Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Aha! Moment or How My Children Saved My Soul

In the last 5 years since I began my spiritual journey I've looked back and tried to pinpoint the moment when I realized I was on a journey, that Aha! moment. That moment when you realize you've been more than curiously researching outside of your personal worldview/belief bubble. It is the moment when things began to make more sense to me and the complexity of reality itself began to sink in. My Aha! moment began with the news that my then girlfriend (now happily married going on 5 years) and I were having our first baby. Cliché as it may sound, my whole world changed that day. My thoughts began to revolve around everything from daydreaming what physical characteristics I would pass on to my children to considering changing majors (I was a junior in college studying audio engineering) to find a more reliable job. It was a tough first few years but we pushed through and now we have a house, two beautiful kids, and thankfully both of us are employed. What inspired me to look beyond my worldview bubble wasn't a "love for sin", a negative experience with Christianity, or even a "misguided" attempt to create my own religion, all three of which I've been accused of for leaving Christianity behind. No, what inspired me to leave behind title and tribute to my religious tribe was my yearning to love a completely brand new human being as unconditionally as possible. I never appreciated the interconnectedness to my fellow man until my wife and I brought our son into the world.

2006
I took the news rather well, at first. In fact I had been mentally preparing myself for years to have children. All that preparation meant nothing, you really can't prepare yourself for such life changing news. "I'm going to have a baby", I thought to myself, "and one day they might have a baby." And that's when my mind blew a gasket.  For weeks on end all I could think about were the endless parade of descendants I will never get a chance to meet. I remember the sleepless nights where I obsessively tried to picture how they would look like, what they would do, and who they would become.  Looking back my obsession sounds silly but at the time I desperately wanted to connect with those who were yet to be. I wanted the chance to share with them all the beauties of life and also comfort them through the dark times. Why? I have no earthly idea! I simply felt it was imperative that I communicate with them somehow. I thought about leaving behind a journal, a collection of my thoughts, as a way to "speak" to them. But then I realized my obsession was turning into a desire for immortality, to be remembered long after I pass. So I decided that I should focus on being a good and loving father to my children in the here and now. I didn't know where to start, so I began by examining myself. I was 22 and I didn't have a clue who I was.

Raised in a conservative Christian home I began with the one part of myself that I knew well: my faith. Well, at least I thought I knew well until I began examining my faith. It wasn't until I began my examination that I realized I didn't really have faith at all. All I had was a collection of beliefs that were passed on from my parents. I didn't really believe them, I simply inherited them. This is not to say that I didn't believe them at one point. In my youth I had accepted Jesus into my heart and spoke to him everyday. I truly believed I was saved. I was a Christian. Now, when my family and friends hear me use the phrase "examined my faith" they jump to the conclusion that I dissected Christianity as if I were conducting an autopsy, carving away at a carcass to see what made it tick. What I really did was ask questions, A LOT of questions. Some were your basic run of the mill questions of curiosity into the history of Christianity, which were quickly answered by perusing through a few history books. But the vast majority were reflective questions that demanded more time and energy to wrestle over.  

Does God hate homosexuals? What happens to the unbelievers who never get to hear the gospel? Why is the divine portrayed as distant and separate from mankind? What IS the divine? Why is hell even necessary if God IS love? etc, etc, etc.

All I had were questions and no answers. At this point in my post any Christian reading this would be thinking, "well duh, stupid, the answers are in the Bible". And that is exactly where I first looked. But I didn't stop there because at that point I believed God (which at the time I still believed to be a supreme being) could not be contained in one book. So I read the Qur'an from cover to cover, I read parts of the Tao Te Ching, and the Bhagavad Gita. I read nonstop everything from comparative religious books to science fiction books with religious themes. [I have to say that Philip Jose Farmer's Jesus on Mars has to be one of my all time favorites. I highly recommend it!] I even changed my Minor from Music to Religious Studies. All my readings and reflections on religion, faith and God led me to the answer I already knew: to be a good and loving father, husband, and human being I just need to love. Simple, no? I didn't need to turn to religion to instruct me how to love my new family or my fellow man. Love is as natural as breathing, all we have to do is breathe in and breathe out, love and be loved. My children saved my soul not from hellfire but from a life devoid of love. Now don't get me wrong, I love my friends, family, and my darling wife but the love and connection one experiences when holding your newborn for the first time is so overwhelming all other relationships pale in comparison.

