Saturday, August 26, 2006

First Blog

This first post is just going to be my life journey up until now. That way, you’ll know more about me right from the start, and my future rants will make more sense.

I am the youngest in my family. My sister is the oldest, and I have an older brother in the middle. My mom is a devout Christian and it is because of her that my brother and I are Christians today. My dad is kind of iffy because he has some strange affiliation with the Freemasons (a secretive cult) and he has suffered from a serious mental illness since I was about 5. My older sister is agnostic, after a few-year stint of being maniacally Christian, and more years of being wildly lost.

At age 5, I accepted Christ in an evangelistic puppet show. Because of this, I always considered myself a Christian. In school, I was a hopeless nerd, and I never felt acceptance by my peers (but I always had friends). This reached its zenith when I was 15, and I began to suffer from depression. At 16, God healed me from depression. There were three catalysts to this healing. First, my mom encouraged me to go to a charismatic worship meeting where I was prayed for and “slain in the spirit.” Second, I began to look at my brother as my paradigm for mental health. He wasn’t a Christian at the time, but he was the only one in my household not on medication for mental illness. Third, my mom, who had always listened to my whininess, actually told me she didn’t want to hear my negativity anymore. Something about her words really helped me to snap out of my depression, which for me, was an intense selfishness; an insistence that I was worth constant affection, even if it was my own.

At the time I stopped being depressed, I recommitted myself to a life of servitude in Christ. I met my future wife, Gina, at school. We were friends for a year, and I thought she was really funny, but I never liked her. Then, later, we saw each other at a football game and had a really good time talking. She invited me to “Quiz Bowl,” my school’s idea of a worthless endeavor. I came, and we hung out afterwards a couple of times. She drove me home because I couldn’t drive. I invited her to Homecoming, and shortly thereafter we began dating.

Dating was miserable for us, especially the first two years. Gina was extremely jealous, and she asked for a report of any girls I had talked to each day and why. After about two years of this crap, I was a senior in high school, and a lot of things began to change. I felt God calling me into ministry. There were three things that led to this belief. First, I took an interest inventory test that told me my job prospects included being a professional DJ (and two other non-jobs). The total lack of help in choosing a career left me hopeless. Second, my cousin Joe, then seeking a job in the ministry, advised me to never let go of the possibility of ministry. I dismissed his words out of hand, but later they came back to haunt me. Thirdly, I was actually admitted to Malone College, the only school around with a Bible program. It was very expensive, and my dad didn’t want to sign the parent loan papers (but reluctantly did after sticking me with the first payment of $900!).

During school, I learned a lot. I started a fellowship group with a bunch of my guy friends so we could keep each other accountable about the kinds of things guys struggle with. I don’t think we kept each other very accountable, but it ended up being some of the best study of the Bible any of us have ever experienced, and it helped make my education real. A good Bible school tears down your preconceptions that you bring to your interpretation of the Bible. Malone definitely did this for me. I realized that to every argument I was raised to hold dear, there was a counterpoint that was just as Biblically supported, except for the main tenets of the faith. So it was there, and through my fellowship group that I realized that God is not a Republican, and faith is more than what you don’t do. It took me years to realize, though, that all of the knowledge I had gained would only ever point back to the simple truths that are already spelled out as clear as day in the Bible. Things like, love your neighbor, love God, and anything done outside of faith is a sin.

Around this time, my relationship with Gina changed. She realized that she was expecting me to be her hope in life; she was holding me to silly expectations because she had been let down by her father. She did decide to follow me to Malone, and we decided to get married. We picked out a ring and everything. Gina, being all liberated like she is, picked an extremely modest ruby as her engagement ring, just to have some color. It was a gorgeous ring, but the timing was all wrong. To the horror of our parents, we announced our engagement. We really didn’t plan on getting married anytime soon; we just assumed we’d have a long engagement. Apparently that’s not done in Northeast Ohio, or something, because everyone was horrified. So we decided we’d put the engagement off until when it was closer to time to actually get married. We weren’t about to quit school or anything, but apparently that’s what a ring means to most people.

After that time, we began to question whether or not to get married. Gina wanted desperately to go to school somewhere really cool (NYU was her favorite pick), and I wanted to stay where we were. She also began to realize that maybe she wanted a more traditional, manly guy for a boyfriend, not a wimpy nerd like myself. We eventually broke up, and this experience affected us to the core. I realized that I would need to start taking responsibility for myself as an adult. Gina realized that I meant more to her than where she went to school. So, after about a month, we got back together, and decided to take things a little more carefully this time.

When Gina graduated (2 years ahead of me), we got re-engaged; this time it was more traditional. I got her a new diamond ring that was slightly less modest, and we had a modest outdoor wedding May 19th, 2002, one year after she graduated, and one year before I would. She worked for Allstate Insurance because she couldn’t get a job with an English degree.

