Philippians 3:7 But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. 8 More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith. 10 My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead.
David’s life had fallen apart again. It was not the first time, nor would it be the last. He was Bipolar and deep in the pit of depression but he could not have known that then. He only knew that it hurt and that there was an uncontrollable urge, deep down inside, to run. He prayed desperate prayers and he wept. He would cry for days without respite. This was soul pain; an indescribable burning that would not go away.
He was a Sailor with a good record. He was a convict on felony probation for strange and inexplicable crimes; crimes committed while in a manic fit. He was such a good Sailor that the Navy had pardoned everything and taken him back with open arms… all forgiven. He was divorced. When he went to jail the first time, his wife had abandoned him. She had been simply the latest in a string of women who had rejected him. David had overcome the pain and started over. All was well, or so it seemed.
Now, his fiancé had left him. He had gone to sea for a couple of weeks. When he returned to port, she was not there to greet him. When he called, she did not answer. He called her father who told him that she was married. In the two weeks he was at sea, she had not only decided to go with another man, she had run to the courthouse and married him.
David’s psyche broke and it broke badly. He lay weeping in a rented hotel room. It was in the depth of that awful, searing, burning pain that David decided to start over again. He had access to a little money. He would go far away, change his name, take on a new identity and start a new life. This place hurt too badly… he could not stay here.
Buying a train ticket from Jacksonville to San Diego, he hid in a sleeper compartment and cried. He barely saw the country as it slid by, outside the window. If he ate anything at all, he would not remember; it was all a blur. It was pulling into the station in San Diego that everything changed. Suddenly, the lights came on.
David left the train walking on air. The sky was bright, the birds were singing, it was a new day; the first day of a new life. Somehow, the fact that he was a deserter from the Navy and in violation of a felony probation just didn’t matter. He would overcome that. David felt like Superman; he could do anything.
Getting a hotel room, he began to explore his new surroundings. He liked everything he saw. In reality, he had very little money, no job, no hope and no future. In his spirit, David was free and on the top of the world. This was hypomania, but he could not have known that. David could not be defeated… he would win.
Walking through the streets of this new city, he only knew that he had to find work. David was a Christian. David knew Jesus, and against all logic, he prayed. He asked for guidance and direction. Suddenly, he saw a man, dressed as a Catholic Priest, collecting for charity on a street corner.
Perhaps it was guidance from a God who loved him and knew how He would fix what was broken in this young man and how He would use him in the future. Engaging the young Priest in conversation, David asked for information and assistance. “I am not a Priest,” the young man said, “I work with a group that takes homeless men off of the streets and pays them to collect for an Orphanage in Mexico. Would you like to come with me? I am sure that we could help you.” David went with him. By evening, he had a bunk in a small shelter and a job at which he would excel.
Dressed as a Priest, David would stand in various places around San Diego and ask for money to help the orphans. In an extended state of hypomania, David was irresistible and his bucket would fill to overflowing. He was the top funds collector in the organization and, along with free room and board, he got to keep half of the money he collected. Life was good.
Then, one day, it all came apart. The hypomania broke and depression set in. David lay on his bunk and cried out to God for help. Praying, often with “inexpressible groanings”, he cried out to God. “Oh God,” he prayed, “whatever it takes to get me from what I am, and where I am, to where and what you want me to be; do it!”
The young man fell back on his pillow and slept soundly through the night. The next morning, he put on his black trousers and black shirt, carefully placing the little, white plastic yoke over the tightly buttoned shirt collar. It was that yoke that would identify him to the world as a religious man. It was that yoke that would help him pull in large donations for the orphanage in Tijuana, just across the border in Mexico.
That morning, the small group of men, all dressed like priests and carrying little red buckets, got on the train for the San Diego Airport. The group had never been there before and they did not know how they would be received. They had a Non-Profit, Fund Raising License from the City of San Diego, but this was different; airports are different.
They had been there just a very short time when an Airport Police Officer approached David. Straining his eyes to read the small nametag pinned to the black cloth, he asked, “Well, David, do you have a last name? David assured him that he did. “And what” the officer asked, “is your Social Security Number?” David, not knowing what else to do, gave it to him.
The officer carefully wrote down the information on a matchbook cover and disappeared into the crowd. Not ten minutes later he returned with another officer, and they asked David to go with them. He walked with them quietly and with a strange assurance that this was a God thing. Somehow his brain put this together with his request, “Whatever it takes to get me from where I am and what I am to where and what you want me to be; do it.” Somehow, this was the first installment in “whatever”.
“Sir,” the officer spoke, “it appears that you are on an unauthorized absence from the Navy and Florida wants you for violating a felony probation.” With this, they sat David down on a bench and shackled his feet to the floor. It was the start of a very long journey but the first step in “whatever”.
When he left the California jail, headed for Florida, a fellow prisoner shouted out, “You will be out by Christmas!” This was to be prophetic. Somehow, this was from God, but who could have known?
