When a man meets himself

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By Betty Slade

When a man meets himself and comes before almighty God, he’s in a fight he can’t win, a fight he can’t afford to lose. Years ago, in a very clouded moment of time, my Sweet Al came to a point where he met God. It was a time he saw the man he was. A man he didn’t like. 

Once a No. 1 national salesman in a company of 3,000, he was honored with high accolades. He drove new cars and wore sharkskin suits and polished Florsheim shoes. His family enjoyed a comfortable living, too. He ran a rat race disguised as a path to success, one that took him away more than he was home.

Then, as if a house of cards toppled, everything changed. He woke up one morning with his mind spent. At the peak of his career, he could no longer push himself out of the car to call on a potential buyer without throwing his keys out the window.

When he left for work, he often turned around before he made it out of the driveway. I would ask him, “What are you doing home?”

He couldn’t answer. He was having a nervous breakdown and we didn’t realize it. It was the darkest moment in our family’s history.

It was a period of confusion and grief. Something in him faded. We didn’t know what was happening; there was a great unknown in our home. Al could no longer provide for his family.

The time came when Al decided to pursue different work in Albuquerque, N.M.. And with that, a move of four teenagers, myself and, of course, a dog. It was not the move I wanted, but something we had to do to survive as a family. 

We learned a lot in those days. We didn’t realize what happens to one, happens to all, until we saw the dominoes fall. When one person experiences such an enormous unsettling at their core, every person in the family is affected. 

Aside from everything that was happening under our roof, I was fearful of our children living in the city. I can’t even tell you the number of times God reminded me, “I’m in Albuquerque, too. You need a bigger faith in me. When the family was tucked away in a small town, everybody felt safe. Now your children are going every which way and you must trust me to keep them safe.” 

As for Al, he continued to struggle with moments of darkness that crippled his confidence. He told me he felt like he was on a path where he met himself, like the prodigal who came to himself in the middle of a pigpen. 

While on his journey to the mountain’s top, he found himself headlong into becoming someone he didn’t know. Eventually, the pressures of the world he lived in caused him to break apart. He couldn’t shake another person’s hand or look another person in the eye to even say, “hello.”

I wrote my Sweet Al’s story years ago. I borrowed the title from Arthur Miller’s stage play, “Death of a Salesman.” Al’s story was similar to that of Willy Loman’s, whose dream was eclipsed by his loss of identity in a world he didn’t know. God won the fight and we’re all better for it.

Final brushstroke: I was reminded of these things while watching a movie called “Margin Call.” The story tells of a crisis on Wall Street and the decisions people had to make. You can stay and fight for something that may not be worth the battle, just to keep yourself where you placed yourself. Or, move away from the fight because you recognize the battle is no longer yours as you discover the place God wants to take you.

Views expressed do not necessarily represent those of The SUN.