I’ve felt off all day. Very self reflective. I’ve felt almost like I was viewing my day in the third person. I’ve been thinking a lot about me lately. I know that might sound strange but it’s not something I used to do, at all. I used to deflect these types of moods by asking god for direction, or what should I be praying about, or ask for peace. It was odd not doing that and actually thinking about who I am and what I’m doing here. Am I going to be doing the exact same thing 10 years from now? Do I want to be? Before it was easier beacuse you know “god has a plan for your life.” I didn’t have to think about planning. I didn’t have to think about what the future held because god was in control.
I supposed that lead to a bit less stress in life. If god had this master plan then I didn’t have to worry about the future. If I got good things god was looking out for me. If I didn’t get what I wanted god knew best. It was simpler. It was easier. Even as I sit here writing this and seeing all the good things right around the corner I have a feeling of weight on my sholders. I’m responsible for my life. I’m responsible for what happens next. Perhaps I need to pick up the slack a bit. Perhaps I need to start living my life instead of letting it just happen to me. That brings on a new level of apprehention. I’m not the only one depending on me anymore. I have my family to worry about. I can’t just up and quit my job tomorrow and figure it out. I need to be able to provide for them (Not that my wife couldn’t but we’re not in that place now).
I want to be a writer full time someday. However I find my self spending little to no time developing that skill. I have so many day to day commitments that it doesn’t become a prioirty. It doesn’t cross my mind to schedule in time to do that. And the moments where I do have that free time to do it, I’m exhausted. All I want to do is sleep.
Sorry this became somewhat of a pity party but I thought I’d share and get these thoughts out into the ether. How do you manage your day to day and still find time for your passion? How do you juggle kids, a job, a wife? I don’t have a social life so this should be easier.
With my renewed passion for god I decided to put myself back to all in for Jesus. Living back with my parents I began to take the church classes over again. I involved myself into ministry again. I also began dating my high school girl friend again (for the third time). This time however, I somehow convinced her to marry me. We moved in together shortly after that. My parents were ecstatic.
Moving in together was not really something brand new to either of us. We had both either lived with our parents or roommates, neither of had ever lived alone so we were used to sharing spaces. However, the apartment we lived in was small, ill-maintained, but super cheap. That last part was the selling point :-). As we started our new co-habitation situation, I started dragging her to church. Eventually I got her involved with the musical ministry (she’s an amazing vocalist). We were able to server together on the team, I’d play guitar and she’d sing backup vocals. It was something we could do together and enjoy (or commiserate on depending on the day).
Things at the point seemed to be going well. We were happy, making enough money to set some aside for the wedding but then I had life changing injury. I had fallen at work and sprained my back. This incapacitated me for a number of weeks and wasn’t able to work my wonderful retail job. I was on track for management but my career path had come to an abrupt stop. I began to panic. Workers compensation only paid so much and we had bills to pay. With no degree and no other skills to speak of I was at a complete loss for what to do. I quickly learned the pills that eased the physical pain also eased the mental pain. It was something that I struggled with for a long time after.
So as I was in college I wanted to assert my independence. I got a full time job. I eventually moved out of my parents house since I was then able to support myself. In doing all of this I eventually stopped going to church. I didn’t feel like going anymore so I just stopped. When my parents asked I would tell them I had to work weekends (which was true). I will say this though, even though I had given up on church I had not given up on “God”. I still believed very heavily in Christianity.
At a certain point I came to a crossroads. I found the stress of a full time job and full time school to be a bit too much for me. I had to make a decision. This would follow me for years (and to an extent still does). I left school. I felt that the classes weren’t the right fit for me. My job gave me enough satisfaction that I thought I would make a career out of it.
This was also about the time I moved in with a girl with whom I had been dating. I didn’t seem like a big deal. I needed a place to live, she wanted to move out of her parent’s house. I remember at that time I could pack all of my belongings into my Hyundai Accent and just go. Things went ok for a while but I ignored a lot of my financial issues. It all came to a head one day when the bank wanted to repo my car. I ended breaking up with that girl and moving back in with my dad. That was perhaps one of the most humbling experience in my life.
I lived there only a short time before the “you should come back to church with us”‘s started. I eventually relented. It seemed serendipitous that the sermon was on the parodical son. I remember at the end of the service we got into small groups of people to pray for each other. At the end my dad pulled me in for a moment and said “He still loves you.” I began sobbing. And thus began my journey back to Christianity.
