When I was young, my Uncle Simon was the most spiritual man I knew. He talked about God all the time. And he unknowingly helped me begin to embrace faith. In a strange way Uncle Simon helped me begin to trust God. Maybe my story can show you how to as well.
When we’d visit my cousins my Uncle Simon would yell, “Hey, you G**d***n kids, get in the G**d***n kitchen and eat your G**d***n breakfast, G**d***n it!”
We’d all scurry into the kitchen and I wondered who this God guy was my uncle was constantly naming. We weren’t part of a church and never talked about God at our house. But we visited my cousins often so that was the only time I heard about God. At first, I often wondered why Uncle Simon wanted God to damn everything. Later I just began to wonder about God. But I was far from trusting God.
As a teenager I thought the best way to be spiritual was through mind-altering substances. Dumb got dumber. One night, loading into the back of Albert Shade’s ‘58 Ford pickup after a Led Zeppelin concert, some long-haired Jesus Freak handed me a religious tract.
“Thanks,” I slurred. It felt strange as I held the tract in my hand. I was afraid to read it. It was as if God handed me his business card. I was not ready to do business with God. I let the wind grab it out of my hand as we flew home down Interstate 25. During that time, I came close to meeting God through throwing my life away. I went down many a rabbit hole to put it in Alice in Wonderland terms.
God kept pressing in.
My father’s death made me think about heaven and God constantly. “What do you think of God?” a friend asked me as we were sneaking in to a movie called What Do You Say to a Naked Lady? My oldest sister shifted from reading Tarot Cards to praying to Jesus.
Then I went to a Christian camp up in the mountains, where the Christian girls were really tempting and a fire and brimstone preacher yelled at us about sin and going to hell. Maybe God does damn everything, I thought. And I deserved it.
The Presence of Jesus
Somehow I also heard about Jesus. The camp counselors said Jesus loved instead of damned. I didn’t believe deserved love. But that didn’t stop the counselors of Jesus. It was a long week of trying to avoid Jesus, who was and is omnipresent. His message of love was like one of those songs that get stuck in your head and you can’t stop hearing. Finally, the last night of the camp, I thought becoming a friend to Jesus might be okay. To paraphrase a song from those days.
I woke the next morning, thrilled, confused, changed. I went and sat with my back to a pine tree, thinking about all of this. Was I loved? Or was I damned? Love was pretty hard to believe in. Jesus loved me? Give me a break.
I picked up a twig and nervously peeled the bark off. Underneath the bark was a tiny, smooth, twig that looked like a cross. Even I knew that was not a coincidence. The words I’d heard from the Bible all that week echoed in my head. God loves you.
“Okay, God, I’ll give you a shot. I’ll trust you,” I said as if God was a vacuum cleaner salesman who wouldn’t take no for an answer.
That was over forty years ago when I began to trust God and I’ve been on a spiritual journey since. I still have that cross. And I know God doesn’t damn everything and everybody. Faith–or better said–trust is often opening you eyes to God pressing in. God speaks through lovable but vulgar uncles, long-haired Jesus freaks, twigs, and especially through the Bible. Look, listen, watch. Your story may be strange but that’s also where you’ll find God and learn to trust him.
What’s your story? I imagine it’s very different from mine. And a bit strange too. I’d love to hear about it.
You can read more of my story in Counting on God: Living Spiritually as an Art