Okay so this is kind of an update slash a chance for me to share something I have been working on for a while. Amanda is moving into our new place next week! We are so freaking excited! We have been working our butts off trying to save up some money for next months party aka our wedding. The only downer at the moment is that Amanda had to get her wisdom teeth removed on Wednesday and she is in quite a bit of pain. SO, be praying that she heals up quick and can enjoy moving in. We can hardly believe next month is our wedding. We are pretty much done planning minus the last details. It has been nice to just chill the past couple of weeks rather than run around like mad. Exciting! Okay, okay, now I have to be a little selfish and share something cool with you all. I started working on a book back in January and kind of put it on hold until now because of the madness that is our life. Well, I think I have finished the first chapter so I wanted to post the Foreward and that Chapter to see what you all think. I apologize if it is a little scattered brained right now but I am excited that I have had some time to work on it. Amanda really thinks I should be a writer/teacher and I have been feeling a tug to maybe change directions with school a little. All of that to say, God is giving me a new vision for life and I am excited. Music will still be my main gig for sure, but I think God has some cool plans for Amanda and I when we get married and I think part of that is this new vision He is revealing to me. Anyway, here is what I have so far...sorry this is a killer long post. Please dont feel obligated to read ;)
Here is the truth. There is this point that I came to in my spiritual journey where I just did not know anymore. I did not know what I believed, who I believed in, why I believed in it, so on. But, I did not give up. Most people know this “fork in the road” as the twenty somethings. The amazing part about being twenty and becoming an adult is that everyone has to go through that stage of their life. So, everyone whether they are religious or not goes through this stage of figuring out what in the world this life is all about.
I have been a Christian for most of my life. I grew up in a Christian home with parents who worked or helped in the church until I was in middle school. Very safe, very happy I suppose. I am very thankful for how I was raised as a matter of fact. Although, now that I am twenty years old and getting married my perspective is very different. The whole process of growing up can really mess with your faith. You think that you are secure in something you have had for all of your life and then all of the sudden it is as if the ice has broken under your feet and you are left to swim in freezing water. I think that is a pretty good picture of how I have felt for the past year or so. God and I are on great terms though. I had conversation recently with one of my best friends and accountability partners about that specific feeling. The feeling of, man I just don’t connect with God during worship or I don’t feel sincere praying this bold prayer about changing the world. I also heard a recent sermon about not trying to have the same spirituality you did at a past point of your life. The conclusion my friend came to, and I as well, is this: at the end of the day there is something inside of me (and most likely you) that cries out to God. The God of Abraham. The God of Jacob. The God that sent Jesus to save the world from itself. I can’t really explain why I do or why I wake up and talk with this God, but something in my spirit demands this interaction.
So I kind of lied in the beginning. Although I felt as if I did not know what I believed, deep down I still believed the same thing just in a different shape. This book is my attempt at sharing how my journey has developed over the past two years starting on my 18th birthday and leading to now as a soon to be married young man. I would not call this a self-help book or some formulated guide to being an awesome Christian because I am definitely not that. Instead this is more of a therapeutic way for me to be honest with others and to be honest with myself. In the end I hope someone can pick this book up, read it, and feel like they are not the only Christian in the world that is going through this strange stage of life.
I remember laying in my bed the night that I turned 18 going through this crazy thought process and realization that I suddenly had the choice to do a lot of crazy things. I had the choice to get married, move out, buy cigarettes, and more importantly the choice to not believe in the whole Christianity thing. This is a very significant moment in time for anyone who has believed the same thing as his or her parents for 18 years. I begin to analyze my whole spirituality piece by piece, break it down, and then put it back together. I am sure this is a very normal thing to do. The interesting thing to me is that everyone has a moment where they start to wonder if what they think to be true is actually true. You don’t have to be a Christian in order to think those thoughts. Everybody turns 18, moves out, goes to college, and starts their own life. This requires one to decide what they want to do for themselves. You no longer have your parents telling you that you are not allowed to have a girl or guy over, you no longer have someone calling and asking where you are at three in the morning, and you no longer have someone to provide for you. IF you are a Christian, you no longer have parents telling you to go to church on Sunday morning or telling you to go to youth group on Wednesday night. There is this new freedom in life that was not there before. Yeah, yeah, you already know all of that. That speech has been given a thousand times by fifty other authors. What’s the point? The point is what do you do next? So you have all of this freedom, so you have this choice to be who you want to be. What do you do with it? As a follower of Christ what do you do with this new freedom?
