My Life…How I Became Whole

And here we are at the conclusion of this little series.  Here we are at the most recent point in my life.  It is the reunion show at the end of a reality tv series where you find out what has happened since every one left the wilderness, the proposal was or wasn’t given and everyone has moved out of the house or ranch and returned to living real life.  For me, though the journey had just begun when I decided to put the gun down and start on a slightly different path.

Over the next several years, I spent a lot of time reading.  I studied religion and looked at all of them.  I looked at every Christian religion that I could and tried to find out what was the “right” one.  I tried to discover the one that truly had God’s blessing and was the correct way to follow Him.  During all that time, I discovered that for the most part in almost all of the religions that I dealt with, they look ed a lot like the world that they were supposed to be different from.  They wanted to get people to want to be in their building and call themselves by their name.  I heard references to denominations far more than I heard references to Christ and so I pulled myself back from the ledge of religion and turned to Christ.

I sat down in His lap and tried to listen for Him.  I went on a solo journey for years.  I went on a journey that allowed me to not try to find the one true religion in Christianity, but rather one that said, do not be afraid to go anywhere with another believer.  Do not let their religion keep them from loving them and walking with them.  Share Christ and not a name on a building.  I found that to be the first step in slowly becoming somewhat whole.  I have continued on that path for the remainder of my years up until now.  I have never been let down because I am not depending on the religion to fulfill any of my needs, but rather I am relying on Christ to lead me to the people that will love me for who I am.

That is what brought me to my wife.  She filled another gap that was missing in my life.  She was on a similar quest of following Christ.  She wanted to be in fellowship with anyone that wanted more of Christ and I was drawn to that.  In marriage I was allowed to experience what it is to be Christ in a whole new light.  I no longer was just a lost sheep or the bride of Christ, but rather I was now the groom.  The verses in Ephesians started to mean something.  I started to grasp what it meant to be called to love my life as Christ loved the church.  The calling to love my wife as Christ loved me.  My wife is extremely special to me and she is an amazing person with a huge heart.  It is a joy to have her by my side.  She has taught me about the heart of the Lord as it equates to loving us.  I am able to better understand what it means to live as Christ since being married to her.

A few years into our marriage we decided to have a baby.  We were blessed with a daughter.  She has taught me more and more about the heart of our Lord than I ever thought possible.  I get to experience the joy of being a father.     Through becoming a dad, another part of my life that was missing was filled.  It seems like every time I turn around, she is teaching me something. Being a father has allowed me to grow closer to the Lord as I can understand in my little brain a little bit about why He created me.  Or rather, why I think we were created.  It seems to me that we were created, not so that God could have people worship Him, or to live life by a rule system, but rather we were created to be loved and to learn to return that love.  When my wife and I decided to have a baby, we knew we were taking on a challenge, but we wanted to have a family.  Sometimes, I sit back and think that we have made God, far too complex.  He desired a family.  He desired to love us and share His life with us, so He created us.

It is simple, but it is the simple things in my marriage and in being a father, that bring the most joy.  When my daughter laughs or took her first steps. When she smiles big when I come home, those are the moments that I remember.  When my wife sits beside me on the couch or surprise me at work with an afternoon drink from Sonic, or just when she tells me why she loves me, those are the things that make me happy.  Those are the things that make me slowly start to understand what the heart of God might be like.  It is through those little moments that I can start to see what God truly desires from us.  He does not desire that we change the world as individuals, but rather He wants us to love Him and follow His example.  He desires to see us learn how to walk, as well as see our smile when we know He is present.  He desires us to be a family of believers.

I am sure that over the next several years, I will see and experience more, but for now…that is my life and I am content.

My Life…My Death

I did not know the caliber, the make and model, but I knew that it was loaded.  I knew that by pulling the hammer back and pulling the trigger, I could end it all.  I was eighteen years old and felt like it wouldn’t matter one bit if I was here or not.  In my heart, I thought that death was the best and at times only option.  For days at a time, I thought that if I left, things would truly get better for everyone.  My father and I were not talking and had not talked to each other is almost 4 months.  My girlfriend at the time was not sure about our relationship and if it was worth it.  I felt as if, all the things that were important to me, didn’t care about me at all.

