Who’d-a-thunk it? - certainly not I - that I'd be telling you about my Faith Journey. But I want to let you know up front that often I don’t feel very far from the starting line. Mr. Doubt, you see, is the demon who often plays with my head.
I was raised in North Carolina in a family that didn’t have much interest in church. They did, however, send me to Sunday school and my mother read to me from a bible storybook. I loved the “action” stories and characters like Daniel and Noah. My favorite was Samson who made a big impression on me by tying the foxes tails together, setting them on fire and letting them loose in the fields of those Philistines.
I went to Sunday school, but I didn’t get much out of it. Jesus didn’t impress me – He seemed too meek and not very interesting. I remember once I kept the nickel my mother gave me for the offering plate so I could buy a Co-Cola on my way home from church. That shows where my priorities were. I did, however, continue to go to church in high school but mainly to be with my friends.
In college I attended church sporadically. However during my first semester I was invited to leave college due to some misbehavior. I moved to Chapel Hill, got a job, opened a checking account, kept misbehaving, overdrew my checking account and quit the job. At a friend’s suggestion I joined the National Guard. For getting me to sign up he was offered the choice of five dollars or a 22-rifle. I think he took the rifle and I took off for six months of basic training. It was a hot summer at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, but it wasn’t too bad because the Basic Training helped me grow up a bit and, as it turns out, being in the National Guard kept me out of Vietnam.
After basic training I finished college in Tennessee and moved to Atlanta. I met my first wife, got married and had two wonderful daughters. We eventually ended up in Minnesota via a series of job transfers. It was here in Minnesota that I was introduced to Cursillo - a weekend retreat designed to introduce people to Christ. I learned about grace and at times felt close to God. I connected with the music team and participated in more than 30 Cursillo weekends but for the most part it was more about the music than it was about Jesus.
Unfortunately during this time my first marriage ended – but fortunately I met K shortly thereafter at one of those Cursillos. We got married and her job took us to Budapest and London where we attended various Anglican churches. When we moved back to Minnesota we re-joined my old Episcopal church but I increasingly felt like I was just going through the motions. I lacked purpose and had a shallow understanding of faith. I never felt a part of what was going on spiritually. Something seemed to be missing and I knew I wanted something more but I didn’t know what it was. What I did know was that those doubts were my constant companions. Sometimes I would think about faith and wonder, “can all this stuff the church teaches really be true?”
After a few years I took a break from church until we received a postcard about a new church starting up in our neighborhood – City Church. We went and it made a pretty good first impression. The people were nice. The music was well done and I liked the pastor. And even though my mind wandered a bit, his sermon seemed okay - he talked about Jesus and stuff. Eventually, I joined the band.
Over time I got to know John, the pastor, better. We started to meet regularly. I asked him lots of questions and he patiently answered them the best he could. For the first time I felt like I was dealing maturely with faith but this time with a little desire to really get it. I also noticed that there were people at City Church who definitely had something I didn’t have. But I didn’t know what that was. Eventually John asked me to join the church but up popped Mr. Doubt and gave me plenty of reasons why I couldn’t – so I put it off.
Over the years I have participated in various groups here at City Church. John and I have continued to meet. We’ve read books together and I started reading the Bible. Gradually, I’ve been able to let go of some of the doubts that had been in the way. I was finally able to say “maybe this is true.”
So I decided to take a leap and believe. I still had doubts but I began to have a greater confidence that Jesus is who He says he is - the Son of God. That he lived, died and rose from the dead.
I finally joined the church and even got baptized last summer in Lake Harriet. And now I’m working on growing my faith. I’ve read the Old Testament and now am reading the New. Here at City Church I’ve found people I can talk to about my faith and those whose lives model good examples, who will listen to me and encourage me.
I still look at those people who have deep faith and wonder why it seems so easy for them and so hard for me. The one thing that keeps me going is that in the last few years I’m sure I’ve experienced God more than once through answered prayers, divine protection and feelings of security and love.
The bottom line for me is that I have decided to follow Jesus; to believe that he died for my sins, rose from the dead and that he loves me. And I have decided to live my life accordingly. And I have faith that God will continue to make Himself more and more real to me. And your prayers might help too.