For me, and I imagine for many others, I had to figure out what I actually believed. Youth group can really screw up a person’s idea of spirituality. You go through this crazy four years of super hyped up worship, prayer, and spiritual mountain tops, to basically nothing. Nothing being a truer picture of reality in the world than the super youth group feeling. Now don’t get me wrong, youth group is awesome. I would not take back the experiences I had in my various church youth groups for the world because it made me who I am today. But, I do not think the spirituality that is presented in a youth group setting is always a clear picture of what spirituality is like in the real world. Over the past few years I have really struggled with figuring out how my spirituality is supposed to look outside of the youth group setting. And believe me, this is not an easy thing to figure out. Part of me wants to never go to church while the other part is desperate to have a strong community with other believers. I know this is the typical thing for a college age student to think and feel but I also feel like there has never been a great solution to the problem. So rather than complain, here I am writing it all down in hopes to help others in the future.
Right now my fiancé and I are in the process of leaving the church we have been involved in for a number of years and getting plugged into the place we want to call home. We both came to a place where we were no longer being filled and felt like something needed to change in order to preserve our relationship/spirituality. Switching churches is a scary thing to do. You leave the place you have been most comfortable for a number years feeling empty and arrive in a new place trying to figure out why you felt empty in the first place. I will be honest and say the first few weeks have not been awesome. We are still getting plugged in to a small group and all of that so I understand some time is needed to start fresh. There is something cool about starting fresh especially spiritually. You kind of reach this point where all hell breaks loose, literally, but then God reminds you of His grace and life kind of falls back into place. Sound familiar?
Grace is a bizarre thing to me. Amanda and I were talking recently about growing up in church. Well, for me growing up in church I suppose and for her what it has been like since you became a Christian in high school. Grace becomes this gift, in some but not all cases, that is only available to a certain group of people. There are all of these rules and ideas people create. If you don’t fit that mold you are just stuck. I have never felt like I don’t fit that mold, but I have never been thrilled with the idea of there being a mold in the first place. Now that my angst against some churches is out I should also mention that I am constantly amazed at when the church is really being the church, the world takes notice. When we really love each other and practice the free grace that was given to the whole world, “Since God so loved the World,” people take notice. This is one thing youth group spirituality does a great job of presenting and why I mentioned so much about it earlier. The issue is, when you get out of that bubble it becomes extremely hard to figure out how to connect on a spiritual level with the world around you.
College is an interesting place to try and figure out your spirituality. A lot of new comes with being in college. Depending on where you go to college also determines how much new is put in front of you. College becomes the plateau of freedom after you turn eighteen. You finally move out of the house and are free to make any decisions you want. My roommate Preston and I had some crazy stuff happen before we actually made it to Middle Tennessee State University. For a very long time I desperately wanted to go to Belmont University to study Music Business. However, Belmont is not a cheap school. I tried really hard to get the scholarship money needed in order to pay for Belmont but the money never added up to the cost of tuition. In fact I don’t think I got anything from Belmont because my ACT score was not high enough. So, I ended up taking my second choice in schools, MTSU. I was pretty pissed about going to MTSU. On top of that, the apartment building I was moving into caught on fire after being struck by lightning, which meant I could not move in. I was stuck going to the second school on my list with no place to live for the first few months of the semester. Frustration does not even begin to describe how I was feeling. There were so many moments where I just wanted to not go to school at all. But then some crazy stuff happened. Preston, the guy I mentioned earlier, found a house for us to live in while the apartment was being fixed. The house was just a few minutes from campus and had about 6 other guys living there. These guys took us in and took care of us. They helped us get adjusted to life away from home and became our best friends on campus. They had a bible study and worship thing we did every week that helped us to stay connected spiritually. We finally made it into our apartment and I still found myself very angry despite the great start we had. I was very confused as to what my purpose was and why God would put me in a place I didn’t want to be in. These surface thoughts sat with me for some time and turned into some deep questions from my spirit. I became very angry for a while. This mindset stayed with for a pretty good amount of time. In fact it has not been until recently that I think I can safely say I believe God is here to help us.
