My Loss of Self-confidence #25

In seconds, I had become physically and mentally helpless, useless, and confined to seclusion. I also came from a background that regarded my accident as a “divine act of correction and punishment.” My conscience agreed with that belief and it kept plaguing me for years to come. Nevertheless, it revived my faith! I began to read the Bible and seek the company of like-minded people. During this time, I was preoccupied with a very low self-confidence, in what I could/would be doing in this new world, which I was facing? And how was I to prepare to function in the world, which would keep me out of the religious breeze that was restructuring traditional Christianity? The “Emotionalism Movement” had a profound impact on my education and even on my work as a pastor. It would take years for me to realize that the revival was social, and not spiritual. However, for the time being, I needed help in restoring my self-confidence. 

My Confidence in myself was very low

During my seclusion from the outside world, I did become acquainted with the Bible and found much comfort. It did tell me that I was in the world — but not of the world (John 17:15-17). God did send confidence builders into my life and three of the people were ministers. The first minister put value into my life and helped me believe that I was in God’s Hand. And I have been in His Hand over ninety years. The second minister helped me decide to become a “servant of Christ.” And that required some doing on my part. He did see me serving in the pastorate before he entered eternity. The third pastor took me into his Church-family and found a place where I could begin to prepare for my long journey to be a minister of the Gospel. However, before I could serve the Lord with my heart and mind, my body had to heal, and be repaired from the fire accident. It took twenty skin grafts and reconstruction surgery, and eighteen months of hospital and rehabilitation confinement, before I was able to be discharged to be on my own. In addition to what had happened to me, I also was a displaced war victim, with no English, and only six years of elementary education in Polish and German. And because my body was seventy percent disabled by the fire accident, I had a future as a freek-clown in a circus. When one young Christian man looked at me he said, “Put on horns and you look like the devil.” How much self-confidence, do you think I had left? My problem was that I needed ten years of education to qualify as a minister. To the denominational leaders and the counselor from the Worker’s Compensation Board, it was inconceivable that I could ever reach that goal. Nevertheless, the counselor promised that if I could get into college, the Worker’s Compensation Board would pay for my tuition. In seven and one half years, I did make it into college and I graduated from the North American Baptist Seminary in Sioux Falls, South Dakota with the second best grade. My ego had grown a bit too fast! However, my search for a Church dashed my ego somewhat. Smart handicapped ministers were not in demand. To many lay leaders, I was too well educated to be listening to the Holy Spirit. According to them, I could not preach or teach that the Lord revealed any additional insight to the Scriptures to me. In other words, I was not one of the “breezes” that blew across the Americas.

One Church in Oklahoma heard of me and invited me to be their pastor and the people were very good to us. I, however, felt inadequate, unfulfilled, and lonely. So, I decided to further my education so that I could teach in a Seminary. A German Church in New York City needed a minister who could speak their language and they took us on faith. They allowed me to study and I did earn a post Seminary degree from Biblical Seminary, which was an accredited Seminary. Therefore, I was accepted at the University of Toronto where I earned the Doctor in Theology. Sioux Falls Seminary was not accredited; however, the New York Biblical Seminary allowed me to prove myself on probation. Toronto also required some qualifying and at the end of the first year, I was advised to pursue my studies in the Biblical field. I took a two year break to relocate my New York Church and merged it with a Church on Long Island, which became the Alden Terrace Baptist Church. During this time, I also read extensively and prepared for my final year in Toronto. In Toronto, I took courses in four religious institutions and I also taught a subject at an Evangelical Baptist School. Then, I became the pastor of the Central Baptist Church in Buffalo, New York. In Buffalo, I began to write over four hundred pages on “A Setting For The Son of Man.” When I was on my way to take these bulky manuscripts to my supervisor in Toronto to be reviewed for my defence, the Canadian customs mistook them to be “contraband” and they were ready to confiscate them. It took some time to explain to them that my manuscript was my work for my Doctoral Degree before they let me continue on to Toronto.

