Growing up I had a broken family situation. My parents weren’t married and didn’t like each other. My brother and sister didn’t get along. My sister and I didn’t get a long. As the baby of the family I was often left in the care of my sister, who resented the fact she had to babysit. That resentment was often taken out on me. My relationship with my father came to an abrupt halt when he smacked me one day. I was twelve years old at the time, and later that day, he threatened me with hitting me again without cause (as far as I can remember). It bothered me so much that I told my mother that I didn’t want to see him again, and I didn’t until near graduation from high school.
At twelve, I was very mature for my age. Although I was mature, I hated school work. I’d do chores helping my mother around the house and watching my sisters kids, my nephew and nieces. To start, my mother was just too busy to pay much attention to my grades. She’d spend Saturday nights going to bingo, and she’d have a two hour commute, so usually there were very few hours available for quality time. The time we did get, we spent together watching movies, TV shows, and not talking about anything education related.
There was an event that had a great financial and emotional impact on my mother around twelve. We had some cars get wrecked in a short time, damaging an already fairly unstable financial situation. For some reason after that, my mother started to spend a lot of time at casinos playing slot machines. My entire family on my mothers side struggled with addictions of every kind, so it wasn’t unusual that my mother eventually developed one of her own. For the next several years we dealt with countless evictions, lie after lie, arguments, and family getting in legal trouble.
Around the same age a teacher in eighth grade took a special interest in me. I don’t remember what triggered this interest, but he was able to get through to me when no one else had. I went from a middle school GPA of around 1.5 to around 2.5 in a half year. I was able to move on to high school after that and returned to struggling again. I moved on each year with somewhere between half and three quarters of the credits I needed. Eventually by my third year, I was a full year behind in credits. Eventually the teachers who showed genuine concern about my future were able to convince me to get serious about my grades. I was able to raise my GPA, and after one extra year of high school I graduated.
That final year was tough, no friends or people I knew from the class I was supposed to graduate with. I worked part-time at a grocery store, which I was able to use in my final semester as part of a work program for credits. I decided that I wanted my father to be at my graduation, so I showed up at my fathers door and renewed a relationship with him. In 2003, My family showed up to my graduation (father, mother, extended family). It was a very proud moment in my life.
My mothers addiction got worse after that, and my job became the income that kept food on the table. In 2004, I had got to the point emotionally that I needed to escape this terrible situation. I applied to every military branch. I was eventually called by the marines and the values they represented meant a lot to me. In May of 2004 I shipped off to boot camp. Unfortunately I immediately struggled to pass a physical strength test, and that continued for quite a while. I could do the crunches easily, but when it got to pull ups and running, I just couldn’t do it. I tried to pass this test for weeks, eventually getting sick with pneumonia, and after that they realized I had exercise induced asthma. Heavy lifting (pull ups) and sustained running caused my airways to restrict. I was medically discharged in July of 2004.
In 2006 my mother was diagnosed with leukemia. She died 5 months later. Just two years later, my father was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, and he died in February of 2009. In the years that followed, I earned an associates degree from a local community college for computer programming. I got a job as an IT student assistant while in college and that lead to my first full-time programming job. I’m now in my second full-time programming job, with a wife, two kids, and a much more stable family situation.
I had one person that I had regular contact with that was a Christian, my grandmother. My grandmother was Catholic and she did everything a Catholic would today. Unfortunately she wasn’t very open about her faith, and by the time I was at a point that I could ask her, she was gone.
My first real experience learning about Jesus was a Sunday school class that was being provided across the street from my grandmothers home, where I lived off and on. It was done in a small building in a park, but I remember little images of the experience, not really any of the details. I believe I was pretty young, six, maybe younger.
My next experience was when my alcoholic uncle would mention the bible while drunk. Thinking back on it, this was pretty odd, but as a kid I listened to the things he would say. He taught me the Lord’s prayer. My uncle did not live a Christian life, and was not a good example of a righteous, moral, or good man. Yet somehow he managed to plant a seed of Christianity.
