I want to share my journey of faith because I was so inspired by this podcast by Mike Gungor and “Science Mike”. My hope is that by listening perhaps the most powerful testimonials I have ever heard, and hearing my story, wherever you are in your faith journey, you will be encouraged.
I grew up in the Methodist Church. Although my father was in the Navy, and we moved about every 3 years, we always found a United Methodist Church where we could immediately feel a sense of belonging. My earliest memories were in the church in National City (a suburb of San Diego) where the nursery school teacher was nurturing in every way.
When I was in the second grade, I wanted to be in the church choir because I loved to sing. Without any training, I could sing harmonies. Thus, I was able to persuade Mr. McGregor, the choir director, to let me in the choir even though the usual age was 3rd grade. He picked up in his little car once a week when we had rehearsal. I felt important, special and useful. Most little kids could not harmonize easily! I especially loved singing in the Christmas pageant.
When I was in the 5th grade, my parents made me go to the adult service, where I was bored stiff. Time stood still–in a very negative way–as in “will this service ever end.” Yes, I experienced what seemed like eternity during that endless hour. “Stop The World I want to Get Off” is the only sermon title I can remember. I think I must have been thinking, “Stop the service, I want to get off.”
But for the most part, church seemed good and useful. As a teenager, I loved going to youth group and feeling a sense of belonging with the other youth. The annual new year’s eve party where we square danced, played air hockey, played games, ate to our heart’s content, and had all kinds of intergenerational fun were high lights for me. Christmas Eve services were as well, and coming home with my parents friends to share cookies and fellowship was beautiful. A common thread throughout my life was Sunday dinners where we always got the good china out, and invited friends and extended family for a delicious feast prepared from scratch by my mom.
Playing with the children of their friends was very satisfying, and there was such a sense of security because my parents were excellent at maintaining life-long friendships. I naturally had a servant’s heart, and loved to help my family, friends and participate in service projects at church.
The secure feelings started changing when I was about fifteen. Vague memories stand out:
Taking a class in sex education in the church where I was told that some kinds of physical contact called light petting (holding hands, kissing, hugging) were okay. But others were not (touching the genitals and fondling the breasts) Of course, intercourse was completely off limits. But I didn’t really learn the purpose of the sexual act, and how to be discerning about my decisions. I was confused.
Having a Buddhist come to our youth group and talk about re-incarnation and other aspects of his faith. I started wondering about the validity of other religions.
Going to camp and falling in love with a guy who said he would contact me when left camp. We had kissed, and professed affection to each other. I never heard from him again. I was crushed.
My dad, the strong Christian lay leader who in many ways I idolized, forbade me to date a black guy. I had no idea he was prejudiced.
Awakening to the fact that my parents and their friends, and my friends acted in ways that didn’t seem to be dedicated to the teachings of Jesus.
As the chairperson of the governing council of our youth group, “youth council,” I suggested to the other young people that we have more service projects and less fun outings. When everyone poo-pooed my idea, I angrily stormed out of the meeting. Yes, I was angry. But underneath I was deeply disappointed, hurt and confused.
And the last straw: When I asked my youth counselor the question, “Why do we have to go through Jesus to get to God. Why can’t we just go straight to God?” this person laughed at me and did not answer my question.
I decided that in order to be in integrity, I needed to resign from my leadership post and from church membership. It was amazingly easy. My parents took my decision in stride. My pastor was gracious and accepted my reasons for leaving without any defense. In fact, in a way I felt encouraged to leave.
I was a class officer in the eleventh grade at the time, and I decided to seek counsel from our class advisor Mr. Hendrix. He encouraged me to explore a religion (the name is escaping me) that claimed to incorporate all religions. That idea really appealed to me. But there were not very many of these churches around, so the next best thing was to become a Jehovah’s Witness.