I had to learn more Lessons on Confidence

Inadvertently, I had become overconfident in my preaching, teaching, and counseling. I had a chip on my shoulder and I did not even know it. At that time, I felt equipped to defend and represent the evangelical way; however, that was not what the Toronto Seminaries were looking for in my dissertation. A “liberal breeze” was plastering major schools looking for students with new insight. My supervisor, who was an Oxford man, would have let me pass, and so was the examiner from the Pontifical Institute of Rome, but the man from Harvard was disturbed and even insulted that I had dared to defend 150 Evangelical experts for my thesis. He was rude and insisted that I go back home and show him what I could do without the assistance of these people, whom he disliked. He then calmed down and became soft and made me feel that I had the making of an independent scholar. He did not fail me, but he marked my work as being incomplete and he expected me back with a revised thesis, so that I would not be forgotten. 

My ego was hurt and I was sold on Evangelicalism. My wife also felt disappointed for she did all my typing and left spaces for the foreign words, which had to be filled in by hand. Yet, we did not give up and I began to do my own reconstruction to see where I would end up. At this point, I had no confidence that this Harvad scholar would accept my work. My supervisor also was cautious and reminded me in a note, “You are going into a lion’s den a second time.” I did tremble the second time, but the Harvard man greeted me with a smile, congratulated me with praise, urged that I publish my work in their Journals, and he added this comment that has rung in my ears for over fifty years, “We will hear from you.” My load of failing fell off my shoulders like lead and my ego began to celebrate. At last, The Chancellor of Victoria University of Toronto knighted me with the sword, and bestowed on me, Daniel A. Kolke, “The Degree of Doctor of Theology.” Also, I was the only one receiving that degree. My supervisor too was pleased and apologized for being so hard on me. A dream had come true, and my ego was raised higher than it should have been. Of course, the degree did affect my preaching, teaching, and my writing. I was turning the pulpit into a classroom with heavy lectures, and I was totally oblivious to what was happening around me. Again, it would take years before I would identify “the breeze” that was swiping by me.   

It still was Time for another Lesson on my Self-confidence

Reaching the doctoral academic level in Christianity did add to my ego and self-confidence. The State University at Buffalo hoped to add a religious branch. In addition to serving the Central Baptist Church, I was teaching two historical subjects on “Jesus and the Origin of Christianity.” However, the expected financial support was assigned to Long Island, New York and so we had to disband. During this time, I also applied to Seminaries and Colleges for a teaching position. However, they all regretted that their financing was drying up and they had to lay off teachers. Denominations were shrinking and splintering and that caused the loss of financial aid to operate. The war had re-awakened the need for God and a swift emotionalism, which appeared godly, swept the nation. Overnight, huge “Mega Churches” sprang up, and the “Evangelists with Psychic Compulsions” impressed the public and many people were converted. Therefore, I too longed for such an experience, which never happened. These people became the “Evangelicals” that would separate themselves from their social and political duties to the nation, and allow liberal secularism to take over the nation, the schools, and even many Churches. However, when this movement will realize its blundering, will it be too late to save this nation?

While this was going on, I had buried myself in the Gospels and wrote a book on the walls Churches built to survive, and I kept delivering sound biblical sermons. My Church held their own and even added new members. Our denominational press was not interested in my work and therefore, I published my own book. I was asked to write about racism, social injustice, women’s rights to abort and enjoy other liberties. Our denomination head over New York State, with some four hundred Churches, became curious and friendly with me, and requested that I send him one of my sermons. I was elated that he showed such interest in me, my family, and in my work. He did not take long to hand down his analysis of my wisdom. I felt a little insulted, but my ego needed to be halted from moving up too fast. It was brief, “Your lecture put me to sleep, break it up, and put some humor in your sermons.” I do not recall what else he said, for this was enough for my wife and I to digest. I did take his advice to heart, shortened the biblical content, and enhanced it with illustrations and humor. To my surprise, my new style made me more popular and never again was I refused to be hired at my first interview. I believe that I did thank him. I served three Churches under this leader and assisted in teaching some of his leaders, in Buffalo, Ilion, and Fulton. During my last Church in Fulton, I began to write an article in the local paper, entitled, “Stop and Think.” And this article became my “Hobby Blog” in retirement.

Change Affected my Confidence. 

