16. The turning of the tide
From about age 5 years my mother sent us to a Sunday school. It instilled in me a reverence for spiritual matters and for God. When I was a teenager I made a public commitment to follow Christ and attended a Pentecostal Church that took their religion very seriously. I spent many hours listening to sermons, attending youth group and prayer meetings.
At age fifty, 45 years later, I had found myself for the first time not attending a church for a prolonged period. My spirit was yearning for intimacy with the God I had known for so long. Many times I asked, why did these mental breakdowns happen to me God? A normal, average father of four suddenly was losing his healthy mind. I asked myself, where have I gone wrong? Did I commit a terrible sin? I read the book of Job. He was a man who lost everything, possessions and children all in one day. His friends urged him to confess his sins to God. But he had not sinned. I identified with Job. Except that I had not lost everything, just my job, my reputation and enjoyment of normal life.
I had a lot to be thankful for, healthy children, a lovely wife and a nice home. We started looking for another church to attend. I just could not face the people of the previous congregation. They wouldn’t know what to say, nor would I. For a few Sundays we visited various churches. While in hospital I met Colin who lives with Manic Depression. He visited the mental hospital regularly and spoke about the illness and encouraged sufferers. After one of his talks I spoke to Colin privately. He was enthusiastic about his church and invited me to attend one Sunday.
I mentioned previously that I believe my second hospitalization was orchestrated by God that I would meet a particular person. Colin was that man. He has two grandsons who later would surprise me with their skill on the computer and a co-incidence about their name. Later when I found out that one of my friends attends the same church as Colin, Isobel and I decided to visit there. The people were so friendly that we felt at home right from the start.
On the first Sunday the pastor preached from Nehemiah on rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. His simple message that God can restore anyone’s life touched my heart. If anyone needed restoring it was me. With no job, no future and suffering from an incurable mental illness, who would knock back the invitation to come forward at the end and be prayed for? I had nothing to lose. The pastor held my hand as we prayed. I was glad to take that step and walk forward. I have never regretted it. Who cares about reputation? I had none left to loose. In the years to come I would lay down my own reasoning many times and do things that I would never do with my own logic. I believe God answered the pastor’s prayer that morning and started a great mission in me and through me.
In Feb. 2001 after we had been at that church for about 8 months I wrote in my diary: Spiritually I am enjoying praying to God. I am learning to trust him totally whatever may come. Pastor B. spoke on Romans 8, 28 – all things work together for good. I am praying for revival amongst the media and politicians, also amongst the Ministers of Religion. But we must change the Chorus that says: Send revival and begin the work in me! Knowing me, if I pray like that and revival does come, I would want the credit! (…that it started all with me!)
I had not many students to teach driving at the time and spent long hours developing my website. New ideas came almost on daily basis. Because cash was scarce, I asked students to help in return for driving lessons. I regarded the internet an ideal outlet for my road safety book which was still on the backburner. I uploaded the whole book, chapter by chapter onto my website. At times I felt that there were still unseen forces working against me, sending viruses or hacking into my site. Other times I dismissed these as my imagination and a left over from my paranoia.
Road safety became my passion. I wanted to make a contribution and resisted suggestions by my ISP to charge for the service. It was for free and would remain so. Isobel often asked in a slightly mocking tone: “And what are you getting out of it?” At those times I remembered a prayer I prayed when I first became a driving instructor: “Lord, I want to be at the forefront of driver Education in Australia”. My prayer had not gone unnoticed, I think.
In May 2001 our State Government cast a final vote on the Prostitution Regulation Bill. It had been introduced a number of times since 1971. This latest effort was by Diana Laidlaw who was Minister for the Status of Women as well as Arts and Transport. I was a member of an organization that upholds and promotes standards for family, I had attended many debating sessions observing from the public gallery. We were praying long and hard that the bill would be defeated. It had already passed the Lower House and hinged on only one vote by an undecided member of the Upper House.
However, when the final vote was cast, all Liberal Party colleagues of Minister Laidlaw, who introduced it, voted against her bill. It was soundly defeated by 12-7 votes. The Minister cried foul, obviously upset, showing her emotion in front of TV cameras.
At the time I had email contact with a member of the Upper House, Mr. T. He volunteered to come to the aid of us driving instructors in the fight against the rigidity of the log book and other aspects of driver licencing. My previous efforts still had not come to anything. But the very afternoon the bill had been defeated in the Upper House I had emailed Mr. T about driver licencing and explained some of the madness of that system. In my mind I linked my email and the timing of it with the outcome of the vote. Was I going crazy again to think like that?
That night I emailed Mr. T: “I used to hate the saying – it does not matter what you know, but who you know – I now really believe it.”
Despite having never spoken to Mr. T I believe he had a degree of respect for me. One morning a female voice rang the driving school and asked for Catherine. My sensitive spirit sensed something. Mr. T had a Catherine working for her. Is someone trying to tell me something? I phoned Mr. T’s office and spoke into the answer machine: “This is Winston; I think Mr. T tried to get in touch with me. My phone number is …” That afternoon I received an email from Mr. T’s office asking me for my phone number. I was sure they had it. My imagination told me they queried to confirm it was me who called himself Winston.
The name Winston, of course, is the name of the great British statesman. He is the hero of the millions of bi-polar patience around the world. Not only did he overcome the illness, but went on to be voted as the greatest Britain of the 20th Century. Winston is also the middle name of Australia’s John Howard, who is Prime Minister at the time of writing.
Another issue I had contacted Mr. T about was the new law of indicating 5 seconds before pulling out from the kerb. A new road law had been passed that only indicating 3 seconds meant an immediate fail of the driving test. My argument was that it does not matter if one indicated for 3 seconds or 5 seconds, as long as you indicate and make sure it is clear before you move into traffic.
On the Monday of that week I had my first student fail a driving test for not indicating long enough. I pointed out in my email to Mr. T that the 100 dollars this student has to spent to do another test would be better spend on road safety lessons. This made complete sense to most people. That our government would not only make such an unworkable law, but enforce such a minor point to the letter, frustrated me immensely.
The day after the prostitution victory in Parliament I noticed Mr. T being interviewed on the ABC’s Stateline TV program. The subject matter was smoking in hotel bars. Since I had no direct contact with Mr. T., I was eager to find out his thinking and how he stood on issues other than that of poker machines.
During the program the Stateline reporter queried Mr. T. on the prostitution vote the previous day. My mind went on full alert. It was as if my spirit was lifted to a higher realm of perception. Or did I only hear what my bi-polar mind wanted to hear? I was still riding the euphoria of the previous day’s events. All I could hear was Mr. T’s satisfaction that the bill was defeated. He finished by quoting Winston Churchill who never, never, never gave up.
The words spoken were music in my ears. Yes, I would never give up. Despite suffering from the same illness as I, Winston Churchill never gave up the fight against the monster across the channel. Perhaps Mr. T. is taking notice of my emails. Perhaps he just did not have time to contact me. The appearance on Stateline was surely meant as encouragement just for me, I fantasized in my raised state of mind.
Stateline was scheduled weekly on a Friday evening. My perception that the program was hinted at me was reinforced by news a short time later. The song “Friday on my mind” was voted the most popular song for the previous 75 years. I had never heard of the song title; nor had I ever heard of a song of ‘the last 75 years’? It all puzzled me. However, Fridays would become a special day for me to email or take other action in my journey into the ‘blue yonder’.
My passionate sense of justice kept getting stronger after watching encouraging programs like that Stateline episode. It triggered a chain reaction beyond my wildest imagination.
The two numbers 3 and 5 would become a symbol of reform, leading a revolution far beyond driver education.
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