Chapter 2 – Uneasy and Itchy Feet – Pastor Lawrie Cottam: Farmer, Sailor, Preacher
The title of this chapter may seem strange, but it is a very good description of what took place within the heart and mind of a teenager who had a good home and a job he loved. Looking back I can now realise that I was blind in my mind, which is the very worst kind of blindness.
This is what took place. Every time the pastor or member of the church visited our house, as they talked about church activities and especially if the pastor, my mother or my sister played the old treadle organ and my dad led the hymn singing, I would feel uneasy and go out into the yard for a smoke. You see friends, sinners really feel uncomfortable in the company of saints. So this uneasy state of heart and mind, which was caused by conviction, resulted in me having a resentful, dissatisfied spirit and itchy feet.
I was living a completely different lifestyle to that of the rest of my family. Now at this point in time, Hitler had already invaded Poland, with his fast-moving tanks supported by Stuka dive bombers. Infantry riding in trucks and half trucks had successfully carried out his Blitzkrieg – his lightning war.
He failed to wipe out three thousand British and French troops at Dunkirk, who were rescued by God’s grace, an armada of small craft and two destroyers. So I hit on the idea of using the war situation as an excuse to change the situation. I did this by leaving the farm and going to work for a brick works.
Farming being a ‘reserved occupation’ meant that I could have continued working on the farm for the rest of the war, but I had other ideas. I was just turned seventeen at this time and having left the farm I started working as a second mate, learning to drive a Foden diesel crash box lorry. I was dead keen to learn to drive and within six months I could drive that lorry as well as the regular driver. (This was to be the beginning of a sixty year career as a driver of all kinds of vehicle).
Then I secretly went to the recruiting office in Dover Street, Manchester and volunteered for the Navy. I presented myself as a brick works labourer and never mentioned farming. I also said I was eighteen and I did not have a birth certificate. I was fully prepared to use deception in order to get into the navy and was pleased to pass my medical. Three weeks later, a letter came to my home containing my call-up papers and a travel warrant with instructions to make my way to HMS Collingwood in Fareham.
My mother was broken hearted. She had already said, “Goodbye” to my elder brothers, John and Reginald and now her youngest son was about to leave home and go to war. I had no considerations for my mother’s feelings, only my own interest. As I left home, carrying a small case, I thought that I was at last foot loose and fancy free, but I did not realise the sinner lives in a mobile prison that does not consist of concrete and steel.
But for all the sins that dominate their lives and holds them in a vice-like grip, how meaningful are the words of Paul concerning the Christian;
Romans 6 “Sin shall not have dominion over you.”
Wesley wrote these words:
He breaks the power of cancelled sin.
He sets the prisoner free.
His blood can make the foulest clean,
His blood availed for me.
All too often the invisible, yet very realistic spirit of dissatisfaction can creep up on any person and deceive them into thinking that to get one’s own way is real freedom. The truth of the matter is this (and I have proved this through bitter experience), that there is such a thing as spurious freedom.
This is where someone is deceived by the father of all lies, Satan himself, when in actual fact they are not free at all. I firmly believe this, because I was a genuine Prodigal myself. I only found true freedom at a much later date, which I will mention further in this narrative.
In the meantime I will continue by describing the long and sometimes amazing way in which God preserved me and eventually gave me lasting happiness