A few days ago, I was reading Billy Coffey’s blog. I love Billy, he’s a story-teller in the old southern tradition and I’m nothing if not southern. One of his stories in particular prompted this entry. In it, he talks about the moment his life changed and writing became his raison d’etre. Reading that, I realized I don’t have one of those moments. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to write. Well, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to write what I wanted to write. If my high-school career is any indication, I’d be a terrible journalist. Not because of any lack of ability (though I’m sure it’s there), but more a lack of discipline. I can write all day long…, as long as I choose the subject. Give me a writing assignment, though, and getting anything on paper is like pulling teeth. Because of that, I came to the writing game late. Keeping a journal bored the living crap out of me and I could never sustain the practice for more than a week or two. And, since assigned writing was practically impossible for me, my outlets for creativity were few and far between. That is, until I found about blogging. I never knew there was a place on the internet where I could say whatever I wanted and nobody could shut me up. That was over a year ago and I haven’t stopped (or shut up) since.
As much as I love Billy (okay, I’ve never met him, but I love his writing and he’s extremely nice on-line), I’m a little jealous. Unlike a lot of people, my life hasn’t had many, or any, big life-changing moments. No epiphany that lead to my career as a firefighter, no near-suicide attempt where I stepped back from the precipice a changed man; hell, even my conversion story doesn’t have that big dramatic climax where the Holy Spirit washes over me and I fall to my knees in tears. I can’t remember if I’ve ever related my story on here, so I’ll tell you now. As a child, my family became involved in what was, for all intent and purpose, a cult. I don’t like dwelling on the bad, old days and I’m not going into particulars here. Suffice it to say, things weren’t good. In fact, they were so “not good” that, around the age of 18, I walked away from religion all together for over 20 years. I never quite stopped believing in God, mostly because I was pissed at Him for a long time. After that, my relationship with God was kind of like “you do your thing, I’ll do mine and never the twain shall meet”. Several years ago, without realizing it, I had slid into a pretty dark place. I was divorced, alone and addicted. I thought I had it all under control, thought being the operative word. In reality, my life was a shambles and all that baggage I’d been carrying around for years dragging me down. It was also pulling me away from my children. My oldest daughter, who was a staunch southern Baptist at the time, feared for my immortal soul and pleaded with me to come back to church. I finally got tired of her begging and went to the local Methodist church one Sunday. It seemed a logical choice; after all, I grew up Methodist and figured I’d be comfortable there. I still remember the sermon from that day: Love God and love your neighbor. It was also the first Sunday of the month and, in the UMC, that’s Communion Sunday. I liked it and figured I’d probably go back…, sometime. That changed when I got a call from the pastor. She told me a lot on the phone that evening and the one thing I still remember was that nobody in the UMC had ever told her to check her brain at the door. I’m not sure why, but that really resonated with me. It was the beginning of a long road back, one with more than a few detours along the way. But, I’m still on it and heading in what I sincerely hope is the right direction.
I’m writing this post and telling that particular story for a specific reason. More than once, I’ve had a young person tell me they didn’t feel like a Christian because they didn’t have that big, defining moment. This usually occurs during or right after Pilgrimage, the NCCUMC‘s annual youth rally. One of the features of the weekend is youth testimony sprinkled throughout the sessions. And, of course, they’re always dramatic, definitive and (yes) life-changing. I applaud these kids for standing up and baring their souls in front of 6000 of their peers; that’s got to be intimidating. But, as much as I applaud it, I wish they’d stop or at least include some less dramatic testimony. Because good theater and good theology aren’t always compatible.