Eric Lane: Arms Wide Open
Story by Sharon Furrate Bailey
Eric Lane, President of Gerry Lane Enterprises, began his career in the car business alongside his dad 31 years ago. Eric’s father, Gerry Lane, who began selling cars in 1966, left quite a legacy in Baton Rouge. One piece of wisdom he left Eric was to always do the right thing.
In his early teens and 20s, he played AA baseball, had a steady girlfriend, drove a Corvette, and many other things filled his life. Yet he said he still felt a deep emptiness inside. To outsiders, Eric appeared to be on top of the world, but inside, he says he still felt the notoriety was simply not enough.
He remembers sharing with his parents while at a baseball tournament that he was tired of being a hypocrite. He knocked on their door and told them he decided to truly follow Jesus. On June 7, 1985 in Jackson, Miss., Eric dedicated his life to Christ. Although his parents baptized him and he was raised in the church, it was during this time in Jackson that he experienced a deep conviction to walk in the love and mercy of Christ.
In 2009, Eric faced numerous trials. He said that his life for the most part up to that point had been easy, however during that time he learned much about the Lord’s provision.
The scripture that comes to mind when hearing Eric speak about his faith as it stands today having come through the other side of the storm in 2009, is from Ecclesiastes 3:1, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.” Additionally, Matthew 19:26 appropriately aligns with his choosing to surrender the circumstances to God, “But Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’”
Q: Would you please share some defining moments in your life that helped shape you into the believer you are today?
A: While I accepted Christ in 1985, one thing people may find interesting is that I have been baptized four times. My parents baptized me as a baby in the Episcopal church that we attended on Sundays. My uncle Bud, a man that I respected very much, attended the Church of Christ and I got baptized again there, really to give him peace of mind. Later, after I was married and we had children, I joined Istrouma Baptist Church and was baptized there. It took me a while to join a church because I just wanted to be known as a Christian and not be defined by any particular denomination. Then, in 2011, my brother David arranged a trip to the Holy Land with Mike Huckabee, and during that trip I was baptized in the Jordan River.
As a believer, this was the ultimate experience. It was a defining moment that I will always remember. In addition, it was awesome to see the places I’d read about in the Bible like the Mount of Olives, the Dead Sea and the Gates of Hell – which I learned is an actual place where the Temple of Pan is located. Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, “Upon this rock I will build my church, and the Gates of Hell cannot stand against it.” This scripture has a new meaning to me having learned that the Gates of Hell is an actual place.
Q: The year 1985 when you were still playing baseball seems to have been a significant year for you. Could you please share what affected you that year?
A: I was playing baseball that year, and was rooming with two of my teammates, Todd and Tommy. During the off-season, Tommy moved to Dallas. He did not know anyone there, he was working an unsatisfying job, and his fiancé dumped him. He became downtrodden and was in a dark place, but when Tommy returned to spring training, he was carrying a Bible and talking about Jesus. Most people were running from Tommy, but I considered him a friend and could not shun him.
We ended up being roommates again, which turned out to be a good thing! When I would leave our RV (we were living in it), Tommy would take my rock music out of the cassette player and put in one of his Christian tapes. When I would come back in, Christian praise music was playing. Although it started out as a joke between the two of us, it fed my spirit so much that I eventually decided to chunk all of my rock music tapes and began purchasing Amy Grant and David Meese tapes. I had more joy than I had ever felt in my life during this time of growth in my spiritual life.
My brother encouraged me to go and get “The Survival Kit for New Christians,” by Ralph W. Neighbour. He encouraged me to start doing a daily quiet time, which truly helped get me grounded. I started with five minutes of quiet time, and it took time to increase my time in the morning with the Lord, but today, I spend 30 minutes. I have a system in which I get up in the morning and I think about what I did for Jesus yesterday – then I write it down. This system helps me stay accountable and keeps me on the lookout for opportunities to serve Jesus. I start by reading the Bible, and then I read three daily devotions: Men of Integrity (the Promise Keepers version that speaks to specifically to men), A Closer Walk Ministries, and then a generic one that I like. I meditate on what I read, and then I thank Jesus for all the things in my life and I pray for forgiveness and then for people that have prayer requests known to me.