The key to conquering this new freedom and keeping your faith is to just be honest with yourself. If that means you need to say “hey, I don’t believe this stuff right now. I don’t believe God is there or that if He were to be there that He would be good,” then say it. Once you say something similar to that statement, a reaction is required. For every action there is an equal or opposite reaction. Newton’s law even explains spiritual things. So, you have questioned God. Now what? You either decide to just drop the idea or more likely, you go searching for an answer. The tricky part, and the part you don’t learn much about in Sunday school, or at least on what I would consider an intelligent level, is that there are a lot of different people providing answers to this God question. In fact, some people provide pretty good answers. Rob Bell mentioned in one of his messages how truth is not just something we find in Christianity. Rob was talking about the Muslims and how they never build or buy a house unless they have the money to pay for that house. If that means the house is only half finished or just barley even finished before they move in, they do not spend the money. This is a great example of a financial “truth.” Think about how practical and even “Biblical” that is. All of these other religions also focus heavily on treating other people well and doing good deeds or doing yoga (I mean come on, yoga is clearly spiritual). What if the Church today loved people a little more like Jesus did? What if we practiced the same financial truth as some Muslims do? What if we treated our bodies with even more respect? I do not know if this would solve all of our spiritual issues as twenty somethings or even as adults later on in life, but I do believe there is something to be said for following what we believe is truth. And we know it is truth because other people who follow truth, whether they call themselves a Christian or not, live a joyful and prosperous life. Let me just say I am not advocating the Prosperity Doctrine or anything but I do believe when someone follows truth, their life flourishes. At this point you are still trying to figure out what you believe, you have been given all of these options, you feel like there is a lot of truth in a lot of different areas, and now you are left to decide what you believe.
Piecing a worldview together is an especially difficult task for anyone. At this point I should probably mention that it has been a good five months since I have sat down and even thought about working on this book. In fact I should/could probably start the whole thing over and give an entirely new perspective, but oddly enough, where I left off is a great place for me to start. No matter what your age, background, upbringing, there are things that stand in the way of you formulating a worldview, or better put, influence how your worldview is pieced together. Something good happens in your life, you may have a positive outlook on life. Something bad happens, you may have a negative view. Pretty simple really. This year my dad was diagnosed with cancer. That did not have a great effect on my worldview. I am getting married in August and that seems to be having a pretty good effect on my worldview. My best friends little sister died in an accident this year, which did not help my positive outlook on life so much. Kind of a roller coaster of emotions wrapped up in a short amount of time. I’m sure many of you have similar stories of ups and downs and how these events shape the way we view life and more importantly, God.
One of the hardest things about this year so far has been continuing to have a worldview that includes a good God. The last thing I wanted to think about for a good majority of the year was God being good. I mean, how could a good God let my dad get cancer and a little girl die in such a tragic accident? And further, how could anyone expect me to just put on a happy face and keep going? Oddly, I have had people tell me more know that they think I am an example of a “real Christian,” whatever that is, than I ever have. Despite all of the doubts and moments of pure anger I have had towards my Creator this year I have learned a few simple truths that have brought me back to a beautiful understanding of my relationship with Him and others. A relationship with Christ cannot be made up of rules and formulas. A relationship with Christ is at the most pure form us being honest and realizing we need something more. We need something bigger than ourselves. Despite the high level of discomfort that follows after dropping all of the fauve pa smiles and happiness, an honest, broken, raw, real relationship with Christ and others is the most fulfilling worldview anyone can piece together. Finding comfort in the discomfort is so incredibly powerful. God is so much more real to me than He has ever been. I am not going around trying to prove to people that I have my life together, because I don’t. Plain and simple. I have to fight for my faith. I have to fight daily to continue to believe in God. But, I would much rather be in a constant search for Truth in the brokenness than sit in a pew every Sunday, sing some worship songs, and listen to a warm fuzzy message. That just doesn’t work for me anymore. I could never go back to that. I think that is why the church finds itself in so much trouble today.
The Christian worldview is very formulated. Donald Miller talks a lot about this in Searching For God Knows What. As I continued to piece my worldview together, I came to a realization that formulas fail at some point. Bad things happen to good people, good things happen to bad people, or nothing happens at all. There is no correct answer one hundred percent of the time to life. So, where does that leave me? Where does that leave you? Where does that leave the rest of the world? Whether you are eighteen, fifteen, twenty-five, or ten at some point you too will begin to work through this life long process of holding on to your worldview, whatever that may be. My challenge to everyone is don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself and with the world around you. Honesty, although a very narrow path if we are going to use a Biblical term, is the most fulfilling road you can take.