After getting nothing from the sermon, praying for God to reveal himself, and in serious doubt that he would answer, the church service was finished. However, after letting out my frustrations to God in prayer, I felt oddly at peace. I brought my mom back home and moved on with my life. I really felt that I needed help, but it seemed that God was not the answer. I tried going back to church and it did absolutely nothing for me. “Maybe, I should try something Eastern, like Buddhism or forget religion altogether and check myself in somewhere” I reasoned with myself. By the next morning, I just went back to my routine and forgot all about the prayer and had no ambition to get any help from anywhere no matter the source.
During this time, I worked at a grocery store on the midnight shift. While everyone was sleeping I was putting the groceries on the shelves. I had crazy colored hair. I drove a hearse (you know the funeral car, the one that they put coffins in). I definitely was not the type you would think would be desperately longing for God, somewhere deep down inside.
My routine was this: when I would get off work in the morning, I would go home and flip through channels, until I would get bored enough to fall asleep. Let me tell you, there is nothing on in the mid-morning, no matter how many channels you have. A few days after I went to church, my routine was interrupted by a knock on the door. I proceeded to open the door and was greeted by two young girls and behind them was standing a slightly older young man. They were there trying to give me a pamphlet about Jesus.
Now, you have to understand that growing up in the suburbs of Grand Rapids in the 90’s meant that Christianity was basically shoved down your throat. In fact, in order to be one of the “cool” kids, you had to be a Christian. Which I most definitely was not (cool nor Christian). It wasn’t as if I was on the lower echelon of the popularity scale, but not having a load of designer clothes and a youth group to call home, was definitely a social detriment. Some of my friends, the Christian ones, would try to get me to go to church. Here are two samples of how they would do this: (1) telling me that the girls at their youth group were hot and easy; and (2) that they were going to have some Christian rock band concert with their very own mosh pit. Well, why in the world would I want a Christian girlfriend, especially an easy one (I didn’t know if they were really easy or not but that’s what I was told). Anyways, shouldn’t easy and Christian be an oxymoron? Also, I once heard Marilyn Manson say somewhere that moshing was the sign of the apocalypse. Why would they have that at church? One of my friends told me that their moshing was kinder because they picked you up after you get knocked over. Oh, so basically Christian moshing was just a watered down version of the secular one. No thanks, back then I liked my moshing full-strength.
With these examples in my mind, I stared at the young ladies in front of me as they bubbly rambled on with their spiel. Thinking to myself, “oh boy here we go again. I wonder what gimmick they are going to try to peddle to me in order that I give their Jesus a try.” I really wasn’t feeling that church was the answer. I just wanted to get rid of them as soon as possible. I suddenly, without thinking, opened my mouth and these words came tumbling out: “I am sorry, I have my own church.” I was just about to slam the door when the guy behind the two girls stepped up and shoved a flyer into my stomach saying in a thick Californian surfer accent: “what’s it going to hurt?” It is a weird thing that when someone shoves something into your personal space you grab it as an auto-response. I looked down at the flyer in my hand, shrugged, and proceeded to slam the door in their faces.
After dismissing the annoying interruption to my routine, I sat back on the couch with the flyer in hand. However, “what’s it going to hurt?” was bouncing around in my head and driving me to read the flyer. I examined the front of the flyer, it had a collection of people and races grouped together. They were all happy. “Interesting,” I thought, “Weren’t all Christians racist? This doesn’t look racist. Maybe there is something different about this. Plus, that guy’s accent meant that he wasn’t from around here. Maybe, they are not part of the fake brand of Christianity that I am accustomed to.” The flyer was titled “Revelation Promises Hope.”
I was amused but not convinced that I should try out this “Revelation Promises Hope” thing. I tossed the pamphlet on the floor and proceeded to begin flipping through the channels again. All of sudden a small voice admonished me: “pick up the flyer and read it.” So, I picked it up and read the inside of the flyer. It listed all sorts of titles that were going to be presented. One that really resonated with me was “If God is so Good, Why is the World so Bad?” That! That is exactly what I wanted to know. Too bad it was already presented. “Oh well,” I said as I flicked the flyer back onto the floor. That voice again urged me to pick up the flyer and read it in its entirety. I reviewed the entire flyer and thought, “this does look good.” Then I turned it over and on the back panel it said “meet our speaker: ex-atheist…ex-punk rocker…ex-skateboarder…” “Why is he holding the Bible with a suit!” I wondered in amazement. I could identify with everything he was. Maybe he could make sense of this God stuff.
