Joseph Stroman's Testimony
I stood there speechless. "Now you’re the man of the house", came from the other side of the phone. The tears began to form behind my eyes. I looked at my mother, and she was crying. A look was on her face that I didn’t understand. "I must go. I have to catch a plane, I love you my boy." The phone became silent. I stood there in complete confusion.
I had just come home from school. When I came in, my mother was on the phone, crying. She called me to the phone and said "Your father wants to talk to you."
With the excitement of a ten year old, I answered not really registering my mother’s tears. Then I heard words that didn’t make sense. Dad was leaving. He was not coming home.
This event changed the course of my entire life. Being only ten years old, I struggled to comprehend what it meant to be a man. Words have so much power, when they come from those you love. Those words registered even deeper as the days passed and the tears were replaced with some distorted idea that now, I was a man. My father did not return and the course of my young life was replaced with one of my own making.
I was now a man. My father had said so. The decisions for my life were my own. I controlled my own life. No one was my father. I was on my own.
The pain of not having my father was replaced with my youthful fantasy. Yet like many children who are separated from a parent, I was open for a replacement. The replacement comes easily when that new person is one that is respected by other adults as well as your mother. Such a figure came into my life. My pastor.
For the next four years without his knowing it, the pastor was the model for my manhood. In fact, as so often is the case we create heroes out of men. Trying to replace the reality of the frail and sinful people that surround us.
Yet God in His wisdom, did not allow me to build an idol in the form of a man. My pastor had become more than God intended, in the eyes of this confused child trying aimlessly to become a man. What made matters worse was that my concept of God and the man were blurred in my childish eyes. Those who stand before God’s people have an awesome responsibility. They are to lead God’s people to God, and be sure that they do not obstruct their view. This can only be done when God’s people learn the Word of God as the only standard. That standard must judge their pastor as well as the thoughts and intentions of their own hearts. Sadly, I had begun to measure God by the man that told me of Him.
When I caught my pastor in sin, it devastated me! My life again changed it course. I now sat in the church listening to the man I had idolized. With each sermon I grew colder not only to him but also to God, for in my young eyes the two were the same. Now I looked at God as a lie. There was nothing real in the Bible. It was all a myth. The crutch of men to gain power over people. God was the vehicle that men used to take money from the unsuspecting. Yes, here I was still trying to be a man, and now I had lost my focus. I didn’t think that God was the answer. So I turned away to the empty search for happiness apart from God.
This search led me down the painful alleys of murdering my own children. My first born son was aborted and flushed down the toilet when I was 18. Then four other faceless children I have never seen, were aborted. I may never know if I have a child some where, for my life became far worst than that of my pastor and father. I had become the godless man that cared only for myself. The pain of others were removed from my heart. The many I have hurt, are now in my prayers. For I have robbed mothers of their children, husbands of their wives and others who cared for me I used. This painful journey led me in an attempt to destroy my own life. Yet even after the doctor used 80 stitches to repair the damage I inflicted to my arm, I was not ready to listen to God’s call.
Emptiness had taken its toll on my 24 years. I was a young man with no future. The youthful dreams that others saw were not coming to pass, as my life was filled with more and more gaps where I could not continue to hide my sinful self centered life.
Yet God had love for this confused child still trying to play the man. It was the Christmas of 1971, when my life of emptiness was revealed to me by God. That night I had tried to fill the emptiness with all that had worked to disguise the pain in the past. Yet, this night nothing worked. Alcohol, drugs and immorality only made my emptiness more apparent. I was an empty shell, filled with anger and selfishness. I had hurt and abused all those who had cared for me. I was living a lie, there was no real happiness in my life.
For the first time I saw the reality of my life. That painful reality was exposed and in full view. Late that night, I was alone driving home when words were impressed upon my heart. "God is Love!" Then like a flood, a truth filled my heart, - God - loved - me. I was overwhelmed. God had such love for me. I, for the first time knew He was there, in all my painful times. He was calling me to a different life. I remembered joyful flashbacks from my childhood, singing in the choir, being with those who loved Jesus. He reminded me of my desire to be a preacher. Things that were deeply hidden in my heart were now in the open. I cried because I had finally found the love I had been searching for. I was in awe as I began to see and understand that God had been there in my life, seeking to bring me home to Himself. He was the Father I had lost. He was the hero I had seen in my pastor.
He was the joy and happiness that I had been searching for. It was Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead that reveals the Love of God for the world of lost men.
This same Jesus is alive and He was calling out for me to come to Him. My heart was filled with such joy as I now knew that the love I was searching for was there in Him. There was no woman, drug or experience that could fill my emptiness. He alone is the answer for the empty heart. That night while driving across the Brooklyn Bridge my heart was filled with a love for Jesus. I would follow Him anywhere. My life was His. My life had changed. I knew first hand that Jesus was not some myth, He is alive. Jesus loved me and all men. He died to offer the forgiveness and peace that can be found no where else. My sinful past was forgiven and I could not return to it. Jesus had called to me and nothing would stop me from following Him the rest of my life.
Much has happened since that night. That following January I married my wife Peggy. God had so graciously brought her into my painful life. He also had placed a love in her heart for me in spite of the pain that I caused her before Jesus entered my life. Since 1980 Jesus has allowed me to serve Him by counseling, teaching and caring for His sheep.
My life, shows how the words of someone you love can change your life. In my case, my father. Yet, God loves you, and you may not know it. His love for you is expressed in action and His words. Jesus has a love for you that is greater than any you have ever known. He is calling you into a personal relationship to Himself. He is alive and is closer than a whisper. Call to Him now.
For Thou, Lord, art good,
and ready To forgive,
And abundant in loving kindness
to all who call upon Thee.
Jesus said: "Come to me,
all who are weary and heavy-laden,
and I will give you rest.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock,
if anyone hears My voice and opens the door,
I will come in to him, and will dine with him,
and he with Me.