February 24, 2007

My Journey

This is not an autobiography; more like a spiritual sketch. How I got to this point, in a nutshell.

Born to second-generation, European-decended parents, I was a precocious talker and reader. It was only in the higher, elementary grades at school that I became conscious of being the guy with the funny surname. While my father was of Polish descent, and mother of Italian, they both came from a Roman Catholic tradition, and I went to Catholic elementary schools to grade eight... (and still have my 'first communion' card in an album my mother thoughtfully prepared.) By age 19 I no longer believed, but kept attending church as long as I lived under my parents' roof. In fact, I couldn't accept the claims of Christianity as being the only route to salvation, and I studied about (mostly) Hindu-derived beliefs, which are quite fascinating with their spiritual development based on meditation, yoga, 'chakras', and reincarnation. I did some yoga, and meditation, without any profound insights. In my mid-twenties, I finally used a mind-altering drug, long after most of my contemporaries. While many of them had had negative experiences-- bad trips-- I had a profound and largely ineffable experience. It seemed to move me into a new phase of life wherein I became more adventurous in exploring activities that I previously would have shied from. I was also reading a lot about so-called psychic phenomena, altered states of consciousness, and UFOs.

Around the end of my 20s, I met the woman who became my wife. She is a native of India, but was a devout Catholic at the time, having come from a former Portuguese area, and educated in nun-taught schools. It was like destiny, since I had just begun to return to my roots, and was attending church again... sort of. My parents had joined a 'charismatic prayer group,' which is what Catholics called their brand of pentacostalism; and they invited me to a mid-week, evening meeting. I found that it was not like the stuffy, structured services of my youth, and the spirit seemed to be inviting. I started attending regularly, and later, my wife, Edna, and I became quite involved in that prayer group. We also regularly attended the RC church in our neighborhood.

After our daughter was born, I began to get quite restless in the Catholic Church. I had a subscription to a magazine called 'The Plain Truth,' put out by the Worldwide Church of God. That magazine had a lot of though-provoking articles in it, as well as topical stories. I ordered some of their literature, and read some fascinating material that was based on the Bible and quoted scripture. Strangely, I never felt inclined to join, or even investigate their local church. By my late 30s, I was ready to abandon Catholicism for good-- but, where to go? I resolved to just be the best Christian I could, right where I was... until something else might appear. When the student is ready, the teacher appears, as they say in Budhism. I got to talking with a lady in our church who was basically driven out the doors for being too enthusiastic in worship... she raised her arms in church, as they used to in the charismatic meetings... a no-no in the mainstream mausoleum. She and her husband, a resourceful electrical engineer, were now listening to satellite broadcast, religious TV shows from the US bible-belt, and making audio tapes for re-listening. They lent me some tapes, and my wife and I were impressed by them. The other couple were hopping around, checking out various denominations, looking for Bible-based solidity.

One day I met her again, and asked what was their church flavor of this week. Her reply floored me, it sounded so unlikely: Seventh-Day Adventist. They felt this one was finally a Bible-based church, and invited me to a video seminar at their house. My wife was still a devout Catholic but agreed to accompany me at the seminar. We were supplied with 'KJV' Bibles, and fill-in-the-blanks workbooks, which always led, unerringly, to the proper conclusions (fancy that). Before the end of the multi-week series, we were convinced we had to leave the RC church, and join 'God's remnant church,' the SDA. We did; and we went 'whole-hog,' abruptly switching to their strict vegetarian diet, enrolling our daughter in their denominational school, and, craziest of all, attending church on Saturday, which they always call 'Sabbath.' Oh, and I should add, almost completely alienating my parents and whatever few friends we had accumulated in the Catholic system. Our once close relationship with my parents became unbearably strained; they were totally dismayed, lamenting if only we had become pentacostals! Our weekly visits with them became an exercise in 'heads they win, tails we lose.' There was no way they could comprehend our apostacy, and our wierd new habits of nutrition and worship, try as we might to reassure them we still held Jesus as our Lord and Saviour.

But, there was something that never sat well on my religious sensibilities right from the start with Adventism. Our instructor was an erudite pastor who laid out the complicated, two-stage, 'Adventist gospel' which separates justification ('what Jesus does for us') and sanctification ('what we do for Jesus,' revamped as 'what the Spirit does in us'). I just couldn't make this work in my understanding of scripture; yet I let it ride... for almost a decade. Chalk up another one for 'the power of the paradigm;' it felt wrong, but I got swept along by the persuasion of the majority. After about six years of Adventism, I met a couple of other fellows who had the same doubts as mine, and had found the scriptures to prove the errors. My wife and I joined a more liberal congregation that seemed open to Bible truth and for another couple of years I lingered in the SDA Church, trying to bring this serious theological error to the attention of anyone who'd listen. Finally, it was obvious to both of us that we had overstayed our time with Seventh-Day Adventism, and its curious attempt to live the New Covenant life based on Old Covenant legalism. We bailed, and asked for our names to be removed from their membership rolls. It was off into the wild, blue yonder once more!

