When writing the story of your life…

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Like most people, I suppose, if I am not interested in a particular subject, person, place, thing, etc. I spend very little time and waste very little emotional energy thinking about it or concerning myself with it.

And that’s how I was with God for most of my childhood.

As I’ve mentioned on here before, I grew up in a good home with good parents who provided for my every want and need, who were there for me no matter what, who supported me, and who taught me the ways of the world.

What they did not do however, was talk about God, hardly ever.

Although my parents called themselves Catholic, we rarely went to church. And when we did, even though I recall having an interest in the arts and crafts relating to Noah’s Ark, Johan, Daniel and the lion’s den…we made in Sunday School, I found the whole church experience painfully boring and tedious.

And so it was.

Weekend after weekend of sleeping in, camping, sports, travel, and childhood fun, punctuated by the occasional mind numbing boredom of Catholic Mass.

Church made my grandmother happy; it made my parents feel like they were doing the right thing, and it made me, let’s be honest, it didn’t matter what it made me at all, I was just along for the ride.

Anyway, God was this being I learned about in church, Jesus was His son, we celebrated His birth on Christmas, and His resurrection on Easter…I got it, I just didn’t care, it didn’t matter, it wasn’t important.

Jesus, blah, blah, blah, where are the eggs and where is the candy?

Jesus, blah, blah, blah, when are we opening presents?

As I recall, the clearest and most concise presentation of the Gospel I heard as a child was from Linus during the annual airing of A Charlie Brown Christmas.

And so it was.

Other than the time I set out to read the Bible with an inscription that read, “This is God’s good book Jimmy, read it and be blessed by His word” my Grandmother gave me as a gift, I had nothing to do with God or His Word for a long, long time.

And, why would I want to?

In the beginning was The Word (I read)…Adam and Eve, a talking snake, Cain and Able, Noah…Moses…decent stories I thought, until I was three pages into Leviticus, realized I was going to be late for soccer practice, closed the book, put it on a shelf, and resolved to never touch it again.

Come on, God’s good word, as my grandmother called it, turned into an absurd snooze fest after the first two books anyway and I didn’t need it.

I liked the idea of the book, It was a nice gift from someone I loved, but I swore, on that day, I would never read it again, ever.

And so it was.

God and I parted ways and I didn’t care about Him, think about Him, or mention Him again for years.

I graduated, went off to college to study art, began hanging out with the art crowd, dated a lot of girls, drank a lot of alcohol, smoked some dope, skipped a lot of classes, didn’t maintain (in my father’s opinion) a good GPA, had my parental funding cut, got a job, then another, then another, then ended up at a United States Military Entrance Processing Station on my way to, what I thought at the time, would be a four year stint in the U.S. Air Force.

“What’s your religion, son?” The guy at one of the tables asked.

“I don’t know, I’m not much of a church person.”

“I need it for your dog tags, if you get shot, we need to know who to call.”

“Um?”

“Come on, I don’t have all day.”

“Catholic, I guess.”

“R-o-m-a-n C-a-t-h-o-l-i-c.” He said as he typed.

“Next!”

I moved on to the next table, on to basic training where I went to, just as boring as I remembered them, church services a few times just to get out of scrubbing toilets and waxing floors.

But God was not there.

On to my first assignment, God wasn’t there.

On to get married, God wasn’t there.

On to have two kids. God wasn’t there for either.

On to another assignment, God wasn’t there.

And to another, again without God.

Life was good. My wife and I owned a home, had two great kids, two cars, I was back in school…

We celebrated Easter, for the kids, and because it was a custom, but God wasn’t there

We set up our Christmas tree and opened presents but God wasn’t there.

The Bible my grandmother gave me sat on a shelf but God was nowhere to be found, and I didn’t care.

Until…

“What’s wrong?” One of my coworkers asked another, particularly frustrated looking, coworker.

“Everything! One of the kids is sick, I’m having car trouble, my husband is out of town, we are going on 12 hour shifts next week… Life sucks.”

“No matter what, God is in control.” Another coworker chimed in.

“What? You mean that horrible baby killing God you worship? Please.” Another coworker said loudly as he rolled his eyes and looked at me.

“Don’t look at me dude, I’m not religious.”

“Good, you shouldn’t be.”

He went on; quoting verse after verse from the good book. Like the one my grandmother gave me, the one I swore I’d never read.

A light came on.

Could it be the God I hadn’t needed is a hateful God no one should need? How did I not know these things before?

And so it was…

Granted, the internet wasn’t what it is today but I went home and read.

With a new and remarkable clarity I read everything about the evils of God and the horrors of Christianity I could get my hands on. I even read the Bible I had sworn I would never read again.

The Bible, I found out, was full of errors and contradictions, there was no proof God existed at all, Creation was a myth, the flood never happened, Jesus never existed…

I bought it, and all of it.