So at the ripe and enlightened age of 17 I was expected to pick the course of the rest of my life. Settling on computer science, I began applying to school and really wanted to get into the Rochester Institute of Technology. I applied to a few other schools but this was my dream school. Anxiously I awaited and eventually received my acceptance letter. I was thrilled! My father reviewed the documents and was concerned about the cost. We took a trip to the school and spoke with the financial aide department. Essentially there wasn’t anything they would be able to do about the cost and would need to take out loans for it. When we got back, home my dad essentially told me there was no way I was going to this school and needed to spend two years at community college. I was heartbroken.
I came to call this thirteenth grade. There were a lot of people I went to high school with that went here. I became resentful and didn’t put much effort into school. Instead I spent that time working on trying to become a leader in the church. I started a bible study at the college. I made sure to reserve the room that had the big windows so people could see us in there and might stop and ask about it. Didn’t get a whole lot of response to that. It ended up just being a bible study for the people that went to my church and school. This was also about the same time that I started taking classes at church. They weren’t formal learning but more of a getting to know yourself type thing. I’m realizing now how ineffective it is. Part of it was taking a Myers-Briggs test. When I first took it I was an ENFJ. I took it again a few years ago it had changed drastically to INTJ. After leaving the church I found how unreliable these tests actually are.
Part of my college curriculum required us to take the philosophy of logic. It basically teaches logic gates and how to calculate true/false statements. I found a lot of these portions very interesting and lead me to take a few other philosophy classes, ethics and metaphysics. Ethics was a pretty great class. It got me thinking about how we arrive at what we deem right and wrong. However, I essentially just used it to fill in the gaps of things not directly stated in the bible. Metaphysics was a bit more eye opening. Metaphysics deals with the nature of reality. Things like how do we know we’re not just a brain in a vat being fed memories and sensory inputs. I liked to entertain these types of thought experiments but didn’t put much actual stock into it.
I coasted through high school doing the least amount of work I could get away with. I began to resent school and wanted only to do “church stuff.” I was easier to me. There were few wrong answer do things and nearly no studying needed. When ever I came across a problem I didn’t know I could just answer “I feel like God is saying…” And that would be the end of it. I absolutely loved playing on the worship team. I replaced a lot of time studying school work with practicing playing guitar.
I think the first time I had any thought of doubt would have been freshman year. That’s the year, in my school, you took earth science. The age of the earth stuff never really bothered me, I hadn’t done the biblical math yet. He did say one thing that stuck with me though. He said “Sorry to break it to you but the water going off your back does so in the exact same pattern as a fish.” I never looked into this but it planted a small seed. In Sophomore year I had read up some on creationism and decided to debate my biology teacher on whether evolution was a real thing. I was indeed brought down from my high horse.
Being one that always enjoyed science,I began to shift my views on some of the teachings of the bible to what science had taught me. Instead of being a staunch “God did” christian, I decided that what ever science finds that “how” god did it. It was easier to maintain my cognitive dissonance that way. Not that I knew what that was before I left religion but I do now 🙂
Dating in high school was an interesting situation. Being that I was so into Christianity that left a lot of “normal” things off the table. However I had my father sending kind of mixed signals. He wanted me to have a similar high school experience to him however was also teaching me the morality of Christianity. He didn’t push abstinence only on me and told me that if I was going to have sex to use a condom. But at the same time telling me to do what the bible said (don’t have sex until marriage). This felt very conflicted. Along the same lines dating wasn’t supposed to be all fun and games, it was supposed to be looking for a future wife. How messed up is that? I was 15 years old and was supposed to be looking at every girl I dated as the girl I’m supposed to spend the rest of my life with? I didn’t even know what that was supposed to look like!
I dated girls off and on, some serious, some not so serious. But I always put my whole heart into it, so it hurt anytime I was broken up with. I recently found my old livejournal account (everyone had one at the time…dating myself I know), and realized I was kind of an ass. I dated girls and looked for a way out to date some other girl I may have liked. Not realizing at the time that I was doing anything wrong. It kinda makes me sick looking back at it now.
One thing that did come from that thought was I did meet the person I would spend the rest of my life with. She was in one of my classes. I won’t go too deep into it now as that’s for another post entirely but she was certainly the greatest thing that came from high school. Being the “good” Christian that I was, I of course had to make sure she started going to my church. I dragged her along with me to as many youth events as she’d agree to go to. Long story short we got married at that church.
