I’m currently reading the book, “God’s Forever Family” by Larry Eskridge which is a definitive work chronicling the Jesus Movement from 1966 to 1976 across America. I’m especially interested in this account since I lived through the Jesus Movement and was part of it, but more about that in another post. The Jesus Movement began around 1966 in the hippie subculture of San Francisco’s Haight-Asbury district. Some of the early converts in the Jesus Movement included Jim and Judy Dopp. Larry Eskridge writes:
Jim was a native of Des Moines, Iowa and had served in the Marines. Married after a 3-month whirlwind courtship in 1959, they headed out to California and ended up in Berkeley. Hoping to pursue his dream of becoming a comedian like Lenny Bruce, Jim began working in clubs and strip joints as well as maintaining a regular job as a factory sales rep for the Philip Morris Tobacco Company. On Sundays, the Dopps attended the local Lutheran church–despite the fact that they were fairly doubtful about there even being a God. Along with being Republicans and admirers of Barry Goldwater, they were members of Berkeley’s Sexual Freedom League.
They found themselves caught in the allure of the Bay Area drug scene, as well as a desire for spiritual truth. After experimenting with LSD a couple of times, Jim Dopp dropped by the home of his new found friend Ted Wise in October of 1966 to visit and smoke some joints. Dopp recounted that during that visit, Wise leaned close to him and shared his own revelatory insight about “the Rat that lives in the cellar of our soul.”
Affected by the marijuana, Dopp lay down on the floor and began to contemplate Wise’s words with the lyrics of a Bob Dylan song that was playing in the background. While he lay there, he began to meditate on his spiritual condition and came to a profound realization:
I finally got it. I was a rat. And it was my soul that was repenting. I thought to myself, “Maybe there is a God.” I hadn’t considered that possibility in a number of years, when suddenly a peace came over me, my breathing became easier. My chest became lighter. And I said, letting out a long sigh, “Oh, Father forgive me.” Immediately the entire weight that was on my chest was gone, and the rush of relief from my heart was one of exultation….My eyes were closed and there was a bright light in front of me. I felt such happiness. I had never known anything like this before….I understood in an instant that God is my Father and I am his child…They joy, peace and love that I had in my heart for God and others was just incredible. Never had I realized anything comparable before….”
Here’s what really caught my attention: As the Dopps embarked on their new found odyssey with Jesus, they were hanging out with their friends, dropping LSD and leading others to Jesus. Steve Heffner, a dj on one of San Francisco’s rock stations, visited Ted Wise and quizzed him as to what he was up to. Wise whispered to him, “Jesus Christ, man….He’s gathering his church in this period and a lot of people are going to be coming to the Lord…that’s what’s happening, man.” With that, Wise shepherded Steve Heffner on his first acid trip. Afterward, he recalled that it was immediately after coming off the acid that he had seen the light:
“All I know is that when I took LSD, I was a seeker, and when I woke up the next morning, I was a Christian!”
Now, this is the place in the story where some of you reading this are saying, “That’s not God. God wouldn’t do that.” And that’s my point, why not? Why can’t God bring someone to know Him while they are on an acid trip. And, I’m not advocating drugs. I’ve never used drugs, but I do find Sudafed helpful to keep me awake at times.
By the way, these early believers in the Jesus Movement in San Francisco and elsewhere eventually stopped using drugs as they grew and matured as followers of Jesus. They all can point to the day and time when the Spirit of God convicted them that their drug use was a crutch and a poor substitute, getting in the way of their witness and becoming a stumbling block to others. As someone once said to me, “When we come to God, He cleans our ‘house’ one room at a time.” Eventually, God got to the room where they kept their drugs and cleaned that out, but He did so in His own good time. Were they still saved, while doing LSD? Of course they were. Does God’s grace not extend to and beyond the use of LSD, or alcohol, or whatever? Of course.
As I read this, I thought of all the ways that we “box God in.” We ALL put God in a box, saying or believing that He can’t do this or won’t do that. We LIMIT God and what He will do to bring others to the knowledge of Him, or what He will do in our daily lives to show us that He is the strong and mighty God, the Creator of the Universe.
I’ll follow up on this post with a few more thoughts. But what about you? Do you have God in a neat, little box? In what ways have you boxed God in?