I remember dreaming one night about my funeral and no one was there.  I remember being able to see everything from above and every seat was empty.  A priest said a blessing and then they rolled the casket out.  That was, that was the sphere of influence I felt that I was having on people.

When I went to school and went to class, I put on the happy face for friends.  I laughed, joked, and cut up a little bit even, but then I went home.  Then I found myself alone.  I though about my life and what it all meant.  I pondered on all the things that I had heard in church about suicide being your get-into-hell free card.  That thought scared me a little and gave me pause.  But at the same time, I wondered about this whole Jesus thing.  I questioned faith, God and if He was really there.  I started to look at Him in the same light, I saw my dad.  Someone that did not want to talk to me at the moment and someone that had little time for me.

God was just a man in the sky, laughing at the turmoil we felt.  I was angry at Him and did not understand how he could allow someone who believed in Him to have so much pain.  How He could sit up in his mansion in the clouds with all those rooms and be all about loving His creation, and yet, I felt like I was meaningless to Him.

I had no church family that I could truly call my own.  The Catholic church group that I was a part of at the time, did not want me around because I carried an NIV Bible with me and studied that, and the local Baptist church group did not think I had a whole lot to offer because I had love for Catholics.  Somehow even those that were supposed to love unconditionally couldn’t love me.

So I thought about pulling that trigger.  I even cocked the hammer back and raised it to my head.  But I couldn’t pull the trigger.  Was the Lord in the room with me when I chose not to pull the trigger, I am not sure, but I know who was.  While not physically there, my brother was in the room.  I started to think about the simple truth that if I went through with this and pulled the trigger, he would most likely be the one to come home and find me.  He would be the one that would be terrified and horrified and scarred for the rest of his life.  He loved me when no one else seemed to.  My brother wanted me around when everyone else was too busy to care.

And I could not let him be the one to find me.  I decided that I had to set an example for him and this was not the one that I wanted to set.  I put the gun back where it was stored and walked back to my room.  I cried for a while, no knowing what to do.It was in this moment, that I once again started to fall in love with Job.  It was in this moment that I started to feel Christ calling out to me.  I had found rock bottom and there He was waiting for me.  I did not pray a sinner’s prayer that night.

I prayed a prayer of letting go and trusting Him.  I yelled at Him and told Him that I was tired of doing things on my own.  I died that night.  I died to self and decided to let Him take control of my life for a while.  I am sure that I believed that I could take it back if things didn’t get any better.  The gun would always be in the same place, if I needed it.

On that night, I became crucified with Christ though.  As the days passed on, I started to feel like I was carrying less and less baggage with me.  I started to trust Him more and let go of myself.  I questioned religion and slowly gave up on it, but I started to love my brothers and sisters in Christ.  I started to look beyond others for my self worth and focus on helping others see their value.  I told my mom, dad and brother that I loved them.  I started to look for ways to reach out to my dad instead of expecting him to always reach out to me.  I let go of my anger with him and the bitterness that I still tasted from time to time from the divorce.  I was dying and I loved every minute of it.

As I look back at that point in my life, I am constantly reminded that Jesus asked that the cup be taken from Him before He started on the path to crucifixion and even He cried out in confusion about being forsaken by His father, but that is not the end.  The death of Christ and our death to self is not the end and I hope that you will continue on this journey with me as I wrap it up in my next post.

My Life…The Road To Crucifixion

Over the next few years, quite a bit happened in my life.  Some of it was glorious and some of it wasn’t.  There is not a lot of detail that I want to give about everything that happened.  Ultimately at the age of ten my parent’s divorced.  There is not a lot of detail about the divorce that I want to give out, but it was hard.  I was now the man of the house and had to really help take care of my brother who was now four.  Things were hard for us.  My mom worked her tail off to make sure that we never went without.  She did an amazing job with two kids.  My dad was involved in our lives and he did the best that he could do as well.  It was not a truly terrible situation for us, but it was not a good one either.