With my new career path I thought about how to get what I felt “called” to do. I began going to as many church meetings as I could. Not being able to drive yet I pretty much just tagged along with anything my parents went to. I attended both my parents bible study as well as the high school bible study, being on the worship team I also attended both services on Sunday. I soaked it all in.
As time went on I began to lead worship in those bible studies, which were groups of about 10 – 15 people. I also began to lead some of the studies. Anyone who has done any kind of teaching knows that it forces you to learn more. Problem here, in hindsight, is that I was simply accepting what I was learning as truth with out question. I guess you could say I had “blind faith”. Why would all these adults lie to me?
During high school I had changing interests. I was involved in the school musical freshman year, I was in the chess club (briefly), but the one thing that never wavered was church and the pursuit of the knowledge of god.
I have to go back a little ways and talk about an interest that started back in middle school. I was in eighth grade English when one of my passions came to realization. I loved writing. I wrote poems, stories, tales of my life pretty much all the time. I always had a notebook with me and just wrote what came to mind. I wish I could find some of those now. As I began to do this whole god thing all of my creative juices flowed into that. But the passion of it just didn’t seem to be there. I became obsessed with making sure that the poems I wrote could be come a worship song. I suppressed writing about topics that I found interesting because they didn’t go with what god would want. Eventually I just let it go. I gave up trying. I gave up writing. I wonder where I would be if I hadn’t.
Junior year I took a class in drafting. I would design things (like a model house or a bridge) and then build them. I found this to be a pretty neat thing. There was a course that followed this in Computer Aided Drafting. Basically using the computer to do the designs. I didn’t have much experience with computers at this point (we didn’t have one at home yet…yeah I’m old and my father is a late adopter of technology). This sparked the interest that would eventually shape my career path. I found using the computer easy and interesting. People complain that computers never work the way they are supposed to, but they just do exactly as they are told (as I write this I’m realizing the parallel between my love for the computer and my investment in religion). I tend to retort with “Computers are great at making highly accurate mistakes”. Garbage in garbage out. Much like my brain until recently…
As we were settling in our new home, my step-mother’s mother had been housing some of our belongings during the transition. While mulling around the basement of her house one day I came across a guitar. I had never held a guitar before nor did I have any idea of how to play it but I knew that I needed to learn it so I could join the worship team. I asked my dad about it and he said that if I could save of up enough money to get it fixed it was mine and he would teach me. I was so excited! Mostly because it was the first time in my life that I had found something that I had an interest in that my father did too.
Over the next few months I saved every penny I could. I did extra chores, hunted in couch cushions, collected bottles and cans. And at last I had the money I needed! We brought it down to the local music store and had them fix it up. A week later I brought it home and then eagerly awaited instruction from my dad. And waited. I had purchased a couple of song books along with the repair so I opened them seeing if I could read the music. Not so much. But on the tops of the music there were musical notes with little diagrams that looked like guitar strings. I put my fingers on the appropriate dots and gave it a strum.
Music! It made a pretty noise! I continued to follow along as it was a song I was very familiar with (Hotel California by The Eagles). Before I knew it I had “played” the song…Very slowly transitioning between the chords but it was there. I was ecstatic, but it was short lived. I brought my new marvel to my father and he was just disappointed. He told me I was doing my fingering wrong and that I should have waited for him. It was a crushing blow to my spirits but I pushed on. This time waiting for his instruction.
I picked up the basics pretty quickly and soon I was to the point where I had learned everything my dad could teach. I began taking private lessons from the worship leaders at church. After much discussion with them I decide to sell my acoustic guitar and purchase an electric one. I found it much easier to play, however I wasn’t much of a lead guitarist. I could play the notes they wrote down for me but couldn’t improvise well. But I continued to work.
A few months went by and there was an announcement at the church that they would be holding open auditions for the worship team. We had grown as a church and had purchased our own building in this time. They were set to go to multiple services on Sunday morning and needed more musicians. I eagerly submitted my application (which was about 5 pages long) and marked my calendar for the day of the instrumental audition.
When the time came I was more than nervous. I had practiced my songs for weeks and knew everything like the back of my hand but just the fact that I knew I was being judged was a scary proposition. The band started and I played my heart out. Well as best I could. I felt every wrong note with a deep agony thinking that would be what cut me. I pressed forward though, knowing the song wouldn’t stop for me. We finished the two audition songs and all I got was a thank you, and was on my way.
