Reed’s interview continues. Here is part two in a series I have titled ‘The Poisonous Church.’
Today’s Prayer to Passage resides within the book ‘Jesus Calling’ by Sarah Young.
Today I pray, “Dear God, what path are we to follow when a sacred institution such as the Church does not fit our relationship with You?”
I was brought to God’s answer. September 25:
“POUR ALL OF YOUR ENERGY into trusting Me. It is through trust that you stay connected to Me, aware of My Presence. Every step on your life-journey can be a step of faith. Baby steps of trust are simple for you; you can take them with almost unconscious ease. Giant steps are another matter altogether: leaping across chasms in semidarkness, scaling cliffs of uncertainty, trudging through the valley of the shadow of death. These feats require sheer concentration, as well as utter commitment to Me.
Each of My children is a unique blend of temperament, giftedness, and life experiences. Something that is a baby step for you may be a giant step for another person, and vice versa. Only I know the difficulty or ease of each segment of your journey. Beware of trying to impress others by acting as if your giant steps are only baby ones. Do not judge others who hesitate, in trembling fear, before an act that would be easy for you. If each of My children would seek to please Me above all else, fear of others’ judgements would vanish, as would attempts to impress others. Focus your attention on the path just ahead of you and on the One who never leaves your side.”
REED, 31, MUSICIAN:
“…When graduation approached, I had no idea what I was going to be doing. I was hustling, trying to find what I should do as a music-major. I went to career services and flipped through big binders of information on entry-level positions at corporations where I would have to wear a suit and all that kind of crap.
There was one page of music positions. One page. And none of them were hiring anyway. So, I ended up working at a guitar shop. But through that whole process of trying to find a job and trying to find out what to do with my life, I made a pact with God. That if he would provide something, I would do the work. Because, again, there is no plan.
Things don’t simply happen. God takes more of a provider role in the Universe in general. And our role is to make something out of it. So that’s what I was going for with that prayer. Nothing showed up, and I felt let down.
The following year, I started my master’s work near my home town. I was feeling pretty jilted, and that’s when I really started to try figuring out what this was all about. I began asking, ‘Why do I pray? What am I? Why do I want to hang out with people who don’t seem to like me?’ It was a lot to swallow, and it became more of a struggle than I wanted to deal with.
So, there I was back where I grew up. It was great to be back there. I didn’t attend church very often, even though I was back to my home church. I went three or four times and saw all the familiar people in my congregation. After some time, I had a license to teach music. But I realized I didn’t want to teach music, so I moved back to the city and enrolled as a student at a local music production school. And now I teach music theory there.
Having just moved back to the city, my dad recommended a church in one of the suburbs. So I went to that a couple of times. It was alright. The pastor seemed pretty cool. That was the church that I got most involved with because I was actually going to it, but not regularly. And I didn’t love it, mostly due to the format and, again, because the music was hokey.
All the while I was still wrestling with the idea of resurrection. Actually, I was wrestling with the whole idea of what God was to me. During that period of time, I became depressed. I was not sure what to do with my life. And I found, in that deepest, darkest place, that there was something that was preventing me from staying there. But I didn’t know what it was.
And I was still angry. And there were still no answers for anything. I didn’t know what to do. So, I became depressed. It was just one of those things where I got upset about something, and then I got upset for being upset. And I felt sorry for myself. It was a downward spiral.
That dark state of depression is not a cool place to be in. Not that I would ever act upon it, but there were suicidal thoughts in that place. One night, I was suffering. And I physically cried out to God, “Where are you?” I wanted to die. I wanted it to end.
I didn’t want to deal with my questions anymore. I didn’t want to be bothered with it all anymore. And I didn’t want to live with myself anymore. But I also didn’t want to be depressed anymore. I started trying to stir up the courage to do it, to get rid of it, to end it all. And the moment I started doing that, there was something inside of me that objected, “No, no way.”
There was something there that disallowed it from being an option. And I didn’t know what that was, but if there was something in my deepest, darkest moment that would say something otherwise, that moment made me wonder what that something is. I still don’t know what it is, but I do know that was a big point in my life. I don’t know what caused it. I know the cause of my depression. It’s not a chemical imbalance; it becomes a chemical imbalance once I train my body to go there enough times.
