I was one of four boys born to Eugene and Jill Britton. When I was a child, we attended a Presbyterian church, but I did not hear anything of Christ or of the gospel. My parents would have said at the time that they were Christians, but that was not the case. There was no evidence in their lives of an encounter with Jesus Christ. My father left our family when I was twelve for another woman, and my teenage years were marked by painful loneliness and self-doubt with alcohol and marijuana adding to the confusion. By the time I headed off to college, I was far from any idea of God. I figured He didn’t care about me and I didn’t care about Him, and it was best to leave it that way.
It turned out that I was a good student and did well academically at college. As a result, I started my business career at IBM, which in the early 80’s was an auspicious beginning. The focus of my attention was not on my career, however. Nor was my focus on getting married and starting a family, the kind of normal things that most people do. My focus was on rock climbing. In high school I had begun rock climbing and enjoyed the risk involved and the skill required. I continued climbing through college and made numerous trips to Colorado or to Yosemite in California to try to check climbs off my list. Climbing effectively became my religion, as I devoted my time and resources to that pursuit and my identity was tied up in that activity. All religions are useless, but climbing is an especially useless religion, as it demands much and gives little. So, my twenties passed.
But the Lord was at work in my life, although I was unaware of it. I dated several women in my twenties who influenced my direction. One was a professing Christian, and through her I was exposed to a couple of churches and became more aware of the things of God. Another was a practicing Mormon, and her influence showed me that there are some really strange things out there that are passed off as religion. Finally, there was a woman who told me about her faith in Christ and invited me to her church. Still, my heart was dark.
In September of 1990, I took another trip to Yosemite Valley to attempt some big climbing projects. My climbing partner Danny and I made an aborted attempt to climb El Capitan, and then changed our sights to Half Dome. It was high up on the northwest face of Half Dome that I had a cathartic experience.
Starting early in the morning, Danny and I had made slow progress up the cliff. Our skills were not up to completing the route and so, about a third of the way up the granite face, we decided to abandon the project and take what Danny described as “an escape route.” We veered off to the left and climbed throughout the afternoon, constantly trying to discern the right direction. As early evening came and the sun began to set behind El Capitan way down the valley, I was hanging from my harness 100 feet above Danny as I waited for some other climbers to clear the way. Then I was alone. I was looking out over the panorama when something like a voice (or was it just a thought?) said, “You are going to die.” I was startled and began looking around to see where the danger lay. The sky was a peaceful blue. My anchors into the crack of the cliff were bombproof. The knots in my rope were secure. I could discern no threat at all. But I was poised about 1,200 feet above the base of the cliff and there was a high probability that a fall from that height would be bad. And now what had been a voice in my ear had become a certainty in my head. I was going to die. Soon. Very soon. I did not know what was going to happen, but my life was over.
This realization caused me to quickly look back over my life and to evaluate it. Wasted. My life had been squandered and now it was over. That caused me to do the only thing I knew to do at that time: talk to God. “God, I don’t want to die. I want to live. I want a second chance. I want to change. I don’t want to die.” That was it. Not profound, but within a few minutes the feeling that I was going to die was gone. I got back into climbing mode and belayed Danny up to my stance. We climbed a little higher as dusk deepened and found ourselves on a boulder- covered ledge. That was our perch for the night. I did not sleep, but watched the moon move slowly across the night sky and thought, and thought, and thought, The next morning we managed to finish our escape and get off the cliff and back down into the valley. From there it was back to Atlanta, where job and normal life awaited.
But I was different. A month after that experience a friend invited me to join her for church and I surprised her by saying yes. It was a Baptist church and the pastor was faithful to preach the gospel and to tell of the Lord Jesus. After church I went to Sunday school and saw that these Christians were not a lot different than me. I did not miss a Sunday morning service or Sunday school for more than a year. During that time, I came to understand the gospel, that I was dead in my sins, but that Jesus Christ had died on the cross to pay for sins and that, if I repented of my sins and placed my faith in Him, then I would be forgiven of my sins and would be saved from God’s wrath and judgment. I repented and believed and then was baptized in May 1991. “Buried unto death in Christ; rise again to walk in newness of life.”
Since my salvation at the age of thirty-one, the Lord has gradually led me in the path of sanctification as I have grown in practical holiness. He has given me a love for His Word, the Bible, and has given me the joy of being able to teach it. He has made me useful to other believers as I help them and encourage them in their own walks with the Lord. The Lord has led us to a great church where we serve the Body and worship our great God under the faithful teaching of the Word.
In my journey, the Lord took me to Russia where I spent three years as a missionary when I was in my late thirties. In my mid-forties, the Lord answered my prayers for a wife by giving me Lisa, a beautiful widow with three children. So, this forty-six-year-old bachelor became an instant family man and was given the privilege of being a husband and father. Shortly after marrying Lisa, we decided to move from Alpharetta, GA to Charlotte, NC so that I could finish seminary by going full-time. The Lord has used these amazing events to grow my faith and to shape me more and more into the image of Jesus Christ. May Jesus Christ be praised! (June 2020)
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” – Philippians 1:21