I’m not going to preach to you. I respect everyone’s belief system. I think there are a ton of different names for God and how we seek him. This is my personal story. I’ve had lots of people try and force God on me over the year. I know that you cannot make someone believe something. Nor, should you want to force someone to do anything. That’s just not a cool thing to do to another person.
I’ve never been a “church guy”. As a kid, I got in trouble a lot at Church (Presbyterian). When I was 5 (1983), I was given the opportunity sing a song for my Sunday school class. I was excited! This was my opportunity to show’em what I’ve got! What did you sing you ask? Let me tell ya. I chose the Country Western hit song Jose Cuervo You Are A Friend Of Mine! A catchy little tune about a woman who had too much tequila one night and is left with a ton of questions about what happened the previous evening. Did she kiss all the cowboys? Did she shoot out the lights? Who’s this man in her bed? Why is she wearing his shirt? etc.
After my stunning out of tune rendition of the aforementioned song, I was informed that I had done something bad. That I was bad, I made a bad song choice, I should not have sung that song. I should have sung a song about Jesus or God or “This Little Light of Mine“. Unfortunately, I didn’t know any of those songs my heart. But, I did know the tune of Mr. Jose Cuervo (During my college years, I got the chance to meet Jose and spend a few ruckus evenings with him. Turns out he is not my friend and I had the hangovers to prove it.)
I got spankings in front of the church from my dad for not being able to sit still during the sermon a few times. I remember my Dad taking off his belt and saying “This is going to hurt me more than it is going to hurt you Son”. I still find this comment to be false. I was the one crying after the spanking and I had the belt marks to prove it. I was defiantly the more hurt of the two people involved in the spanking.
At 8 years of age, I watched the Church pick sides when my parents got divorced. They shunned my mom, she had messed up in life and they were going to punish her for those bad choices. It seemed very contradictory to me. My family was hurting and all those nice folks at church were making it worse.
After the divorce, I rarely had to go to church. It felt good, I was no longer getting in trouble for not sitting still. Sitting still has always been an issue for me. I no longer had to listen to people tell me that God is in the bible and God is at Church. I know God is in both of those places but, I always knew that he was everywhere else as well. It felt like we did the “Church Thing” to keep up our appearance of a happy, well adjusted, successful, suburban, median income american household.
My dad has remained faithful to the Church for his entire life. He does great things with the church. He has counseled prisoners serving life sentences for murder. He has counseled people who are struggling financially. He is great with finances, hes a numbers dude. He has continued to gently encourage me to go to church for the past 20 some odd years. But, I was not interested.
On my mythology front, I’ve studied Greek, Egyptian, Norse, Mayan, native american, Chinese and other ancient cultures. I’ve spent time looking in to the new age movement. I’ve studied Wayne Dyer, Esther Hicks, Ernest Holmes, Eckart Tolle, Oprah Winfrey etc.
After consuming all of this knowledge, I was still undecided. I had labeled myself Agnostic. A dude who looked at all the options, I’d listened to all the sales pitches. I had examined the blueprints for all of these ideologies to help you navigate life. But, It was overwhelming. So, I unsubscribed, I opted out, Thanks but, no thanks.
For a while I even tried to be Atheist. I read the works of Sam Harris, His message made sense. He also encouraged folks to try psychedelics. A class of drugs that were non addictive and gave you the chance to experience a higher level of reality. In my late 30’s, I found myself drinking Peyote Tea in the Arizona desert, part of a native american spirit walk. I also tried magic mushrooms and weed. None of these chemical compounds worked for me, I was no closer.
Even though I had decided God was not real. I had decided that there were way too many horses in this race and there was no way I was going to be able to buy the winning ticket. Yet, something inside me told that God was real. I just needed to keep looking.
