Throughout my life, I have enjoyed just getting in my car and exploring the area around me.
When I was 18 years old, I still lived with my parents. One night, I suddenly woke up in the wee hours of the morning with the urge to go for a drive.
I got in my car and started driving. I took random turns; a right here, a left there. After about 45 minutes of senseless navigation, I took a right turn into a driveway. At the end of the driveway, I saw a sign for a monastery.
I had never been to this place before, nor had I driven anywhere near it in my lifetime. This was a random event. Out of all the places I could have ended up, this is where my random driving took me.
I stopped the car and turned off the ignition. I sat there for an hour trying to decide if I was going to stay there and devote my life to holy pursuits or face the rest of my life in the secular world.
I do believe that this was no coincidence, as it was at that moment that I decided that I would go to school to get the training I needed to achieve my lifetime goal of becoming a computer programmer.
I never told my parents what happened that night, but the next day, I told them of my plans to go to school. I drove to the school and got myself a catalog (the Internet wasn't in use by anyone outside of academia and government at that time).
A few weeks later, I was enrolled to start in the Fall.
I sometimes wonder where I'd be today if I had chosen a Monastic life.
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’sFinancial 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.