Testimony of Robert H. Bridges
August 10, 1989
We moved around quite a bit when I was young, and in each place we went we found a new church. I believe it's Dad who told me he looked for a place where they taught the Word, not so-called "social gospel" or "good thoughts". (Maybe it was Mom told me that.) But while he taught me to behave in a moral fashion, I don't remember he ever taught me anything about God.
Mom, on the other hand, was baptized in the Holy Spirit some time during my early childhood. At any rate, it seems to me she was mixed up with those tongue-speakers as far back as I can remember, though she tells me she re- ceived the baptism in the Holy Spirit some time in the late '60s. While I don't remember her trying to 'recruit' us, I was always attracted to this life -- possibly because of the tongues, though I don't remember.
I have a vague memory of some of the women she hung around with praying for me. She tells me there were prophecies about me, though their content isn't clear to me now. And at one point I clearly remember asking to receive the baptism, being prayed for and entirely failing to speak in tongues. I ran into my room, threw myself on the bed and cried with disappointment. I should reiterate, though, that I don't know what it is about the baptism that attracted me, and I may have been disappointed principally because I didn't get to speak in tongues.
I was born in the Midwest, and we lived in a number of places there before we left when I was 13. Most of what I remember is centered around Minneapolis, Minnesota. I think I was about 7 when I was born again.
I remember two separate occasions on which I 'gave my heart to the Lord'. I put that in quotes because I don't remember which came first nor which one was the more sincere. Both of them are connected to a family named MacNamara who lived about an hour away in Mound, Minnesota, on Lake Minnetonka where Tonka trucks are manufactured. They, too, were spirit-filled Christians, and we visited each other often. They consisted of Chuck and Alice, Jane, Brian (about my age), Susan (about Kathy's age), and maybe one or two others. They had another baby rather later.
On the first occasion I'll relate, Mrs. MacNamara -- that is, Alice -- was babysitting me for a few hours while Mom was away. I don't remember that my brother and sister were even in the house; perhaps they were with Mom, or maybe I was younger than I remember and only Kathy was born. At any rate, Mrs. Mac- Namara found me with a bag of potato chips behind the sofa, munching away at a food I knew quite well was forbidden. So did Mrs. MacNamara. She chose this time -- I surmise it had been on her mind for a while -- to set me in a chair facing her and require me to stay there 'til I had invited Jesus to come into my heart.
Those who know me today will not be surprised to read that I was not amenable to such an approach. I don't remember what I said, but I sat stubbornly, awaiting events. I believe now that I knew pretty well that I ought to do as she said -- not, I mean, that while she was my babysitter she had such auth- ority, but that what she was saying was right on its own merits -- but I wouldn't give her the satisfaction, as I perceived it, since she demanded it. Eventually, she made a brief trip to the bathroom; I took advantage of her absence to do as she asked, and told her so when she returned. If she found that anticlimactic, so did I. (Actually, I think it's most likely that she didn't believe me. *I* wouldn't have.) I'm afraid I got very little satis- faction from doing as I thought right, then, no doubt because of the execrable attitude from which I did it. Maybe the Holy Spirit knew I was not sincere, though it seems to me now that I was...mostly.
On the other occasion, which now that I'm telling the tale I think must have been a few years later, we were all out at the MacNamara's house in Mound. That evening an evangelist was to speak at their church, and Brian and I went out early -- were sent out early, I think -- to help the church set up chairs, or something. We met the evangelist, and he spent some time with the two of us, just talking about his work.
During the service he wished to demonstrate water baptism, and called me up as his model. I stiffened obligingly for him while he let me lean far back, as though I were in water being baptized.
When he asked for folks to come forward to be born again, I came. I understood practically nothing of what it was Jesus was going to do, beside "come into my heart", and at that time the Holy Ghost was just some ghost who hovered around the corners of church ceilings. But I understood that it was right for me to do this, and so I did.
I don't believe I looked for any change after that -- I don't remember that I even thought about it much. I'd simply heard a call, responded to it, and then gone on with whatever I was doing at the time. Certainly I don't see that my life changed, or that I even slowed my headlong rush to become a more and more stubborn and rebellious little boy. This was the early to mid '60s, and all the children a little older than I -- that is, the teenagers -- were telling me only I could direct my life, and my parents shouldn't try. While I don't re- member approving of so much of the rebellion of that time, I embraced my *own* autonomy as wholeheartedly as I knew how. I never so much as saw drugs, I didn't get into trouble with girls -- indeed I was heartily afraid of them -- and I never *actually* ran away. But I fought and questioned and argued with my parents at every turn, upon the slightest pretext, and found fault with every thought they expressed.
