When I was 14 years old my life took a sudden and unexpected turn. My family had moved from Montana to North Alabama. My father now only worked one job being a full time pastor. We were settled into the school system and began enjoying life in the south.
Then I came home one day to find out that my dad had had a stroke and was in the hospital. We visited him over the following weeks. Many times I chose not to go because I didn’t want to see my father in such a helpless position. He began the road to recovery only to be asked for his resignation a few months later.
At the time I blamed myself. Around the same time he had taken me out arrowhead hunting one afternoon and he ended up being late to an important meeting. I internalized what I perceived as the attack on my father as being my fault.
A Different Kind of Suffering
In the times past all the suffering that we had endured seemed impersonal. My parents had seen two miscarriages. We almost lost my mom and brother when he was born. We were poor and trusted God to meet our needs. Yet, now I was faced with what appeared to be a very personal and direct attack on all that I understood to be right in the world.
There is no greater insult to a young man than to defame his father in front of him. I chose to reject God and the church. I hated God and rebelled against him in all that I knew to do. I did not know it, but my faith was being tested to prove I was not all that I thought I was (I Peter 1:6-7, II Corinthians 13:5). I had been riding the coattails of my parents faith, but there comes a time when each person must trust Christ on their own (Ezekiel 18:21-32).
I had a friend who would drink and so I asked to be included the next time he went out. I began getting drunk on a regular basis. I was mad at God for letting my dad get fired and I was mad at the church for being so full of hypocrites.
For a time we would hang out in my parents back yard getting drunk in a cabin on the river. We didn’t have a great way to dispose of the alcohol containers (I’m sure my dad would have noticed them in the trash can), so we cut a hole in the bottom of the cabin floor and stuffed all the empty containers in the hole. Eventually there was no more room to hid the beer cans and vodka bottles. My dad found out we were drinking and we had a “come to Jesus” meeting.
I hated disappointing my dad and knew a great way to get out of some of the trouble I was in was to “repent” of my sin. I was genuinely sorry for what I had done, but mostly I was just ashamed that I had gotten caught (I Corinthians 2:10). I set about to hide my shame by building a reputation of good works.
At age 18 I became a student minister. I thought that if I was just good enough, God would be pleased with me. I was wrong (Ephesians 2:8-9). I thought I could earn God’s favor, but its a gift that has to be given.
It would be years before I would really discover what a relationship with God was really all about.
- My Story: A Godly Heritage (Part 1)
- My Story: Lost in a Religious World (Part 3)
- My Story: Waking up from a Dream (Part 4)
- My Story: Living with Passion and Purpose (Part 5)
- When Church People Do Bad Things
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