The main reason for today's post is inspired by the incredible news that the Mrs. and I found out last week that we are 8 months away from having baby number 3! The house is filled with excitement (especially the kids because they get a bunk bed) as we begin preparations for the new little one. The secondary reason is that I'd also like to hear from you and your Aha! moment. If you've already written one then please share the link in the comment section, and if not I encourage you to write about your story. I'd love to hear them.

Namaste.

3 comments:

Andrew said...

My Aha! moment was similar to yours. Having children completely set my faith on its head. It makes me wonder about those conservative parents whom this does not affect. I remember hearing Piper or McArthur respond very glibly about the justice of God in sending their children to hell should He need to. It had little effect on them... makes me wonder....

Sammy said...

First, I'd like to say congratulations! I hope everything goes well with baby number 3. I'm happy for you and your family.

Although much of my spiritual journey has been a gradual process, I had an Aha! moment when I was 15. My best friend attended a different elementary school than I did. When we began high school, her old friends from her elementary school, whom she had kept in close contact with, joined our current group of friends. Practically over night, our group grew from 6 to 12. While I had much in common with my original friends, that was not as true with the new ones. 2 of them were atheists, and a third grew up in a Wiccan family, something almost unheard of in Oklahoma.

Despite our differences, we quickly became close. I even began to date one of the atheists. Although I had already begun to seriously question the conservative Christianity I had been raised in, my relationship with these non-Christians was practically a death blow. One Sunday in church, our pastor gave a sermon which mentioned the punishment God would inflict on the unbelievers. I was quite distraught. My friends were good people. I loved them very much, and I could not understand how their lack of a belief in a Christian God meant they deserved eternal torture in hell.

At that moment, I realized that conception of God had to be fundamentally flawed. While it would take me years to formulate the beliefs I have now, on that day I knew I could not accept, let alone worship, a God who would torment good people in hell for all eternity. Something deep inside me knew that was evil. I knew that, whatever God was, He wasn't evil.

This wasn't an easy revelation. I was scared. I had been taught from the time I was a young child that questioning God was a sin punishable by condemnation to hell. Despite my utter revulsion at a God who would eternally torture souls, I was terrified I could be wrong. It would take years to work through that fear.

samantha said...

My aha moment came at the tender age of twelve when my father and I were told by a doctor it wasn't likely my mother would last the night. I never believed in the boogey man, tooth fairy, or Santa Claus. However, I always believed it made sense there was a creator, and God was a base in my life. This changed that night when my mother was in peril. A priest sat next to me after the doctor left and told me to pray for mother because she was not going to make it. In my twelve year old mind, I was upset because of the further affirmation of my mother's demise by another adult telling me my mother was not going to make it. Then I also felt this anger begin to burn within me towards God Himself.
Over the next few years, what had been such a solid part of my life disintegrated and anger filled the hole. I began to question everything. God no longer made any sense to me.
I was a twelve year old atheist, and, of course, there was shock and hellfire comments from my classmates. Well as the anger began to die out in my later teens, I was lucky to gain a Christian friend, who not only showed patience to my disbelief, but also didn't spend time criticizing me for my lack of faith. She talked to me about God, but most importantly she exuded an aura of something I wanted. Her character was above approach in my eyes; eyes that had been led by anger for so long. I know now the difference in my friend was Christ. As our friendship continued, I began to think more about God and His presence. I realized all along my lack of faith was more anger than disbelief. As days became months the ties of God and myself had less to do with my best friend and more about me being brought to God. I slowly realized that belief in God is not a matter of intelligence rather a simple matter of faith.
I am happy to say I became a Christian when I was sixteen years old, and I have only grown closer to Him as the years go by. The birth of our children, Sam, only reaffirmed my belief in God. I don't have answers to all the ugliness in the world. I don't think any of us even have the mental capacity
to think on God's level. You say your family thinks you have dissected your faith. We have watched you do it. Any faith is just that, a matter of faith. I see your growth since our marriage, and I am proud of who you have become. I pray every night for your salvation. I know the BIGGEST AHA moment of my life was when I accepted Christ.

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