Christian By Birth–Baptist By Choice (Part 5)
Backing up a Few Steps
I realized after posting the last entry that I had forgotten to include an important aspect and detail of where my life had returned to. See, in the frustration that I had been struggling with in my marriage, family, search, and the soul-hunger of my Christian life I had returned to doing the religious things and focusing on the ritual and routine of things. In part I think this was out of comfort, and also in response to the conflict I was feeling.
Sometimes doing Spiritual things is like taking medicine that tastes bad. I had to do it, but I didn’t have to like it. In the confusion over how to reconcile the point of view of the church and people who had been key in my spiritual and what I had read in the Bible In my frustration I was becoming increasingly irritable and aggravated.
I was taking a lot out on Andie. A big part of our move from New York to West Virginia was out of her desperation for something more and better in our life together. She pretty much told me that we were going to move there or we were going to go our separate ways. I have never regretted choosing to go with her and know that this move really helped to save our marriage and our family.
Slowing Down and Settling In
Things in West Virginia moved slower. The pace of life that I had been living was difficult to change from. I remember walking with my dad up a sidewalk in town one day and he stopped, looked me in the eyes and said, “Boy, you need to slow down.”
He wasn’t just talking about how fast I was racing up the sidewalk. I needed to slow down and really notice and appreciate the things around me. Looking back now I know that part of the race I was running and the speed I was living at was an effort to bury that internal spiritual conflict I had been facing. Everything was an effort to cover up the call in my life so I didn’t have to respond to it, and I could just live my own life.
We started attending a Southern Baptist Church. Andie will tell you in her life story that on the first Sunday we were there she learned more about the Bible then in all of her life to that point. They had Sunday school…FOR ADULTS!! We attended class and then worship. In that first church service the pastor, Ed Taylor—to this day a very important person in my life, preached from the Bible. He didn’t refer to it as if it were some ancient literary text, but as if what it said was directly relevant in life right then.
We left church that day with a mix of emotions and feelings. Well, actually, I left that way, Andie had her mind made up on that very first Sunday. She wanted to be part of that church. I struggled because I felt a sense of loyalty to the denomination I had grown up in. I attempted to get connected with a different church a few times, but nothing compared to what I had experienced in that single service in the Baptist church.
One day Ed, the pastor, called me up and invited me to lunch with him. We ate at a little restaurant in Nutter Fort. We talked a lot about what life had been like. I felt very comfortable with him. I told him some about my earlier struggles, and how I had been wrestling with the possibility that God had called me to ministry. I can’t remember the details of the conversation or the meal, but what I do remember is how Ed prayed with me and for me. As when he had been preaching on that Sunday we visited the church, there was something uncommon in the way he prayed. It occurred to me that his connection with the Lord was something very real and vital to him. What he had I wanted to experience. I was “sold” at that point, but little did I know it was going to get really real in a big way in a short time.
The Best Choice and The Hardest Realization
As always, music was a big part of our lives, and in church. We got involved pretty quickly with the choir and singing specials in worship. It was great, and everyone was very warm and welcoming. We felt incredibly loved and accepted by people who barely knew us. We would go home from church talking about the service. Then we went back to Sunday night service and came home again talking about all we had learned and liked about the day. Later in the week we attended the Wednesday night service which was for prayer and Bible study. We thought we had been immersed in the activities and things at church before. We didn’t have a clue. When we told people how often we were at the church they would look at us like we were crazy. We loved it.
Then, one weekend a couple months after we started, Andie was invited to attend a choir workshop with our choir director, Lisa. It was an overnight trip. Loving music and worship as she did it wasn’t a hard choice to make. The only thing that would keep her from going is that it was a sixty dollar trip and we had absolutely no money. I made a decision, and it was a choice that I had no way of knowing would have a significant impact on the rest of our marriage and life together. In the town there was a place that paid for plasma. A half hour of time and I could walk out with twenty five dollars. So, without letting Andie know I went and got together the money for her trip so she could go. When I gave her the money she was ecstatic.
The significance of that weekend has never been lost in my memory. She went on the trip and while there Lisa asked her whether she had ever asked Jesus Christ to be the Lord of her life. Well, as I’ve shared, we did all the religious stuff. She, like me had grown up in church, but she realized that weekend that she had never really come to that place of faith in Christ. Lisa prayed with her and Andie was saved in the motel room that weekend.
When Andie returned home with the news of her salvation I was grateful, but at the same time something in me was really disturbed. People she told were very excited for her, praising the Lord for her decision. I was all these things as well, but there was a nagging sorrow that I was harboring in my heart. I realized that this woman who I was deeply in love with, and had been together with for six years by this point, had not really been a child of God. The thought that continued to come into my heart was that she could have died anywhere along the way and she would have been separated for me and from the Lord forever.
Over the next few weeks I wrestled with and prayed over all of this. I returned back to God’s word and read it again—feasting on it as I had before. I stayed up until the wee hours of the night. I wept in prayer some of these nights. My heart was broken, and at some point of the course of these times of reading and praying I confessed my rebellion against God in running from His call in my life. I gave up fighting and committed to the Lord that I would go wherever He wanted me to go and do whatever He asked of me.
We will Abandon it All for the Sake of the Call
A couple weeks later Andie and I were baptized together and embarked on an amazing adventure as together we surrendered to ministry and God’s call in our lives. We knew we would be in ministry together, and we were going to always be a team in ministry. Over the next two years God would chisel…mold…sharpen…stretch and solidify our faith in Him.
(to be continued)