Tuesday, August 31, 2010

If Christ is a Sweathog then call me Mr. Kotter!

Deryl says......I have not posted in a while. I have sat down to write something several times but nothing really came up. I am just not one to force something when I am not feeling inspired. Whenever I write I want there to be something that I find significant and profound. I know that some of what I write will be common knowledge to many who read this but when I write something it is because something has moved me inside and it means something to me. I can only hope that when it means something to me that others receive something worthwhile. That being said I am going to tell you a story about myself. One that brought great fear to Kelley at one point in our life and one that has up to this point brought me to a place that surprises me and I would venture to say Kelley will be quite surprised when she reads this.
Several years back I had become very jaded with the church. I had become weary with pettiness and judgment. The seemingly endless facade of so many people who pretended that they were ok and looked that way from the outside yet I knew were struggling with heartache, addiction, and all manner of sin within. And the gossip chain...I mean the prayer chain was a constant spreading of the dirty laundry of others. I know this sounds grim but this is where I was at the time and all I could see going on.
I had experienced first hand the judgment of others who were afraid for me because I read a book that they did not understand. One they criticized and said was evil yet never read. People even e-mailed me outright lies about the author of the book and what it said. I saw this and thought why do people from the church feel the need to manipulate me with fear if they are so sure of their faith? So I decided to try an experiment. I was going to watch some movies that I was told were evil by the church for my self and judge for myself if they would steal my soul. I had accepted completely everything I was fed by the church without any rational consideration regarding the content of their message. I watched them and saw nothing inherently evil. So I then thought to myself if they have been telling me all these years that Jesus is the only way to heaven yet have lied to me and many others about so many things how can I be sure that they are right about Jesus. If they are so confident that Jesus is the only way why do they feel the need to manipulate others with guilt and fear? So I decided that they weren't right and I was through being a christian. I had had enough personal experience with God to know that God was real. But I questioned the christian path to God because such a large percentage of them seemed to struggle and be unhappy with life.
My next step was to research my new path to God. So I read many, many books about other religions and spiritual philosophies. I read the Tao Te Ching, the Bhagavad Gita, the Four Noble Truths, and many other new age and eastern religion based books. The interesting thing is that I found a lot of wisdom and spiritual truths in those books. And many of those truths impacted my life in a positive way. The interesting thing was that every time I gained a new insight I could recall a similar truth in the bible. I found it almost annoying at times that my mind would always find a parallel truth from the bible of the many spiritual truths I learned in these other books. Now there are some people that read this last paragraph and either feared for my soul or thought I am a blasphemer. For those who fall into that category I hope you will hang on and bear with me through the rest of the story without judgment.
So here I am trying to figure out am I going to be a Buddhist or a Hindu? Or was I going to follow the new age philosophy path to God. I dabbled in eastern meditation. I looked at many different paths and tried to incorporate many of them. And frankly there were moments that I felt God's presence during that time. And I could very well have stayed on one of those paths for many years. And Kelley, devout christian that she is, was beside herself. I am sure she was afraid on so many levels. What does this mean for our marriage? What is he going to try and teach our kids? Fortunately I knew better than to try and teach my kids something I wasn't sure about myself. It was my spiritual experiment and I didn't want to influence them with something that was unstable within me. But Kelley had a real fear that we might not stay married over this.
So one day Kelley convinces me to try this church out. Give Christianity one last chance. Although there had been some nice insights and practical wisdom in my research into other religions. Nothing had really grabbed a hold of me yet so I said why not? So off we go to visit this new church The Community at Lake Ridge. We are sitting and listening to the pastor preach his sermon. And he said something that caught me completely off guard and completely opened my heart and mind to what he was saying. During the delivery of his message he began to recount a marriage counseling session he and his wife had recently been through. As soon as he said that I knew I would be attending this church. A pastor that did not pretend to have it all together, one who relayed his own struggles and faults to his congregation, now this was a guy I could listen to. I began to experience a church that was really authentic in loving people where they were. A church that did not judge anyone that walked in the doors. People that didn't pretend to have it all together but were just honestly trying to live out their faith with others. It was so energizing. I began to realize that perhaps Jesus was the way after all? Or at the very least the best way of all.
