me from one side show to another. I was sucked in by anything or anyone that I thought could give me life. Some of these side shows took me into nature trips trying to find love and peace in the woods by myself.
The nature was beautiful, but trees aren’t very good conversationalists. Loneliness finally soured my enthusiasm for the nature trip, so I checked out other side shows — communes, reservations, Buddhism… The people in these things seemed to really have it together… for themselves! They were characterized by self-love, self-trust, self-exaltation, and upon this superstructure there was one big capital “I” — self-centeredness, self-assertion, self-conceit, self-indulgence, self-seeking, self-pity, self-defense, self-sufficiency, self-consciousness, self-righteousness, and self-glorification. Man, this was making me sick! There had to be some kind of answer somewhere.
So I hitchhiked around, stopping at churches, missions, salvation stations, and still I saw people’s lives revolving around self. People couldn’t wait until the service was over so they could get their bowl of soup or get outside to light up a cigarette or rush home to watch the ball game. By this time, my attitude was becoming one of just wanting to escape from reality, so I indulged to the max in dope and booze. But the void inside me seemed almost vicious, eager, wanting something to fill it.
One night the concentration of all my frustrations and loneliness seemed to be coming down on me all at once. The world was oppressing me, destroying my hope. My clouded mind thought about overdosing on drugs, while something inside was telling me that life would be found after death. It seemed that I was being pushed into something I had no control over. This pressure kept building and building until I heard my voice knife through the clouds of confusion and darkness: “God, help me!” The pressure eased up, but the void within me was still there.
Still confused and aimless, I had a strong desire to leave California and return to Tennessee. So within a week I was in Chattanooga, looking for my brother. I finally found him at a place called The Vine House. At first, I thought he was just there to rip off these Jesus freaks for a place to stay and something to eat. What really made me furious, though, was the fact that he no longer wanted to get into the things that he used to do, like dope and music. I decided that these people had somehow brainwashed him. I was determined to bring him back on the right path (whatever that was) and prove these people to be a bunch of phonies like everyone else I had seen.
I had seen a lot of people who could muster up a counterfeit of love and happiness when together, but at work, or doing that everyday task, they were no different from any other gossiping, slandering, boastful, proud, arrogant person. So I observed these people in their everyday situations. I was shocked by the genuine concern they had for each other. These people were working together in unity and harmony, praising God out loud, singing, praying, and taking time to share each others burdens.
I said to myself, “I could never live this kind of life. Besides, I don’t have any problems anyway, except I’m a little lonely, and I have a few bad habits. But I can quit them whenever I feel like it.” How quickly I forgot the predicament I had gotten my life into. But I continued watching these Christians, hoping to expose them as phonies. One night I even snatched a Bible out of someone’s hands and threw it against the wall, hoping to provoke him into punching me out. All I received was people’s patient love for me. I found that the more I observed these people, the more I wanted their kind of life.
When I let go of my life and received the Savior, there was no great emotional burst of feelings, but it was very real and I had counted the cost of living 100% for the Lord. I knew I had to deny myself and my own interests by faith. The hunger that had spurred me on from one trip to another was satisfied. No more going from state to state thinking the answer was just around the bend or in the next job or gig.
The Master said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me will never go hungry, and he who believes in Me will never be thirsty.” I have found this to be true. I don’t want to present a candy-coated God to you, because to find real life in the Savior you have to let yours go completely — with no reservations. Then Christ, who is faithful to His word, will manifest His abundant life through you. The “old rugged cross” is still the same when you come to it — you come to give, not to get.
If you are like me, you like it to be told like it is. And this is the way it is. I just want you to know that I’m your friend, and so is everyone else here at the Vine House. We want you to come and rap with us if you want to. I know the proof is in the pudding, and this testimony may sound moving, but it’s a lie if it is not in our lives. So “seeing is believing,” and we invite you to come and see.