**Disclaimer: This post may unintentionally step on some toes. My goal isn’t to stir up waters are cause any conflicts, but instead to tell how for the last seven years my life has never been the same after a life changing and life saving decision.**
I’m a Christian. I say that with pride. Now before you hit the back button or close the page, I encourage you to give me a second chance if this isn’t the same life style you support. If you wish to not continue, that’s totally fine! I’ll still love you the same and think of you the same. In fact, if you feel so uncomfortable about it, I’d rather you leave this page and not be forced into reading this because that’s how my own story started. For everyone else who wants to read this, I’ll let you in on how I started following this life style and what it’s done for me today. This is how God entered my life and forever changed me.
My first exposure to church was in sixth grade. My dad and step-mom had our family go to this foreign place known as church. Evan (my brother) and I were resilient to going because it was the weekend and we would rather sleep in, play video games, or watch cartoons. Yes, cartoons. I still watch them, so don’t judge! Anyways, we went for a while and honestly the only thing I remember about church is going to their youth group and playing a couple games. I do remember fragments of the story of David and Goliath, but the dominant memory that stands out to me is how my brother and I stirred up a little bit of chaos when we were there. We set mouse traps and threw them at each other. Pretty God honoring right? Give us a break, we were stupid little kids then, haha. Anyways, we went for a few weekends and eventually we just stopped. I’m not sure if it was my parents having to work or what, but it just stopped. This was fine for the both of us because that meant more sleep.
Fast forward a few years to my senior year of high school. Now before I get into my next church exposure, I’ll let you know that I don’t have some hardcore story of how I was in a lot of bad things and got saved and it was all better, or at least hardcore in my eyes. In fact, my rock bottom didn’t even occur until I started going to church regularly. All in all, we were fortunately pretty good kids. I was super quiet in school and I stayed out of trouble. Sadly, I can thank my friend group and video games for that blessing. I was too much of a socially awkward and scared little boy to do anything too extreme. I was a nerd to the max, drugs and past experiences to family members who used them disgusted me, and I still though girls had cooties. Well, that last part isn’t true…I was just to afraid to talk to them at the time.
So the second church exposure I had was, like I said, my senior year of high school. One Sunday morning, my dad wakes me up at what felt like 3 a.m. and tells me I’m going to church. Him telling me this was slightly different than when he had done so six years ago. With my advanced age (I was 17. I was pretty much an adult) and my hormonal imbalance, being told to do something I didn’t want to do instead of sleeping didn’t settle well. In fact, I was pretty ticked off and didn’t want to go at all. I even remember being stubborn and ignoring everybody that morning which resulted in my step-mom yelling at me for ignoring my sister. Yeah, I was acting like a jerk. But what teen wouldn’t? (By the way, if you are reading this Dad and Shawna, I really didn’t want to go at all but there are for sure no bitter feelings. If I wouldn’t have went then, then I wouldn’t be where I was now so I’m much more thankful than you could imagine. Honest.)
Anyways, I go to church and to spite my dad I sat with a friend and away from them. To any parent who has a moody teenager that is constantly dramatic, I want to apologize because I now understand how silly, irritating, and impossible it can be to deal with this, and I’m not all that bad. As the weekends go on, he keeps making me go back and I keep not liking it. Eventually we stop going and the whole time we went I didn’t really get anything out of it. The major reason I didn’t get anything out of it and I was so resistant to actually listening to the messages is because I wasn’t putting in any effort and I had been upset over the whole thing. I was forced into this idea of Christianity and I didn’t like it.
As a side note, for all you reading and all you non-believers who may have made it this far and not closed the page, I am sorry if anybody has every tried to force you into religion or scare you into it. I’m sorry if Christians have treated you poorly and have tried to act better than you because they believe in a different life than you. I’m sorry if you’ve been given a bad taste based on human actions. It’s not always like that, I promise. I can say that when I was personally forced into it, I hated it. Yes, you read that right. I hated it. It was against everything I wanted and as hard as somebody might have tried to get me to see life in a different way, I wasn’t going to do it. Forcing somebody to do something and shoving it down their throat is wrong. If there’s one piece of useful information I’ve learned after becoming a Christian, it’s to keep an open mind about others opinions even if you may not accept them yourself. Just because you may not practice them doesn’t mean you need to shun somebody else for their thoughts and beliefs. Jesus came to this earth with an open mind and loved everyone and told us to do the same. I mean, the dude hung out with the super sinners of the world and treated them like his best friend. It’s our duty to do the same.
Fast forward a few months to the time where the fecal matter of life was forcefully propelled into the turbine blades of my soul. This rough season is another blog post, but to sum it all up stuff got bad. Bad for my family and bad for me. At this point, we had stopped going to church and music was my only crutch in life. Crazy right? Looking back on all of this, I still wonder to this day how I managed to get through nearly all of high school without Jesus. It’s apparent that God had bigger plans for me since I made it out in one piece. There’s no denying that Jr/Sr High is hard. Growing up is hard. Sometimes parents forget how hard it is to be a kid but if you think about it adults are just kids who live in bigger bodies and have more responsibilities. Think twice before you roll your eyes at your teens so called minute problems.
