This is a picture of my Uncle Aaron, with a group of Police Officers at an outreach event.
Now, anyone who knows my Uncle “A” would tell ya that, in the “good ole days” (which actually weren’t very good at all), the last people he’d wanna be pictured with were cops, and he sure wouldn’t have been smiling.
Led away in handcuffs, maybe, but not smiling.
I remember when he was getting ready to go before the judge after being arrested for “possession” for the upteenth time. He told me he was “going up the river” this time for sure. He had not one doubt.
“I’ve been busted too many times, Robert. I’m going to prison for sure.”
But as I’ll discuss in a minute, God spared Uncle “A,” as he so often has. He was sent to a rehab facility, and never did any “hard time” in prison. Many haven’t been so lucky, or “blessed,” as he would probably say.
But he pushed society’s limits, for sure. There’s a story my Grandma Stroud, his mom, used to tell, about when he was once stopped for speeding. The officer gave him a ticket, and as he was walking away, Uncle “A”—still within earshot of the cop—said, “Thanks, pig.”
Yeah, that was Aaron.
He drank more whiskey, smoked more pot and hacked more paint than anyone I’ve ever known or even heard about. To be honest, he should’ve been dead many times over. It was almost as if he was trying to self-destruct, but, try as he might, just couldn’t die.
Grandma once opened the door to a wardrobe closet he had in his room, and stuffed inside were dozens of Ziploc baggies with empty paint cans. He hacked so much paint, he eventually began coughing up bits of his lungs, with gold specks in the midst of it. Some asked her why she didn’t kick him out, but she always told us she’d rather him be doing “those things” in her house, because at least she knew he was safe. At least he wasn’t lying dead in a gutter somewhere.
Over the years he totaled some two-dozen cars, if I remember correctly, none of which did any serious damage to him. Still not sure how he pulled that off.
There was also the time my Grandpa Stroud, who was not a particularly big man, came home and found Uncle “A” in the midst of a huge party he’d thrown, in honor of having the house to himself for a while. Grandpa was so enraged, he didn’t say one word, but instead, walked right up to Uncle “A” and punched him so hard it knocked him out cold. Aaron later said he’d been in many fights, but had never been hit that hard.
I recall when we were teenagers, sitting around getting high, when he began to sniff glue, and then started drinking. A friend of his—I can’t recall the boy’s name—came up to me and said, “Rob, dude, you gotta get Aaron to stop. Smokin’ pot is one thing, but he’s sniffin’ glue and sippin’ whiskey on top of that. I mean, that’s gonna kill him.” Uncle “A” was maybe around 14 or 15. I tried, but couldn’t get him to stop, because, once he made his mind up, you couldn’t change it for nothing. I finally just gave up and smoked another joint with him.
Yeah, that was Aaron.
That was Aaron.
“Whoever is a believer in Christ is a new creation. The old way of living has disappeared. A new way of living has come into existence. (2 Corinthians 5:17)”
After partying for decades, he finally gave it up and fully gave his life to Christ.
Now he organizes outreaches to his neighborhood and even plays in the church worship band. He spends his time trying to help other seemingly “hopeless” cases, because he knows exactly how they feel. The man who used to go speeding toward death and Hell with reckless abandoned now hands out bread and shaving gear to homeless people.
It’s a miracle, truly.
The chronic pain issues which seem to be my family inheritance have caught up with him, to be certain. He is in great pain all the time, and has to walk with two canes.
But that’s only slowed him down; it hasn’t stopped him. You can’t stop him, man. I mean, if the devil couldn’t kill him after trying for some three-dozen years, nobody can. His fate lies solely in the hands of his Maker.
I remember him as being one of the most difficult, stubborn people I’d ever met. Especially when he was drunk. I was hangin’ out with Grandma and Grandpa Stroud one night when he came home plastered. He started screaming from the driveway, “Robert, get out here and move your (expletive) car, now!!” It enraged me, but I did it, albeit begrudgingly.
The next day, Uncle “A” said, “When I get in those moods, just ignore me or tell me to shut up.” I started laughing and said, “You didn’t see the look in your eyes, man. I’m not tellin’ ‘Drunk Aaron’ to shut up, unless I’m tried of livin’. He’s a madman.”
Now he’s a godly man.
The transformation we’ve seen in him over the years is one of the most dramatic I’ve ever witnessed.
“And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. (Ezekiel 36:26)”
Maybe some of you are either in Aaron’s shoes now, or you know someone who is. It’s hard to watch someone you love slowly destroy themselves, isn’t it? I know we spent many hours of prayer and tears praying for Uncle “A.” So please let me encourage you by offering the old adage, “If he can change, anyone can.” I recall once when Uncle “A” said he would never change. He said would never quit drinking. He would never quit smoking pot.
But God and time have mellowed him. He’s a new creation.
See, it is possible to change, even for those old party dogs who have been lost in their own world of inebriation for decades.
Never give up. God can change anyone’s heart. Believe me, I’ve seen it happen.