I was compelled to go to the meetings…but I really didn’t want to go by myself. What if they were a cult and were going to try to give me Kool-Aid laced with cyanide. I sent up a sort of prayer-petition-thought-doubt-ramble-thing to God. I mean I didn’t even know if He existed, let alone listened and answered. What I said to God was this: “If this is from you, can you send that guy with the surfer accent back down the street and have him take me to these meetings?” After sending that off to God, I sauntered out and sat on the front porch awaiting His answer.
I waited…and waited… and waited some more. Then I gave up. I decided it was time to go in and go to bed.
As I was opening the door to come back inside, I glanced back down the street one last time while thinking, “I knew it, God you don’t…Exi….” I didn’t have time to finish my thought because there was that surfer accent guy walking down the street, by himself. I really thought I stumped God with my request. I used to sell World’s Finest Chocolate Bars door-to-door in order to earn money for school trips. You don’t go back down the street you just covered. You always move on trying to get to as many doors as possible in a short amount of time to achieve your goal. On top of that, why did he leave those two girls? But there he was, alone and headed right for me.
Now, even though in my Atheism, I had prayed to God many of those if-you-get-me-out-of-this-I-will-do-such-and-such prayers too many times only to not follow through, I decided that this one was way too weird to do such a thing. Consequently, when the guy arrived back in front of my house, I approached him and told him, “Hey, I want to go to these meetings. Can you take me?” To which he replied, “Sure thing, Brother.”
“Brother! There is no way I am his brother. We are opposites. We are from completely different worlds, let alone states,” I deliberated to myself. We worked out the details and that night I was at the meetings. The people there were ultra-friendly but not in a creepy way. The message was very coherent and the presentation was dynamic. No Charlie Brown cartoon here. It was the most logical church meeting I have ever attended. I was, however, thrown into the deep end since the topics built on each other and my first night was like night number 14. I asked the guy with the surfer accent some questions about what was presented. He replied, “we really need to get you caught up and told me to wait there.” He came back and handed me a cassette tape on night number two. A cassette tape, what is this the 1980’s? I took it and wondered where I had put that old Sony Walkman I got when I was like 10.
Okay, so that tape changed my life. Daniel 2, for someone who loved history class in high school, was just the thing I needed. As I listened to it, I said what nation each metal was before he said what the metal represented. I thought I had him after Rome. I knew that Rome was not conquered. I thought I could prove this whole Bible thing wrong. Nope, he said exactly what I knew was historically true. There is no way a book written by man could predict these things. No more atheism for me; now I was a believer in the Bible and an all-knowing God. But not so sure about this Jesus guy and Christianity.
The next evening, I got the rest of the tapes and was caught up in two days. Just in time for the speaker to announce that he was going to give his testimony that Saturday morning (Something I learned was that there was no place in the Bible that said we should go to church on Sunday, but that the Sabbath was Saturday). The problem was I worked Friday night and there was no way I would be able to go to both the morning and evening meetings after working throughout the previous night before. The guy with the accent, my bible worker—that is what they called the people who helped people at the meetings—asked me, “Do you have to work? Should you be working?” To which I replied, “you know what, I don’t think I have to, I don’t think I should.” So, I called up my job, told them that Friday sundown to Saturday sundown was my holy day. Therefore, I was not coming in and that I would not work another Friday night ever. They could fire me if they didn’t like it. They did not fire me and gave me my holy day off.
I went to hear the speaker’s testimony that Saturday morning. At the end of it, I went forward on an appeal to get baptized. In about two weeks after that, I was baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist church the first weekend of August in 2000. Wow, look at everything God did to save me but the best was yet to come…
[To be continued…]