Left Handed Warriors


By Rev/Dr. Eddie Donnally

Can the deeply wounded actually become God’s most effective agents for healing?

Judges 20:16 mentions 700 “select men,” among 26,000 Benjamite warriors who were left handed. “Every one would sling a stone at a hair’s breadth and not miss.” In a dead run on horseback, they could sling a round stone at over 100 mph and place it in the middle of a foe’s forehead. They were the most deadly warriors of their day. The Bible typically depicts being left-handed as less than desirable and many theologians surmise that these fighters used their left hand because they had been wounded on the right side. Though they had to adjust and use their left hand, they were the elite.

All of us to some degree have been wounded, body, soul and spirit. Some wounds are inflicted by those we trust the most; friends, parents, our spouses or other relatives. For me, my mom died of cancer when I was five. My grandmother took over raising me but died when I was twelve. When I moved in with my new stepfamily, I was sexually traumatized by a relative.

Though I pushed my anger from my conscious thoughts, became a professional jockey, married and had children, it was still there. God made us in his image and we have God’s same yearning to rectify evil. Later, my relative was not available to hate and my rage found a natural outlet atop a half-ton Thoroughbred racing at 40 mph.

After 20 years of racing, I became a successful, workaholic newspaper writer and underwent a divorce. As is often the case, my adolescent behavior hit me like a running racehorse decades after it occurred. I suddenly acted out through same-sex promiscuity. I knew it was dangerous, yet couldn’t stop. My hate for my stepbrother had turned inward, becoming self hate. That self hate was fed by my behaviors which generated more self loathing which gave me more reason to hate myself. On and on it went.

In gaining my Doctorate of Ministry, I learned that the unfulfilled rage of abused persons often perpetuates this same deadly cycle. It’s why many abused females become prostitutes and males battle same-sex attraction. We act out the things we hate as a way to hurt ourselves and pay penitence for the guilt we feel for past and current behaviors. My drugs and alcohol abuse became another way to kill myself and on some level enjoy the process.

Yes, for some of us our deepest wounds are self inflicted.

A suicide attempt, a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, anti-depressant medication and two stays in psyche wards followed my divorce and a descent into behaviors I abhorred but couldn’t stop. I was caught in the cycle of self hate. I was like a caged gerbil on an exercise wheel, running like crazy but remaining caged. After I hit my girlfriend and wound up detoxing in jail, my mind became clear enough to realize my rage was going to do more damage to others and destroy me.

Christ’s redemption comes in different ways for different people, but come it does if we genuinely seek it. Mine came in a large courtroom holding cell when a fellow inmate read James 1: 1-2 from a tiny Gideon New Testament given to me by a prison chaplain. The holding cell filled with a golden sparkling, music filled, smoky-blue haze I am convinced was the Shekinah Glory. All the prisoners had tear-filled eyes. We formed a circle of hands and asked Christ to change our lives. Though I had been in only one Pentecostal church service and thought it strange, I was given the gift of tongues, something I use in voice or silently every day.

Several things happened that day, December 16, 1996. II Cor. 5:17 says we become a “new creation,” when we come to Christ. I believe God rearranged my DNA. I first cried because of the misery I was in, then cried because I realized the misery I had created in others, and then I cried because God had forgiven me. In that was the bondage-breaking power to forgive my abuser. And I have.

Yet as a manifestation of God, my diving healing is, was, and is to come. I was, am and will continue to heal. God is no respecter of persons and why my redemption was so dramatic I don’t know, except God gave me the passion and perhaps ability to tell others about it.

The antidote for self hate is self love. That comes when we begin to wrap our minds around the fact that God the Father send God the Son, who lived as a human just like us and died a horrible death so we can be forgiven and have eternal life. If we are important to enough to have God die for me, how dare we hate ourselves. The antidote for rage is forgiveness and when we consider the extent of our forgiven sins, how dare we not forgive others. (Matt 18:21-35, Luke 7:41-48)

Salvation is the greatest healing miracle of all. Within it is not only personal healing but a passion to become an agent in other’s healing. That’s why I went back to school in my 60s, earned a doctorate, spent 16 months in a hospital resident chaplain program and now minister as a hospital and hospice chaplain. With my personal pain came an understanding of the depths of pain in others. That understanding empowered by the Holy Spirit becomes compassion

Repentance means to make a 180 degree turn and it does just that. Once our pain becomes compassion we act out Christ’s love for us just as we once acted out the Satan propagated hate for ourselves. That love ends the cycle of self hate becoming guilt-ridden, self punishing behaviors that only generate more self hate. Now, helping others heal helps us heal, and that healing generates a passion to help more heal, which additionally helps us heal. Christ’s grace has not only halted but reversed the cycle, 180 degrees. II Cor.1: 3-4 is a key. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

This is how left-handed warriors become wounded healers. We don’t adjust. Christ’s love does it for us. Through the realization of His grace and the power of the Holy Spirit working in us, we wounded become God’s warring agents for healing, as accurate and potent as the 700 elite Benjamites.



On the morning of October 1, 1987, Jay Richards shook off the remnants of a constant hangover and left his Las Vegas apartment with a singular purpose: making bets on a fixed horse race.

Those in recovery have a time when they hit bottom. Jay never knew it, but his was on the way.

