Something happened the other day at church…something I never expected…something I was totally unprepared for, but hey…I guess that’s what I need to learn, expect the unexpected.
I guess I should start off by giving you a little more back ground before delving into what happened and why it shook me so much. I grew up in a typical American family, a mom and dad, two older brothers and a dog. My mom and dad’s oldest daughter died before she reached her teen years and, because they really wanted a daughter, they decided to adopt one…me! I am the youngest.
My dad grew up in, I believe, a Baptist-based family, and I know that my Grandpa had, at one point in his life, taught Sunday school. I know this because later in life, I had sought out some guidance from him for some help with some understanding with some passages in the bible and he told me of his studies and teachings. I’m not sure what my Grandma’s religion was based on but I do know that she believed in God. On my mother’s side, I honestly cannot say what kind of faith or religion they grew up in because I don’t recall her sharing much. Moreover, as I was growing up, church, religion, faith…in itself..was not really incorporated into our lives. I went to church once with my aunt and uncle, and may have attended church a few times for different weddings, I prayed with family over blessing at dinners, and my mom and I went to church one time together before I was eighteen. I do, however, know that I was baptized at that same Presbyterian church when I was a baby. Beyond that, my parents only told me that there was, indeed, a God, and that I should believe in him. So I did.
My parents were not rich, but they were well off enough that I didn’t have to ask for much. I didn’t have to pray much for things that many people I now know would consider to be blessings to have, and that I now consider to be blessings to have as well. Nonetheless, while money and material never seemed to be much of an object, material life itself was still that easy for me. As I got older, my brothers…who were already a good deal older than I, had started doing things on their own with their own friends, and my parents would continue to do their own thing that, well, kept them from connecting with me. I started to become accustomed to solitude. Along with that, I never seemed to grow out of that “tomboy” stage that everyone seemed so certain I was going to. That led to a great deal of bullying throughout school, which put me into even more solitude, save for a couple of close friends…thankfully. All I had, by the end of my high school career, was myself and my own inner workings of my complex mind. God was still a mere belief that he existed and that he is around, making the world work. I didn’t rely on Him for help, although I did often pray for Him to help me…but it was unreasonable prayers, such as praying to Him that I would wake up in the morning and I would be a man. I suppose it’s possible…but not likely. Like I said, my own inner workings of my mind, over such a long time, exposed to not much else but myself, had become quite complex that I was living a practically whole other life but my own. Every morning would come and I would wake up a woman. I thought I could rely only on myself and the tangible world to make “things” so. Although I still believed in God, I just knew that most of the time, He couldn’t help me, or He wasn’t listening.
When I was eighteen, I decided, with some encouragement from a girl that I was dating in another state, to seek out a church on my own. It was a church that fully accepted the LGBT community, so I figured this would be the best bet for me. Not only could they teach me about God, but I would be with my peers. I went for a couple months, but for some reason, I couldn’t get on board. What was wrong with me? Do I really believe?
For a while, in my twenties, I did what all twenty-somethings do, go out and have fun. I didn’t get into much trouble, I didn’t develop any bad habits…even though I tried, yet, discovered I lacked the commitment, and I’m honestly not sure if I gave God much thought again during that time. It seemed like it was too hard.
In my later twenties, I met a Catholic girl, from a super-Catholic family, that I really took to. I didn’t get all super-Catholic, but I did study up a little bit, took part in praying the Rosary every night with her family, sometimes in Latin, went to their church with them a few times, spoke with her mom on many occasions about many topics of faith, searching for that which I thought I was looking for. That was about seven years ago. I would probably venture to say that Catholicism, that family, is my most solid foundation that I have for finding God, Jesus, and Faith. I studied up on what I should know, the principles, the roots, etc. All of this was found in Iowa. And then I moved back to Michigan to be with my family again.
Upon moving back to Michigan, I decided I was going to convert to Catholicism and started taking classes. After taking the first class, they told me it was going to cost money! Money! I didn’t have that anymore. My life had changed so much since I had gone out on my own and so had my parent’s. The money and material was no longer there. So I had taken what I had learned and made it my own without the label of being called a Catholic. I decided that with that knowledge, belief, and faith, I could make it on my own and that I was a good Christian and felt good in that.
When I was twenty-nine, I wanted so badly to have a child. This was not an easy task for me. I felt like time was running out, as I was getting older, and options were limited for me, as having a male partner in my life is slim to none. But nonetheless, with help, and on the first try, I was blessed enough to get pregnant. Other than my two best friends, one who I had known since I was nineteen, the other who I had only known for two years, my mom was my only support. Everyone else in my family seemed to give me grief about it. That was hard for me, but I tread on, because I couldn’t have been more happy about this little blessing in my life that I had wanted for so long. But seven months in, I lost him. I was devastated. Everyone was so worried that I was going to do something to myself, that I was going to kill myself.
My best friend, now wife, started questioning God more than I did at that point. Asking God “why?” Even at my worst, sitting there in the driveway after coming back from the funeral home to make preparations, I simply said, “because He said so…” She also explained to everyone that they shouldn’t be worried about me killing myself because my faith was grounded enough, and that I was too worried about going to Hell if I kill myself and I needed to get to Heaven to see my son one day. Therefore, I won’t ever kill myself.