I had watched my family fall apart.  I had teachers asking me if I was okay at school.  In talking with my mom, she says that I lost my childhood when the divorce happened.  I was forced to grow up too quick and be the man.  I tend to disagree with her, but that is because I know that the events of those years made me who I am today.  They were the events that put me on the road that I am on today.  While they were not “great” steps, even Christ asked that the cup be taken from Him before He was arrested.  And that is why this is the start of my journey to crucifixion.

I was at a wrestling point with God.  I couldn’t figure Him or His plan out.  I was mad at Him some times.  I could not put together why He would save my brother and then split up our parents.  How does that work?  How does God allow that to happen, but it did.  And it changed me.  The heartache and rough moments that occurred in my life during this time, obviously did little to increase my faith in God.  I never doubted His being there, I just doubted at times that He really cared about His creation.  I still went to Sunday school and learned all about Him.  I still went to church with my family and even believed that God was going to change the situation.

For me though, the divorce was the equivalent to Christ being sentenced to death.  It was a punishment for a crime that I didn’t commit.  I was just a kid as was my brother, but we suffered tremendously for this.  While we were able to see both of our parents, it was not the same.  No mattered how much they both told us we were special or that it was not our fault, it did not change the way we felt.  At the heart of every argument was something that said this was my fault or that I could fix this.  If I was just a better kid then this would end.  It didn’t.

I was now firmly on the road to being crucified with Christ.  I can only say that because I have the luxury of looking back on my life and I know that the crucifixion of Christ was not the end, but merely the beginning.  This time in my life marked the first steps down the road to being resurrected into a new person with Him.  Over the next several years, I would grow to understand and know that my parents were not going to be together.  I would also slip and fall, but as my brother grew older, he helped me with my cross and all the baggage that I carried.  He would see the hurt in me and would encourage me.  He would see me at my worst and love me.  He was always just content to be with me.  We didn’t have to go anywhere, he just wanted to be around me and that was all I needed to continue down the road.

The road though scared me.  It was full of pain and agony.  It was a time of not knowing what the next step would bring.  As I got older and started into high school, I battled depression.  I battled the feelings of worthlessness.  They did not destroy me, and I did not fall into anything “bad”.  I was still an above average student and had plenty of friends.  I just knew that something was missing in my life.  In order for it to be filled though my life would travel to the edge.  Before I graduated from High School, the depression would get to me.

I would ultimately have to choose to die.

My Life…Why I Love the Book of Job

Welcome back to part II of my life.  The joy of this retrospective project is that I actually get to look at my life in context.  I get to take all the things that I remember and see how they have transformed me into where I am at today.  There is a good chance that in ten years, I can look back again on my life and things might look drastically different.

The first section brought us up to about the final weeks of being 5 years old.  In fact it was just over two weeks before my sixth birthday.  I had a general grasp of who God was.  I knew a lot of the facts about Him and I could re-tell many of the stories from the Bible.  I knew about Noah, Jonah, and Jesus.  I knew the correct answer to most of the questions that I would be asked in Sunday School at the time and I enjoyed the puppet shows.

As I was getting excited for my sixth birthday, as any child should, I was counting down the days.  I had 17 days until I would be six and I was staying at the babysitters house.  I don’t remember what I was watching, but I remember when my dad came to pick me up.  He was frantic and he was yelling and screaming a lot.  It was not yelling in the sense that I had done something wrong, but rather, that something was not right.  When he finally slowed down enough for me to understand him, I was able to understand why he was dragging me out to the car.  My brother had just been born.

He wasn’t due for another 4 months.

We rushed up to the hospital because he wanted to be by my mom’s side.  I am relatively certain that my dad and mom had already been there for a while and talked about many things.  First and foremost, I know that they were referring to my brother by his name…Chris.  Up until today, that name was not one that I had known.  After I grew up, I came to understand that the name was given to him because there was a good chance that Chris would not survive to see his first birthday.  The name that he was given was a family name and one that would be honoring should he pass away.  This was a thought that at the age of 5, almost 6, I couldn’t really grasp.  I had never lost anyone.  I still had all my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and I was an only child…until that day.