My not caring about God turned into a bitter hatred of God that grew stronger every day, with everything I read, with every conversation I had with a Christian, every chat room encounter, and every reading of my grandmother’s now not so good book.

And so it was…

Although my dog tags still said “Roman Catholic” I was now, full-stop, an atheist, and proud to be one.

And so it was…

Until years later when I met a new coworker and born-again Christian, Charles.

“Are you going to church on Sunday?” He would ask with a smile.

“Nope.” I would always reply “I’m not a big fan of your God and I don’t need church.”

Charles was a nice guy I genuinely liked so I never got into his face about the lunacy of his faith. Looking back on it, I guess Charles took my apparent understanding to mean I just neded extra persuasion.

“Are you going to church on Sunday?”

“Are you going to church on Sunday?”

“Holy crap, here comes Charles!” I would think to myself.

“Can’t talk now Charles, I have a dentist appointment, my house is on fire, one of my kids is throwing up at school, my cat has to go to the vet…”

No excuse was off limits when it came to me avoiding an invitation to church or a religious discussion with my deluded, yet well meaning, friend.

“Are you going to church on Sunday?”

“Good God, Charles. If I promise to go to your stupid church will you leave me alone?”

“Yes.”

“So where were you? We missed you on Sunday.”

“You know. My alarm didn’t go off, one of the kids wasn’t feeling well…”

“You should have been there; Steve (another coworker) got saved.”

“Next weekend maybe.”

“Got saved?” I thought.

“The only thing I hate more about Christians and there awful God is their moronic lingo.” I thought.

“Got saved?” I thought.

For the rest of the week, even though I continued proudly in my atheism, “Got saved?” was always in the back of my mind. I pondered it, I thought about it, I wondered about it, I couldn’t shake it.

“Got saved?”

“Got saved?”

“Got saved?”

“So where were you? We missed you on Sunday.”

“Yeah, I meant to go but, you know…”

“Hey, Charles?”

“What’s up with getting saved?” Since I hated religious discussions and was certainly not up for one right then, I have no idea where those words even came from.

Anyway, Charles was happy to answer my question, and did so with a short presentation of the Gospel I had heard from no one else, up to that point, other than Linus.

“Thanks, man.”

“So, are you going to church on Sunday?”

“You know me, I’ll be there.” Um, no I wouldn’t. While I kind of liked what Charles said, I wasn’t moved by his words, not in the least.

I thought.

After the kids had gone to bed that night I was sitting on the couch with a beer, watching TV, thinking about what Charles had told me.

I wasn’t reading or trying to counter his words, I was just thinking.

Was he on to something?

Could he be right?

I got up, retrieved the Bible my grandmother gave me, and began to read the New Testament.

Surprisingly, the chock full of errors, contradictions, and lies book of fairy tales I had grown to hate made sense.

Every word of it made sense.

I had known for a while that my atheism seemed dark, empty, and hopeless but I thought it was just a phase that I would grow out of. Atheism had to be right and Charles had to be wrong

“He had to be.” I thought.

But I knew in my heart somehow that I was wrong and Charles wasn’t. I didn’t think it, I knew it.

So I prayed.

For the first time in my life I prayed and was changed forever.

No scales falling from my eyes, no bright lights, no apparitions, no rock bottom, no coercion, no brainwashing, I hadn’t dakened the door of a chruch in a decade, no indoctrination, no near-death experience, no nothing.

Nothing but a sense of love and an inner peace I never knew existed.

For years I’ve thought it was odd that the most remarkable thing that has ever happened to me happened in the most unremarkable way.

This oddness however, pales in comparison to how amazing it is knowing that God, regadless of what I thought at any given time, has been with me all long.

When I didn’t know Him.
When I didn’t need Him.
When I hated Him.

He was there.

Watching me, looking after me, guiding me, and living in the pages of a book I swore I would never read again and now swear I will never stop reading.

“This is God’s good book Jimmy, read it and be blessed by His word”

And blessed I am.

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Categories: Christianity

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3 replies

  1. What an exciting post and exhilarating, to see how the Holy Spirit takes our spirit in hand through God’s Word and brings us to Himself. Thank you for sharing this with us. I will praise Him over and over for how He has worked in your life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for taking the time to read my story Frances.

      God bless,

      James:)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Your post comes at the same time that I have been reading Greasy the Robber, A Story of the Power of the Gospel available free from Chapel Library. I want to use your story along with this one in a future post. Both yours and this story stir my heart to know the power of the Word of God to do supernaturally what only He can do to save a sinner. His work in your heart and mine is beyond our doing, but a great witness to others of His own power. We can but live and speak what He is doing through us, and pray this for others. Blessings as He continues to work in your heart and life for His own witness and glory. ~ Fran

        Like

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