So stuff gets real and I go back to church. I didn’t know what compelled me to do so, but I start going back without my family. Maybe it was a handful of friends who invited me, or maybe it was just God silently speaking to me, but I went back and I started getting involved in RSM (Rock Student Ministries. The best thing in this world. If you’re a teen reading this, you should get involved. If you’re an adult, we always need more leaders! I promise it will change you for the better) As I started to go more, I started feeling better about life and I started to call myself a Christian. I even answered the call to salvation and at least started living a Christian life on Sundays. It wasn’t full time, but it was better than none at all. Random thought, but I’ll still never forget when Brian came in as the new youth pastor and he was riding on Adam’s shoulders. I remember wondering who in the world he was because I had never seen him in my life.
There’s a whole lot more to my story and my faith and how all of this came together, but again, those are other stories that will eventually be unraveled in time. The major idea though is that I was lost before that time and I am now found. It took me nearly three years of going to church on my own to realize I was just going through the motions and not living my life for Christ. I was a fan of Jesus, and not a follower. It wasn’t until I was in a room full of teenagers worshiping God that I suddenly realized that I not only needed Jesus in my life, but I wanted Him in my life. I had made the decision to follow God on my own and I wasn’t being forced into it. It felt completely right to me.
My transition always reminds me of a quote from the book “Blue Like Jazz.” The quote is:
Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself. It is as if they are showing you the way.
When people stopped dragging me to church and trying to make me live a lifestyle I didn’t support, I opened my eyes and saw how people lived their lives around me. I saw certain friends change for the better and I noticed that my church friends had far less stress than I did. They seemed a lot happier than me and I wanted that for myself. I saw the change in others and I wanted that.
If any non Christians are still reading this, then I want to thank you so much for making it this far. I appreciate that you are willing to continue on and read something you may not fully support. If you don’t support any of this, then that’s fine. I just ask that you don’t’ try to use all of this as ammo to start an argument. I’m not forcing you to read this and in fact I’d rather you turn away if you don’t agree. I know that all of this may seem like bologna to you, and that’s okay! I used to think the same thing about the whole God thing and religion. I went to a college for scientists and I’m the type of person who has to have the answer to something. Christianity doesn’t guarantee all the answers. In fact, I still ask a lot of questions and it can be pretty darn frustrating and confusing at times. Sure the concept of a God or higher being might seem bogus, but I’d rather spend my whole life believing in a God who doesn’t exist, than dying and ending up facing Him like, “Ohhhh, I didn’t know you were actually there. Oops.”
What I do know is that I was once a lost, lonely, and angry person who was in a very depressing place. I didn’t have anybody to turn to until I found God and found new friends who supported this lifestyle. I can also tell you that even after becoming a Christian, I’ve stood by the side of old friends and supported their ways of life without trying to force them into this lifestyle because I know how it feels to be on the receiving end. It’s not all that fun. Today, I’m not that same person. I’ve been changed through Jesus. I’ve reached the happiest point in life that I’ve experienced so far and I’m blessed beyond numbers to be involved in a youth group that gives me the opportunity to provide kids with the help I never had growing up. I know I don’t share my faith enough since I had been so scared myself with it being forced on me, but I’m working on that.
Being a Christian doesn’t make you perfect or make you better than anyone else. I’m in my twenties, I have a Ph.D. at screwing life up and I’m looking forward to making multiple mistakes in the future. You can’t grow without them! The Bible wasn’t made to be used as a weapon, but instead was made as an instruction guide for us idiot humans who don’t know how to live our lives. As one of my students told me once, Bibles stands for “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.” Being a Christian gives you a support system for making life a little more easier. Maybe not exactly easier, but more bearable. I’m not everyone, but I know for sure it’s made me happier.
I’m a Christian. I am not better than you. I am not forcing you to live this lifestyle. I strongly encourage it, but I’m not going to tell you that you have to. I may not support your lifestyle or values, but I’ll still love you no matter what!!! You might think eating metals shavings boosts your iron content, but I’m not obligated to eat them. I might think JIF is the only brand of peanut butter to buy, but you don’t have to buy it. We can still live in this world together and love each other without all the fuss.
As a final though on all of this, one thing that compelled me to open up about this was the whole RFRA junk going around. I was hesitant to post anything about my faith all of this because I didn’t want it to turn sour, but I know that my life is built on my beliefs so much that I need to be obedient and give God credit for what He’s done in my life. Regarding the RFRA deal, I’ve yet to do more than skim over it and see what everybody is saying. I’ve seen all the negative, hateful, and opposing comments on social media and makes me sad.
To conclude this novella, I have one final thought to leave you with regarding all the RFRA nonsense that’s going around. It’s my honest, heartfelt opinion on the matter and it’s a lifestyle I live to this day. I’ve yet to read anything about the whole law because I support this idea:
It doesn’t matter if you’re Christian, Atheist, Agnostic, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Gay, Straight, Bi, Transgender, Black, White, Asian, Blue, Green, Purple, Weird, Normal, Tall, Short, Fat, Ripped, Mean, Nice, Broken, or Perfect. If you suddenly treat somebody differently or have a different opinion of them due to a silly law being passed, then maybe you aren’t treating people the way they really deserve to be treated? If this law has your panties in a bunch towards a different party, then maybe it’s time to fix some stuff in your own life first.