One of the people in my I-group (a group of people with the same academic advisor told me that I might want to start learning to share my call story. Here is my first shot at some of what is leading me to become a pastor. This is going to be a story in installments, so stay tuned to this journal. (By the way, I am really open to dialoging with people about this, so please email me if you have questions or [civil] commentary.)
Psalm 139 describes how the Lord formed us and knows our souls. As I reflect on my life, I feel that God set me aside from the beginning. Nobody in my nuclear family (mother, father, brother) is a practicing Christian and I think my father deliberately to steer me away from faith. He is cynical about the faith and that influenced me for the first ten years of my life. My first glimpse of the Gospel was my neighbor Mrs. Griffin reading us the Christmas story and reading on with me until the resurrection and crucifixion while baking cookies with her in 1st grade. That has really stayed with me and I think God planted a seed in me that day that grew quietly within me even during the times when I denied God’s existence. Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light [are] both alike to thee. (Psalm 139:7-12)
At age ten, I attended Camp Hammer, a Christian summer camp, with my friend Emily. I gave my life to Jesus that week but promptly forgot the promise two weeks later. I lived without God until I was twelve or thirteen when I began to wonder if there was a God. I taught myself the Lord’s Prayer and prayed it every night. I did not fully believe but wanted to hedge my bets. If there was a God, I thought I should probably do everything in my power to make myself look better. I started wishing that my family had been Christian and that I had grown up going to church. Ironically, I could have asked any of my friends or my neighbors if I could go with them but I was too afraid. Around that time, I found a book of Bible stories that had been given to us by a friend and I devoured those stories. They were so interesting and I really saw how human the people in the Bible were. I read about Jesus and how He died on a Cross for me and it just amazed me.
This continued from the end of middle school and into my first year of high school. That year, everything that could go wrong did. I had deaths in my family, was beat up at school, lost many of my friends to rumors, had one of my cats die… By January of that year, I was friendless and miserable. I started having severe problems with depression and I started contemplating suicide. When I finally did come close to attempting, something in me intervened.Â Then, I felt this incredible peace come over me and I heard a voice telling me not to do it because I was too important to lose. I stopped at that point — I now knew that God existed and that He cared so deeply about me.
That year, my friend Jason had started bringing me copies of Our Daily Bread and I devoured these voraciously. I found my mothers old KJV (which we used as a book of spells when my brother and I were younger) and I would read the passages out of there. I soon sent for a subscription and would read it and the passage in the mornings when I got up. I started praying more frequently and I did grow in my knowledge of God. However, I lacked baptism and was too afraid to ask for it. During my junior year, I joined the Episcopal Church in Almaden. This was two days after I had buried my friend Gabriel Maze, the third of my friends to have been killed in a three month period. During that time, the Lord more than sustained me and I knew His comfort more than ever before. The people at ECA were wonderful and became a second family to me. I lived in fear however, upon finding out that I had taken the Eucharist without being baptized and that it was a sin. I did not want to just stop because it would look bad, but I secretly yearned to be able to do it rightly. People at the seminary have told me that God is not going to hold this against me because I was definitely one of His followers and I was baptized during my first year of college.
Next… my senior year of high school and my college years.