A Skeptic’s Quest – Testimony of Josh McDowell Part 1
I am probably the least likely person to be doing what I do and what I have done. You said, what do you mean? Over the years I have given more lectures to more students at more universities than anyone in history. In nineteen out of twenty universities we would have the largest crowds for lectures in the history of the university. We would go into a school like Stanford University, at the time rated the number one school in America, and in two nights we had five thousand students there and there are only six thousand in the university. Yet I am the most unlikely person to be doing this.
Let me give you the background. I grew up in a little tiny town in the state of Michigan, in my country. That is the one with all the lakes around it with a thumb going up right in the center to the top. My parents never went beyond the second grade. They had very poor grammar and they never corrected my grammar. I grew up and I still have very poor grammar. Most people don't catch it because they have worse. I am sure my teachers taught good grammar but I never caught it.
When I was in the second grade they tried to switch me from being left handed to being right handed. I don't mind being right handed. God is left handed. He is. The Bible says that 'Jesus is sitting on the right hand,' so God must be left handed. I grew up left handed. They tried to switch me from being left handed to right handed. I thought they were trying to do it because I was inferior. They didn't tell me they were trying to help me to be better. One thing they did when I was in the second grade, in the afternoon for one hour, when everyone was out in recess playing, I had to go into this room twice a week, every Tuesday and Thursday, and a woman by the name of Mrs. Duall was to break me from being left handed.
I remember one of the ways she did it. We would sit at a little table and she would take a box of play blocks. She would dump them out on the table and very nicely she would say, "Josh build a house." Under my breath, I would smile and say, "Build your own dumb house lady." And then she would raise her voice, "JOSH, BUILD A HOUSE!" Then I would respond. It is kind of like your mother. Most kids know they don't have to respond to their mother until her voice gets to a certain octave. When it gets to that certain octave, you take the trash out. When it gets to that certain octave, you clean your room. I always knew with Mrs. Duall, I did not have to respond until her voice got to a certain octave. I would reach out with my left hand to start building a house. She had a twelve inch wooden ruler. Every time I would reach out, she would take it and hit me across my knuckles and I would scream and then she would raise her voice and say, "Stop, think it through, do it with your right hand!"
A lot of people laugh at this. It caused a speech impediment. Whenever I was tired, nervous, or scared there was a mental block and I would stutter. When I was in third grade, which was what, 8 years old, it was third grade; I had to stand up and was supposed to recite the Gettysburg Address by the former President Lincoln. I couldn't do it. Whenever I got in front of the crowd I would stutter. I remember the teacher kept saying, "Say it, say it, say it." You talk about being embarrassed. I broke down crying and this is in third grade, 8 years old. I broke down crying and ran out of the room and I never forgot that. I grew up with a tremendous inferiority complex and thinking because I was left handed, I was less than somebody else who was right handed. However, I was so stubborn they could not break me. I was determined that just out of rebellion; I was going to stay left handed.
A Skeptic's Quest - My Testimony Part 2
I grew up with very poor grammar. My brother who is two years older than me, a phenomenal guy, went away to Michigan State University. He would come home and right in front of my friends (now I did not realize he was trying to help me) would correct my grammar. I'd say, "I don't want none." He'd say, "Don't use a double negative." I just thought that meant exceptionally bad attitude. And so every time my brother would come home, I would clam up. I would be quiet. Why? Who wants to be embarrassed around their friends? And so I would just shut up.
I went to college, I got out of the Air Force, went to college. And I will never forget it. I went to meet with a counselor before classes began. She looked over everything and she said you are a straight D student. Well that means you are hardly going to make it. That wasn't really encouraging. I'll never forget, she said, "You have something going for you that would take you further than most people's minds and grammar will ever take them." I said, "Give me a hint." I was ready for anything at that moment. She said, "You have drive and determination." And then I will never forget, her name was Mrs. Hamilton and she said, "Josh if you are willing to work at it, I am willing to work with you." Wow! She couldn't have made that commitment to very many students. I would record things onto a tape recorder and she would listen to it and correct my grammar.
But you know I wanted her to do that. I knew she was trying to help me. You know what was interesting, every time she corrected me, internally I would react emotionally. I mean it kind of hurt. She never indicated she knew it but she had to. Constantly she would give me books to help improve my grammar. I mean books for a 10, 11, 12 year old and here I was in the university. After I trusted Christ as Savior and Lord, I never thought that any of the invitations given in church, at Christian conferences, or Christian camps ever applied to me. Why?
Think back in your own life, after you came to Christ, you would go to church, you would go to a youth rally, you would go to a camp - here was the challenge. God wants to use your life. Bring your gifts, your abilities, your talents, place them on the altar. God wants to use you. Here was my problem. I didn't think I had any gifts. I didn't think I had any talents. My Dad was an alcoholic. I never even knew him sober until I was twenty years old. I never once saw my parents love each other - a very, very, very dysfunctional home life. I had poor grammar. And so I didn't think God could use me. Every time an invitation was given, I was so hurt, I was so discouraged. I wanted to be a part of it but I didn't think God could use me. I didn't think I had any gifts, talents or anything - now I did, but as the Bible says, "As a man thinketh so he is." And because of my background, I didn't think I had any gifts, talents or abilities for God to use so I always felt left out. Let me tell you that's a lonely place to be - to be a Christian and felt left out that God can't use you.