Friday, February 24, 2012

A Continued Story

Picking up where I left off last night....My siblings and I became involved in the Methodist church that we had attended very infrequently after my mom's stroke.  In our little town, it was very Baptist in my ways.  I wouldn't have known that there was much of a difference between my church and any other except that our sign said we were Methodists. That and we baptized infants, but we didn't have very many of them because we were a small, old church.  When I say small, I mean 35 tops on a good Sunday!  And when I say old, I mean that we were the only family that wasn't over 50...or at least it felt that way. But I didn't care too much about that because it was my church and I loved the people there!

The other weird thing to many people is that we were on a "circuit." That's the Methodist way of dealing with small churches.  We couldn't afford a full time minister, so our minister was also the minister for two other Methodist churches not very close by.  So, he "rode the circuit" every Sunday.  We were the lucky ones because we were at the end, so we could have church at 11 AM instead of 8 or 9:45.  We also got a new minister about every four years...that's how you keep factions from forming in the church, though it makes a church pretty autonomous and not necessarily mindful of their minister!

Anyway, we were in church for a few years and our pastor decided to form a youth group from all three churches.  It was pretty cool considering that I had never heard of such a thing at the age of 12.  I had some really good friends from the other churches that were closer to my age and since none of us knew what youth group was supposed to be, we actually learned a few things about our faith on a regular basis.  Unfortunately, I can't remember much from that time teaching wise, but sometimes God works in very quiet ways and he shaped me greatly during those years.

The next big, life changing event happened when I was a senior in high school.  I met a girl that I fell for.  Unfortunately she wasn't a believer and so I set out on attempting to convince her of the faith through our relationship.  We all know how things like that turn out and if you don't...don't try to find out.  I eventually abandoned my faith and this lasted from the spring semester of my senior year until the spring of my sophomore year of college.

This relationship actually taught me a great deal about God's faithfulness in the long term, but I didn't fully realize that until pretty late in my junior year in college.  I did everything I could to make the relationship work and it was on again, off again for a good two years, but they were extremely painful years. 

After everything was done and I was broken God providentially acted by bringing a friend from my pre-college years and the son of one of my former Methodist pastors into my life.  They really drew me into the Bible study that led me back into my faith.  I am forever grateful for their showing up all those times I was working third shift at Wal-Mart all those years ago.  I wrote a song the night that I gave up my running called "And I found God Again."  I guess that may speak something of my theology at that time, but that doesn't matter.  I do find it funny and strange that a couple of years later when I discovered Blaise Pascal, some of the images from that song were reminiscent of his speaking of his conversion.  It's strange how God can work that way.

After that,  I transferred from the college I was attending to a different school and began a huge saga in my life.  It was a time of deep learning spiritually for me and there were many people of God that He used to guide and direct me.  I made a lot of mistakes along the way that I deeply regret, but through it all the Holy Spirit was there alongside of me pointing to Christ and salvaging the wreck that I was.

I mentioned earlier about that relationship teaching me a great deal about God's faithfulness and this is why: I was at a campus meeting the week of Valentine's day and the teaching that night was from the first three chapters of Hosea.  I had never read Hosea and I was intrigued.  The story, if you don't know, is about the prophet Hosea and the prostitute that God commanded him to marry.  She left him numerous times, but Hosea remained faithful to her.  He even bought her out of slavery to keep her as his wife!  This is of course God displaying His magnificent faithfulness toward Israel.  What struck me was the deep parallels between my relationship and Hosea's.  Though my girlfriend cheated on my multiple times I did all that I could to keep it going and strove to remain faithful to the girl.  That night I realized that I had truly and fully done the same to God and that He had done exactly what I did toward my girlfriend (except for me finally leaving the unhealthy relationship, but then again, I couldn't change her and God could do that to me).  I also realized that, in one sense, I hadn't done wrong by trying to salvage the relationship (something for which I had questioned quite often considering the mess it left me in).   God, without me knowing, had impressed on me what it meant to really love someone and I had actually acted it out in that relationship, but more importantly, God acted that out toward me and not just me, but for all of His people! 

He didn't abandon me, though I had Him.  That is the great news that I am called to preach.  God forgives us when we don't even realize it, and then he calls us to Himself so that we might know it.

I've written a lot now and haven't covered that much ground, but that is okay.  I said this would be ad hoc and off the cuff.  Next time I'll try to condense a bit better and give more highlights about what has happened over the years church wise and begin drawing together the history of ending up in the Anglican church.

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