You might have heard Josh McDowell on Christian radio, or read his apologetic books, but you may have never known the deep pain and shame he grew up with or the devastating circumstances behind his wanting to die at the age of 11. What a heartbreaking story, yet so triumphant and full of redemption for the man he has become. He has debated 250 times on university campuses since then. Josh McDowell’s is author of ’Evidence that demands a verdict’; the first book that he set out to write when he decided to leave law school at the age of 20, in order to travel to several countries to write this book that would refute Christianity. In the end, he only ended up convincing himself that Jesus Christ was God incarnate and his new faith and mentor helped him to finally forgive his alcoholic father for destroying their family and the hired farm hand that raped him for 6 years, from the age of 6-12.
Here are a few notes from the beginning of this story, which he told to students and faculty at Biola University in March of 2012 as Biola was hosting Sexual Violence Awareness Week. You can view the 33 minute message in the video at the bottom of this post:
“I want to tell a story about an 11 year old boy who woke up one morning and just wanted to die. He didn’t want to live anymore. It’s my story. Have you ever been lonely? Have you ever had that fleeting thought that it wouldn’t matter to anyone if you lived or you died? That’s how I felt at 11 years old and I just wanted to die. I was brought up in a little tiny town called Union Michigan of about 1800 people and growing up my father was the town alcoholic. I never knew him sober until I was about 20 years old. I would go to school and I would see my friends make jokes about my dad, laughing about him being in the gutter downtown making a fool of himself. Every time they told a joke it hurt, but I never, ever let anyone know.
We were brought up on a frame and I would go out to the barn at 9,10, 11 years old and I’d see my mother whom I loved very, very much lying in the manure behind the gutter near the cows where my dad had yanked the hoses off the milk pipes and beat my mother to a bloody pulp until she was so weak and so bloody she couldn’t stand up and she would roll out of the manure and at 8,9, 10, 11 years old I’d beat and kick on my father and say, “When I’m strong enough, I’ll kill you”.
We’d have company come, my dad would be drunk and if any of you have an alcoholic parent you know what I’m talking about: Every day of your life you carry shame. No matter, you become a Christian or not, you carry shame with you every day of your life and especially when your friends would come over and your dad would be drunk. So, I would go out to the barn. He was a small man, I was just a little kiddo and I would grab him around the neck or I would lift up his feet and I would pull him into the barn where the cows would be and I would drop him on the straw and I would go and park the car (cause at the farm you learn to drive young) around behind the barn where nobody could see it. Then, in case he’d wake up before the company left, I would go back there and I would get him up against the boards and ties his arms with rope and then around his neck. The first time I left him there from 5:30 at night to 5:30 in the morning and I remember when I went out there I was so disappointed that he was still alive. All I wanted was for my dad to quit hurting my mother.
Then McDowell recounts how in his senior year of high school he found his mother weeping in her room and she tells him that his father broke her heart and all she wanted is to live to see his graduation and then she wanted to just die. Ironically 61 days after that conversation McDowell graduated from high school and the friday after his graduation his mother din in fact ‘just die’. He hated his father for it. McDowell was the youngest of 5 kids and he also recounts how he wanted to die at the age of 11 and buried himself in a bin full of corn. After a few hours as hunger and thirst got to him, he struggled to get out and when he opened the barn door and the sunlight hit him, he hated his father and cursed him and he hated God for abandoning him to his circumstances.
Watch the video for the rest of Josh McDowell’s story (33 minutes):
Published on Jul 9, 2012 by BiolaUniversity Chapel from March 23, 2012