God, Are You There?

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

Connecting With God

The trajectory of my life is toward God. Now. But it wasn’t always. My first few decades were 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 handed me an illustrated copy of Darwin’s Origin of Species. I thumbed through the Victorian etchings, photos of Galapagos tortoises, and artist’s conceptions of hairy proto-humans. But what about this feeling I have that there’s something more? I wondered. Freud had an answer: “Mass neurosis.” But strangely, that answer didn’t satisfy my spiritual hunger. No doubt because, like the rest of the human race, I was neurotic.

So I asked Mom, who’d been raised vaguely Catholic. She didn’t own a Bible, but gave me her faded Sunday Missal. I thumbed through the pictures of priest’s vestments and thee-y-thou-y prayers…and couldn’t make heads or tails of it. But in the front I found this 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.” Adopting it as a religious rabbit’s foot, I began kneeling nightly beside my bed and reciting it. But when, after several weeks, no miracles had occurred, I quit. (Though, giving credit where credit’s due, I didn’t actually “die before I wake[d].” Not even once.)

I decided to give communication with the Infinite one final whirl. I was now old enough to go to YMCA Camp in the San Bernardino Mountains, where I was literally closer to heaven. Camp Osceola had a voluntary “Ragger” program, a sort of de-militarized version of Boy Scout merit badges. We were invited to make a solemn vow to improve something about our lives. We were then given a colored scarf (“rag”) to wear as a symbol of that vow, and taken to a secret place to pray about it.

The only problem was, I had no clue how to pray. So I looked at the breathtaking view and took an oath to stop cussing, or at least to say, “I’m sorry” each time I did. No voice replied, “That’s swell, Mitch!” No cloudy finger wrote, “Happy to hear it!” There was only a “still small voice” in my heart (1 Kings 19:12), but I didn’t recognize it at the time. I was proud of my (short-lived) curselessness, but ticked 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 anti-religious arguments. My spiritual hunger hadn’t gone away, but I was experimenting with a diet of self-worship. Hey, at least I answered. The problem was, my answers were no more filling than God’s silence.

In college, my atheism began to disintegrate. 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 what I yearned for wasn’t a God-concept…

It was God.

I explored a passel of mystical writings, all of which led back to the same old self-worship (“If everything is God, then so am I, hence self-“realization” is God-“realization”). The last book was from a popular yogi who validated his revelations by comparing them to Jesus’ teachings. But Jesus’ teachings, which didn’t mean what the yogi said they did, were completely different. They shook me to my core.

For 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 the words in red. bible+red_letter_bibleIt was as if a radio stuck between stations had suddenly been tuned in. It wasn’t an audible voice. Neither was it a feeling or a “vibe.” To put 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.

Now the only question was,

How to answer it?

Next: “Us Time” With God

About mitchteemley

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

49 Responses to God, Are You There?

  1. A.P. says:

    I know what you mean, Mitch, about how our Lord’s teachings are misinterpreted by yogis and others who profess an essential unity of all religions. It shakes me up too, because it evidences lack of research into what the Word actually has to offer — on the whole — and thereby lack of respect for the fullness of Jesus’ teachings. I’m never quite sure how to address this, when it arises.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. It’s those last people we thought would come around that have the best stories to tell!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. synesthesia – Seeing a sound, hearing a color. God is beyond our comprehension, so feeling that presence as sound, color, touch, etc, is normal and why I often encounter my strongest feels of God while walking through the woods or doing something creative – like writing or building something.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. JOY journal says:

    What a hope-filled story, Mitch! I’m so glad you were listening.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Tina says:

    Thanks. I needed this reminder. I never had a spiritual hunger until someone’s words changed my life. I forget that there is power in words. 😊

    Liked by 2 people

  6. nancyehead says:

    Exploring Alura has it just right. We can’t write anyone off. Great post, Mitch!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow, Mitch! This is captivating and I cannot wait to read the next portion!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. What a journey! God was calling you from the time you were little and HE continued calling you until you answered! He is so GOOD!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Eliza Ayres says:

