I am a Christian and this is a big deal for me. I grew up in a “Christian home” with two loving parents, for which I am mighty grateful, and I always “believed” Christian truth.
My testimony is rather pedestrian: No drugs. No alcohol. No abuse. No prison time.
I have no Damascus Road Experience.
But I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day.
No one is saved because they grew up in a “Christian home.” Faith has to be an individual thing. You enter through the strait gate all alone or not at all.
Here are the top life experiences that formed my faith, that made me personally invested in my Christian faith, what made it mine, and served to grow it. They are in roughly chronological order.
1) Being legally blind. Walking by faith and not by sight is something I do every day! I cannot see half of what’s going on. I have learned many ways to cover this fact, to the extent that most people who know me have no idea how little I see. I, in fact, actually have no idea how little I see! What I do know, is that I’ve had to learn to take other people’s word for it when I ask what’s going on, or where something is, or what is on that menu up there.
2) Being bullied. I gotta tell ya, the modern anti-bullying movement really irritates me. Suck it up, people! I was made fun of my entire life. Even now, as a 40-year old man, kids stare at my crossed eyes and make comments. Being bullied made me an observer of people. It made me a thinker. It gave me the blessing of sarcastic wit. It has taught me the crumminess of human nature and the security that is in Christ. Bullying may have been the most formative element of my life. To all you bullies out there: Thank you! I couldn’t have done it without ya!
3) Going to college. Getting out on my own, out of the “Christian home” and into the world on my own to work, go to school, have a checkbook, pay rent, etc. was huge for my little insecure self. I rethought everything there. I quit going to church for about two years, having grown up going to church three times a week. I read the Bible. I marked up the Bible. I read theological books. I prayed. I began to figure out what I believed. Without discomfort, there can be no growth. If mommy and daddy are always there, you will remain a moron.
4) Getting married. Good Lord, I had no idea what a selfish jerk I was. OK, I had an idea, I just had no idea how huge a problem it was. Living with another person totally showed me my disease, the greatness of grace and how much I need love.
5) Becoming a pastor. I quit being a pastor less than two years in, before coming back and now being in my 14th year of pastorship. There were any number of reasons for my brief quitting, one was that I felt I was in over my head. I also had a fair amount of people telling me I was in over my head more than I actually was, which didn’t help. Taking the responsibility of teaching the Bible completely revolutionized my faith. Being freaked out about this responsibility has driven me to the Word, to the ministry of the Holy Spirit and my dependence on Jesus Christ.
6) Becoming a father. In all honesty, nothing has taught me more about the character of God than being a dad. The Old Testament completely makes sense to me looking at it from a father’s perspective. God loves His kids, but wow, can they be irritating.
7) Death of my father. My dad was “My Guy.” When I had theological questions, he typically answered them, or at least gave me a sarcastic answer that made me have to think it through for myself. When he died, I was, in a sense, on my own. My Bible reading went up a notch. Also seeing how young he died totally changed my attitude toward physical things. The entire year after my dad died, I only bought two things for myself: A 2-liter of soda and a pack of socks. I wrote a book about detaching from money that six people liked. My attitudes toward life, people and possessions completely changed after my dad’s death. I can’t even explain exactly why, I just know it’s true.
8) Biking and running. When I was 16, all my friends were getting driver’s licenses except me, the blind kid. I bought a $300 bike with my paper route money and took off. I’ve been biking ever since. Running has also played a part in my life from being the only thing in gym I could win, to “running” a marathon. The time running and biking is mostly where I think and pray and go over sermon material and pontificate and occasionally preach at trees. These activities have never been merely “exercise” for me. It is also a form of transportation and freedom for a blind guy, which is nice.
9) Writing. I won a writing contest when I was in kindergarten for the award-winning novel, How Mallards Got Their Color. I had my first article published when I was in college. I have written all sorts of things, a surprising number have actually been published by other people who paid me even! Not blogging is apparently impossible for me. Writing is how I process thoughts. Usually, to understand something, I have to write about it. It’s why I’m writing about turning 40 see. Without writing, I’d be even dumber than I currently am.