I am pretty open about my faith on this blog. But I don't think many of you my journey and something happened this weekend that made me want to share this story with you.
NOTICE: This post is not meant to be a preachy "you must believe what I believe" type post. I believe that whatever you believe, as long as you are not hurting yourself or others, is fine by me!
Now I was not raised in the church. At a very young age my grandmother taught me the Lord's prayer but that was all the religion I knew. My grandma was one of those people that praised God when the sun came out and when it rained. She was always saying "God bless you" to me and my sisters and I always thought it was strange since it was not always after a sneeze. I knew about God but I did not know him. In fact, when I got older, I was the first to debate His existence. I would argue that the bible was just a book of stories that contradicted itself time and time again but the whole time I had never even opened a bible. I can only look back and think that it was fear that made me act that way. Fear of conforming or fear of the unknown. I am not sure. Maybe it was because my life had been rough and didn't think I saw God's grace in it.
When I was just out of high school my father died. He was 43 years old and seemed to be in good health. I was very close to my Dad and still miss him everyday. It was a difficult time for me since I was just going to move out of the house and begin my life. Now my role model was gone. I was so angry and sad all at once that I turned to alcohol and drugs to numb the pain. For months I was secretly passing out each night instead of going to sleep. I would spend my nights alone with a bottle of booze instead of going out with friends or visiting family. Nothing mattered to me except numbing the pain of a broken heart. I felt like a part of me was gone and that there was this gaping hole in me.
Then one day I sort of snapped out of it. I realized that the only way I was going to fill this void was to find someone who would be a father figure to me. Surely one of my friend’s dad's would adopt me and treat me as his own. But that never happened. It was pretty pathetic. I would visit my friends houses and spend more time chatting with their parents then my friends! Needless to say, it didn't work.
Then I started dating a girl who would later become my wife. She had an uncle who I really connected with and we became good friends. He was very involved in his church but I didn't mind much. I just ignored it when he would bring God up since it was a small price to pay for this new father figure in my life. He would invite me to bible studies and stuff and I would always have an excuse. For years this went on and I never gave in.
Then one day he called me up and invited me to go to this 2 day men's convention thing called Promise Keepers. He told me it was church thing but I figured, I owe it to him since I always a flake. Plus, it would be cool just to hang out with him. So I agreed.
What happened at that event was life changing. The first day I stuck to him like glue. I was terrified. I was listening to the speakers but felt very uncomfortable. Like a stinging in my stomach that I could not identify. I felt like crying. That night I told my fiance a little about the experience. She didn't ask too much about it becuase she could tell that I was uncomfortable.
At around noon the second day I felt this feeling I had not felt in a long time. In fact, at first I could not even pinpoint it. It was like something inside me was whole again. Like my heart was not void of the spot my dad filled. I told my wife's uncle that I was going to go for a walk and went back into the stadium to hear some musicians playing. When I was standing there on the floor of the Colussium it hit me. Like rain pouring over me I could feel the Holy Spirit filling me up. The pain of my dad's death was gone. It was as if I was finally complete and could now begin my life. I understood that I will and have always had a father. God is and will always be my father and when that realization hit me, so did the fact that tears were pouring down my face. I hadn't felt so totally safe, so complete, and so happy before in my life and I had only God to thank.
It was that day that I knew God would be my foundation. I didn't run down to the alter call. I didn't feel like I needed to make an outward declaration of my acceptance. He knew. I knew. That was all that mattered.
I knew at that point that I would praise God when the sun shined and when the rain fell. I would thank Him for all of life's struggles knowing that with His help, I can handle anything.
That year that I accepted God was a very rough one for us. You see a month before our wedding, my soon to be father-in-law died tragically. The news of his death was a total shock. Just hearing that someone you love gone was crippling. So many questions popped into my head. Who would walk my wife down the aisle? Who would our kids call Grandpa? How could this have happened?
The shock of that news was not the hardest part. No, the hardest part was having to drive to my wife’s work to tell her. To this day it makes my stomach churn just thinking about it. I remember standing in the parking lot trying to get it together enough to walk into her office. Then sitting in a room waiting for her to come inside all the time knowing that I was going to break her heart. That was the worst thing I have ever had to do. I prayed a lot for God’s strength for the both of us but mostly for her. So many feelings were being tossed around in our heads. Confusion, Anger, Sorrow, Grief, Guilt, and feeling as if something was not settled. No closure at all. We spent hours and hours in prayer with our pastor, family, and friends which helped us through it all.
We depended on God for our strength, for peace in our hearts and minds, and for the desire to move on and still have our wedding. It was all we knew to do and it worked. His love for us kept us going.
I know, God doesn't promised me an easy life or anyone for that matter. Some have had harder times in life then others. Some have harder times yet to come. God has never promised a simple pain free life. What He does promise, is a life in which I will never have to walk alone. For so long I walked alone because I didn't choose to allow God in. He was there when I was ready, and He filled me up and continues to do that each day just as He promises.
Yesterday in church our pastor talked about praying for people and when you feel the need to do so, you should. Immediatley. When I was in Indianapolis recently at a convention I saw a very good friend of mine sitting on the floor. He looked upset, or that something was just on his mind. I heard something in my head say, "You should go pray with him." I could feel it. I recognized that this must be a God "thing" as weird as that sounds.
I looked around at all the people and I stopped myself. Everything in me wanted to walk over, sit down with him, and ask him I could pray for him and yet I stalled. What kind of Christian am I? How can I say I have any faith when I would turn down direction from God? How could I let a friend sit there hurting and still think he should think me a friend?
I sat in church yesterday asking God to forgive me and for my friend to know how much he and his struggle and concern matter to me. The very next day of that convention I found my friend and rounded up to other close friends (family) and we all prayed together. I am thankful that we were able to but I still hurt from stopping myself that day.
When I thought about that moment in church yesterday I felt I needed to share my faith story. I am not a life long church goer. I have done lots of drugs. I have said lots of awful things. I had a kid before I was married. I can be a complete jerk. I am flawed.
But I know who my father is and I try my best to be the best son I can be. I know I will never get it right but that doesn't mean I am ever going to stop trying.