14. Of love and of power

Nothing ever came of my offer to those poor migrants who needed a lift. I started to imagine that I was being watched. The next day, on my way to my first lesson to Henley Beach, I flicked through the channels on the radio and picked up a phrase: “…if the lady is wrong she ought to admit it. The listener could ring us up, not only the other radio station. We are all mates.”

 It was strange. To me it sounded that they are just waiting for my phone call to tell them about the big blunder the government had made on the test sheet. I was craving for justice and recognition. I stopped the car and rang the station, Radio 5 AA. The Saturday gardening program was on air at the time, so I was asked to ring perhaps Mon-Fri 8 pm – 12 pm. I said I would.

My student, the son of a clergyman, had a double lesson booked. We planned to conduct the “country drive component” of the log book, which usually leads us to the road to Norton Summit. On the way through the suburbs I had a phone call from another student. She wanted to finish her lesson later that morning on Norton Summit, at the hotel to join her grandfather’s birthday party. No worry I said.

Suddenly my paranoid mind started activating. “What if this is an ambush? What if they plan to crash into my car on the way down?” There is a huge drop into Morialta National Park. “You would be dead and it could look like an accident”. To compound my fears, or almost confirm them, I noticed behind us a vehicle with government number plates. We had parked so I could explain cornering techniques, using my visual magnetic board. I had difficulty concentrating as I became acutely aware of being watched by the government officer behind us. The car had stopped; the indicators were flashing. A moment later it turned and reversed into the shoulder of the road as if to wait for someone.

We proceeded up Norton Summit Road, my mind in turmoil. The government Mitsubishi followed us. As we turned to let the traffic pass I never forget the look of the government officer. He tried to look away and not meet my eyes; it was so obvious. I directed the student to turn back down towards Adelaide. On the other side of the city we pulled into a huge car park to practice angle parking. I noticed a telecom van, identical to the one I thought was tracking me almost exactly a year earlier on the freeway to Murray Bridge. This did it for me. My paranoia had returned. Mental breakdown No. 2 had commenced.  

At the end of this most unusual driving lesson (I did not take payment that day) I asked my student if his dad (the clergyman) could spare a few moments with me. He was available and we had 20 minutes or so of conversation. I don’t know what he thought of his son’s driving instructor. At the conclusion I asked him to please pray for me that God’s will be done. We came to the mutual understanding that if my thoughts and concerns were from God, his plans will succeed. If not, it all would die away.

In the state I was in I could not conduct any more driving lessons that day. I cancelled the other appointments and went home. Having been once in the mental institution I had sworn to myself never to get out of control again. But over the next few days despite all conscious efforts, I lost it again. In my mind there was a conspiracy against me. My thoughts went high into the realm of fantasy, or so Isobel thought. Unfortunately, I had not yet learned to keep my mouth shut.  Isobel got concerned.

I phoned the radio station talkback program the following day, questioning the use of mobile phones. “The law, that you were not allowed to use it even in a traffic jam I find absurd. The policy of the MCA is the best one. You ought to be able to answer the phone and then find a safe parking spot to continue”. I mentioned my ex-boss by name, saying it was his policy. In a way I wanted to demonstrate that I was holding no grudges against that person or anyone.

The pressure I was under triggered a spiritual awakening in me. Early every morning I prayed earnestly for God’s will to be done. I started to receive thoughts, almost like dreams and extraordinary revelations. One such eye-opener hit me like a brick:  You are unsuccessful in your efforts for reform, because you are operating with a power motive, but without genuine love. I realized that I had struggled in a spirit of power, a power that came from my own self. But I knew my bible: “God has not given to us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2. Tim. 1, 7).  

My eyes visualized a strange connection: The two letters P and L must not be in that order. My learners don’t obtain their P’s without first earning the L’s. Power is only for real when it is linked with love. I had a lot of learning to do in the L’s department. I loved the other nouns in that verse – no more fear, but a sound mind! Expressing this simple dream would again land me in the mental hospital.