When I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Bible and Theology, I made the shocking realization that the degree was worthless. Apparently, ministry was one of those jobs where it’s all about experience. I should have expected that since most pastors in NE Ohio have only a Bachelor’s, or even less education. Anyway, it was too late for volunteer work at this point, so I applied a couple of places for Youth Ministry. I didn’t know what type of ministry I even wanted to do, since I hadn’t had time for it while I was in school. I did, however, organize a fellowship group with a bunch of my friends that lasted 2 years.

After having some difficult experiences, I decided to take 3 years off from attempting to work in the ministry. I did this for three reasons. First, I had my entrance and exit interviews into the School of Theology at Malone. They were both extremely discouraging. I thought I wanted to be a missionary, but my professors didn’t think I was the kind of exuberant personality that went into missions. Second, I could not get a single person I had met in my entire life to confirm any kind of calling in my life. Third, I was told by everyone in any type of ministry that I needed to take time off and become a better person. I decided that I’d take 3 years, because that’s how long it would take for Gina and I to pay off our car payments so that I could do volunteer work if I had to.

During this time, I had three bad experiences trying to get a job in ministry. First, I called the missions board at my denomination (Friends) to discuss what they usually expect out of missionaries. They told me I really didn’t want to go into ministry, and I could try all sorts of other opportunities. The one that sticks out in my mind was “missionary flight attendant.” I can handle not being taken seriously, so I went to another denomination that a friend of mine belonged to. They got him started in youth ministry. This particular guy from the Christian & Missionary Alliance, asked me really personal questions about all kinds of things, including stuff I’ll never put on the internet. I trusted him and answered his questions, only to experience what I can only describe as “spiritual rape.” I think this guy is a special brand of evil for whom there is an entire floor of hell devoted. Third, I applied for a youth ministry position, and the pastor spent all of the time in my “interview” talking, and none of the time listening. He was overly concerned that I seemed shy, and when I finally got him to understand that it wouldn’t be a problem, he told me what they paid, and it was somewhere between jack and squat. I just couldn’t afford it with the car payments Gina and I had. In hindsight, maybe I should have tried to take this job.

So I thought to myself, I’ll take some time off alright; I’ll show these people what for. I’ll take three years and become the best dang Christian this planet has ever seen. Not surprisingly, this is not what happened. I didn’t even do any volunteer work. I did, however, start a fellowship group with a bunch of my friends that lasted over a year until they all got too busy to come. We bought a house that consumed most of our time and money for the last two years, only to sell it for a huge loss because we weren’t able to keep it long enough to make any equity. We’ve moved to Columbus now, so Gina can pursue her Master’s at Ohio State University. I’ve learned a ton from owning the home, though, especially about what it means to be a man. I’ve learned that I have to be strong even when I’m not (which sucks). Gina was scared of our scary basement, and so was I. But when I realized that Gina depended on me for security, I stopped being scared and started going down without a flashlight. These are the kinds of things about marriage no one ever tells you about (and it’s the reason that unmarried people will never truly understand what 1 Cor 11:3 means).

In the sale of the house, I was forced to lead my wife in seeking God when nothing else made sense, and it looked like all was lost. It seemed like every day was more bad news, and the situation couldn’t get any worse… until the next day. These were crazy times. I didn’t know what God would have me do during these days while Gina was going to be getting her Master’s, so I prayed about it. I secretly asked God to let the house sell the day after I filled out my application to Ashland if he wanted me to go there to pursue something ministry-related. If he didn’t, I asked him to let us not even get any offers at all the next day, and I would go back to undergrad and get an art degree to make video games (my second love). Considering we had 2 offers in 3 months, the chances were high that without God’s intervention, we’d get no offers at all. However, miraculously, the house sold the day after I filled out the application. Gina and I were praying on a Friday, and the thought came over me about my prayer, and I knew I had to fill out the application that night. The funny thing is, I’m not sure if he caused the house to sell the day after I filled out the application, or if he caused me to fill out the application the day before he was going to let the house sell.

Anyways, I filled out this application, and I was able to get all of my references in and I was accepted. So now I’m going to pursue my Master’s in New Testament. I’ve decided that I’m going to work towards being a Bible professor, focusing on New Testament, and the Johannine works in particular. During the last fellowship group I had been a part of, I began teaching Revelation and found that I have a deep love for the artistic revelation of that book. And I already knew that The Gospel According to John was my favorite book of the Bible, so the Johannine works were a natural fit.

At the moment, I am jobless, so I’m going to try once again to get a youth ministry job, and I’m going to also try to get a job teaching Bible at a private Christian high school. I’m just going to pray for God to lead me to the right place.

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