July 25th, 2004
Why did Harold Rice care so much about people?
Something was wrong. I was seventeen. I had enjoyed a wonderful upbringing in a loving family, attended church, worked a part-time job, made decent grades in school, planned to attend college, played lead guitar in a successful rock band, and was very unhappy. Despite the shiny future ahead of me, I felt a deep sense of hopelessness within me. If life held any meaning for me or anyone, I wasn’t sure what it was. I didn’t want to die and I didn’t want to live. What was I to do? I began to pray. Perhaps I did want to live but just didn’t know what life was.
I had read the Bible as a boy and while I accepted it as credible, I had always imagined that those who were serious about implementing its principles were relegated to a life of asceticism. They were the ones who wore funny clothes, went on retreats, held rummage sales, worked only on certain days, and confined themselves to their homes on weekend nights. Incapable of emulating this demanding lifestyle, I felt uncomfortable around religious people.
However, a local minister had made an impression on me once when I visited his church. There was something very different about Reverend Harold Rice that caught my attention. He was the kind of guy who would just tell you outright that he loved you, not that there was any doubt. Just the fact that he would actually say it echoed his actions, which included helping the sick, poor, troubled or anyone with a need. He would minister to his congregation, residents at the local nursing home, and people of other races with whom it was not acceptable to mingle in our small southern town.
I have met only a few people who immediately give me the feeling that they are full of love for their fellow man, an indiscriminant love that transcends the natural boundaries of what is typically understood as love. Why did Harold Rice care so much about people? I guessed that his unusually robust love originated either in something he knew that others didn’t or from a supernatural source.
Word had it that Harold Rice worked on cars as a hobby. Supposedly, he had developed some type of gas-saving device that when installed on a vehicle, could increase the miles-per-gallon with little or no performance loss. As my state of mind grew increasingly dispirited, I decided to stop by his home one afternoon under the pretense that I needed his advice regarding a mechanical problem my truck was experiencing. The problem was real, but a minor one, something like a loose battery cable which I seem to remember him fixing with a penny. He soon realized that the real reason I had visited was to find out the secret to the love and happiness that he possessed.
He sat down with me and enthusiastically answered my questions about God. He didn’t preach at me or try to scare me with hellfire, but explained things in a clear manner via the scriptures that he so passionately believed and the experiences of his own life. He showed me that through an act of love, God sent Jesus to lift man out of the depressed state that he was in, the state that I found myself in. I felt fortunate to receive an interactive message very different from that of the pulpits to which I was accustomed. I came away with a sincere belief that Jesus Christ was not just some great religious teacher, but a person who was actually alive today due to the supernatural power of God. I asked the Savior into my life and discovered that He would literally enter me and live in me, my body being a temple for his Spirit.
The more I learned, the more amazed I became. The scriptures were coming alive for me. I hadn’t realized that there was such a deep and intelligent divine plan outlined in the pages of the book that I had read as a young boy. If anyone had ever explained God’s purpose for me, I had missed it. The fact that I believed the words of Jesus and put them into practice made all the difference imaginable. I admit that I did not fully understand all that was happening to me as my life transformed. I knew that what was happening to me was having a positive effect on my life and those around me. I felt better. The weight of depression lifted as I began seeing life differently. My life took on purpose and depth as I experienced the Savior through faith. Many years of discovery followed. I witnessed powerful miracles as well as painful trials as a Christian. I remain convinced that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead and is still alive today.