A life transformed by faith
Updated: Aug 2, 2019
By Mitch Bean, PAX contributor
Edited by Josie Child
On a Tuesday night in June of 1979 God changed my heart. Before coming to Christ, the guiding principle of my life was to put me first. My own desires ruled the day. I was never bothered by sin because I never resisted temptation. When you practice something that you have a natural inclination for, you can get pretty good at it. Like everyone, I had a natural inclination for sin and I practiced it long enough that I became a very accomplished sinner.
What I desired the most was to ride my Harley and do as I pleased. What I avoided the most was personal responsibility. If someone were to question me about the way I was living, the best outcome for them would be that I told them to mind their own business, but depending on my mood at the time the outcome could easily be much worse. I thought that Christians were hypocritical and I wanted nothing to do with them.
Everything changed that Tuesday night. I repented before God and the church, was baptized, and received the Holy Spirit. That night no one present knew me or knew how I was living, but no one needed to tell me that the way I was living was wrong. My life took a 180 degree turn, and 38 years later I haven’t looked back.
Whenever I consider my life before becoming a Christian, what I’ve been able to achieve in the grace of God and how often I’ve been called upon to speak truth to power, I always recall 1 Corinthians 1:26-28: ‘Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.’
I have often described my life as an example of these scriptures – and proof that God must have a sense of humour!
I graduated from High School, after a fashion, in 1968. I rarely attended classes and only passed one-half of one semester of one class during my entire senior year. In order to gain enough credits to graduate I submitted a paper written by my girlfriend at the time. I’m sure the professor was not fooled, but he still gave me the lowest passing grade available. I finally received my high school diploma, with a total grade point average below 2.0.
For years I worked at the type of job that required more effort with your back than your brain. I was essentially functionally literate, with very poor reading and writing skills. I don’t recall reading a book through, or even reading newspaper articles, for the next ten years.
Starting that Tuesday night in June, 1979, God subdued my mind and my heart to obedience. There were many dramatic changes in my life. One of them was that I had an almost insatiable hunger to read the Bible. I read it cover-to-cover several times over the next few months and participated in many Bible studies. As well as my study at home, I always kept a New Testament in my shirt pocket that I would read if I had a break at work. After a few months I started reading light theology and some Bible history. I didn’t fully realize it at the time but, in the grace of God, I was experiencing the promise of Romans 12:2; the ‘renewing’ of my mind. I felt I was being cleansed through the power of the Word.
Six months after I came to Christ, on New Year’s Day, I became engaged to Jane, a Christian woman from my church, and we married six weeks later!
By this time I was 31 years old, and felt frustrated at my poor communication skills. My penmanship, spelling, and my understanding of grammar was so bad that what I tried to write was virtually impossible to read and understand. Jane is an elementary school teacher, so I asked her for help. She sat me down and started teaching me like she taught her students, printing rows of As, Bs and Cs until I graduated to cursive. I would write something and she would correct my spelling and grammar until I learned how to write correctly.
We became involved with a college campus ministry at Washington State University. Spending so much time with college students, I soon became interested in college myself. I took a math placement test to see where I should start. The test started with simple problems like [X + 6 = 8, solve for X] and went through what I now know were calculus, differential equations, and the like. I signed my name, looked over the test, and realized that I had no idea of how to even begin.
I turned in the exam to the person proctoring the exam who, when he saw that I had not even attempted to solve any of the problems said; “do as many as you can”. I said; “you’re looking at it” and asked what the lowest level math class they taught was. As it happened, the math department taught a remedial math class which was a refresher on high school math. That was my first college class. I worked hard, and over the next year I completed three math classes and a class in business law with near-perfect scores. I then applied to become an official full time student and was accepted as a freshman at age 33.
Two years later, after teaching math tutorials in pre-calculus algebra and trigonometry for the math department I finished all the mathematics required to become an engineer. However, I became more interested in economics. Four years after I began my full-time studies, I graduated from the Honours College with high honours and a degree in Economics. I was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa Academic Honor Society, received the award as outstanding student in the Economics Department and was invited to sit with the faculty during graduation, and admitted to study for a Ph.D. in Economics.
Since completing my education, I worked as Chief Economist for the Michigan House of Representatives from 1993-1999 and Director of the Michigan House Fiscal Agency from 1999-2011. I’ve published hundreds of papers and analyses on a wide variety of issues related to the state and national economy and public policy issues. Before retiring from state service, I advised three Governors and hundreds of state legislators. I have often been called upon to challenge the preconceptions and misconceptions of people in the halls of power.
I still get interviewed about public policy issues on a regular basis, and occasionally write articles for state-wide publications. In my current capacity as an independent consultant I still speak to groups of local officials which include mayors, comptrollers, city managers, and state legislators.
When I consider where I started and what God has done with me and through me, I believe my life is proof that the grace of God really is amazing.
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And tell us: how has God transformed your life?