When I was a young’n.. you know, last week sometime.. I would frequent church all the time. Not by choice, mind you. My parents were very strict religious people, and going to church was a nearly daily event. An event that I really couldn’t comprehend and certainly didn’t enjoy. Those of you who know me well, know that I have a unique set of beliefs.
As a young teen, I wanted to believe.. not just in God, but in everything.. Bigfoot, The Lochness Monster, The Bermuda Triangle, Aliens.. all of it. I’d spend many days skipping school and digging deep into all kinds of books at the public library. Being forced to attend church services many times a week, made religion a more prominent area of research. I could never understand the point of the service itself.. I mean, people arrive at the church and greet each other, then there’s singing.. ok.. and then someone takes the stand and yells at us for being sinners, then they ask us for money? I found it all very insulting, monotonous, and boring.
Sleeping was forbidden in church, go figure, so I had to find something to occupy my time. What a better thing than to read the Bible? But where to start? Genesis? Sure.. that’s the beginning.. but I pretty much know the story just from the many times I’ve heard it. Revelations? Um.. that’s kinda scary and grim, and probably wouldn’t make much sense without having read what came before it, right? Well.. where do I start?
I’ve always been a “dart-board decider”, When I don’t know what to do, I just jump in and figure it out. My home state of Connecticut has no NFL team, so when it came time for me to pick one to follow, I just turned on the TV, found a game, and adopted the winner (Vikings). That said, when trying to decide on the Bible, I let God tell me why I should even bother. I plopped the big book on it’s back, let the pages fall as the may, and locked my eyes on the first thing I could.
“For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”, Acts 8:23
That’s what I saw. What came before, and what followed after, were of complete insignificance to me. I was bewildered by the fact that I ended up landing on such a direct and plain answer to the question in my head. I was bitter, I hated being dragged to church kicking and screaming almost every day, and.. well, trapped by sin was the way to roll. You had to be either one of Them, or one of Us, and being one of Us yielded a lot more safety.. ironically.
I don’t know if it started there or not, but that moment sticks out as a reassurance of why I don’t believe in chance. Like the movie, “City of Angels”, I believe that there are forces constantly acting For AND Against us. I’ve been very blessed and fortunate. More often than not, my prayers get answered. So much so, that I fear praying sometimes..
When I was a kid, I loved my Godfather. You see, my family was poor. For me, Birthdays sucked, as did Christmas. There was hardly enough money for food, much less for the luxuries that we always crave. My Godfather, however, he always had money.. he was in the game. Whenever I was allowed to see him, I totally enjoyed it.. it always resulted in some money and a shopping spree. As I aged, I started to understand HOW he got his money.. and that made the gifts not as pleasant to receive. One day, my Godfather was a involved in a pretty bad car accident, the docs said he’d never be able to walk again. At that point, he turned his life around and decided to commit to God. It was pleasant to see the change. My parents, who were always hesitant to let me spend time with my Godfather, now had something in common with him again. It brought us all closer, and it was nice. Slowly but surely, my Godfather’s injuries started to heal, until finally.. he walked. As if he were an inmate that had just been released back into the world, my Godfather left the church, and resumed business as usual.
That memory stands in the front row every time I decide to pray. Am I using my faith as some sort of magic genie? Is this request worthy enough? Selfless enough? Sometimes, when my heart starts to act up, and I’m overcome with the fear of dying, my instinct is to beg for mercy, to ask God not to take me.. but then my Godfather pops in.. I feel calm, and accept that if I have to die, there’s no point in begging for him to change his mind, instead.. I just think of those I love.
It’s been decades since I was that kid, yet Acts 8:23 still holds just as precise. I’m still bitter and I’m still locked in sin, but it’s Easter, a day to remember that there is Hope even when the worst of the worst has happened. Life can be painful, difficult, and disappointing.. but next time you’re feeling that way, take one second to realized that you’re being watched, you’re being held, and you’re being loved.