    Reblogged this on Blue Dragon Journal.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. smzang says:

    Goosebumps of the best kind!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. numrhood says:

    age 13 quote 1 kings 44:37
    i am the 1st blood
    i am the last dragon

    Like

  12. Thank you for sharing this. Looking forward to the next installment 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  13. jonicaggiano says:

    What a beautiful description of how you began your search for God several times. I really took note when you talked about your reciting the “Now I lay me down to Pray” prayer as that is the one I was taught first as well. I remember when my mother and law who is an atheist told me ones when I was trying to testify to her that what kind of horrible prayer was that to tell a child. Interesting takes on different perceptions of words. Love your honesty and sharing of your story. Love and Blessings Joni

    Liked by 1 person

  14. This needs a ‘love’ button rather than just a common old ‘like’! Great testimony (or first chapter anyway!). Look forward to the rest.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Thanks for sharing your faith journey.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. boromax says:

    Mitch, this is a beautiful story, and you are telling it well! Can’t wait for the next installment! I find it interesting that a phrase I had never heard “practical atheist” was used on the same day by you and another blogger I follow, Jeff Bickley – https://bickleyhouse.wordpress.com/2020/01/20/practical-atheism/ …what are the odds? Also, I was amused and bemused by an eloquent typo – describing your perusal of the Sunday Missal, you say you could not make “heads or tales” of it. For a storyteller like you, not being able to make tales of something must have been a startling surprise. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • mitchteemley says:

      Hah! Thanks for catching the typo, Max (is it Max?). It is an accidentally ironic, isn’t it? ;>)

      Liked by 1 person

      • boromax says:

        I am a bit manic about typos and grammar, for better or worse. No, it is not Max. It is Ed. I am Ed Boring. Back in the mid-’90s, when I joined an online community I chose ‘boromax’ as my screen name. I’m not even sure why at this point. I think I thought it sounded like a conjoining of something vaguely futuristic while also sounding like a Tolkien character. Alas. Anyway, it’s Ed. Or Eddie. I went by Fast Eddie in many other online activities, too. Hope you are having a blessed day!

        Liked by 1 person

      • mitchteemley says:

        Thanks, and likewise, Ed.

        Like

  17. Your account of your upbringing is not too far off from many these days. There is those who have kept their mind open to finding “A Way”. My hat tips in approval of your journey. Great work.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. gregoryjoel says:

    Thank you for sharing your journey. I’m intrigues by how God pursues each one of us. I grew up in quite the opposite household – church three times a week, one of the first books I remember having was Egermeir’s (?) Bible Story Book, memory verses, and on and on. Something about the legalism and (continual fear) just didn’t feel right. I walked away from all of it when I became a teenager and spent many years making life choices that certainly didn’t involve God. I remember wishing I’d grown up much like you did, without all the religious baggage. I’ve learned since then it doesn’t matter. God is the one who relentlessly pursues His beloved children and not the other way around. Ain’t grace and amazing thing?

    Thank again. I’m looking forward to the next installment…

    Liked by 2 people

  19. nitinsingh says:

    Write v simple a so complex topic it’s beauty of this post thnx to share

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Eliza says:

    Thanks for sharing

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Pingback: “Us” Time With God | Mitch Teemley

  22. Pingback: Prayer is Air! | Mitch Teemley

  23. revruss1220 says:

    Sorry… I am reading your story backward. I love this chapter and the way it artfully sets up the next. A spiritual memoir is exactly what I am working on right now… in my non-blogging time. It is really amazing to try and track back along the journey and notice the godly intersections that you might have missed the first time around. Thanks for this gift!

    Liked by 1 person

    • mitchteemley says:

      My honor, Russ.
      P.S. The guy you told there was “no 44th chapter in 1st Kings” (above) is autistic. He likes to make up Bible verses. I’m not really sure why, but I think he tends to see them as math formulas.

      Like

  24. Wow. So beautiful. Thank you for sharing your journey. I can imagine many people have similar stories. We are currently praying for a family member who is atheist, but I can tell is looking for answers. This is very encouraging.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s