A body actually craves those hormones. And I can recognize the pattern before it starts happening. But when I wasn’t aware of how it worked, and when I was going into that dark place, I had thoughts of ending my life. But despite that, there was still something that allowed me to keep living.
During that time, I had gotten into my band, and I got to be friends with the lead singer. His name was Peter. He was my best friend. He and I wrote songs together. We hung out a lot, played video games and did guy stuff.
On April 12, 2006, Peter died. He had been sick his whole life with Cystic Fibrosis and Fibromyalgia. He had a terrible medical reaction to some medications that he was on. So, he passed away. He was 30 years old.
His family is ultra-religious. And I wasn’t at that point. I hadn’t been going to church. I didn’t know how to deal with it all. Peter was my best friend, and he was only 30 years old. He was full of talent and promise. And it didn’t make any sense for him to be dead.
That was the most painful experience of my life. I felt physical and emotional pain. It is difficult for me to explain the kind of crying that you do when your best friend dies. Peter’s parents said things like ‘at least he’s up there with Jesus now.’ And I was not really contributing anything, because I didn’t know where I was with all of that, and I didn’t know where Peter was with all of that. He and I never really talked about it. I was still puzzled.
So I spent the next six months trying to figure out all of that. A friend of mine introduced me to a program that trains its students to produce a greater quality of life. I enrolled in classes, and they were amazing. It allowed me to examine what’s really important in life, and what I was doing. I paid attention to what was really going on with me. I paid attention to my life. It was powerful work.
It was up to me to create the world as some place that was going to work for my niece and for my nephew. It became more important for me to examine that. It was a weekend-long class. And I came out never getting depressed again. I found out my process, how I make myself depressed. And I discovered how I can catch it and not go down that road.
I learned how to stop beating myself up. I learned how not to compare myself to everybody else. And I discovered why I had stopped going to church.
The next course I took allowed me to understand what being created in God’s image is all about. To me, God created us with a word. I learned that I create my own word, and through language, that’s the only thing I’ve got. Nothing else is attached to me; not the clothes I wear, not the house or the car. All I have for myself is my word. A quadriplegic has no arms or legs, but he still has his word. And I create it.
I create the things I say about myself. I create how I interact with the world. The things I say about other people reflect how I create my world and change my experience of the world. And so, I saw that with how God created us and the world, everything. And in turn, how we are created in God’s image.
And in that image, we create as well with word. And I saw that as a connection. I saw what being created in God’s image is all about, because certainly, we weren’t created to look like God. I shared that with the whole group of about 80 people. Some of them were atheists, some of them were Buddhists, and some of them were whatever, but a lot of them were Christians. And some of the Christians may have rejected my notion. Who knows? But that’s how I saw it then.
So after that weekend class I started attending church again. I don’t know why. It suddenly became important to me again. And I could see something beyond the chosen expressions and the chosen personality types. I could see something beyond delivery styles. I found it more important than it had been.
I started attending church fairly regularly. I met my friend Sam who sings at a large church in one of the suburbs. She invited me up there. I went and loved it. I attended regularly for a few months. It’s funny; even though I was going to church, I still went with a filter of my own stance about the resurrection and what God is and what God isn’t.
I listened to the sermons, and they were amazing. But when the pastor said something with a sense of solidity, I often found myself thinking, ‘Yeah, well, if that’s actually true.’ So, I still have other stuff that I’m wrestling with. And Pastor Ben was crazy enough to not even be comparable to my dad. They were on completely opposite ends of the spectrum really, as far as their charisma. That church was awesome.
I listened to sermons online, too. And I church hopped a little. I bounced around. I was trying to find something. Now I’m trying to figure out why I don’t go anymore. I have no desire to go. But at the same time, I know if I went, I would be inspired and I would get something out of it.
I don’t know what it is now. I can’t say that I was embraced at that church. But I have no real answers as to why I don’t go. What I’m realizing now in the moment and unearthing is that the sense of community keeps coming up as a reason for not going. I went to that church, and I loved it. But out of 2,000 people who attended services, Sam was the only person I knew there.
When the services were over, people left. And that was it. I couldn’t figure it out. There were community opportunities at that church. There wasn’t a lack of things for me to try and do. It just would have been nice for someone to say ‘Hi.'”
(TO BE CONTINUED…)