Meet J. Keith Miller

Even as a young boy in Oklahoma, Keith Miller knew he wanted to be a writer. When he was about seven years old, Keith was sitting at the dinner table one day with his older brother, Earle, (a talented athlete), and their father (an independent oil operator). Eventually, his father asked Keith what he wanted to be when he grew up. Pleased to be noticed, he excitedly replied, “I'd like to be a writer and write stories!” Earle proceeded to ridicule him and his “sissified” dreams. Keith turned to his father...but he knew from his smile that he’d receive no mercy. This was a pivotal event in Keith’s emotional and spiritual development, instilling in him the need to deny his dreams, and an overwhelming drive for traditional, “manly” success.

In high school he was an honor student, class president, member of an undefeated basketball team. Miller completed college in 1950, earning a degree in business administration, and in his 20s embarked on a high-achiever course in the oil industry. While he believed in God, the concept of committing one’s life to Christ seemed na´ve. But by his 30s, life had become too painful to handle.

Although he was happily married, Keith had known great sadness. Everybody in his immediate family had died, including his brother who was killed in a plane crash during World War II. So, searching for a greater understanding of God and life, in 1952 he entered seminary. Despite his customary academic accomplishments, he felt no call to the ministry and left seminary within two years.

By 1956 Miller felt his life lacked hope and purpose, and that he’d failed to achieve the success and esteem he so needed. Sitting in his car in East Texas, he truly surrendered his life to Christ, saying, “God, if there’s anything you want in this stinking soul, take it.” What ensued was an insatiable thirst for knowledge and a demanding schedule traveling the globe speaking with others about the hope he found in Christ. His first book, A Taste of New Wine, was an international bestseller. A return to graduate school earned him degrees in theology and psychology/counseling. Nine more books rolled off the presses—all Christian bestsellers. He’d become a “hero” of the church.

But by 1969, he was painfully aware that despite his ability to lead other people to a life focused on Christ, his own life lacked clarity, peace, self-esteem, and happiness. The face he saw in his mirror was of a driven and insecure person. The low point came in 1976 with the failure of his marriage and divorce. The personal and professional sides of his life were in shambles. But most importantly, he began questioning how somebody who lives to know and do the will of God could be so self-destructive and present such a false face to others.

Over the course of the next nine years, Keith remarried and eventually returned to an over-committed schedule of writing, speaking, and counseling. Before long, he was burned out, and in 1985 he entered at treatment center for work addiction. For the first time, he honestly confronted his compulsive behaviors and controlling nature. This began his personal journey of emotional and spiritual healing, which eventually lead him to a 12-step program.

Since then, he has published numerous books, some co-authored with his wife, Andrea Wells Miller. Observant readers will note the addition of his first initial at about this time, as he reclaimed the person left behind in childhood—John Keith Miller. He has also produced A Hunger for Healing, a book and companion video series that parallels 12-step programs with Christian spiritual growth.

Posted 4/2001.

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