Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Wastelands


PLEASE LISTEN TO THIS SONG ABOVE

From 1995-2011 I was in the wastelands. I, like many of you reading this, had been hurt and deeply disappointed by the church that I thought was a place to heal broken people. Yes, I screwed up - not just sort of but REALLY screwed up. I had lost a family and tried to go back to the church to only find judgment instead of grace and anger instead of reconciliation. Even though, intellectually, I knew that God loved me - I blamed Him. It seemed like at one of the darkest times in my life I was abandoned by God. I reverted to my upbringing as an atheist, and with an advanced degree in Theology, I enjoyed dismantling faith of those who professed faith in my presence. 

I was still a "good" person, whatever that means. But I was numb to God. My skeptical mind kept me from the self imposed guilt. Whenever the topic of God came up I would shoot holes through those thoughts and would  be amused at my brilliance. However, I could never get past this nagging emptiness that was in me. I would read about events in the world and look at life and job and ask myself, "Is this it?!". I remember a quote that seem to pervade my mind:

"There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is worth or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy." ~ Albert Camus

The past eighteen months have been filled with death for me. The first death was what sparked my mind. It was like the phrase in the song above - WAKE ME UP! I attended a funeral for  someone who was not a follower of God. There was no "religion" at the funeral. People would get up and tell stories about good times, drunk times and the deceased in general. The one thing that was non existent was hope. There was laughter and there was pain but no hope. As I drove home, I was deeply depressed and the - "Is This It?" question kept echoing in my head. I started asking God for help as I drove home and started looking for a group of believers that I could hide among. 

Shortly after that I found out that my ex-wife, Angela, was diagnosed with ALS. Here again, death was visiting. I was a spectator and participant as Angela spent her last few months with us and sat at her bedside when she died on May 22, 2011. (You might read "How We Grieve" in a previous blog). On the heels of that death, my wife Josephine had to fly to Ireland because her Dad was suffering with cancer. She has been there since July and early Tuesday morning she called and said he passed away. While she has been there, three of her Mother's four brothers have passed away.

During this past eighteen months I heard the wake up call. I have come home to God, and those who knew me as an atheist have probably noticed a difference in my thought process. I found a congregation of people who come from all walks of life and all have their own stories. I think there are probably a great deal of people who in this present global economic meltdown are starting to ask themselves - Is This IT?! Many who feel abandoned by God. Many who have been hurt by the legalistic dogma of some church. Many who are just asleep and numb.

I can, with all confidence, say there is hope. There is love. There is faith. However you express your faith - intentionally show love to those around you. These are tough times and a lot of people are in pain and in the wastelands. I am now at peace. My prayer is that my two kids will eventually embrace faith. I was a horrible role-model for instilling that in them as they grew up. I did give them skeptical and critical minds, but some times I wonder if I gave them too much.

So my message to you this week is this:
Listen to that still small voice that is constantly being drowned out by a world in crisis. Focus on your families and loved ones. Show them and tell them you love them. Maybe, just maybe, take another look at God - hope is out there and I am confident you can find it. I pray that you find love and that you share it with those around you.

Peace
~Al