Recently, I was thinking about the developing trend of folks taking pictures of themselves and I believe that it’s called “selfies.” If that isn’t the correct term, it’s close enough. These parting words are intended primarily to be read by our male readers. My life has taken a number of turns over the years. I have had my “ups” and “downs.” Hopefully, this message, meant for “men” only, will help some of our readers who may be coping with life’s issues.
I grew up in the small Town of Clayton, which was about as rural as they come, but a great place in which to grow up. My earliest years were typical of what generally happened in most small Alabama towns. But as I got older things changed. All young boys in Clayton were expected by the men (and some women) in the town to participate in athletics and especially in football. By the time I got to my sophomore year in high school, Clayton High had hired a coach who was not only an offensive genius, but who was also a very good “recruiter.” Coach Buddy Taylor, who played at Ole Miss, was known to bring in talent from the surrounding towns. He was also a demanding coach, requiring total dedication and excellence from the boys who played for him.
To play for Coach Taylor, a boy had to be tough, or had to pretend to be tough, and, without any doubt, to make it as a “Clayton Tiger,” took “total dedication” to the “sport of football.” During my years in high school, we had some very good teams. In fact, folks from around the area would come to town on Friday nights to watch our high-powered offense in action. For example, during my junior year, we averaged almost 40 points per game against some pretty good opponents.
When you grow up like I did – where competition and toughness were a way of life for young men – you sometimes get your priorities sorta mixed up. In sports – and especially football – winning becomes all important. You like to hear folks in the stands cheering for you and during the week following a big win in Clayton (like when we defeated Headland 47-0, Brundidge 55-0 and Union Springs 46-6), the so-called stars would take on a “hero” status in the town. None of us at that time realized that all of this would eventually come to an end and we would wind up in the real world and the cheering would have stopped.
I must confess, even though I had two strong women in my life – Florence Camp Beasley, my Mother (until I was almost 16), and my paternal Grandmother, Julia Hurst Beasley (until I was a Freshmen in College) – each of whom was a strong Christian and who truly loved the Lord – I was really just going through the motions insofar as my Christian walk was concerned. I had accepted Jesus at an early age, but I was totally caught up in sports and everything else was secondary. Truthfully, I didn’t have a real relationship with Jesus. My high school years were great. I excelled in sports and had a good life. But I knew something was missing – I just didn’t know what it was.
My first year in college was pretty much a disaster. I had been recruited, starting as a high school junior, by a number of schools, including the University of Alabama, Georgia Tech, and the University of Georgia. Even though I really didn’t want to go there, I was encouraged by Coach Taylor to sign with Georgia. I found college football to be quite a challenge for a small town boy like me. In fact, I wound up at a Junior College in Mississippi. At that point in my “career,” I was a Quarterback with a bad knee who didn’t have a clue on what I was going to do with my life after football.
At the end of my freshman year, realizing that my football days were over, I dropped out of school. I went back home and worked for two years with my Daddy. During the second year as a college drop-out, I finally woke up and realized I needed to go back to school. Ironically, I went to Auburn, a school that had refused to offer me a football scholarship. Coach Shug Jordan, who much later became an older but trusted friend, had told me during my senior year that I could try out and then we would talk. Obviously, he knew more than the other coaches about my ability and desire to play at the college level.
It was at Auburn where I met my wife Sara, who, along with my mother, has been the strongest influence on my life. I can say without reservation that marrying Sara Baker was the best thing that I could have possibly done. When we met, Sara, even though younger, had already graduated Emory in nursing, finishing a five-year course in four years. She was at Auburn to get her education degree. I guess I added something in her pursuit of higher education. She did get the education degree, then a Masters, and was going further until family responsibilities slowed her down.
Sara helped me survive during the time I was in politics, where I was really a “fish out of water,” and it was a constant challenge. But it was during that time when I really came to know Jesus and that totally turned my life around. Frankly, I was not very good at the political game and was soundly defeated when I ran for governor. That loss started a new chapter in my life.
Without Jesus, and the support of my family, I would have been devastated by the loss. But on election night I was able to thank the people of Alabama, including those who voted for other candidates, and I left politics. Following the advice given to me by U.S. Senator Jim Allen, I never looked back. I knew that my life and that of my family would be taken care of because of my faith in God.
I was eager to get back to the practice of law and sent resumes to a number of law firms in Montgomery where I wanted to live and work. I must confess that I didn’t get a single response to my inquiries and found myself with no job and a leftover campaign debt. So I opened a law office, as the only lawyer, on Hull Street in Montgomery, and the rest is history. I praise God for all that I have been able to accomplish over the 35 years that followed that January day when I again found myself back in the real world.
Today, I can say without hesitation that being a man requires a solid relationship with Jesus Christ. That relationship makes us tough, strong and secure, but in the right way. If any man reading this hasn’t come to that understanding, I hope and pray that he will. Otherwise, there will definitely come a time when it will be too late. Living a life without the promise of eternal life is a very bad state of affairs.
God wants us to experience a deeper level of security in all areas of our life. Entering into a real relationship with God, through His Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, will lead a man into “authentic manhood.” That is the good news for our male readers this month. If any of our female readers decided to read this message – intended for men – that is quite alright. That’s because God loves all of us – men, women and especially children – and He doesn’t discriminate.
May God bless each of you and your families and may you desire to help in spreading the Gospel message to others. That really is our responsibility.
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