Some people think that a person’s religious background is irrelevant to shaping their view of God once they become a Christian. They believe that all of our previous ideas about God and religion are somehow magically wiped away once the Holy Spirit takes up residence in us. I strongly disagree with this viewpoint.
As I recently wrote to a friend of mine, we all have ideas buried inside of us about God and the spiritual life. We simply don’t give them much conscious thought before we become Christians. After our conversion experience, however, they begin to bubble to the surface. Sometimes slowly. Sometimes fast. Most of them will seem like new concepts to us but they’re really old concepts we’ve had for a long time but just never thought about or gave any kind of verbal structure to. And unfortunately, as new believers most of these bubbling concepts arising in the beginning stages of our walk will be wrong.
I was never a very religious or spiritual person. In fact, before my conversion I hated God – passionately. But I always believed in God (or some kind of concept of God at least). Some of my concepts were quite comical. At one point in time I had developed this theory that if there was a God; than “God” was probably just the name of some really smart alien, from an advanced alien civilization; that had created us as some sort of science experiment, and we were just living in this giant petri dish. Others were not so comical. Like when I made up my mind that God was just a vindictive dictator who wanted to see us suffer and if He wouldn’t give me what I wanted then He didn’t care for me at all.
In Park Bench Epiphany I mentioned a married woman I was sleeping with and how I tried to kill her and her husband after she decided to go back to him. Well shortly after that incident she left her husband, came back to me and told me she wanted to start a family with me. So we decided to have a baby.
Words fall short of describing how happy I was when the pregnancy test came back positive. I was already in Houston with my dad at this time, working real estate with my cousin and trying to establish something for my new family. But I was also already back into my old ways.
I was always good at living a double lifestyle. Keeping up good appearances for my family while indulging in my sins. We were going to Lakewood at the time. I had even “recomitted” my life to Christ. Even though I wasn’t living any thing close to a committed lifestyle. I knew nothing about what a real Christian life looked like.
We didn’t attend church very much throughout my childhood. My dad had grown up in a Catholic home but he wasn’t very religious. At least he never showed it if he was. The only time you’d find us in church was on Easter, maybe Christmas and sometimes when we went to Grandma’s. And all those occasions we attended a Catholic Church from which all I really remembered was a lot of repititious sitting and standing. If I learned anything from those occasional church visits it was that God was really boring and like to see us stand up and sit down a lot. I don’t mean that as an insult to Catholics. It’s just that as a child that’s all I ever really got from our occasional church attendance.
When I was seven my mom got arrested for aggravated robbery. She did five years and came home a born again Christian. When we visited her at my Grandma’s that summer we spent a month with her and were in church every week. Burning Hope Baptist. Brother Jim was the pastor and he didn’t preach like the Catholic priests. He talked about this guy named Jesus and how much He loved us and how He died for our sins. And he preached with a passion I’d never seen before in anyone. That was the first place I heard the gospel.
At 18 I accepted Christ as my Savior while attending church with my neighbors. I had moved out of my dad’s house and was actually staying with them at the time on two conditions: 1) I went to church with them; 2) I didn’t do anything to set a bad example for their two younger children. They eventually had to put me out because I broke the second rule. But they were good Christian people and I know it hurt them probably more than it hurt me at the time.
But they’re church, Church on the Rock, was a lot like Burning Hope Baptist and their pastor, Pastor Dan, a lot like Brother Jim. It was there that I first received Christ and was baptized. I started seeing church in a different way and I actually started having a desire to be a different person. But it didn’t last long. My love for my sins was too deep. I just couldn’t stay away from the drugs, sex and violence. So I still didn’t learn much about God then.
Fast forward two years, my married girlfriend is pregnant. I’ve redid cared my life to Christ, even though I didn’t know what that meant, and I’m back to living my double lifestyle. We’re going to Lakewood and one Sunday Joel Osteen preached a message about parents and children. Thinking about my child on the way it felt like everything he said was aimed right at me.
At the end of the service he asked if there were any parents or expecting parents in the audience to stand so that he could pray for them. My dad was sitting two seats down from me and I hadn’t told him about the baby yet because I was terrified of how he’d respond. But I knew I needed to stand and pray for my baby.
So I mustered all my courage and stood knowing I’d have some questions to anewer later. I don’t remember what Joel prayed for that day because as he prayed I tuned him out and said my own prayer. I prayed that my baby be born without any complications because we had both been using drugs at the time she conceived and that God would make me a good father.
A week later my baby was dead. She had gotten an abortion the next weekend and tried to play it off as a miscarriage. We were already almost three months into the pregnancy. I don’t know how I knew she was lying but I just knew and when I asked her she was honest. The details behind why are another story within itself and I don’t want to make this story about abortion.
The point here is that I was hurt. Devastated. I wanted that baby and now it was gone. And I blamed God. It was barely a week after I stood in that church, with all my courage and now the baby was gone. There were a lot of people I could’ve blamed, a lot of people I wanted to blame – including myself – but I chose to blame God. Because I knew nothing about Him but I was certain He was obligated to answer our prayers and if He wasn’t going to answer mine I didn’t want anything to do with Him.
And that was the mentality I took with me to jail. I quite going to church with my family and three weeks later I was in the county jail facing five to life. I hated the world and everyone in it. But most of all I hated God. Passionately. And wanted absolutely nothing to do with Him, His stupid book or the stupid Christians who read that crap and believed it. But then I met Jesus in that jail. Literally. Another story I’ve shared with very few people. But the last prayer I prayed before that was something like, “F*$% you God. If that’s the kind of God you want to be then stay the f*$% out of my life.” With that kind of hate there was no way I was surrending my life to this evil vindictive God who took my child. Fortunately for me God got to have the last word on that matter and not me. And He refused to give up on me just yet.