Sunday, February 1, 2009
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. Romans 1:18-25
For a time, I thought these verses meant if you resisted the choice of Jesus long enough, God would simply leave you to your own devices and you were lost forever. I would see this in connection to the unpardonable sin.
"He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters. 31And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. Matthew 12:30-32
Then I would wonder, how did I escape God's wrath? Why me?
I certainly ignored those telling me I had to be born again. I was not moving toward God, but away. Or was I?
I have told how as a child I was forced to go to Sunday School until I reached Junior High and made such a fuss my folks gave up on that. The problem with my going was no one else was, so why me? Sunday School was boring.
In Junior High I was invited to a Methodist Youth Fellowship meeting by a friend. I went because of a promise of hamburgers at a favorite restaurant. I stayed because we played games and stuff besides all that Bible mumbo-jumbo.
My parents moved out of town several miles north as I ended ninth grade. In the new place, they started going to a Methodist Church and I was again forced to attend. I talked them into Sunday School, which allowed me to be home alone when they were in Church Service. I again joined MYF and in my senior year was elected President. I played Devil's Advocate. It was thought I was just facilitating to get conversation going, but I really was challenging the beliefs being held. I thought I was quite brilliant.
After my wife and I married, we didn't go to church at all. She had grown up a Lutheran and also been forced to attend, but her circumstance was a bit different. Whereas, for most my youth my family only went to church at Christmas and Easter, her parents were faithful attendees. In fact, they were heavily involved in their church; her mother was even the organist. They had a list of don'ts they made her pledge, that she would never drink, never smoke, never do other things.
My wife started smoking at twelve.
We were very happy having nothing to do with church. Who needed it. We were just fine. We bought a house just before we got married. We weren't even eligible to sign the contracts at the time because we were underage. You weren't an adult until 21 in those days. I was just 20 and she was still 19 when we married.
We had a house. We had a new car. We ate out regularly. We had decent jobs. We had a plan.
Then the problems started.
She lost the first child at home alone. She lost her job. We lost the house. We lost another child. I had a breakdown at work. She had an affair. We almost lost our marriage.
And I got very sick one day. I don't know what I had. I was as sick as I ever had been or been since. I literally believed I was going to die. I lay in the bed, soaked with sweat, my fever sky high, my body in great pain, exhausted and scared. It was dark. The blinds were shut. It was night out. I actually called out for God to save me cause I didn't think I would be alive come morning. Then I noticed some light on the wall. It was a cross. I don't understand where it came from. I looked around for the source, but couldn't figure it out. It stayed as I feel asleep and when I awoke in the morning it was gone, but so was my fever and my pain.
I looked for that cross time and again after that, but no cross ever shown on the bedroom wall again. Very strange, I can't explain it.
But that moment didn't save me. I just got well physically. And we lost the third baby.
I didn't totally forget that strange cross or God yet. We decided to give church a chance. Not the churches where our parents attended, but some other mainstream congregation somewhere. So we began visitations on each Sunday and no where welcomed us. We were just two strangers passing through. Perhaps we appeared alien in dress or with my long hair. One church was even outright hostile to us, as if we were disturbing their finely tuned clique. The sermons seemed empty, the buildings cold, God distant.
We had tried Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians,some others. Nothing worked.
At the time we lived with my wife's father. There was a Roman Catholic Church a couple blocks away. one day I wandered over and went inside during a mass. I became attracted to the ritual, the smell of incense, the candles and the saints. It was involving, always something to do. I got a rosary. I did the stations of the cross. I went to mass everyday. There were some things I couldn't do because I wasn't a confirmed member. So I got a book and studied all the doctrine and my wife and I talked to the priest about converting.
But the night he was suppose to meet with us to schedule everything to begin the process, he stood us up. That ended that. I didn't go back.
We moved on to churches outside the center. We had moved from her father's to an apartment in the city. We hung out in the Hippie centers at night and weekends. Nearby a popular gathering place in a city park was an Unitarian Church, so we started going there. All the talk there was on activism, protest of the war, doing street drama against the government, that type of thing. Well, we had been involved all ready in such demonstrations and acting out. It didn't seem a church for us and we stopped going.
We crossed the park to the other side and a different sort of church, called the Ethical Society. We began attending services. We sat in what was like a pew in what was like a church with what was like an alter at the center. Music played as a processional, but not a hymn; classical music. All the music was this type. A text was read, but it was from Socrates or Plato or some other philosopher. Then the "preacher" gave a "sermon". God was never mentioned. The talk was in praise of man and man's ability to overcome any problem through will and technology.
I told my wife later it seemed silly. If you didn't believe in God, why then completely imitate a Christian Church Service? To what purpose? It just seemed childish.
This ended our experiment with church going. I took a great interest in Buddhism. It was kind of prevalent in the underground culture of the time. I got some Zen and the Buddhist Scriptures and told everyone the Buddhists really understood. My interpretation was you could and should do everything. Go work hard and makes a lot of money. You would then find money didn't satisfy. Go and enjoy sensual pleasures, have as many sexual encounters as you lusted for. You would then find sex didn't satisfy. Eat and drink and do whatever felt good as much as you wished and you would discover none satisfied. Then you would be ready to move up to some spiritual level. Yessir, that made sense. Just think, you could grow spiritual after satiating your every whim.
Later I was to feel Solomon said the same thing in Ecclesiastes, except he didn't tell you to go out and do all that stuff. He told you the opposite. He was saving you the bother by telling you it was all meaningless and empty and only God could satisfy.
So I forgot the Buddhism. Transcendental Meditation was also popular then, thanks to the Beatles, but Hinduism in any form never had any appeal to me. So I read a couple books on it, but never tried it. I did get into all those fad philosophies that came by and bought a lot of self-help books. I just went from one to another without much to show for the effort in the end.
But now I was slipping into the occult and I bought the Satanic Bible, books on Voodoo, followed the life of Edgar Cayce, went out chasing UFOs across the night sky, until one day I said it is all bunk and simply stopped believing in anything beyond myself and this world. I declared myself an Atheist and an angry one.
I began a mini-crusade against ministers and organized religion, mainly Christian.
Those verses in Romans seemed to have come true. God had given me over to my own depravity. I was beyond hope. Of course at the time I didn't see it that way.
To be continued.