belonging before becoming

Even though I grew up around Christianity, I was a works based kind of guy who ran on goodwill to others and fed off of their approval. Once I finished college  and without the distraction of school, it was inevitable that I started a more profound internal exploration of myself.

My mid to late twenties were tumultuous spiritually for me.  I struggled with anxiety and OCD and so began searching out physical remedies such as pilates, yoga, prescription medication and therapy.  But I was still unfulfilled.  As life proceeded, I began looking into other religions, from Buddhism to Confucianism, to try and fill that spiritual void in my heart.  I was able to glean some growth from parts of them.  They satiated for a time, but never lasted.  

Sometime in 2007, a friend introduced me to Hiawatha Church.  I kindly thanked him for the invite and then surreptitiously avoided the next dozen Sunday services.  After several conversations I finally capitulated and cautiously and suspiciously took in my first sermon at Hiawatha.  Immediately I felt welcome.  From then, I began attending church services on a monthly basis and then it became weekly.  It soon felt odd to miss a Sunday.  I joined a community group and had a multitude of coffee dates with pastors and congregation members.  

What was it about this place that drew me in?  What was is about these people that intrigued me?

I had spoken to others on a number of occasions with regards to spiritual signs.  I had read about them and heard stories of others having them, but wondered if I had ever been a witness to one.  What did they look like?   Would I finally believe if I experience one?

I was sitting at the Dome watching a Twins game with a friend.  We were discussing my struggles with faith and the topic of signs.  I was told that Christ was and is the ultimate sign.  That it is the gospel that saves.  I struggled with this concept then, as I do to some degree now.  How could one struggle after a sign was revealed to them?  Wouldn’t that be the answer to all of their faith questions and concerns?

As we sat there, I comically (and maybe a bit sarcastically) leaned over to my friend and said “well buddy, if this next batter hits a homerun on the next pitch – I’ll believe”.  Within seconds, the pitch was thrown and the ball was sent sailing over center field.  Homerun!  As the crowd cheered, my buddy and I looked at each other and smiled in amazement.  Was this an answer to my lack of faith or was it just coincidence?  Yet within minutes my head tried to analyze and explain the situation away as a coincidence.  This, and many other moments like it that I have had over the years, cogently persuaded me that signs were not ultimately going to alter my heart. I needed something more – but what?

I turned to God on December 10th, 2012 and gave my life to him.  There were no signs, no fireworks, no homeruns – and unless my memory is failing, I don’t remember seeing the clouds part and hearing a voice from above.  I was sitting in a conference taking notes when the thought came to mind to ask God to come into my life.  It was faint, but I believed it – however small the feeling was.   I quickly texted and emailed family and friends that night lest I try and cover up this moment.  

The next morning I awoke.  My faith remained.  Although it was, and is (and still is), a mustard seed of faith, it is faith nonetheless.  And for that I am truly grateful. Life is still terribly hard at times.  By no means do think I have it made.  Although corralled, I still struggle with anxiety. But my fear does not own me.  I leave that to Jesus.  

One burden of this journey is that I see my sin with greater clarity, but one of the blessings of this journey is, that I see my sin with greater clarity. The daily, consistent message of the gospel has been the ultimate sign for me.  It is unwavering and unflappable – and that is becoming fulfilling.  

I see the gospel in action here at Hiawatha Church.  Hiawatha has been an essential conduit for me that sets its lens focused on Christ.  This has captivated my attention and I am honored to be a witness to it.  I attended services here for 5 ½ years before converting.  By no means did I make it easy.  But the warmth and grace that the church body has shown to me has drawn me in.  Why did I stick around?  Again I ask, What was it about this place and people?  The answer - faith in Christ and the iteration of the power of the gospel – this was and is at its foundation.

As my struggles continue and I waiver in my faith (which happen daily), my commitment to God continues.  I still don’t know all of the Bible.  I still say “I don’t know” to a majority of Biblical questions that are sent my way.  But I am slowly grasping that belief and dependence on God is not a sometimes thing, but an all the time thing.  In my imperfect manner I am grateful, I am truly grateful.

CARL GEORGE