My Faith Journey: Questions
Whether you subscribe to psychology which says that true abstract thought begins to occur around puberty, or old Jewish and Catholic traditions of a celebration at the age of thirteen, you have to recognize something happens around that age mentally that leads to spiritual development.
Such was the case with me.
About the time everyone entered high school people began to really come up with their biblical and religious beliefs. Being that I was living in small-town Arkansas those beliefs were overwhelmingly pro-God, pro-Jesus, pro-Gun and pro-life (all of which are fine views to hold).
My peers were all getting involved in something that I really had no experience with: Youth Group. Everyday people were talking about youth group and all the cool things that they had done there and all the neat things they were doing on a weekly basis. They talked about things like parties after football games, ski trips, prom alternatives and other cool things.
I am not going to lie. I became interested in youth group because I felt like I was getting left out of something very cool. There was no spiritual motivation behind it whatsoever.
I asked my parents if I could go to youth group. I explained that it was something that kids did at church, I was not sure what it was, but it sounded fun so I wanted to go. They said sure so I was all set to go.
But where? All the churches seemed to have this thing called Youth Group. This was going to take some research. It didn’t take long before all the youth groups in town were easily distinguishable at school. One group really rocked purity and their purity rings. Another really loved Saucony brand shoes. Another all sat together and seemed pretty awkward. While others had always been distinguishable with their freakishly long Rapunzel hair and blue jean dresses. I decided to go where many of my friends were going.
The Youth Minister (the “adult” in charge of Youth Group) was a guy named Jeff. He was a charismatic guy who loved the Dallas Cowboys, that is about all that I can remember about him. He was a fun charismatic guy though who knew a good amount about the Bible.
Wait… I should back up a bit.
I showed up at youth group and had a great time with some friends playing basketball in the nice gym, playing football on the nice lawn and lounging about on the nice couches in the youth building (sort of a club house for the youth group). It was all very nice. It was just like what my friends had described at school. I really HAD been missing out.
After a while of doing all of these cool things, Jeff called everyone around to sit on the floor in the gym. We did, and this guy started talking to us about how we were sinners, we needed Jesus and we were here to do more than just have fun.
A classic bait and switch. I was lured in with the promise of fun and was told that I wasn’t actually there for fun, but for Jesus. But after talking to us for about ten minutes we were free again to play basketball, talk about girls and lay on the couches. The talk about this Jesus character was a small price to pay for fun.
Over time however, I did end up getting more and more curious. From time to time I would ask Jeff a question and he would have an answer for me. This gave me much to think about. It was an interesting time. There was this whole other world and this whole person who was a really big deal back in the day and Jeff seemed to know a lot about him.
I would later find out that Jeff knew so much because he had been to Seminary and held a degree in Bible from some Methodist University somewhere. He actually went to college to learn about that stuff.
I only found out because soon after my interest kicked into high-gear Jeff was asked to leave the church and go off to another assignment in the Dallas area. Once Jeff was gone, someone had to fill the void and in our situation there was only one group that could do it: moms.
Now, leadership may have moved around a bit, but my sense of curiosity was going stronger than ever. This change in leadership did pose a problem though. These moms hadn’t been to seminary. They didn’t have any spectacular Bible training other than long-tern church experience so they had a hard time dealing with my questions. How does the Trinity work? How can God love people AND kill a lot of them? What does Jesus’ death have to do with where I go to heaven?
In what I believe was a moment of frustration one of the mothers had finally had enough and said something like, “You questions are a distraction, maybe you shouldn’t come anymore.” Now, I am sure I was being annoying. That wasn’t beyond me at all as an adolescent, but that was a pretty big deal.
I decided that she was right. I shouldn’t be asking these people questions, I needed to go find out for myself. So, I walked into the church and grabbed the first Bible I could find, left and never came back.**
I decided to take my questions straight to the book or… the Bible. So from there my faith took a turn from questions to research, and that is where my next post will pick up.
People talk all the time about the merits or detractions that things like gyms, youth rooms and these sorts of things bring to a church. Some people think that it makes the church more of a community center or YMCA than a religious place. I can say without any doubt that if that church hadn’t had those things I would have never visited. I would have never learned enough to develop the questions that I had. And I wouldn’t have walked out the door with a Bible. Now, were those tens of thousands of dollars worth one kid? I tend to think so, but I am a little biased.
**Note: I later learned that churches sometimes have very neat looking Bibles (usually very large) sitting out on decorative tables in the front entrance. This was the Bible I took from this church. I didn’t know any better…