Although my grandmother didn’t advertise her christian beliefs or share her faith, she did have bibles in the house. They were the King James bibles, so when anything was read to me from it, or when I tried to read it, it just sounded too weird. The only thing that really impacted me was the Lord’s prayer.
As I got older, through middle school and more so in high school, I started to investigate the bible more. I started having discussions about things in the bible that sounded ridiculous and questioning how these things could even be possible. The more I read, the more questions I had, and the more I thought about it. Up to about 11th grade, the only church experiences I had were maybe two visits to catholic church with my grandmother, because she had to bring me. I didn’t like those experiences. I remember feeling very uncomfortable, and I don’t believe I had any friendly encounters with a single member of that church.
I did have one other experience with a church, it may have been a Methodist church but I’m not entirely sure. A girlfriend I had at the time took me with her and her parents. Again, I felt uncomfortable, and the people were not inviting or friendly, but rather distant and quiet. I don’t remember the exact details shared in the sermon, but what was said bothered me and it definitely didn’t make me want to start going to church.
The questions I had about the bible was not with whether there was a God, but rather was I reading something that really happened. My problem with the church was not whether God is real, but rather was this group of people trying to trick me. I don’t know why, but I never doubted God was real. I was provided several reasons, probably way more than most would need, but never once did I doubt God’s existence.
It’s possible that growing up I couldn’t trust the people around me, therefore how could I trust the church, how could I trust a book written by people. I don’t believe my distrust of the church and its constituents is a single occurrence, but rather something a lot of people out there feel. This is part of the reason I created this blog, to try to reach people out there who can’t trust the church or the Christian community because of people around them have been so untrustworthy.
When I really got started
I had conversations with God throughout my childhood. I didn’t know who I was praying to, I just knew God was there and God was listening. Sometime between the change in high school that sent me toward graduation and shipping off to boot camp I started to investigate the bible more. After arriving at boot camp one of the things you can do is walk through a store and buy items you need, the very first thing I bought was a bible. My very own marine corps NIV bible, and I read it every chance I got. I also got a little pocket bible that allowed you to quickly access verses based on how you are feeling. All of this helped me a great deal as I struggled through away from home. I also attended church services every Sunday, they were very uplifting and I loved it. I don’t remember any sermon, the biggest thing to me was the worship songs. Two in particular, “Shout to the Lord”, and “I can only imagine” had the biggest impact.
Just before my mother was diagnosed with Leukemia I started talking to a nice young woman on MySpace. Oddly, this was after I had decided to delete the page because everyone I had met was either crazy or had ulterior motives. I eventually started a relationship with her and met her parents. Her mother and her were both strong Christian women and I found myself having conversations with both of them about church and Christianity. I visited the church they attended, and amazingly it was the first church I didn’t feel uncomfortable at. A great pastor got up and spoke that day, and everything said immediately made sense and felt honest. For the first time, I felt welcome, comfortable, and I trusted a church.
My girlfriend lived in a city about 45 minutes away from me. She eventually moved to my city to attend college and together we looked for a church together. The first church was a recommendation from that pastor, and it didn’t go well. They were the biggest church in the city, but they spoke of God providing wealth and power if you tithe, and the service felt more like brainwashing than worship and fellowship. Long story short, after several attempts, nothing was good enough.
I married that amazing woman, became part of the family (even though her parents had already said if we broke up, I have to keep visiting them). We started a family and moved to her home town where we see her great parents and attend the only church I’ve ever trusted.
When I truly became a Christian
My Christian mother has taught old testament bible study for over two decades, and I’ve attended her class off and on for many years. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to attend her class in its entirety, but I will. She let me borrow a set of audio tapes containing the new testament, of which I listened intently to all of them. I’ve regularly attended church ever since moving to my wife’s home town four years ago, and visited that same church a lot prior to the move. I wholly love Jesus and what he taught, and I wholly love the wonderful people that helped me to realize that.