…and act like they’ve been baptized in pickle juice
Or at least that’s what I used to think when I was younger.
Wait, who am I trying to kid, I still think many of them are, at least the really stoic ones who don’t know how to enjoy God and relate to Him as anything other than a cop in the sky.
Recently my parents were just visiting me here in Peru and of course in little time at all, my mom just HAD to bring up the past and share the typical embarrassing childhood stories of how I talked all the time as a child, and she said it doesn’t surprise them I’d become a preacher and a writer. Sometimes in embarrassing ways and other times in not so embarrassing ways.
She said something that struck me and I’ve been pondering it ever since and decided to go about
writing re-writing my personal testimony. As I’ll share later in this three or four part series, my former youth pastor is now the pastor at her church, and she tells me that publicly he made a remark from the pulpit about how I was a pain in his butt and he never thought I’d go off to Bible school and get on fire and become a missionary.
This has had me thinking; my testimony may not be as radical as some others’ are. I was someone that people had written off, so even if I was never bound by drugs, alcohol or sex, or have one of the usual “sensational” testimonies, I thought this would still be a good exercise for me. It may interest some readers and those who follow this site to know more about me.
Why Write My Testimony
I first did this six years ago or so, including coming to Christ up to how I wound up in Holland, where I was interning at the time and then later (after writing it) wound up moving to as a missionary. A lot has happened in the years since, the least of which includes some of my worldview shift, but nevertheless, I thought it would be a good idea to revisit it since I am grateful to myself that I wrote it out back then, so it won’t take much work to re-post.
If you think I sit around and just blog and Facebook all day, you’ll be mistaken. Don’t let the frequency with which these posts wind up online in the next few days fool you into thinking I just wrote it. The major work was already done years ago.
However, doing this will bring to recollection just what actually was going on in my life and in my mind at the times of major decisions in life. One way that blogging and airing your worldview through social networking has proven beneficial is that I can go back and see things I’ve said, felt or perceived that I was going through through the perspective I had at the time.
Knock Facebook, Twitter, MySpace et al, all you may want, but this benefit is proving rich to me. Not that I’ve been airing my whole life to the world, but enough stories, testimonies and experiences that this job is quite easy.
At any rate, in order to properly document details for why I made certain decisions, some people mentioned will look bad, but my goal is not to trash anyone or expose anyone for their mistakes, and I usually won’t even mention people by name if it’s regarding something ‘incriminating’ (for lack of a better word) or too embarrassing. I just want to make sure I can bring YOU, the reader, into my world and frame of mind at those times.
Sometime early as a child when my family moved to Peterborough, Ontario (Canada, for those who don’t recognize that Ontario is not a state) when I was about 5 years old, there was a family around the corner who introduced themselves to us right away, the Dombroskis. They are Christians and very nice people, and I don’t recall anything negative about them.
Sometime when I began the first grade of public school and my little brother was old enough to walk, my mom hired a babysitter for us, named Irene. Along with her husband and daughter they were also Christians. It was growing up that these two families had a profound impact on me with the Gospel.
Shortly after meeting both families my parents started bringing us to Auburn Bible Chapel, which both the Dombroskis and my babysitter’s family attended, and was a walking distance from where my parents still live to this day.
Sometime later on, the Dombroskis moved to another neighborhood, but Irene and her family still live up the street around the corner from my parents and I see them from time to time when back in Canada and I stay with my parents.
My memory recalls that they would have these weekly Bible lessons in their basement recreation room, and Mrs. Dombroski would sometimes lead them, but most often it was this other woman named Diane. Every week beginning sometime in the winter that year until the spring after school, I’d go over to my baby sitter’s house — which wasn’t difficult because she was babysitting us in those days — and various kids from around the neighbourhood were attending these lessons, being exposed to the straightforward Gospel.
One day on a frigid cold January, I was walking around the street coming home from the bus stop, and just prayed some kind of “Jesus I’d like you to come into my heart” kind of prayer, that although I would not state that that was my specific conversion experience, I know God must have honoured when I look back on my life since then.