Q: 2009 was a difficult year in your life that truly made you depend on Christ. Please share what happened and how it shaped you:
A: Jesus broke me. It was a traumatic year in several areas of my life, and it was the perfect storm that made me surrender to Jesus completely. I literally lifted my arms up to the Lord and said, ‘God, take over, you do it. I cannot handle all of these trials.’ My two biggest lenders went bankrupt, we lost four out of eight of our franchises, and we had just spent $10 million building our new dealership that featured Hummer, Saturn and Saab, which General Motors did away with. All of my franchises in Baton Rouge were gone, my dad had cancer and was suffering from dementia, my son tore his shoulder in baseball and had to have major surgery. Everything seemed to be crumbling around me.
Out of the blue, General Motors gave us Cadillac to replace Hummer, and Mitsubishi replaced Saturn, and we did not have to pay for it. I could literally see the hand of God moving and restoring things bit by bit. My dad began recovering in January 2010, and we discovered that his medicines were messing with his mind and needed to be adjusted. He became cognizant again following the adjustments — it was truly miraculous.
Q: How did those trials affect you personally, especially at home?
A: Well, I can say I was not a nice guy to live with at the time due to the stressors. My wife and I were fighting all the time, but things began healing in January 2010 on New Year’s Day. My wife agreed to have my dad move in with us, which was truly a sacrifice on her part and a selfless move, because my dad was still struggling with dementia issues. He was getting up in the middle of the night and needed constant care. During his stay with us he truly got to know my wife, and it allowed me to tuck him into bed at night. He was not a man who asked for help, but he needed our help, so we came together and gave him the care he needed. He became lucid again thanks to Dr. Susan Nelson and was able to move out five months later to his home where he lived until he passed away two and half years later.
Q: How is the Holy Spirit active in your life today?
A: Every day I pray to the Holy Spirit to give me answers to daily situations. Most of my life I made impulsive decisions. Now, I ask the Holy Spirit to direct me and to help me be obedient. I started asking for the Holy Spirit’s direction three years ago and honestly, it changed my life. The biggest piece of advice give to any Christian is to be obedient to the Holy Spirit despite what it may look like to others.
For example, some people think I am a bit too generous or different in regards to a decision I made about the two buildings located next to our dealership.
Clint Barry, Pastor of Feed my Sheep church, uses one of the buildings to hold services on Sunday. On the other side, in what used to be the Saab showroom, Ernie Sikes started an Anglican Church. I have had people ask me why I do not charge them rent, but my answer is simple: The Lord told me to allow them to use these buildings for their different ministries.
Q: What would you say to others regarding how we can bring our city together, and to business leaders about Baton Rouge?
A: First, I would say I do not feel that Baton Rouge is divided. It is one of the most giving communities of people, and I have lived all over the country. There are more people willing to help other people here. Recently, with the flood, there were blacks helping whites and vice versa – Baton Rouge people work together. The flood showed the true Baton Rouge. People did not push their own agendas. It is also a wonderful city due to it being the state capital, which brings in lobbyists and many people from out of town. Plus, we have the mighty Mississippi River, which brings business. Our city has some excellent restaurants too, and we all know people love good Southern food and the hospitality of our people. There is so much good. Downtown Baton Rouge and the Mid City area have attracted new businesses, and it has been experiencing continued revitalization throughout the past several years. There is art, music, festivals and many other attractions that keep Baton Rouge on the pulse in a positive way. I am Baton Rouge proud!
Q: What legacy has your father left you personally?
A: My dad always tried to do the right thing. He was half American Indian and never discriminated against anyone. He promoted the first black salesman on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and he placed the first black sales manager in Pascagoula, Miss. He always tried to treat people equally. He may not have spoken openly about his faith, but he was greatly influenced by his mother whose Bible was filled with notes and highlights. He lived out his faith and affected our community positively, and his legacy lives on today.
Eric says he is thankful today for all of his blessings and gets up every morning to give all the glory to God for sustaining Gerry Lane Enterprises, his marriage, and showing him what can happen when one truly lets God control their life.
To learn more about Gerry Lane Enterprises, visit its website, www.gerrylane.com.