The next 6 months of my life were the closest that I ever wanted to be to experiencing what Job must have gone through.  It was a time in which, I learned what it meant to lose, or almost lose, family.  My life did not change as drastically as my parents did.  They spent most of their days at the hospital.  I continued in my routine.  But every night as a family we prayed.  We prayed for another day.  I do not recall a ton of prayer for a miracle healing.  I think that for our family, another day was just the miracle we needed.

Believe it or not, during this time, I had a few questions for God.  I had the one that everyone has “Why?”.  I wondered about why he would do this.  What caused Him to choose us to put through this hard time.  I know, now, that He did have a plan and a miracle far beyond one more day was happening.  I know that He was not putting more in front of us than we could handle, but I still questioned Him.  I still felt a little like Job shouting into the silence.  I felt like Job in that there was nothing anyone could say to me, that was going to make me feel better.  I was not going to lie and say that I deserved the situation, any more than even in this modern day do I feel that my family deserved the situation.  It was just a time that Lord gave us.  It was a time to increase my dependence on Him.  It was truly an opportunity for me, at a young age, to see His hands at work.

Over the next couple of months, Chris actually started to make progress.  The Lord was answering prayers.  I was the first child into the neo-natal unit of Chris’ hospital.  I still vividly remember the small of the soap with scrubbers on the back that we used to clean our hands.  I remember my tiny scrubs that I got to wear when I would get to visit him.  I made him his first Christmas stocking, gave him his first stuffed animal, and read to him as often as I could go to see him.  I guess in some small way, he made sure that I was doing good in school.

I was still scared though.  I had now connected with Chris, so to speak.  He was a part of the family, he was my brother.  I did not want God to take him from me now.  That would just be cruel.  Luckily He didn’t.  Chris is now 25 years old and is out on his own.

I know that this little episode in my life was nothing compared to the agony of having everything taken as Job did.  But this was the closest that I had every come to experiencing loss.  This was the closest, I had come to losing something valuable and having to trust in my family to increase and continually trust God and His plan.  I had never prayed that much in my life.  I had never heard the words or experienced what it meant to trust God with the situation, but there we were a family kneeling every night, hoping that our desires were the same as God’s.  Hoping that it was in His plan for Chris to live another day.

If that had not been the case, I know that we would have made it through the times, but Chris has grown into one of my heroes.  He has a spirit of love, that I have never witnessed before.  He has been picked on his whole life, but never returned the violence or anger.  He has always walked the line choosing to say “they need friends too”.  He can annoy from time to time, but he is also someone who is content in who he is.  He is the blessing that God brought out of that part of my life.

And Lord knows in a few years…I was going to need to be there for him and he was going to be there for me.

My Life…Old Testament

As a Christian believer, I believe that we are constantly on a path of dying to ourselves and becoming more and more like Christ.  I believe that we are crucified with Christ and as such the story of our life should slowly become one that is found in the life of Christ.  This is my attempt to find my life in the passages of Scripture.  This obviously is not a direct correlation.  This is not an attempt to say that I am Christ to any degree.  This is my attempt to explore the journey that Christ has sent me on and look at everything through a lens that is not my own.  I want to try and view my life as a convergence with Christ.

I will try to follow a similar pattern in all of these posts.  If I need to intersperse Scripture in the text I will, but for the most part, I will either give the Scripture at the beginning and then my story will follow.  I will do the best that I can to make the necessary correlations.  Please bear with me as this is an exercise for me in putting my story and life down.  I hope that it doesn’t bore you too much and if it does, then luckily there are thousands of other blogs to read out there that have to be more interesting than mine.

But if my tale in some way helps you to see your life in new ways, see Christ in new ways, or just entertains you a little…thanks for stopping by and God Bless.

I will call this my “Old Testament”.  I call it that because it encompasses many things that lay the ground work for where I am now much like the Old Testament lays the groundwork for the coming Christ that we know through the New Testament.  This has the potential to be the most boring of the lineage posts.  But who really enjoys reading the book of Numbers or all the lineage passages.  Since the Old Testament does deal with the fact that Christ is not alive, it fits that this is my first post because, while I was a believer in God and understood the significance of the cross or could retell you what happened to sin when Christ died on the cross, I cannot say that I was walking with Him or by the Spirit at this time in my life.  For this reason, I think to call this point in my life my Old Testament fits, it works…I’m gonna roll with it.