The well known horse racing writer, successful radio show host and experienced track publicity director was addicted to alcohol. The previous day Gary Tropp, a now deceased former roommate and harness horse driver at New Jersey’s now defunct Garden State Park, called. Tropp said he had bribed four other drivers in a race and he would restrain his horse. He asked Jay to box Quinella wagers, which require picking the top two finishers in any order, on the remaining live horses at the city’s many race books. In those days, Vegas race books didn’t mingle their bets with tracks and each had a separate pool that often provided higher payoffs than tracks.

Richards was about to become a “beard,” a word devised by criminal race fixers who use known gamblers to place bets on fixed races. He wrote and handicapped races for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and was a frequent bettor. “I’d probably unknowingly been betting on fixed horse races all the time.” he said. “I gave in to greed.”

The race went as planned. One race book’s Quinellas paid a whopping $192 for a $2 bet. Yet he immediately noticed that at Garden State Park, which did not have Quinella wagering, their Exacta, a harder wager to win, paid far less than expected. “This was not good,” he said. “I knew they (the track’s drivers who knew about the fixed race) had gotten greedy and bet big at the track. This would bring heat on the race.”

Still, all but a few race books cashed their winning tickets and eventually all did. Richard’s life of writing, handicapping, betting and drinking heavily continued. “I figured we got the money and I didn’t think anyone would find out.”

But the following summer, he learned the New Jersey State Police had arrested Tropp for the fixed race. Tropp called, saying he had admitted to the felony and in turn would avoid prison. “He told me to also cooperate, and that I would get the same deal. He said the New Jersey State Police would soon be paying me a visit. I knew I was in serious trouble.”

As soon as the state police interviewed Richards and he admitted to placing the bets, they notified the Nevada Gaming Control Board who contacted the newspaper. He job was gone. “The bottom fell out,” he said. “I had a clear prior record, but there I was. I learned what it is like to be sitting at home and watching the evening news and they are talking about you being suspended from your job because of race fixing. I went from being a well-know and accepted individual to a pariah (social outcast) overnight.”

“I literally wanted to die,” he later wrote for the Las Vegas Christian Chronicle. “Recurring thoughts of suicide were alternately pondered and rejected. I dealt with my agonizing pain and misery the only way I knew how. I drank.” His losing 10-year-old battle with alcohol morphed into drinking a quart of Canadian bourbon each day. Trying to quite his shaking hands, he smoked three packs a day. In May 1989, a New Jersey grand jury indicted him for one count of “Conspiracy to rig a publicly exhibited event,” a New Jersey felony.

He feared going to jail and knew his alcoholism was potentially fatal. Yet he didn’t consider God an option. A self-admitted skeptic, he had all the intellectual reason why, “All this God stuff was just something man had invented, ‘the opiate of the masses’ as Karl Marx had penned.’”

God had other plans. Broke and out of work, he moved to Southern California for a fresh start. There, he renewed his friendship with Andre Martel, a former C & W singer, then an associate pastor at an Orange County Calvary Chapel Church. Persistent in his witness, Martel finally told Richards that “in Christ you can have a brand new life.”

On February 1, 1990 Richards finally understood his tenuous life was out of control, yet he couldn’t stop living a lifestyle he hated. That night in his tiny apartment, he realized that, “To accept or reject Christ was one of the few real choices I had left. I gave up.” He fell to his knees and called out to God. “I let go of everything I’d been holding on to for so many years,” he wrote. “Most notably my foolish pride.”

He confessed his faults, asked Christ to forgive him and become Lord of his life. He challenged Christ, telling him if he were real, he’d help him stop drinking and find a job. The next morning he awoke with no desire to drink. He immersed himself into the Bible and was soon teaching it twice a week to a group of 30 mentally handicapped adults, something he described as “greatly blessing me.”

The next year he got a call out of nowhere from Rodd Stowell, then the program director for the Las Vegas based Sports Entertainment Network (later purchased by ESPN). Stowell offered him a four-hour sports talk show on coast to coast satellite radio. He returned to Las Vegas and the following year got a call from Jim Fossum, the Review-Journal sports editor, asking if he’d like his old job back.

“God’s fingerprints were all over that,’ he said. “It was impossible. A friend told me that God’s greatest miracle for me was not taking away my desire for alcohol, but the newspaper hiring me back. God showed me the extent of his power in turning lives around. “

In his first column, Richards sited one of his key verses, one he noted is often used by Christian Hall of Fame former jockey, Pat Day “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose,” (Romans 8:28 NKJ).

He retired from the paper in 1998 as a nationally recognized handicapper, cementing his reputation by selecting for the paper, Sea Hero, 30-1 long shot 1993 Kentucky Derby winner. Richards wanted to concentrate on his demanding work as a comprehensive video race analyst for a computerized betting team in Hong Kong, all legal and above board.

Yet, he no longer wagers and will soon celebrate 24 years sober. A member of a local church, he gives generously to Christian causes, counsels others in Christian principles and writes seminary graduate level articles defending the faith for Christian periodicals

Richards remains passionate about intelligently defending his beliefs and telling others about his love for God and His miracles. “Eternity will not be long enough for me to tell God how much I thank Him. I tell the Lord every day that all I want to be is a blessing to other and a delight to You. Until you’ve been healed from a disease yourself, it’s hard to understand that with God nothing is impossible. I went from picking winners, to telling others about a sure thing.”