Regular Church Attendance
My family would go on to attend Auburn on Sunday mornings once we had been invited and where all three of the families mentioned were a part. I went through Sunday school for each grade all the way up into high school. My younger brother and me were babysat for years until we were old enough that we didn’t need a babysitter anymore.
I have this memory of playing with toys with my friend Craig sometime when he used to still live on my street, and having him not believe I truly was saved and peer pressuring me into praying a prayer after him, because “it’s really cool to be a Christian”. But neither of these two prayer times strike me as being the time I really committed to following Christ. I may possibly have made Jesus my Saviour and planted a seed in those days, but I certainly didn’t make him my Lord of ALL yet.
So for years, I went to church every Sunday, and was a relatively well-behaved boy. I even owned a Bible, but never read it.
I would simply bring it to Sunday school and turn to passages that the Sunday school teachers would have us turn to and read.
For seventh grade, Mr Dombroski was my Sunday school teacher, along with the eighth grade boys at church, and I even remember Mike Fisher was in that class, and is now making an impact for Christ in the NHL and hockey world.
In the 8th grade Diane was my Sunday school teacher. But I can tell you my heart was far from this stuff, and I’d memorize Scriptures for prizes at various events. In hindsight I’m all for teaching kids the Gospel even if they don’t follow it, since I see the seeds that were sown in my life, even if they didn’t come to fruition for over a decade.
Always Pushing Peoples’ Buttons
This doesn’t flatter me to reveal it, but I have memories of various church related settings where my parents were asked that they don’t bring me or allow me to go, because I was a trouble maker. In the 6th grade, myself and these other two guys were always getting in trouble at school, even to the point of being suspended on at least one occasion.
On that same day I got grounded (a common occurrence in my childhood it seems) for getting suspended at school, my mother told me our family was not invited to a Christmas party a family we knew was holding, because the family was afraid I’d get into a fight with someone like I did the year before. I don’t recall being in many fights as a child, but I was mouthy and would usually get punched out or get someone angry with me for whatever specific reasons.
I do remember getting a few bloody noses, but never swinging any punches.
On a side note, I also remember this older kid in the neighbourhood, Gary, who would wait for my bus to arrive from school so he could bully me around and push me and beat me up most days. I tolerated this for 6 months and then one day punched his head in and he left me alone. I know that’s not Christlike, but I’m merely saying that’s my only real memory of anything remotely like a fight!
And sometimes you gotta stick up for yourself and fight back or your enemy will keep pushing you around if you let ’em. But that’s another sermon.
I don’t know psychologically what it was and don’t think I had major self-esteem issues, but it seemed to me that I liked pushing peoples’ buttons. I kinda still do actually, but SHHH don’t tell nobody. I don’t do it with a motivation for causing problems.
As a teacher, I feel like I see peoples’ blind spots and try challenging their assumptions and make them see other perspectives if I possibly can.
But anyway, this is going to be important for later in the story, but I at that time in my life, I felt like if I could get any of the Christian adults in my life to lose their temper, that I now had “permission” to disregard the Gospel because I somehow intrinsically knew Christians are supposed to be like Jesus—and He was a gentle figure in my eyes (and still IS!).
Part of my getting on peoples’ nerves had to do with seeing if I could tick them off enough that they would act un-Christlike, therefore being able to point at their hypocrisy as an excuse not to follow their message for myself. But deep down I always knew the Gospel message to be true, even if I wasn’t seeing it demonstrated in very many peoples’ lives I know. That, and most of the Christians I knew were the most boring bunch of losers I had ever met. Not ALL but definitely most. Sure, they may have had some sparkle in their eyes, at least the ones who didn’t carry themselves like stuck up people who’d always been baptized in pickle juice., but I couldn’t fathom not watching TV or listening to the worldly bands that I did and knew they disapproved of.
A lot of the Christianity I saw, I now know was “legalistic”—like following a bunch of rules and not loving life—not sin, but loving life.
And that was really all there was to that part of the story until high school…
More to come in the next entry (to be posted in two days).