Since this is more of a groundwork post, I do not have a passage to correlate it to.  I might intersperse some through the section though or reference tales from the OT.  Let’s roll..

My life begins in a good home with good parents.  I do not get to have one of those stories where life is rough from the first day.  I was blessed to have a family that loved me and both of my parents worked hard to provide a good home for us.  I recently was able to look back through a bunch of old scrapbooks that my mom put together for me, and much to my surprise, it seemed like God was always as influence in our house.  I think that many of the first things that I wrote had to do with the Lord blessing me or God creating things.  These were not things that I made in my Sunday school alone, but rather were things that I actually hung on the wall in…wait for it…a public school classroom.  I do not have a recollection of “becoming” a believer or “being saved” to use some of the common phrases that I hear today, but I will get into that a little bit later in life.  I was just in a house that acknowledged God being there and watching over us.  We went to church on Sunday, and my dad would always engage us in conversation after mass (yes, I was raised in a Catholic household…please don’t hold that against me) to talk about what we had heard from the priest.  We said a prayer before most meals and talked about what God wanted from me as a child and as a family.

It is for this reason that I would equate this time in my life to the years in the desert.  Granted, I was no unbelieving and in a state of rebellion against God, but I would say that I was in a state of waiting to have the land of milk and honey revealed to me.  Unlike the Israelites, I had not seen any miracles in my life so to speak.  I would say that at this point in my life, I knew of God.  I knew the tales of the Bible, but I was not at a point where I was trusting Him to provide for me, I was dependent on my parents and saw them as providers more than God giving me these parents as a blessing.  They made me clean my room and told me “no” and gave me spanking when I misbehaved; how can that be a blessing?  It is for that reason, that I was in the wilderness.  This period in my life was a time of prayer for the things that I wanted.  I wanted a bike, so that is what I prayed for.  I wanted to have my friends over, so I prayed that my parents would let them come over.

I was 5 years old at the time, so I don’t think that I had this deep grasp of what it meant to follow Christ.  The primary things that I heard was that God wanted me to listen to my parents and to be obedient.  He also probably did not want me to fall asleep in church.  That was a big no-no.  God was a rule book and his rules always seemed to be against me.  He seemed to be on the side of my parents a lot more than on my side.

Was this time in my life bad?  No.  Am I making a little light of the situation?  Probably, but God was about to become very real to me.  He was about to shake me to the core and I was going to learn first hand that prayer works.  I was about to go through a time in my life that would both spur me on in my faith and at times question it.  It would be a time where I, looking back, will probably call my Job moment.  It will be a time of questioning and fear.

The Bible Tells My Story…Upcoming Project

Recently, I was driving home from work or I was sitting at home one evening with my wife and daughter and started to really think about the context of my life.  What does my life really look like?  What should frame the story of my life and from that I came to the conclusion that the Bible is my story.  That is not to say that I am Jesus.  I am not referring to being the central character in the Bible.  I am stating the my story is found in the overarching narrative of the Bible.  From this idea, I am going to formulate a series of blog posts here.  They will be the explanation and exploration of this idea.

I am certain that after completing this excercise, the few readers that venture onto my blog will see that the context of their story is the Bible as well.  I would encourage any believer to take a moment and see what the context of their life truly is.  Is it framed in this kingdom or His Kingdom?  When you look back on your life, what do you see as the contextual backdrop for the events in your life.

If your life is anything like mine, it has not been perfect.  It has had its ups and downs.  Over the next couple of days (could be weeks), I will share pieces of my journey and how I feel the Bible provides a good context for my story.  Maybe by the time I am done, I will think of a better way to describe the context than the Bible, but for now it will have to do.

As I write, I will hopefully update this post to include links to the various pieces of my life so that you can read them in sequence from one jumping point.

Tomorrow the project begins…See you then.