I’m going to break from my usual avoidance of religion and share with you my excitement.
I was raised in a Christian family with Christian beliefs. When I turned 10 or 11, I started to argue with my father about going to church because I didn’t feel welcome there. I developed an attitude that approached hatred toward other Christians because of the way a few people at my church treated me. In junior high (middle school), I was also angry at all of the “bible thumpers” from the local evangelical church. I developed a special dislike for evangelicals because of the seemingly endless superiority complex of certain members of the church who were constantly telling people that they were the only ones going to heaven and that we were all going to hell because we didn’t attend their church.
After high school and into my early twenties, I studied alternative belief systems like Buddhism and Taoism because I wanted to understand the human heart. For many years, I considered myself an agnostic, because I knew that I was not a full-blown atheist. I knew there was a higher power because, when I learned more and more about astronomy and biology, I was convinced that there had to be a creator, even when others around me saw the same knowledge as evidence that there wasn’t an almighty creator.
For the first 14 years of my marriage to Laurie, I promised her that I would attend church with her, even though I was not a believer. We went to Church a few times when we lived in rural Georgia, but, once again, we did not feel welcome. It seemed like they were more interested in our family tree and who we were related to than who we were as individuals (even though Laurie was part of one of the “royal” families in that area, her last name had changed because it was a maternal relationship and she had her father’s last name – even so, we still didn’t play that silly game). We then attended a few times when we moved to Savannah.
However, it wasn’t until we moved to Montgomery that I got serious about it and made her a promise that I would attend church with her at the local United Methodist Church. Frazer has been the biggest blessing to us since we started attending. The people are extraordinarily friendly and the church is so big that it has enough ministries and service areas to get involved in. We found a great small group (Sunday school class) to attend with amazing people. We have found our home and we will remain here in Montgomery because of it.
As I have grown over the last 10 months, I have learned so much about the value of God’s grace and the power of faith. I have always had faith that things would work out, but I now have context for that faith and I see the bigger picture. I am still not comfortable evangelizing using traditional techniques, but I recognize that I must now work to make the world a better place. It’s what we are born to do. I don’t think I could do it without the enormous amplifying power that a unified church body represents.
One of the greatest benefits so far has been the recent church initiative to host Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. It’s a nine week program that teaches you how to get out of debt, plan for emergencies, save for retirement, pay off your mortgage, and share what God has given you with the rest of the world – specifically, those that are less fortunate. In short, it teaches you to manage your money based on biblical principles.
I don’t want to come across like those kids in my junior high, but I did want to share that I am once again restored. I have never felt better and I certainly have never been as excited about my future as I am today. I encourage anyone who is curious about what God has planned for them to find a local church body to get plugged into. Even if you don’t believe in God, there is nothing happening at your local church that will harm you. The messages are there to promote your understanding of the modern world by framing it in terms of a simple set of ideas – the greatest being that God sacrificed his only son so that we could be forgiven of our sins.
I can’t believe I just typed that in public.