The Muddled Middle

5 10 2011

The journey of my life has led me to many places.  From a young age, I understood that there was a God who had a Son. I knew that the Son, named Jesus Christ, died for my sins.  However, for most of my life, I have been a dichotomy of religiosity and carnality.  Jesus calls for every part of us in the act of absolute surrender.

I wish I could say that I learned quickly to obey the call of Christ, but I did not.  I spent many years, after I felt a call on my life to the ministry, seeking fulfillment in a myriad of trifles, trysts, and toils.  As a young airman in the Air Force, I found myself away from home for the first time.  I quickly became the cliché of the young, extremely conservative  man who falls away without parental guidance to keep me on the “straight and narrow.”  I found acceptance, however temporary it was, in shallow liaisons with members of the opposite sex.  I tried to keep up the façade of a man of faith.  I even worked as a Chaplain’s Assistant while stationed at Lackland AFB.  I struggled with my choices but couldn’t understand why I made them.

The reason, at least in part, would become clear in Colorado Springs, my first duty station.  I started attending a church that challenged my heart to find a deeper connection with the Savior.  There was talk of prayer languages, fasting, seeking the Spirit of God in power.  During a college and career retreat, a pastor asked if anyone wanted to be baptized in the Spirit and receive the gift of tongues.  I had a friend at this same time who had been encouraging me to seek this gift as well, but I would always ask for the verses on the topic.  I wanted to seek it out and to have a complete academic understanding of this very spiritual gift.  My friend almost always said it has to be accepted in faith.

I was finally ready that night of the retreat to act on the faith my friend had been encouraging.  I went to the front and met the pastor there.  He asked if I wanted to be baptized in the Spirit and to receive the gift of tongues.  I said yes.  He then asked me to start praying aloud to Jesus, and while I prayed, he put his hands on my chest and my back and began to pray in tongues.  This experience was initially awkward for me, because I worried about my appearance before the other believers present.  What would they think?  (This question has plagued me most of my life).

I was still feeling very uncomfortable when the pastor instructed me to just to begin speaking whatever words came to mind in whatever language I heard them.  After muttering my prayers to Jesus for another couple of minutes, I experienced a rush of power over me, and a new language emerged from my lips.  I did not know what I was saying, but in my heart, I felt a deep abiding peace.  The power of the living God fell on me.  The rest of that night was a euphoric experience.  I felt God’s love and approval.  I was touched by the Father heart of God.

In some ways, I used longed for my life to rewind to that point as a twenty-two-year-old man.  The God of the universe interrupted my intellect with His loving grace.  It was definite marker of something new in my life.  However, the “question” interrupted His work.  “WHAT WOULD PEOPLE THINK?”  This time a spirit of fear broke into my life through a number of open doors.  I hadn’t changed my ways, I allowed the enemy to remain and continued in my same ways.  I had surrendered for that moment, but not completely.  I’d experienced God’s presence and love, but I caved to loneliness and lust.  I still wanted the same things with a Christian veneer.  I have learned that you can’t undo what’s been done, but you have to accept the truth, take it to the cross, and leave it there.

Before I learned this truth, I made many more mistakes. I eventually found a woman whom I thought I could grow to love.  She was a native Texan.  She had the same birthday as me; day, month, and year.  Her parents were fans of the Dallas Cowboys, and she loved to watch football.  This woman was God’s gift to me. Or so I thought.  As it turned out, we had very little in common.  Sure, we shared some interests, but we never shared deep intimate secrets or dreams.  Just about a month before we were married, she said we needed to take a break.  A friend of hers had told her that she did not believe I was the man she was supposed to marry.  (lots of pronouns, but I prefer to protect this person’s anonymity)  Also, I was not attracted to her.  While this is a shallow admission, if you read the Song of Solomon, attraction is important between lovers.

My fiancee’s friend was right. I wasn’t in love with her.  I was in love with the idea of a wife.  Also, I wasn’t ready for the commitment to be married.  After our engagement ended, I went back to the well of temporary connections with the opposite sex and drunken debauchery.  These encounters left me empty once they ended, but their intoxicating effect kept me coming back for more much like a drug addict looking for the next hit.

I finally finished my time in the Air Force and moved back home to Texas.  My time in the muddled middle was finally coming to a close.   Please come back tomorrow for the beginning of the beginning.  For a brief synopsis of my journey click here.

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