The first thing I want to address as it relates specifically to my own Christian faith is the question I would get asked most of all when people would find out that I am a Christian. I often hear something like: do you ever blame God for the fact that you were born blind? Or the shorter do you ever get angry at God because of your blindness? I only rarely may hear the more combative how could you believe in a God that would make you blind?
1 And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.
2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.
4 I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
6 When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay,
7 And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.
8 The neighbours therefore, and they which before had seen him that he was blind, said, Is not this he that sat and begged?
9 Some said, This is he: others said, He is like him: but he said, I am he.
10 Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened?
11 He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight.
12 Then said they unto him, Where is he? He said, I know not.
John Chapter 9, Verses 1-12: the rest of the story can be read by clicking here.
This passage of scripture does a pretty good job of explaining why I have never been angry at God for the fact that I was born blind. His purpose is larger than my understanding. If after everything that I have endured in my life and if after every challenge I must face I can still praise God, then that says much more about God than it does about me.
But it goes beyond that for me. Suppose I argued with God and demanded to know why I was to be born blind instead of someone else. Am I really going to persuade the creator of the Universe that he made a mistake when it came to me? If I argue long and loud enough is he going to see the error of his ways and give me my vision? Of course he’s not and while I’ve wasted enough time in my life I’d like to think it has been time wasted in far more fruitful pursuits than this one would be. In short, I don’t gain anything by being angry about my lot in life because that’s not going to make it any better.
Plus, in this department I actually have very little to be angry about. While I never had perfect vision, for a time I had enough sight to know what it meant to see green grass or a blue sky. Many people aren’t even afforded that much.
I desired to know God my whole life. I desired him so much that I asked Jesus to come in to my heart at every opportunity when I was a child. On a child’s level, I suspect I did that just in case he decided to leave after the last time I asked him so I wanted to invite him back. The idea that when I did it the first time my eternity in heaven had become assured did not resonate with me until my teenage years. This is why unlike some of my friends I do not make any reference to a spiritual birthday. I was so young when I did it and prayed the prayer so many times the first one has faded into unrecovered memory. I’ll learn it in the future, of that I am quite certain.
The day that I put my faith in practice and took the step of believer’s baptism was October 4, 1998. That date I do remember quite well but it took me awhile to get there.
I had gone to Mt. Olivet Church in Huron for many Wednesdays during my youth up until the end of my freshman year of High School. At the end of that year, they stopped running the bus which was primarily how I got to church on those Wednesday nights. I went to Mt. Olivet because of a neighbor lady, a wonderful lady named Macy. If I know nothing else about the day I received Jesus Christ as my personal savior, the likelyhood is quite high that it was in her home.
As a sophomore in High School, my friend Wade and his brother Duane took a trip to see a World Championship Wrestling event in Sioux Falls. The date was October 20, 1996 which was a Sunday night. Duane wasn’t so hot on the idea of missing Sunday night church services to go watch wrestling but we convinced him. God had a plan and it is a plan the two of us still discuss to this day.
On our way back home, as Wade resided in the back seat, Duane and I began to talk. I knew that Duane was studying to go into the ministry so I took my chance to ask him some questions that I had. Some were based on things I never learned at Mt. Olivet and others were things I wanted explained further. While we were having this conversation, Duane missed his turn and two things happened. We ended up getting off of our rout and ran out of gas. We got home very late and the first half of school the next morning was a real drag for me but we had plenty of time to chat. A seed was planted that night.
Fast forward a few months later and Duane calls me out of the blue. Now despite our 5 year age difference we were already friends. It wasn’t a case of 2 friends wanting a ride some place and one of them convincing his older brother to provide it. I hung out with both of them, so Duane calling wasn’t unusual. Duane’s purpose was a surprise. He wanted to know if I would be interested in a one-on-one bible study.
I jumped at the chance and in April of 1997 we started meeting once a week to do bible lessons. This was harder than it might sound because I didn’t actually own a bible.
In my Voice Post from the other day I mentioned a Braille Bible. I didn’t get my hands on one of those until I was in college. It wasn’t for a lack of effort, I can assure you.
Well, Duane realized that my simply meeting with him weekly for a lesson and not being able to do anything with that knowledge beyond our lesson or not being able to study on my own just wasn’t a good idea. So he bought me the bible on cassette tape, first it was just the New Testament and then the whole thing. I never knew how much he paid for it but the whole thing was 48 cassette tapes and it wasn’t cheap that much I do know.