Later, we moved to another area, which gave us the chance to visit some of the new, local churches/denominations. After a few weeks, we had settled on an evangelical, pentacostal assembly, with a very well-rounded, personable pastor. We lasted something over a year, maybe, and made a few, temporary friends; and I even went and had tea and discussions with the pastor several times. But, we soon found that it was no use-- the magic was gone; churches were all alike-- peddling a strange hybrid gospel that had no power because it was based on a contradiction. I was surprised to find that Edna was ready to toss in the towel before me, this time. Now, what?

Well, as the Spirit moves you, when one door closes, another opens. And so with us, too; after leaving Adventism, we remembered an older man who was apparently once a pastor, and later, the 'up-line director' in a vitamin, network marketing organization that Edna had joined. He had some 'interesting ideas' regarding Sabbath, etc. Okay; let's check his ideas out, I decided. We phoned him up and asked if we could visit and hear what he had to say. As it turned out, Sam and his wife Dorothy, were an amazing couple who had been through worse spiritual struggles than us, and lived to write about it. They knew where we were coming from, and I gratefully accepted a book Sam had written with his studies. Edna and I began to visit regularly, and learned much from our new friends. Presently, we continue to met with them, and a few other people, in our homes, on a periodic basis, to share our lives, study the scriptures, and pray.

Certain truths that have been flirting with me for decades are now clear in my mind. They might, instead, be labelled as herecies by orthodox believers; but everything I believe can be supported by scripture. I know-- everyone makes that claim. My two former friends who actually introduced me to the efficacy of Christ's atoning sacrifice on the cross are, themselves, still not free of legalism, insisting that they must continue to hold church on 'Sabbath.' Just as Paul described the Galatian believers as being under a spell, so too, my erstwhile deliverers are under the spell of legalism, as much as they may deny it. They just can't 'see' the futility of making the core of the Old, Mosaic Covenant the center of the New, Christ-centered Covenant. The contradiction, 'Is it Jesus, or The Law, that is the focus of the faith?' doesn't hit them in the face, and grate on their spiritual nerves. They have written reams of scholarly papers for their like-minded associates, justifying the persistence of the Mosaic Ten Commandment law in the New Covenant. But it makes no sense, really.

But, I've come to realize that spiritual blindness is more due to personality than to sincerity. Those who are conservative by nature find it awfully hard to swallow the idea that God could set us loose on this world without following the time-honored system of reward and punishment. You can try and explain that Jesus gave us the only 'Law' that covers all situations without loopholes-- love your neighbor as you love yourself-- but they can't buy it. It's anarchy, or 'antinominianism' if they are scholarly minded. So they try and pretend that a believer can 'by the aid of the Spirit' lead a sin-free life, and thus rest assured of qualifying for heaven. So, I have my website where I post my hard-won spiritual insights in the hope that God will lead those who need the information to stumble on it and be enlightened by His Spirit to 'see' the truth... and find true freedom at last.

My final conclusion is another hard one-- that we, this generation, are living in the 'last days' of this age. Again, most people find this notion repugnant, therefore, crazy and to be denied. That's okay; events wil speak for themselves, and will not be ignored. It's clear that the weather has gone very unstable, and scientists assure us it will only get worse. So far, earthquakes and volcanoes have not been frequent enough-- in populous areas-- to get the masses excited. Yet remember that in Dec., 2004, the earth experienced a magnitude 9 quake that shook the whole planet and affected the rotational speed measureably. We have 'wars and rumors of war,'-- business as usual, one can say. There are deadly pestilences lurking menacingly in various parts of the world, stirring dim memories of the 'Spanish flu' epidemic of 1919 that killed some 20 million souls. The oceans are rising as the polar caps melt. Most of the effects of global warming are now in 'positive feedback' mode, meaning that those effects are reinforcing further global warming. It's a different world than the one I remember as a young boy, 5 decades or so ago.

The US stock market is essentially an artifact of economic smoke and fiscal mirrors; yet anyone who says 'this time it's different' is laughed at by the financial managers. But it's a nervous laugh, because even the most cock-eyed optimists know that there's got to be a day of reckoning, sooner or later-- the timing is the hard part. So it goes with the world at large. Mankind has recklessly overdrawn his accounts on the world's resources; polluted with gay abandon; spilled human blood like worthless slop... and it looks as if it will only get worse. There will be a day of reckoning... and now it's not far away. As with so many facets of human endeavor, the majority has no idea of what's coming. More than that, they don't want to know. Truly, they prefer ignorance, darkness, to information that troubles them. Curious. It's the 'Titanic syndrome.' I consider the story of the Titanic to be iconic. The ship represents the world; we are arrogant, self-absorbed passengers and crew, partying away in indulgent excess, engines set to full speed ahead, as we sail blithely into the starry night, confident in the power of our pitiful technologies to deliver us from any natural hazard... and then blind-sided to catastrophe by mere frozen water.

That's my spiritual journey (to early 2007) in a nutshell. God holds the final chapters in His providential future.

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