Lying on a bunk in a county jail gives you lots of time to think, and David thought. He remembered his father leaving when he was six. He remembered how he walked an aisle, accepted Jesus and got baptized at eight. He thought of how he had given his life to be a minister when he was twelve and how, by fourteen, he was certain that God wanted him to be a Foreign Missionary. He thought about how his teachers had told him how smart he was but accused him, in the same breath, of being lazy. He remembered crying because, sitting at his desk, with the books in front of him, he could not force himself to study. He remembered being a failure academically, even though he knew the material. He remembered being socially backward to an extreme. He remembered always being the last one chosen when the Physical Education class divided up into teams… Mostly, he remembered being rejected; repeatedly rejected. Now he was thirty-four years old and that rejection had followed him every day of his life.
How could you be called of God to minister and be a missionary when you failed at everything you ever tried? David questioned, and David cried. He read his Bible and he prayed. God spoke and God gave peace.
The court room session had been very short. “How do you plead?” “Guilty” “I accept your plea and I adjudicate you guilty. You are sentenced to thirty months in the State Correctional System.” That was it. David’s lawyer told him that with time served and time off for good behavior, he would only spend about six months in prison. He would be out by January of 1986.
The first day in his new home, David was sent around to check in. He would visit the clinic, the barbershop and the Chapel. He would have an interview with the Prison Chaplain. When He sat down with the Chaplain, he spilled his guts… everything, even his prayer that God would do whatever it took and how he got arrested the next day. Before he left the Chaplain’s office, David was the prison’s newest Chaplain’s Assistant.
When he reported for work the next day, the Chaplain sat him down. “David,” he said, “we have over two thousand books in the Chapel Library. They are in random order on the shelves. While you are here, I want you to do two things, I want you to categorize those books, make a card file and arrange them on the shelves and I want you to read two books, of your choice, every week, and write a summary of them to go in the card catalogue so that others will be able to read them and know what they are about.”
For almost six months, David read books, looked at books, arranged books, wrote book reports and talked every day with a godly Christian Pastor… This was God’s “whatever”. David was being changed and David was being set free. When he got out of prison, his debt to society would be paid. The Navy had discharged him while he was there. There would be no more probation and no parole. When David stepped out of that prison door, he would be a free man. More than that, many of the things that had held him in spiritual bondage would be gone and he could succeed in ways he never dreamed.
Christmas was coming and David’s release date was the middle of January. David remembered the wild and crazy prophecy the man in the San Diego jail had given, “You will be out by Christmas!” David prayed and he asked God to let him go home for Christmas. Sometime, after the first of December, the word came, there would be an early release. Two weeks before Christmas, David walked out the door a freer man than he had ever been.
David moved back with his parents near Lake Okeechobee, in South Florida. In the Single Adults class at First Baptist Church, David met Bill Townsend. Bill told him that he was Cam Townsend’s son and that his father had started Wycliffe Bible Translators. David didn’t believe him, but it turned out to be true. Six months after David got out of prison, he and Bill were travelling up and down the rivers of Peru, ministering in the deepest darkest jungle of the Amazon. For four and a half months they lived in a village so deep in the interior that it was a two-week trip by boat to the nearest telephone.
It was on a riverboat, going up a tributary to the Amazon that Bill turned to David and said, “If God ever called you, He is still calling you, ‘The gifts and callings of God are without repentance’” Years later Bill would say that he could not remember that moment, but David never forgot.
David would have more ups and downs but God would use him. He would go back to school, get a degree in Missions, go to Venezuela as a Missionary, help a small church of about thirty members grow to more than five hundred. He would start a small Bible College and teach young men who felt called into the ministry. It was in Venezuela that he would meet his wife of twenty-five years, Cathy… an Arawak Indian from Guyana. It was there that the first of their two children would be born.
There were more bouts of depression and hypomania but God helped him overcome. In 2013, David saw a V.A. Psychiatrist. David had been a Missionary and a Pastor. Now, he sat across the desk from a secular Psychiatrist and spilled his guts.
He had told these things to a man he trusted once. A well-known and well liked Pastor and a Man of God. For his trouble, he had been shunned and asked to find another church. He had sought counseling from Christian Counselors who spouted off Bible verses David knew by heart. He had been prayed for and had family curses broken… some of it helped but still the questions remained.
He told this old Doctor of the crimes he had committed and how they cost him a marriage and led to years of wild and crazy living, followed by jail and prison. Unlike the Pastor friend, there was no shock or rejection in that ancient face, no repulsion. It was his last appointment of the day but the old Psychiatrist sat and listened for an hour and a half… long past quitting time. David’s life had been full of glorious successes, brought down by fantastic failures. One after the other, after the other. David had recited them. Still the Doctor had listened.
Finally, when David was spent and the story told, the old Doctor stirred and leaned forward in his chair. “You, Sir,” the Doctor said, “are functionally Bipolar.” Seeing the disbelief in David’s eyes, the Doctor said, “You don’t understand the disease. You are a smart man. Go home and look it up. For you, there is no need of medication. For you, to know the beast is to conquer the beast. I don’t think,” he continued, “that you will need to see me again.”
Two days later, the beast was conquered and David had his answer. Understanding how the depression he was prone to caused him to run from his problems, and how the hyper state and the mania always followed, explained his whole life. Now, he could hold on through the depression and recognize and bring himself down from a hypomanic state.
Not perfect overnight, still the progress is amazing and David’s life has changed for the better.
David A. Rice