I got so excited when telling Isobel. But all she saw was a husband high and in danger of being out of control again. She loved and cared for me, however she was over protective without knowing it. After the previous episode she had been instructed to ring the Mental Health Department as soon as I was displaying symptoms of going high. She obeyed them. They arrived late in the evening and after interviewing me; they talked to her privately in the kitchen for a few minutes.  I felt calm by then and could see no reason for not staying home and getting over my excitement.  

But I was given one choice, either come with them voluntarily or be detained. I remember how passionately I explained to the officers that you must have love before you can use power. I hated going with them, but did not resist as previously. It hurt my feelings, being betrayed by your own wife, but Isobel and God meant it for good. I had to meet someone in the Mental Hospital as part of God’s grand plan.  

I was thankful for going straight to the familiar institution called Woodleigh House, the open ward and not the lock-up facility at Glenside. I was placed back on tablets, despite my protests. What difference will tablets make to my thinking about love and power? I didn’t need tablets.

The following incident shook me to perhaps think I am going stupid again:

In the middle of night I awoke. The door to my room opened. A lady stood at the end of my bed with a tray in her hand. I jumped up, frightened to death. All she said was: “Sorry, wrong one”. She turned and left quietly. My mind ticked over:

“No body has trays delivered to them in the middle of the night. It was most unusual. My mind computed this as a message for me: “We got the wrong one.” My mind concluded this because a German friend had died days earlier under a forklift while working on it. He had years earlier been a fellow musician at the church I attended. In my confused state of mind I had assumed that he was murdered and now perhaps they were after me!

That morning fear had returned. I tried again to contact Radio 5 DN. I thought, my favourite announcer would jump to my defense. There was a telephone in the ward. I rang the number. The switchboard asked me to hang on. I waited and waited to come on air. It must have been ½ hour or more when I finally gave up. Was he not allowed to speak to me? Was someone trying to silence me? This would fit the conspiracy theory.

I found out that staff had been instructed to not allow me to make phone calls. This I regarded as totally unfair, my only lifeline taken from me. That evening I decided to run away in search for help and as protest for being gagged. The ward was not locked. Just after dinner I quietly walked out the front door, crossed the main road and disappeared into the hive of the busy Tea Tree Plaza shopping centre.

Not far away was the house of the home fellowship leader from the church. I rang the doorbell. I told him where I had come from, since he knew my history of mental illness.  He spent a few minutes talking to me. But how could I make myself understood. They were expecting visitors. I did not want to be a nuisance. Then I knocked on the door of a house just down the road across a creek. It was the place of the school principle who I had said to: “I am going through a Joseph experience”. But the new owners said that he and his family had moved interstate.

Where should I go next, walking alone in the night? I tried to hide behind trees and bushes when car lights approached; knowing police by now would be looking for me. I headed for the house of another couple, parishioners of my church. The husband was away on business so I went away again. Exhausted, mentally and physically I finally walked to Jonathan’s house. He was the one that spoke to me after I had collapsed at church about a year earlier. We sat in the kitchen; he and his wife listened without passing judgment or being frightened. I felt safe for a few short moments.

Of course they did not know what to do with a Christian friend being chased by police. The phone rang and I knew who it was. The police picked me up shortly afterwards. I expected to be punished for the escape or to be sent to the lock-up hospital Glenside, where I had been a year earlier. Thankfully I was spared and returned to Woodleigh House by the police officers. Perhaps they realized I was no danger to anyone.

While in the hospital I was able to speak to many desperate people. Many confided in me and came for counselling. I loved talking to people. My troubles were nothing when compared to the heart rendering stories I came across. Even back then I wrote in my dairy that if a few people become Christians through this, it will have been worth it. After three weeks I was sent home again. Isobel did not know what to make of her strange husband.

Chapter 15


1. More in number      2. A sound mind       3. Now I'm found       4. Candle and the Wind


  5. Realm of Nature      6. All in his Hand        7. The Wonder of it All     8. To Think God loves