Or so it seems to me now, in this context. But now I remember my dad explain- ing why I shouldn't believe everything I read about the world, and how things can be explained so as to sound a certain way when they really aren't, and I believed him then. Certainly I thought he didn't understand me, that the lack of comprehension between us was mutual! Of course it couldn't have been.
It must have been around this time that I experimented with lying. I say "experimented" as though it were only a brief, tentative fling, but really I was a fearful liar for what must have been several years. But during that time, Mom got into the habit of asking the Holy Spirit whether I were lying, and when she did that I don't remember that I ever got away with one. I do remember her saying "I'm sorry, Bobby, but I believe the Lord is saying you're lying", and then thrashing me on the basis of what she'd heard, though she could have had no other evidence but the knowledge that I did lie from time to time. I must have been much impressed by this, judging by how clearly I remember the circumstances.
Baptism in the Holy Spirit
When I was 13, just out of 7th grade, we moved from the Midwest to Pittsburgh. We attended St. Martins Episcopal church in Munroeville, PA, pastored (if that's the word for an Episcopalian priest addressed as "Father") by George Stockhowe. I don't know whether my parents knew it at the time -- certainly I didn't -- but he'd recently been baptized in the Holy Spirit, and events were heating up at that church. (He later wrote a book about this period entitled, I think, "He's Alive", after a sign kept lighted all year 'round facing the interstate. It had been put up one Christmas and never taken down.)
In March 1970 Dennis and Rita Bennett, spirit-filled Episcopals who wrote "Nine o'Clock in the Morning", came a second time to minister the baptism at St. Martins. While Dennis taught the adults in the santuary, Rita addressed the younger ones, mostly 10 to 16, in the church library. I was nearly 16 at the time, my sister Kathy was 14, Bill had just turned 13. We all went.
After she had explained that certain occult practices could interfere with the baptism in the Holy Spirit and led us in a prayer renouncing such things, she began to pray for the group to receive the Holy Spirit. One after another we began to speak in tongues. I was one of the last, but eventually most of us were praying in our individual languages. Though at the time this seemed to go on for perhaps an hour or a little less, I learned afterward we'd been in the library for 3 hours. I was told that at one point a parent, becoming impatient to take his daughter home, opened the library door and immediately closed it again, feeling something of the Spirit inside. No one interrupted us that I was aware.
I'm ashamed at what follows. Dad picked us up and took us home. I don't think we said a word more to him than usual all the way home, probably less. I think it was a pretty silent trip. When we got home, all three of us ran into the den, or wherever it was we found Mom, and threw our arms around her, rejoicing silently or perhaps crying a little, and then told her what had happened to us. I didn't think until later how that must have felt to Dad.
I'm not the same man I was.
March 8, 1970. "It was on a Monday, Somebody touched me." For months, perhaps years, after that I counted it as my spiritual birthday. Certainly I saw chan- ges in my life that I hadn't seen when I gave my heart to the Lord; the biggest was that I *wanted* to change. Another I think it worthwhile to mention is that from about that time I have truly believed in eternal life, and am not afraid to die. (I am not suggesting this should be considered usual for spirit-filled Christians. Many who truly believe on Jesus believe only intel- lectually in everlasting life, and though I exhort them to change their habits of thought I don't think less of them for their failure to do so.)
But eventually the Holy Spirit corrected, even gently rebuked me. "Don't discount the work I did in you" between my rebirth and his baptism, is what he said. Though I didn't see that work, I accepted the correction.
One thing more I want to relate. Quite a number of children from my neighbour- hood had attended that meeting, and all, so far as I know, received the bap- tism. (Several sets of parents were already Spirit-baptized, I think.) The next day at school I had a terrible day. I don't want to underemphasize this; I had a *rotten* day! I came home possibly as grouchy as I've ever been in my life, and that's saying a lot. I frowned my way through the bus ride, stomped my way home from the bus stop, slammed the door behind me and there was Mom.
"How was your day?" she asked innocently. And I told her in two or three choice words.
I don't remember her exact words, then, but she informed me that everyone else who'd been to that meeting had experienced pretty much the same sort of day. She went on to point out, as I hadn't understood the point yet, that Satan was mad about us all receiving the baptism, and was bent on destroying our joy and, if possible, convincing us to abandon it.
I cannot describe how completely and helplessly my filthy mood evaporated as I heard that. Not by any coperative effort of my will, but simply by the word of the Lord, my grouchiness dropped from me and I laughed exhultantly. I'd been set free simply by seeing the spiritual roots of a situation. If I didn't say that just right, then let me put it this way: I heard the truth, and the truth made me free. Not just any truth, but the word of the Lord as he spoke it to me.
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