When I got those tapes I devoured them. There were many days that summer where I did almost nothing but listen to those tapes. I loved in particular the first books of the Old Testament from Genesis to 2 Chronicles and the gospels, Acts (for years since I never saw that word written down I thought it was “ax”) and Revelation from the new testament. I have an audio bible right now that is the English Standard Version which I bought a few years ago (also not cheap but worth every cent) and it is good for listening but not so much for study.
I want to share with you all a song that I absolutely love. It sums up how I was feeling that first summer when I could not get enough of the Word of God.
In case you don’t watch the video, here are the lyrics.
As the deer panteth for the water
So my soul longeth after thee
You alone are my hearts desire
And I long to worship thee
You alone are my strength my shield
To You alone may my spirit yield
You alone are my hearts desire
And I long to worship thee
You’re my friend and You are my brother,
Even though you are a king.
I love you more thank any other,
So much more than anything.
I want You more than gold or silver,
Only You can satisfy.
You alone are the real joy Giver,
And the apple of my eye.
This is still my favorite hymn. Listening to it now brought a shiver up my spine and a tear to my eye.
It was over a year later, in June of 1998 when Duane finally convinced me to come to church with him for the first time. It took him that long because of the fact that I was incredibly shy as a teenager and new experiences like that just scared me. Finally, he came up with the right things to say to convince me to go and so I did. I sat in on Sunday school services, the morning service and after a time even went with him to the evening services. Wednesday night services also followed and it wasn’t long before I was there whenever the doors were open so to speak. And we were still doing our one-on-one study.
I have to say I have a lot of happy memories from that time period. I think it is one reason I don’t have as negative a view of my High School experience as so many other people that I know. So many fun times spent with Duane studying God’s word. We’d usually go get something to eat and take it to the church gym or upper room and eat, talk, study and pray. See, our bible study was often at the church building long before I started attending services there. It wasn’t the building that made me nervous it was the mass of people I didn’t know well, if at all that made me shy away for so long.
After a week of revival meetings with Evangelist Glenn Jaspers in September of 1998 I made two important and connected decisions. I told the Pastor that I desired to be baptized and that I wanted to become a member of the church. After going through all of the steps required in the church’s constitution including meeting with the deacons both of those things happened on that October 4 Sunday.
I have many more happy memories of my time as a member of Calvary Baptist Church. One of the funnier ones is one of those “they cound only do it to a blind person” things. After a service on Super Bowl Sunday in 1999 a group of us were invited over to Pastor’s for lunch. It was he and his wife, myself, Duane and Duane’s uncle Mark and Matt and Anna Paulson who were in my Sunday School and became fast friends. Well, while we were their, they passed around a birthday card for everyone to sign for my 18th birthday which had been in early January, as my birthday tends to be every year. Yes, they passed around my birthday card right in front of me. I still have the #1 and #8 candles that they put on my cake. I’m just happy they got them in the right order. In June of 1999, they let us use the church fellowship hall (I call it a gym because of the basketball hoop) for my graduation party which we did with Duane’s brother Wade and cousin Mike.
Why I’m not still a member there has little to do with the people involved and is more a function of practice, however that’s a story for later.
Then while I was in college, I attended Melgard Park Baptist Church, now Northern Plains Baptist Church in Aberdeen. It took a few months before I started going, again because I’m incredibly shy. Looking back, if my Pastor had sent me up there on a Sunday afternoon in the summer before my freshman year to go to a service and meet the Pastor I probably would have been there the first Sunday. But since that didn’t happen and nobody had that idea (including me, that actually only came to me right as I write this) it took until November of 1999.
There were so many good times fellowshiping with those people that to this day I would probably move back to Aberdeen just to go to church there. It was the time in church that was fun and I also got involved in activities outside of church. I went to men’s fellowship gatherings and went to the homes of several members. They became the backbone of my friendships that I made while I was in college.
I didn’t enjoy my last 2 years of college at all. However, I would have enjoyed them a lot less without my church family. I have told people that the only thing that I wasn’t lacking in college was a social life. I had friends in the dorm and I had friends at church.
It was also in college that I got my Braille bible. I did not have a roommate outside of my freshman year of college. It’s a good thing too because once the Braille Bible entered my life, I started to run out of room quickly. Still totally worth it, however.
After leaving Aberdeen, I returned to Huron and to my home church. That pretty much continued as it had been until I started to see some issues. Some that were problems in the church, some that were much larger than that and some that were related to me. I feel like this is a good time to take a page break.
When I think of my time as a member of my local church, I think of my Pastor and his love of this song. We sang this so often that I actually learned the words simply from hearing them so much.