In June of 2015, I was diagnosed with a disease. A disease of the mind. It is called Bi Polar Depression. I was diagnosed after having a significant “Manic” episode, followed by the worse bout of clinical depression of my life. I had single handedly destroyed my life. The mania was a result of my marriage of 10 years ending. The pain was too much and my mania was trying to protect me from the pain. Unfortunately, “Mania” will gladly cause 100 times more pain while trying to protect you from the initial pain. My clinical depression was sever. My mind was gone, there was nothing left of me. I was having suicidal thoughts. I came so close to ending my life a few times. Each time, I told no one. I was not going to give anyone the opportunity to save me. I was too far gone. I had made too big of a mess and there was no way I was going to be able to clean up the mess much less have a future.
At the very last moment, right before I was going to pull the trigger (literally). A question would pop into my mind. It was so strange. One little question, “What if you are wrong?”. This little question prevented my death. It made me take a moment an think. What if I am wrong? What if my life is not over? What if God is not done with me yet? What if Hell is a real place?
These additional questions did not have answers. That scared me, not having the answers scared me. Scared me to the point of living again. The depression was still bad but I was alive.
I have some great people in my life that have helped me recover from my Manic and Depressive episode in the last year and half. My family, my therapist, my doctor and some people I’ve never met. Andy Stanley is one of those people. He is the leader of North Point. A church in Georgia. I found him online and he was the first dude who I had ever heard say the following.
“The church as messed up”
“The church as has done some weird things”
“You don’t have to be a Christian to listen to my message”
“It’s okay if you don’t believe”
These statements were amazing to me. It peaked my interest, I listened to his messages for the past year. I was still trying to find God as part of my recovery from Depression. I liked his messages but the sermons did not give me the “Eureka” moment I was looking for in life.
I was told it was important to pray. Pray for healing, for guidance, for forgiveness and any other requests I had for The Big Guy. I started praying to God. I tried lots of different prayers and said them a lot of different ways. Some of my prayers where super sad “God, why did you let his happen to me?”, “God, Where the hell are you?”, “God, If you are real! Show yourself to me!!”, “God!, Where are you”, “God, Thank you for all the good stuff in my life. BUT, Why am I Bipolar?, why did you give me bipolar?”.
I tried being grateful, sad, happy, angry, yelling, whispering, eyes open, eyes closed, outside, inside etc. I kept asking “Why”. I was getting nowhere. I was not making any progress with my recovery. I gave up for a while. I gave up on God. He was nowhere, he was not answering prayers. Apparently he was “On the other line” and did not have voicemail.
Then, I had a thought. I tried a different prayer. I stopped asking why. “Why” was the wrong question. God had no interest in answering “Why”. Instead of “Giving Up” I “Gave In”. I said the following prayer.
“God, I don’t know why all this happened. I don’t know why I have bipolar. I know I don’t have all the answers. I know I never will. I don’t know if you are real. I don’t know what to do. God, I don’t know what I am supposed to do next with my life. BUT, I want to let you know I am ready. Whatever is next for me, I am ready. Please point me in the right direction and let me know what my next adventure is going to be.”
This is my patent pending “Bad Stuff Happened, What’s Next?” prayer. It seems to be working. I’m finding new employment opportunities, continuing my education, making art, and working to help other people who are batting mental health.
Who Needs God? This is a 6 part message from Andy Stanley. He talks about how people have interpreted God, Jesus, The Bible and The Church over the years. How this has led to alternative points of view. He discusses why some folks become “Nones”. That was me I was 38 year old, successful sales and marketing leader with bipolar depression and ADHD. I had been lost for years, trying to find God. Andy helped me finally find him. I’m still not attending church, this will take time but, I found God.
God is everywhere. He created everything. The entire Universe, including you. He loves you. He has given you every tool on earth to build a great life. But, it is up to you to decide how you will use the tools.
Everything in life is a tool. Take a rock for example. A rock can be used to build a home or a rock can be used smash a window. The rock does not care what it is doing. It can be used to create or used to destroy. You have to make the choice.
Links to “Who Needs God?” by Andy Stanley at North Point