God, Are You There?

stock-footage-young-boy-drinking-purified-water-in-the-mountains

Connecting With God, Part 2

(To read Part 1, click here)

At any given time, each of us is either moving toward or away from our Creator. The trajectory of my life now—my passion, my purpose—is toward God. But my first few decades were mostly spent racing in the opposite direction.

I was raised a practical atheist, by which I mean God was simply not a topic in our home. When, at around age 10 or 11, I asked Dad about the meaning of life, he pulled out an illustrated copy of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species and handed it to me. I thumbed through the Victorian etchings, the Time Life photos of Galapagos tortoises, the artist’s concepts of hairy proto-humans, and through Chuck’s notes. But what about this feeling I have that there’s something more? I wondered. Freud, who was referenced in the index, answered with two terse words: “Mass neurosis.” Strangely, that answer didn’t satisfy my spiritual longing. Probably because (like the rest of the human race) I was neurotic. Thanks, Sigmund.

So I asked Mom, who’d been raised vaguely Catholic. She didn’t own a Bible, but gave me her faded white childhood Sunday Missal. I flipped through the pictures of priest’s vestments and thee-y-and-thou-y prayers94496…and couldn’t make heads or tales of it. Still, at the front there was a copy of that charming children’s prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep/I pray the Lord my soul to keep/If I should die before I wake/I pray the Lord my soul to take.” Seeing it as a sort of verbal rabbit’s foot, I began kneeling beside my bed each night and reciting it. But when, after several weeks, nothing “happened,” I quit. Where were the apparitions? The voices? (Giving credit where credit is due, I did not actually “die before I wake[d].” Not even once.)

Despite my growing doubts, I gave communication with the Infinite one final whirl. As a pre-adolescent I was now old enough to go to YMCA Camp in the San Bernardino Mountains, where I was literally closer to heaven. Our local Y was shy about spirituality, but God was pretty prominent in the voluntary “Ragger” program, a sort of de-militarized take on Boy Scout merit badges. Campers were invited to make a solemn oath 1011consdept9to improve something about their lives. They were given a colored scarf (“rag”) to wear as a symbol of their oath and led blindfolded to a secret spot where they were left alone to pray. To You-Know-Who.

Only thing was, I still had no clue how to pray. So I looked at the breathtaking view for a while and then made a vow to stop cussing, or at least to say, “I’m sorry” each time I did. No voice from the sky replied, “Gee, that’s swell, Mitch!” No cloudy finger wrote, “So happy to hear it!” There was only a “still small (i.e. silent) voice” like the one Elijah argued with (1 Kings 19:12). But I hadn’t learned to recognize it yet. So, while I was proud of my newfound (albeit short-lived) curselessness, I was irked at God for skipping the ceremony.

By the time I reached high school, I’d decided he didn’t exist. I became the go-to guy for counter-arguments against Jesus people. My spiritual hunger hadn’t actually gone away; I was just experimenting with a diet of self-worship. Hey, at least I answered. Problem was my answers were even less filling than God’s silence.

In college, my atheism began to disintegrate. This happened in stages: first it devolved into agnosticism—I simply didn’t have enough faith to maintain a truly pious atheism; then it disintegrated into deism (Why I Believe: C.S. Lewis and Me – Part One)—something was out there, but you couldn’t actually connect with it. I was gradually working my way toward a God-concept, but was frustrated by the fact that what I yearned for wasn’t a God-concept, it was God.

By grad school I’d explored a passel of mystical writings, all of which curved back to the same old self-worship (“If everything is God, then so am I, hence self-worship is God-worship”). The last book was from a popular yogi who validated his revelations by comparing them to Jesus’ teachings. Only there was no comparison. The yogi’s ideas were the same old pantheistic patter. But Jesus’ teachings (which did not mean what the yogi said they meant) shook me to my core. It was the first time I’d ever read His words.

And the first time I’d clearly heard the voice of God.

I went to a bookstore thirty miles away—so no one I knew would see me—and bought a Bible, then brought it home and began devouring Jesus’ words. bible+red_letter_bibleIt was as if a radio stuck between stations had suddenly been tuned in. It wasn’t an audible voice or an apparition. Neither was it a feeling or a “vibe.” To describe it in human terms would be to use a clumsy metaphor, like describing how a color “smells” or a strawberry “sounds.” I was tempted to think it wasn’t really there.

But it was.

It was there in Jesus’ words. In the room. And in the still small voice that engulfs the world. Now the only question was,

How to answer it?

⇔ ⇔ ⇔

Next: Standing in God’s Footprint

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Humor, Memoir, Religion/Faith, Story Power and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to God, Are You There?

