Shawn ------ was a fellow I knew in high school. We were both on the JV basketball team, and our paths crossed infrequently in the classroom as well. He was a very tall boy perhaps 6’5”, lanky, awkward in speech, and somewhat uncoordinated physically. I enjoyed him as an acquaintance & teammate & our occasional pickup basketball games. He was non-threatening and somewhat gentle in personality, and had a great shy grin. He was also caught up in the drug culture and was known as a pothead (marijuana).
One day in our English class, Shawn was fulfilling an assignment from our 10th grade teacher that many of us dreaded, which was to speak before the class of something in our life that was a dramatic event, that affected us greatly. The tall scruffy young man told a story quite unexpected. He related how he was into drugs and had recently had a momentous life change.....he told how recently he had become a Christian. The young people were impressed in an unspoken way, including myself. I had a chance to later inquire more intimately with him, perhaps out of curiosity alone, about this change. He told me that one night there was a party at his house, parents apparently out of town, and Shawn was high on harder drugs than just pot. Outside he looked up on the 2 story barn-style house (sadly it is no longer there, I recently was in town and looked), anyway, he looked up at the roof in the cold weather and said he saw flames & demons coming out of the chimney. Whether these were real flames & demons or drug-induced visions, I know not. But in these flames he shared how he saw demons, understood the reality of God, and the Devil, and his own mortality. And so he had made a frightened profession of Christianity, by and by, and it was this story that he told to our English class. I was not personally interested in such spiritual matters myself, it was more a matter of interest and oddity...interest in his "change" but I remained unchanged myself. My conscience was aware of the matter but I knew not my danger....nor his, as we shall see.
As our paths crossed only infrequently, I didn’t see much of Shawn. There was a year or two later with summertime pickup basketball game in his driveway. Deep down I knew that the crowd was for the most part not good company and they were involved in drugs-yet I was no exemplary person myself. So I enjoyed basketball & participated. I noticed a change in Shawn. Playing on his boombox as background music one particular evening was a well known but certainly not a Christian song per se - ‘Stairway to Heaven.’ I recall vividly asking Shawn during a break about this. Had he gone back to what he was before? I teased him and gave him a hard time (to the extent one can give a hard time to a nice guy you couldn't help but like). Honestly, I do not recall his answer, seems like a grin and a shrug of the shoulder was about it. Perhaps he had just taken a step back from being ‘too serious' about this religious stuff.
Since I knew not God, being unsaved myself, I thought little more about it at the time. I am sure I saw Shawn here and there from then to graduation, but I do not recall it. As a matter of fact, my last solid memory of Shawn was that conversation in the driveway about the Stairway to Heaven. Interesting how even I as an unsaved person knew at that time that such music was inconsistent with a profession of faith.
In the course of time during college, God, in His grace, brought me to Himself, and I found in Jesus Christ One who had died for my sins & rose from the dead. In Him I found what I had needed regarding my own sin, and even what I had admired in Shawn, or so I thought. Several years passed, marriage & children came, and the prospect of a 10 year high school class reunion was looming. I recall the thing I most wanted to do at that reunion was to find and talk to Shawn. Before the reunion, in the city where my family now lived I ran across another acquaintance from High School, and told him that I was looking forward to talking with Shawn about the Lord & what he said that day in English class. I hoped to embrace him as my brother in Christ.
R---- paused, he was somewhat surprised as I related why I wanted to see my old friend. It certainly caught him by surprise. How heartbroken I was at the story he gave. R----- told me (and this part forward is what I was told, not what I knew to be factual from personal knowledge but have since verified) that Shawn had died many years earlier. He had gone back to the pothead lifestyle and his ‘conversion’ story was quite unknown to this other classmate. He related how Shawn had apparently caught HIV virus from a sexually immoral lifestyle and had died a horrible death related to AIDS- back before the modern drug cocktails gave some relief to those who contracted it, the penalty for ungodliness. Of course I attended the class reunion, and Shawn wasn’t there, there was no mistake, he was gone, gone forever. Gone into eternity. As a side note, his primary pothead friend of many years, was also dead before the age of 30, the details of which I do not know.
In reflecting on the above sad story, one may wonder “was Shawn a Christian?” I tend to think not, for he fit the pattern where the word of God says ‘ a dog returns to its vomit.’ Yes that may sound harsh, but it is what the scripture describes in such situations. My friend who had spoken so boldly in that English class so long ago of a seeming new life, forged from a frightening winter evening "vision", was gone. What happened when he was 16 years old was only a taste of the life to come, he seemingly never had received the Son of God, just tasted eternal life without truly being converted. It was not that he became a Christian and then un-became one (an unscriptural idea); but rather it would appear he never had been truly converted. It is also worth noting-that at this time in my life, had you asked me if I myself was a Christian, I would have mistakenly said "of course," not realizing my own folly.
At the time of Shawn’s "conversion" testimony I too was pretty deep into the high school drinking culture (though how I escaped the drug culture I cannot say-but thank God), and once I specifically sensed God (not verbally) calling me unto Himself. At that time I recall vividly answering God aloud “not now God, I am having fun!” And so God let me run the course of ‘fun’ for a few years.
I have since found that the "fun" of sin was pretty much empty at the bottom and led only to regret and shame, and that true joy is found only in Christ, through the forgiveness of sins His cross provided. At one point between Shawn's testimony and my own conversion, in my teens I even awoke driving in the highway ditch - drunk,… had I hit a bridge/crashed & died without Christ I would have perished. But God had mercy on me, a sinner, and drew me to Christ whom I believed on, as my Savior. Christ crucified and risen from the dead, alive forevermore!
This is my testimony about myself and my old friend Shawn ------. Even now when I think about him it quiets me with a sadness I cannot express. At the same time I am very happy now to know the joy of Christ & the blessings that accompany life in HIM.
Contrast these two verses:
2 Peter 2:22 But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: "A dog returns to his own vomit," and, "a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire."
John 10:27 "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.
The following hymn lyrics are very meaningful to me:
Preserved by Jesus when,
my feet made haste to hell...
and there should I have gone,
but Thou dost all things well..
Thy love was great
Thy mercy free
Which from the pit,