Late one summer night when I was laying in bed with the windows open for ventilation, the neighborhood was quite even the neighborhood dogs were asleep. Suddenly I heard a dull “boom!!!”, and then someone cried out in a deep voice, “Hey Mooooooooark” !!!". Then my brothers laughed and told me that it was our neighbor Dick, who lived 7 houses down the street on the same side who was a known alcoholic.
In the summer time, Dick would get so smashed on hard liquor that he would stagger outside and aimlessly wonder around his yard until he got to the north side of their painted green house. Then he would lean against the fuel oil tank and pound repeatedly on the side of the tank like it was a drum with his fist and call out for his son Mark to come home. Mark was usually inside the house.
Dick also had a dark brown, long haired dog on a chain leash that would bark his fool head off at anyone who walked past the back of their house. One day when I was walking along the alley in back of the property I spotted a small red turtle in his yard that someone had painted its back bright red. I walked over into the grass and picked it up and took it home.
Evidently while the dog was barking at me, Dick saw me in his yard. Later that night, he came to our house drunk and reported to my Dad that he thought I stole his dog house which came up missing. Obviously he must’ve been hallucinating because I was just a little kid who didn’t have the capability to move anything of that size.
I do recall that when the turtle wouldn’t come out of its shell I sat it down on our side walk and decided to tap on its back with a ball peen hammer to see if I could encourage it to come out. I accidentally cracked its shell which eventually caused it to die. It was my first turtle, and at the time I was too young and ignorant to understand that it was their nature to hide in their shells when they sensed danger.
Dick would quietly pace around his yard like a bored animal in a cage. If my memory serves me right he was only about 35-45 years old when he went blind from alcohol poisoning.
Being that my Dad was a pastor and had a heart for the lost, he would occasionally take the time to talk to him in the evenings about the Lord as they would sit together on our front porch ledge.
His wife was a believer in Christ and would also pray for his salvation and a change in his life. Later on I was told that Dick finally turned his life over to Christ and became serious about his condition and position before the Lord; eventually he regained his vision to the point where he could navigate without help.
I couldn’t help but equate Dick’s situation to the little turtle that someone had painted bright red. No matter where the turtle went in the neighborhood he was marked and could not take off the red paint unless someone took the time to remove it. Everyone knew that Dick was a marked alcoholic man that everyone noticed as he would cry out to his son for help in the middle of the night.
For many years if anyone would approach him he would withdraw and hide much like the little turtle that sensed danger. What he didn’t realize was they were trying to befriend him and come to his rescue because they cared. What I have observed about God is, He has a way of allowing us our freedom to go until all of our earthly options are depleted.
Sometimes the physical damages of our sins are so devastating that we become as helpless invalids only to realize that we have finally reached the end of our rope and that we need to look to God for help. When we examine the destructive lifestyle that we have pursued, we soon realize that we are broken and we have to become dead to our sins through the blood of Jesus Christ who forgives and heals.
Someday I hope to see my ole neighbor Dick in heaven to tell him that I didn’t take his dog house but his little turtle was instrumental in telling others about the Lord Jesus Christ. It is Jesus who took the time on Calvary to go to the cross to take the burden of sin off of our backs. Although we are broken in our sin only he can heal the wounds and set us free.