Over time I slowly took steps back towards Christ. I began to see my own judgment. I understood that my judgment of those I considered hyper-religious was no different than their judgment of me or anyone else. I began to see that love was the key of the path to God through Christ. I realized that the moment I considered myself better than them I was moving away from love and away from God. I have been slowly but steadily moving back to Christ. Gaining new insight and understanding to how simple yet profound and powerful the message of Christ is and has always been. The truth is that no matter how christians behave it does not invalidate the pure message of Christ. How well a professed christian follows the path does not weaken Christ's message of love for all. I began to allow myself to accept these truths all over again. Only this time they were mine. They were not spoon fed to me by someone else. I spent hours in prayer and meditation over them and realized them for myself. But there was still something holding me back. I knew I was holding back inside. Maybe I was waiting to see if everything I was witnessing and experiencing could last? Could this be another facade that would eventually give way to the truth that this was just another church?
I began to meditate more and more. As I did I began to experience God in a way that is indescribable. An overwhelming sense of love and gratitude would envelop me during those times. That is the thing about God that we miss so easily, he loves us so much. God is unknowable, unfathomable. We can get glimpses of his nature. Hints of his personality. But these glimpses and hints are profound experiences for us and they are all we can handle at a given moment.
I find it funny how we can argue so much about someone we understand so little. Did you know the ancient Jews thought God was so unknowable that they would not even say his name? What makes us think we know everything? Just a question to ponder.
Even after all of that I was not fully given over to Christ. I still had some judgment within me towards the church. I still saw things that bugged me. For instance, I was frustrated at the constant talk of the word of God. It was not that I did not believe that the bible was inspired by God, I did. I just felt like as a church we spent so much time learning the bible and thinking about the word of God that we left out some other important things. The church was becoming knowledgeable about God but not really knowing him. I believe in the value of bible study. But if it is all in your head and not your heart what value is it? The bible is not God. It points us toward him, but it is not him. Let's put it this way. I could read books about my wife Kelley. I could study and memorize everything that was ever written about her. I could memorize all of it but if I have never met her in person do I really know her? If I met her but all I did was talk and tell her what I need from her do I know her? How do I get to know her? By spending time with her. I talk to her. I listen to her. And I live in her presence. Because I do all these things with Kelley I know her better than anyone else on the planet. She is rooted so deep in my heart that I cannot imagine my life without her. She is in my heart because we have a relationship. A book might help me have a better relationship with her but it cannot be a substitute for the relationship. It is no different with God. So I was letting this hold me back and I am not sure why. But I keep taking steps back to Christ and getting ever closer than before.
You may be reading this and thinking "Deryl I thought this blog was about cancer. What does this have to do with cancer?" And my answer is....probably nothing. But I have said in the past God has used this situation to change me and Kelley. You can see her worry challenge and what a difference it is making in her life and mine too. And since Kelley's diagnosis those baby steps back to Christ have become leaps at times. The thing I have learned about this experience that I have recorded for you is this. You cannot manipulate someone to Christ or back to Christ. The manipulation will only push them away. If someone is truly seeking the truth about God they will find it. We can advise a seeker when they ask but pushing our beliefs on someone will not draw them to Christ. We can offer our own experience with Christ because no one can argue with me about my own personal experience. Most of all we can love them no matter where they are at in their seeking. If they are really seeking and asking for the truth we only need to encourage them in their journey. I went all the way around the world religiously speaking but the truth brought me back to Christ. All the other religions I studied had some wisdom and insight. Some even pointed towards God. But only in Christ did I ever personally experience God and his overwhelming love for me. I hope that you find this encouraging. If you are a seeker I will share Christ's own words with you. "Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be open. For everyone who asks receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And the door is opened to everyone who knocks." Love to you all!


  1. This struggle has everything to do with cancer and your relationship with your wife. It forces you to examine all aspects of healing. Spirituality included. Faith doesn't need a label. It is peace in your heart, a song,a prayer and a profound understanding that God is present, even when we are absent. Taffy

  2. Deryl, thanks for being so honest! Our God will be found faithful and true as He says if we seek Him we will find Him if we seek Him with ALL our heart! Thanks for going on the search and then sharing your findings!!!