I’ve heard a time or two that this blog is exceedingly negative. I have no idea where that notion comes from, but I wanted to share a post that I think may be a little more positive than anyone is used to reading from me.
I was thinking recently about all the changes that my life, beliefs, and theology have gone through over my lifetime and it is really wild. I think that the me of any previous time period would look at the me now and be extremely disappointed in how far I have strayed from what I always thought was the right path. I know the me now definitely looks back with embarrassment at all the previous versions of myself, but the truth is that in ten years I will most likely see who I am right now and not recognize that person anymore either. That’s how life is when you are growing I guess, so I hope I keep growing.
That wasn’t very positive! I know, but here is the cool part. Thinking back on my life I see growth, not just grabbing onto a passing fad here and there and getting tossed in the wind, but a real growth in a certain direction, and that means that, while I was not where I am now, that I was learning stuff ten years ago that was moving me in this direction, stuff that I would build on to get where I am. Even though I had a lot of terrible ideas about things, there were some seeds that were planted and growing even then, and I have a lot of people to thank for that, people that I may vehemently disagree with on many things, but people that, nonetheless, impacted my life and have played a part in me getting to where I am now, so without further ado, I want to thank some people that have been part of this journey:
The pastor at the fundamentalist church I grew up at: I remember a lot of the things you said were really crazy, but I first believed that God exists when I was going to your church. I remember, although I was very young, feeling the Holy Spirit working in me when you baptized me, so thanks!
The Bowies: I don’t know where you guys even are anymore, but working with you for that year cleaning disgusting apartments and old diner floors shifted my focus. I had spent most of my early teen years trying to be cool, and had totally forgotten to care about anything important, like what I believed about anything! You guys seemed really passionate about church and God and that got me thinking more seriously about what I believed about God, helped me forget about trying to be cool (a losing battle anyway!) and be passionate to learn about God.
LWCC: I am not a Pentecostal, but many of the best people I know are. The Bowies brought me here and I met a bunch of people that were super into following God. I specifically remember one night when Pastor Gary was preaching (about what, I can’t recall) and just knowing that my life was going to change forever, because I finally cared about God, and wanted to follow him.
Roger: I don’t remember your last name, but you said something that made my grandmother think I’d like you. She told me about you and what you were doing at her church, and I went with her and knew that I wanted to be part of what was going on. This led me to meet…
Jason and Erica: I know in many ways things have been less than awesome between us over these past five or six years, but honestly, I feel like you guys may have had a bigger impact on me than any of the previously mentioned people on this list. You were friends and mentors to me, and encouraged me greatly in a time where I kinda felt up in the air (after high school). Jason, you taught me how to study the Bible and think for myself, and that basically opened Pandora’s box in my head. I don’t know if you regret giving me the tools you did, but they have been the reason that I started questioning and seeking more meaningful answers. Also, you encouraged me to go to seminary where I met…
Alan, Lew, Gary, and Stan: These four guys taught me more in a semester than I learned the remaining three years of my education at Southeastern, and at the time none of them were even my professor! The time that we shared in that office is so significant to my journey and where I am now, I can’t begin to explain it. You guys were the first to get me thinking outside the box, to see things that I would never have even considered. The direct impact of that stuff shaped many of the views I hold now, and it allowed me to expand my thoughts in other areas of my theology later on.
Stephanie: Well, you, my wife, have shaped my beliefs in many ways you will never know. The way you act, the way you love, and the way you live your life is a demonstration of belief in action, which is a major thing that God is working on in my heart right now, and has been for the last couple years, taking my beliefs out of the theoretical and making them real. The kind of beliefs that shape my life, not that I just like talking about. That is you and that is how you live and it is very compelling. Additionally, your willingness to question things that you have believed forever and not be afraid to go down those roads, has seriously sparked much needed new life into my spirit.
Lastly, and most of this was chronological, but I feel this person has had an overarching impact on my spiritual journey, so she gets a special place on the list.
Grandma: You were very special to many people, and it is pretty obvious why that was. You cared for many of your grandkids, family friends, and outsiders of all kinds like they were all your own children. I know that we all felt like we had a special bond with you, and I think that is a tribute to what a great woman you were, because we did all, indeed, have a special bond with you, because you cared about each of us very deeply and personally. At almost every point in my spiritual walk you were there. You were a very wise woman, and always willing to give advice (whether requested or not!) but also willing to act out your beliefs and demonstrate your love through your actions. You encouraged me to grow in my faith and learn new things and care about people and care about the things that God wants. I miss you very much and am forever grateful for how you impacted my journey. I am sure there are many things I believe that you would not be super happy about, but I hope that you would be proud that I care and want to grow and want to listen to and follow God.