The days that followed were pure agony. I waited by the phone and was the first to the mailbox every day. When the phone rang and someone else some how got to it before me I waited to hear my name called from across the house and was usually met with silence. The call finally did come. It was the guy in charge of the worship team asking if I’d like to join the main sanctuary team! I was elated! I thought that I might be added to the children’s wing team but never thought I’d be there!
This is where began to think, “Maybe I could do this for a job some day!”
So I’d been hooked. I was all in. Let’s do this church thing. It was relevant, I could understand the messages, it had good music. We started going every week, and I looked forward to it. During this time we moved to a new town much closer to the church. This meant a new school, a loss of friends, social isolation. I found adjusting to the new situation very difficult. Up until this point had I had done very well in school but the new school didn’t have the advanced classes I was slated to be in. I quickly became bored and my grades began to slip. This is about the time my depression started creeping in.
Desperate for friends it came as a pleasant surprise when someone that went to my school happened to go to my church. He invited me one Sunday to a mid-week kinship (the church’s word for a small group or bible study). I eagerly accepted. Finally a chance to make some friends and learn more about church stuff! Looking back a 14 year old seeking community….yeah I was a perfect mark for indoctrination. Young enough to be impressionable but old enough to think I was making my own choices.
I stayed a steady B student in school, doing the bare minimum worth of work. Not because I wanted to but for fear of how my father would react otherwise. I had a knack for not studying or doing homework but doing well enough on tests that would carry my grades. It was good enough for me. It kept me out of the wrath of my father, but at a cost. I essentially gave up my love of learning, which in tow killed my critical thinking ability.
Going back a little I had a huge love of science. In 8th grade I had a science teacher that would tell us things and I would go home and test them. She told us once about super-saturated solutions. Essentially if you boil water and add salt and then allow the water to evaporate over time you’d end up with large salt crystals. I went home and tried this and I didn’t get the salt crystals. I reported back with my findings and she told me to try it with sugar. This time it worked and had a pretty cool looking sugar formation (I happened to win the outstanding science student that year, not to toot my own horn). The point of the story is to illustrate that at one time in my life I didn’t just take peoples word for things and actually tested and researched things. This died in high school. Looking back at all of this I realize this made me even more impressionable towards religious beliefs. I just took people’s word for it and didn’t bother thinking about things for myself. I believed because “well this guy is an authority and he wouldn’t lie to me.” I now know this as a logical fallacy known as the argument form authority.
I feel that I would have picked back up on critical thinking had I not been so into the church. If I didn’t have that feeling of having all the answers. Hindsight is 20/20, I’d have a very different life right now had I not gone all in, if I had kept my questioning hat on. I don’t know where that would have lead me but I’d have nearly a twenty year head start from where I am now.
I still remember my dad “asking” my brother and me if we wanted to check out his girlfriend’s church. Whenever he asked us a question like this it was never really meant to be evaluated by us. We knew what the answer was to be, yes. But even so I was kind of excited to check it out. They told me it would be different than the church I used to go to, so I figured it couldn’t be any worse. I did however find it a little odd that someone would go to church every single week…why?
So Sunday rolls around and we all pack in the car and drive the half hour to a pizza place…wait what? Dad parked the car…on the street and I’m thinking to myself, “so this church is in a pizza place and doesn’t have a parking this is a joke right?” As it turns out that the church was ABOVE the pizza place…still weird. We got to the top of the stairs and looked around. This was indeed very different from the Catholic church I had attended twice a year before. There were no pews, just rows of what looked like fairly comfortable chairs. The room was much smaller than I thought it would be. The rooms was the size of a gas station mini-mart instead of the size of a small mall.
The big thing that was different, and the thing that got me hooked, was that there was a band. Not like a group of people and an organ but like a real band. Electric guitar, bass, keyboard, drums, a real real band. I wouldn’t have thought that a church had something so cool! We grabbed our little programs and my future stepmother and current father were chatting with friends as I stood there awkwardly. We eventually took our seats and the music started. As engaged as I was with the idea of it the actual production of it drew me in closer.
The words we on an overhead projector so it was easy to follow along. I decided at that moment that, that was something I wanted to do. I wanted to be someone on that stage playing and singing. I didn’t know how to play anything other than the recorder I learned in second grade. Nor could I sing…like at all…it was bad. But I knew that’s what I wanted more than anything else (in my pre-teen mind).
That’s how I got hooked. Next week I’ll talk about where that lead me.