As the next few years rolled by and changes kept rolling with them, I kept my faith, my beliefs, despite the massive hits my heart took, and what would have rocked anyone’s faith…didn’t seem to rock mine. If I went to church, I went…if I didn’t, I didn’t…I received my messages any way that I would get them, although I can’t say if that was right or wrong.
Another major hit came last year. My other best, the only friend I had left, Kevin, died. The story is much to complex to go into, but in the end, well…my best friend is no longer with me. That should have rocked my faith as well, and perhaps it did more than I thought…because I know that I went into a really dark place. Maybe I just came out of it…I’m not sure. What I do know is…there is so much going on, so many changes, so many shades of light and dark that I’m struggling to find my way around. But I saw a light, I saw lots of them, in fact…and now I’m running to catch them. I want them like I’ve never wanted anything.
My wife and I decided that we are moving to Arizona at the end of the summer. Detroit is no longer the place we wish to be. It’s a dead end here and we have both wanted to be in Arizona for a long time. We took a four day trip just last week to go look for a place to live and stayed with her cousins.
On the first day we arrived, we had planned on looking at a few different places that we had already set up appointments with. We made it to the first appointment, then started driving around to kill time until the next appointment. Whilst driving, we stumbled upon an apartment complex that caught our attention and everything about it just seemed “just right” for the two of us and our daughter. We toured, we applied, and now…we’re waiting. They told us we’d have to wait, but they also told us we shouldn’t worry at all and that we shouldn’t look any further. How dumb is that to go all the way across the country, put all your eggs in one basket, and then call the rest of your time there a vacation…no matter how much a vacation is deserved and needed? I mean…we have very limited resources, in fact, one of our daily prayers is to find the ability to be able to make it possible to move there in the first place with what resources, financial and otherwise, in the first place. It’s dumb. But my wife put all her faith in this, and I said “okay.” That’s not like me. I don’t do that…I balance things. I’m perfectly fine with prayers but I need back-up plans up the wazoo as well. But I was fine with things at first.
We left the complex feeling great about everything, the next day we checked out the school and felt even better about the decision, yet we were still waiting on the complex to give us their decision. The next day we headed up to Sedona for an amazing experience, starting with a beautiful drive, a visit to the cathedral on the mountain and kneeling in the church for, yet, another prayer, then spending the day together. The day was nearly majestic.
On the way home, we get into a discussion about my doubts, my fear, which led to her feeling like her faith was being attacked and then she started feeling doubt and fear. Suddenly, we started feeling not so good about things. However, the next day was Sunday, and we had every intention of going to church with her cousins. We didn’t make in time for the first service though. We stayed in bed and continued the discussion from the previous night, then took a deep breath and decided we needed church and that there was a message there waiting for us.
Indeed, there was. They were studying Hebrews, however, I can’t tell you what part, or what was really said from Hebrews, and I haven’t even opened my Bible since I’ve been home to check any of it out. But what was said that completely messed me up was that “belief is not faith.”
Believing in God is simply stating that you believe He exists…and He already knows that about himself. Having Faith in him means TRUSTING in him, taking those risks, blind faith at times, even. So basically, this whole time, I’ve merely been believing that He is there but I haven’t entrusted Him with anything because I haven’t given my life over to Him, nor have I entrusted him with any of my struggles, desires, etc. I’ve been walking in fear and doing absolutely nothing about it.
At this very moment, we have money for the deposit for the apartment and absolutely no money to get there. I have to trust God that He will help my wife and I find a way to be able to move the two of us and our daughter, with our furniture, from here to there, and I don’t know how…but I trust that He’s going to show me how to do it.
And that’s Faith…jumping…risking…trusting. That’s what I never had before. And when I found out that I had been missing all of that…I was so hurt and disappointed in myself, feeling like I had been disappointing Him all along, that I cried the whole sermon. After the service, they called for those who might want to come and receive God into their hearts that day. I thought about it…it wasn’t as if I didn’t have God in my heart, it was just that I didn’t have Him there as I thought I did. But I walked up there anyway, feeling small…but proud to take those steps!
So now I’m on a journey, a walk of faith, to strengthen my faith, my trust in God and all He can do for me, for all of us. He made me, I am His child, He knows how to speak to me and through me, and the way I believe he does that…is through music…
A few months ago, I made a playlist on my mp3 player called “Finding Myself.” It had nothing to do with God. But as I switched it over yesterday morning on the plane back to Detroit from Phoenix, it became clear to me that, if I listen, really listen, God really does talk to me through music….I just have to listen. It’s a bunch of various genres of songs, rock, country, celtic, anything, so don’t be surprised if you don’t here actual Christian music. So as I’m walking, with His guidance…I just need to listen…
This song doesn’t take much to interpret. I’ve been listening to this song since I was young. I’ve always loved it…I’ve always belted it out in my own private concerts in my room, and it’s always given me inspiration, but so far…except for visits to actual physical “higher grounds”…I’ve never gotten anywhere. I decided to start with this song because, twice, so far…this song has come around in the last twenty-four hours.