  1. Pingback: Pray as if Your Life Depends on It! | Mitch Teemley

  2. It is so great to hear your story… I never knew how this all came about. Can’t wait for the next installment and I’m praising God already for all He has done in your life. I was 23 when I met Him, and my life has never been the same! More praises! At any rate… thank you. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. mitchteemley says:

    It starts with him, doesn’t it, Dori? We tell our stories about “finding God,” but it’s not hard to figure out–in each case–that he was lovingly, faithfully reeling us in the whole time. Good to hear a bit of your story too!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Matilda Novak says:

    i love reading the story of how you came to believe, Mitch. God draws us to Himself however He sees fit. i’m so thankful the He does…. Praying constantly that God will do for my beloved atheist friend what He’s done for us.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Heather says:

    Thanks for taking the time to share your story! I love discovering how other people meet God 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ah, now this is what I like. A HUMAN’s version of why they believe in God, not the usual tired oft repeated patter. It’s an interesting take. The same organic way you came round to believing is the same way I have read that many people come round to NOT believing.

    So is it all just actually human based and determined simply by our environment and personal experiences and the need to fill various holes in our lives?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. mitchteemley says:

    TEJ*, Not sure how to answer your question, “Is it all just human based (etc.),” by which, I assume, you’re asking if my relationship with God is simply a useful construct or delusion. If I believed that, of course, I would not be writing about my relationship with God, but about the falsity of said belief. If, on the other hand, you’re asking me to consider now that such may be the case, I would answer that I have considered such a possibility at great length. It’s a big question, but here’s a good intro as to why/how I made my leap of faith: https://mitchteemley.com/2014/09/02/why-i-believe-part-one/ Thanks for asking!

    *Sorry for the initials, but don’t know your actual name.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Nancy Ruegg says:

    An important story, creatively told. I, too, look forward to the next installment!

    Liked by 1 person

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  10. mgsunshine says:

    I love your style of writing. Very moving post.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Pingback: Standing in God’s Footprint | Mitch Teemley

  12. Lucie says:

    I sometimes feel that there is so much that I want to respond to in your posts, but am too slow a typist to “say it all”, so I’ll just say this…it’d be nice to have a cup of tea with you some day and chat….I don’t claim to be in agreement with everything that you believe in, but I certainly love the way you express yourself and the fact that you’re respectful of other opinions…my feeling is that you and I would be good chums…😊

    Liked by 2 people

  13. mitchteemley says:

    I agree, Lucie! If you’re ever near Cincinnati, or I’m ever back in California (I’m from the L.A. area originally), we’ll have to do that! Meanwhile, we’ll have to settle for virtual tea. ;>)

    Like

  14. Pingback: Goodbye, Marilyn | Mitch Teemley

  15. mitchteemley says:

    Reblogged this on Mitch Teemley and commented:

    This is the follow-up to last week’s post “Pray as if Your Life Depends on It.” Read if you can find time–I mean, no rush, it’s only about the freakin’ Meaning of Life. (How’s that for guilt?)

    Like

  16. So appreciate you sharing your journey, Mitch! Your transparency and authenticity are so refreshing! Thank you! To God be the glory!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Roos Ruse says:

    What a marvelously candid, and relate-able journey. I can hardly wait to read the next episode. Because of that time-pie thing, I must. Great writing, Mitch.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Mike Cullen says:

    You can’t guilt me ! I was raised Catholic and I’ve become immune to it. 🙂 Thanks Mitch as once again you have me smiling and thinking ; at the same time! I used to envy the atheist. I know that you know I am a member of a 12 step fellowship. When i got there and tried to find a Higher Power all I could think of was everything I was taught. I had to unlearn everything I feared about God and find a loving God. Hence I was envious of the atheists who showed up and didn’t have to unlearn. Many different paths to God and thank you Mitch for sharing your path with me.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. theancients says:

    I loved this Mitch. Your gift with words allowed you to metaphorically describe the “smell” of a color & the “sound” of a strawberry in a way that made great sense to me.
    Wonderful testimony… and I must remember to use guilt in my postings… it certainly worked here 🙂
    Thanks much for sharing, this was a blessing indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. This was very powerful. Thanks for sharing your story.
    I look forward to the next installment!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. socialbridge says:

    Interesting journey, Mitch.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. I can relate to the childhood and teenage years. Like most little girls, my Daddy was my superhero (still is). If he said the sun was purple, I had no doubts that it was so and my eyes weren’t seeing it correctly. Took many, many years to be able to see him as a person, and his opinions as anything less than law of the land. Enjoying your story.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Pingback: My Scar Stories | Mitch Teemley

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