I was raised as an Episcopalian in a family that while recognizing the value of the faith in our personal lives did not speak about it much. As a child I was drawn to religion and the church, but as time progressed I fell away. When my parents were divorced, my mother (with whom I lived) quit attending church -- and so did I. This was early in my teens and gradually I decided that religion was okay for some but it wasn't essential. When I was older, I would get religion, I thought to myself.
Without a relationship with God, I was left to my own devices -- and brother did I put myself through a lot of hell! I was not very outgoing and had few friends. I became something of a chameleon. I would change my opinions, likes and dislikes to match whomever was my best friend at the time. I was afraid that if I believed anything differently, they would no longer like me.
During high school I got involved with drugs and began a lifelong battle with manic-depression. College made things worse. The friends I had were actively hostile to religion (although they would admit their main problem was with organized religion). My problems worsened: heavy drug use, too much partying, a string of carnal, broken relationships and even a growing struggle with pornography.
I also wandered into occult and new age thought and came to the conclusion that while a spiritual life was beneficial I didn't have time for it right now and that when I did what was important was to find that truth or tradition that resonated with me. In other words, if it felt right, then it was the truth for me.
After college, I began my long struggle with Christianity. A good friend found Jesus through the Boston Church of Christ (aka the International Church of Christ) and began witnessing to me in the only manner that would get through to me -- his life was transformed and he had such joy!
While I wanted what he had I didn't want to give up so much. Instead of repenting, I began to search for the form of Christianity that suited me best. Another Christian friend did some heavy witnessing to me as well, but nothing took much. I even attended a service at the local International Church of Christ but was so put off by it that I never returned.
My struggle with depression and sexual sin deepened until my life was miserable. I was alone, utterly and completely.
Then the Lord brought the woman into my life who would become my wife and start me truly on the road to salvation. When we met, Cynthia was at the end of a bitter and unhealthy marriage. He was heavily into drugs, had trouble holding down jobs, both psychologically and physically abusive, and agnostic. Cynthia was even not allowed to go to church. To make things worse, he was also an adulterer. Cynthia had warned him years before that when their children were grown she would leave him if he hadn't changed his ways.
He never did and they were divorced. I'll never forget that time. It was ugly and he wanted to hurt Cynthia as much as possible while he still could. The marriage was so obviously broken that even her own children urged her to leave their father. I wish I could say that we waited until she was divorced but we did not. Cynthia had long since severed any emotional ties to him and we became first fast friends and then fell in love.
What amazed me then and still does is how firm is her faith in God and her personal relationship with Jesus. She never pushed me but simply made it clear that she wanted me to become a Christian someday. What finally got me was watching "the Last Temptation of Christ." This film IS blasphemous ... I readily grant that now. At the time though what got through to me was that Jesus was a REAL person. "I wish I'd known Him," I can remember telling Cynthia. She told me I could, and the next day we were in church together.
Cynthia was raised amongst Mennonites and is a very committed, fundamental Christian. We found a local Mennonite church that was our church home for the next year or so.
That church saved our marriage. My addiction to pornography and the like nearly broke it. Depression and rage all but consumed me. The pastors (a husband/wife team) gave us what they called Agape Counseling -- essentially you confess your sins to the Lord in prayer.
Great! Now I'm free, I thought -- maybe. But they made it clear this would be an ongoing struggle with sin. Not a cheerful thought.
Then they began urging Cynthia and I to pray for the gift of tongues, to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I was put off and confused, and my wife was outraged to hear so-called Mennonites teaching this.
We left that church and haven't regularly attended until recently. I drifted from church to church, religion to religion. Each time, I KNEW I'd found the truth, only to drift away when I changed my mind about what I believed. I went from Buddhism, to Hinduism, to Judaism and back again.
At one point I even became involved in an online Wiccan group. I also had an online affair with one of the members. What came of this is another near break to our marriage. Cynthia stayed with me, she said, because she knew Jesus wanted her to be there for me.
We stayed together. It has been hard at times but I promised God that I would follow His lead from that point on no matter how painful. Sadly, what happened instead is I drifted from denomination to denomination in search of God's church. Nothing seemed right and yet everything sounded right! How could this be? Everyone cannot be right can they? I tried to read the Bible but I seemed to find support for every position in there ... it was essentially nonsense to me.
A couple of years ago I was sure that Islam was the truth. I even went so far as to say the shahada (makes you a Muslim) but then never followed-through. Once again I'd been betrayed by following my heart, my feelings to find the truth. I prayed to God for forgiveness and guidance and knew the answer was in Jesus ... a personal relationship with Him.
The last few years have seen me visiting (and each time joining, never to return) countless churches: Pentecostal, Apostolic, Roman Catholic, Nazarene, Primitive Baptist, Russian orthodox, and, lastly, fundamental, King-James Only baptist.
What stopped me? How did I go from an on again off relationship with
RCIA and the Church and a tendency to hop from faith to faith whenever something
arises to challenge that faith? After all, I'd gotten to the point where I'd
just plain given
up everything but faith in God and Jesus.
Not long ago I was diagnosed as suffering from bipolar disorder (manic depression). As I began to take medicine and get therapy to treat the illness, I began to see that my hopping from idea to idea, project to project, faith to faith has it's roots in the manic depression. I wanted to get healthier and had changed my diet in order to loose weight, lower my cholesterol and my blood pressure. When I was diagnosed and began learning about bipolar disorder, I saw answers for so many problems. Hobbies and interests I'd long since lost interest in became important to me again.
Foremost among these was my faith. Completely unlooked for has been
the desire to join the Catholic Church. I woke this morning missing the Church,
everything about it and with a very deep rooted feeling that this WAS indeed
the home I'd been searching for all along. The rich spiritual traditions also
are very soothing ... especially the
rosary. I miss saying it and have long since lost the one I had.
My wife is a divorcee and we have to get that annuled. I'm cool with that actually and were in the process of getting things going the last time I was in RCIA when the priest lost the paperwork so we were forced with starting all over again (her first husband was a divorcee). I was frustrated, disillusioned by some Protestant friends who seemed convincing at the time and so I quit and started the church hopping again.
Although it may sound a bit sappy, I honestly grieve at having been away from the Church for so long and have begun attending Mass again. Never have I felt so certain about faith before and long to let the Church fill the hole in my life that only She can.
I hope you have found this interesting and maybe even helpful. I welcome your comments and may God bless you.