Things happened too quickly and we had no control over anything, except the choice to follow. At this time, we were pleased where we were. Our oldest son was on a five-year region’s scholarship from the New York State University, and he had just finished his first year. The scholarship even paid us to house and feed our son because he was close enough to live at home. Then my father became ill and required life-threatening surgery in West Vancouver, B. C. Canada. To be near our parents and to give my wife and our three sons a chance to know my parents and their grandparents,    we decided to leave a comfortable Church in Fulton, New York and moved to Gorst (Port Orchard), Washington. My father did recover and we had more than fifteen years with my father and more than twenty with my mother. With time on my hands in a small Church, I helped out for a denominational college and in a seminary. During these time, my wife’s mother was losing her sight and became less mobile. Her second husband brought her to us and then deserted her. She stayed with us for three and one half years, mostly in my care. Our sons were all in school, my wife Selma went back to College in Bremerton, where she qualified to go back to work. 

Two years later we moved to Edmonds/Lynnwood, Washington (two hours closer to our parents in Canada). The search committee of Edmonds First Baptist liked my Bible preaching, but not my emphasis on spirituality. I did not have any special revelations, but the Bible. The attempt, by some members, to replace me failed, and therefore, they left the Church. Even so, the Lord added new people and I stayed until I retired, twelve and one half years later. We had an associate, who could not take over, and I was called back until they found a pastor to their liking. Some charismatic members had stayed with me all these years and some new ones had joined. At this time, they saw an opportunity to bring their kind of man from the Pentecostal Bible School in Kirkland, Washington who filled their wishes. He begged me not to visit his Church, which I had no interest in doing because we were moving away. Apparently, most of the people were leaving, including his friends, and he blamed it all on my family. He also took the Church out of the denomination, he ended up with only eleven people on Sundays, and in his anger, he left the Church. Another Independent Baptist group came in, and the Church grew to three worship serves on Sundays and on other days. 

It was Hard to “Hang On” to my Confidence

In my pursuit of the best education, I must have lived in a cocoon. I was unaware that the a degree from Toronto would not be acceptable to the Conservatives, Charismatics, and Evangelicals. It did not matter to these people that I had two degrees from conservative schools. I was tolerated by the liberal movement, but not endorsed. When Seattle tried to open up a liberal seminary, I was invited to teach two subjects, which could not possibly alter their perceptions. I, myself, withdrew when I did not fit in with their program. However, Toronto was the best for me because the teachers did not force their views on me. They accepted and respected every paper, which I wrote in our seminars and so were the papers of the other candidate. However, when I used the prevailing evangelical-conservative experts to sutandiate my position on the Son of man, the liberal examiners saw me as being unfaithful to myself. This Harvard scholar was not pushing his view, but my ability to reach my own conclusion based on the Scriptures, and not on some revelation that contradicted the Scriptures. From that day on, I was faithful to the Word/Words of the Lord for over fifty years. And I am more convinced than ever, that our failure to forgive each other and do what is right before God can forgive us, is the reason why we do not get into Christ’s Kingdom (Matthew 6:1q4-15; 18:23-35; John 20:21-23). Jesus is the Savior and not Paul, or even one of his disciples. 

I did retire at sixty two and one half and my wife did several years later due to ill health. We bought a little country place and assumed we were set for the rest of our days. We hoped to divide the land with our sons and help them build their own homes; however, the county laws had other plans. It would become a village with over thirty homes. Meanwhile, we had other surprises. With time on my hands, I tried to take part in revivals, but the evangelist had no place for my schooling and the charismatics disagreed with my spirit. So, we tried to go on vacation to visit some of our relatives. As my wife and I were in our car going north, all of the sudden my PMR struck my muscles with unbearable pain and I could not move. Prednisone relieved me of the pain and time did some of the healing. I had two more attacks of PMR and one that lasted a year. Before the second bounce, I also was diagnosed with prostate cancer with a 129 count. The urologist no longer could operate; however, he did inject me with hormones. The oncologist used over thirty radiations and concluded me as being incurable. While I wallowed in my misery, in the urologist’s office, a man in his nineties walked in singing cheerfully about heaven. I felt ashamed, and right there, I turned cheerful, put my trust in the Lord and we had people working, praying, and laying their hands on me. Instantly, I felt my self-confidence returning, and that was twenty-three years ago. The internet has extended my journey as a “vessel of grace” for my Lord Jesus Christ.