Game Changers: 1990…

Part of the series, Game-Changers


Remember the Dustin Hoffman character in Wag the Dog?

wagthedog_photos_2483Hoffman played a movie director brought in to fake a war and hopefully help a scandal-plagued president get re-elected. Every time he’d face a set-back, Hoffman’s character would say “You think this is bad?” And then he’d launch into some nightmare tale of a movie-making catastrophe from his storied career. No matter what awful thing was happening right then, he’d have a story about something far worse from his past. “This is nothing,” he’d say. It was hilarious.

And true to life.

When Carol and I heard the first “You think this is bad…”, we turned to each other knowing we’d found a new running gag. Because no matter what happened to us going forward, 1990 was worse.

Far worse.

Let’s see if I can recall them all:

Lost my job in January (after losing the career of my dreams three years earlier).

Nearly lost the house in the Spring (you haven’t lived till some guy from the mortgage company rings your doorbell, “just to see if anybody’s still living here…”).

Was almost physically attacked by Gypsies who (hopefully) had just repaired the hail-damaged roof (okay, they probably weren’t Gypsies, just dark-haired guys led by a creepy dude with Charles Manson eyes, demanding cash and no check).

Spending a Texas Summer in a house with a broken air conditioner (even my mother didn’t want to visit).

And then…

Pop. Lung cancer. Back in Virginia. When I went to visit him, he was too drugged up even to know who I was.

Totally saturated with grief and worry, I was completely numb by the time I had to plan his August funeral. At the graveside, I almost felt like an actor performing a role. I remember thinking “What am I supposed to look like right now? What do I say to people? Should I be strong? Quiet? Tearful? (No tears were available that day, even the acting kind…)

I felt like I was floating outside, above the events, looking down, confused.

Isolated and alone.

The bridge

It was within a few days of the funeral that I found myself in the parking lot by the river, staring straight ahead—at a bridge.

I had parked there and ridden the train (since it went through a tunnel into the Tandy Center, we called it the Tandy Subway) up to downtown Fort Worth in order to look for a job.

But now I was sitting in my car staring at the bridge. The bridge spanned the entire subway parking lot and then across the Trinity River to the north.

I was sitting there completely numbed out, no idea what to do next. A verse of scripture came into my mind.


3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

This is one of the most encouraging verses I know of in the Bible, but that fact just went right by me.

Instead, a…thought…popped into my head. Or maybe a picture. Just for half a nano-second.

I saw myself flooring the accelerator and heading into one of the bridge’s big concrete supports.

As quickly as the thought came, it raced away.

I sat there in silence for a moment, and then I said, out loud, “Nobody believes in me.”

There was another moment of silence, and then I felt a kind of presence. And then I heard a voice.

The presence was Jesus, the God of the Universe, the Redeemer of my soul.

And the voice, his voice, said—softly, simply—

I believe in you.”

And I sat there for awhile, silent.

And then the tears finally came.


  • Would God actually say that to somebody—”I believe in you”?
  • Would he say that to you? If so, why?

Whatever your thoughts, I’d love to hear from you!


What The Worst Year in My Life made possible.


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