“Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.” — II Corinthians 5:18
Back when I was 13 and knew everything, I attended Calvary Christian Academy in Kettle Falls, Washington. The principal was an all too serious man named Dennis Hurt, who we called “Mr. Hurt.” For me, the name fit. He was always talking about commitment, responsibility and other topics that made my head hurt and my eyes roll. As a teenage rebel, I just didn’t want to hear it.
Ultimately, I was asked to leave the school after several incidents of youthful malfeasance and folly, like stopping the school bell from ringing, turning chairs and garbage cans upside down, and the infamous “Tarzan Incident” when three of us stood on our chairs, beat our chests and screamed like Tarzan, mid-class. My hair was too long, my clothes too loud and I once brought a Led Zeppelin cassette tape to school. I was a complete reprobate.
After being kicked out, I was inconsistent at best in my relationship with God and the Church, and struggled in many ways, but I always remembered Mr. Hurt. Years later, in a time of spiritual crisis, I made a decision to return to God. Being reconciled to God gave me wonderful peace, and I now wanted to be reconciled to others.
The words of Mr. Hurt came back to me many times, and I would share his wisdom in Sunday school. He had no idea, and I was concerned that he may have felt he failed in trying to help me.
So, one day I decided I would find Mr. Hurt, thank him and let him know I didn’t end up in San Quentin. I connected online with our old school, now called Columbia River Christian Academy, and asked about Mr. Hurt. “He’s in Oroville, California,” they said. Google led me to a sermon by Dennis Hurt on a church website. One sentence and I knew it was him.
Two years ago, my wife, daughter and I went to Mr. Hurt’s church one Sunday morning, hoping to surprise him. We were not disappointed. After a warm welcome at the door, I asked about Mr. Hurt, saying I was his “biggest single problem” in 1973. The pastor laughed and told me “Brother Dennis” sat at the right front of the sanctuary.
Once there, I asked my pew mates about Brother Dennis. One said, “He’s in the back, praying.” Just then I looked up and instantly recognized Mr. Hurt walking down the aisle. I said, “Hi Brother Dennis, or Mr. Hurt; at least that’s what we called you in Kettle Falls at Calvary Christian Academy.”
He looked at me, a little surprised, and said, “Do I know you? I know those eyes.” I said, “My name is Guy Crockroft and I was your biggest single problem in 1973. I came to apologize for that, and thank you for being a positive influence in my life.” He looked at me, stunned, and said, “What did you say your name was?” I said “Guy Crockroft.” He said, “No! Really? I’m … blown away.”
Mr. Hurt and his wife Dorothy, who said, “I remember your name!” when we were reintroduced, invited us to lunch and we had a great time sharing and catching up from those school days some 43 years earlier. I learned to say Brother Dennis instead of Mr. Hurt, and we have a bond now that we never had before. We have each raised a special needs child and have served in the church in one capacity or another most of our adult lives.
Now I look forward to and enjoy speaking with Brother Dennis, instead of dreading it, as I once did. As Mr. Hurt was willing to allow me to be reconciled to him, God is willing to be reconciled to each one of us. He has done his part by sending Jesus to die for our sins. Our part is to come to him in faith and repentance. Those who do, never regret it. Reconciliation is sweet indeed.
• Guy Crockroft is executive director of Love INC Juneau. “Living & Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders.