for God’s Grown-up Children
Please enjoy the first Chapter to Short Stories.
Below you will find further information and where to purchase your own copy of the full book.
Short Stories: for God’s Grown-up ChildrenPart 1: Meeting God
In the fall of 2006, I walked into my first semester of World Religions at a community college in my hometown Cocoa, Florida. The air was stale and the room brown and amber, lit by the kind of pitiful fluorescent lighting that gives you a minor headache in thirty minutes or less. I found a seat like I always did, alone at the center of the room, so I didn’t come off too lazy like the guys in the back or too astute like the girls in the front. The attendance was what you would expect from any night class at a community college, thin and ranging from 18 to 150 in age.
Our teacher was already at his desk, doing his best to look busy. He was an older man, balding. The kind of guy that prides himself on being a professor, and carries himself like he has been working at Harvard, rather than a community college for the last twenty years. He introduced himself and got right into the material. He compared himself to another World Religions professor at the school that only taught on Christianity, Judaism and Islam (“the Big Three”). He informed us that he planned on getting through as many religions as possible with us, spending no more than a week on any one of them.
He was well spoken and seemed genuine. The kind of uncle you have growing up that is the really rich one your parents don’t seem to like, but you don’t understand why because he has a pool. He delivered the class orientation and opened it up to questions for anyone. After a few inquisitive people tried to get him to reveal his personal religion, he told us he wouldn’t tell us until the last day of class. But if anyone could guess it on the final, he would give him or her extra credit.
Finally, the first class was over and I was walking back to my car under the night sky, able to breathe the fresh air again. It was a beautiful night, and I felt really glad to be alive at 18 years old.
I walked to my old ’94 Nissan, talking to Jesus. All my life, I grew up in a Christian household, in a very conservative neighborhood, in a very Christian county, in a very Christian country. I was proud and happy about this, but in my adolescent years, I would often think about the 18 year old on the other side of the planet, worshipping Allah with all their heart. And they were doing it because it was what they had grown up in. It was their culture. It was their life.
I knew my God. And never for a second did I doubt He was my Savior. But I also knew He was a confident God. I told Him I wanted to “test” Him. I wanted to go through this class, asking every hard question to Him. What was so attractive to someone else about their religion? Why was Jesus still the answer? How could I answer a Buddhist’s questions, if I never faced them myself? Thus, I began my World Religions class in the fall of 2006 and a very trying and educational period of life for me.
I listened and learned as we went through each religion from different parts of the world. Each one, I knocked out of the sky with a club in the shape of the cross. Though I did thoroughly enjoy learning some of them, all the religions had one recurring theme. Ironically enough, it was religion.
Mankind is a sucker for religion, because we feel the need to control. And it is the fear of man that has created religion, fear of what we may or may not do if we are not told what to do. It is the fear that our children won’t be wise enough to follow Christ or do what is right. That is what drives us to create religions. We are afraid that God will not be good enough to take care of us. So we give ourselves boundaries and rules to hold us inside of a barricade of laws.
When the Jews out of Egypt looked down at the ground and saw that God had covered it in food just for them, they exclaimed, “What is it?” Then they packaged it away in their nice containers because they knew better than God to let it just sit out, even though He told them not to.1
They knew to keep it safe and locked up before the next day because it may never come back, and then they would go hungry. Thus, it was covered in maggots and became rotten. The thing that God had provided for them became a plague because of their fear in trusting Him. Religion is a demonic spirit that tells you and me we know better than God.
Religion is full of it. In religion, man’s hard work is what gets him taken care of, never God’s love. Even in Christianity, we see, riddled throughout, different teachings on man’s failure to receive God’s grace. But the problem with this thought is grace was never man’s idea. It was God’s.
The day came when my professor spoke on Christianity. I was so excited to hear taught the history of Jesus and what Christians believe, because honestly for all I could perceive, our teacher had been very unbiased toward each religion. He gave them respect, pointed out positives and negatives and always kept his speeches very historically based, rather than opinionated.
We got into Christianity, and I immediately felt some little, but painful jabs at it. I wanted to believe that maybe, because I was a Christian, it just felt that way coming from his emotionless dialogue. Perhaps, the Muslim next to me felt the same tension when he heard the professor speak on Islam.
But then there were more jabs. “Did you all know that half the New Testament was actually written by a man who never even met Jesus?” the professor asked with more than a shred of indignation on his lips.
I looked around the room, spotting the group of 60-and-up in the back, nodding with their mouths agape. They were token Christian old ladies from Sunday school at the local Methodist chapel, and yet they acted like they just received the revelation of a lifetime.
“Did you all know that Moses was actually polytheistic? Here it is in the text where he wrote, ‘We shall create man in OUR image’. He uses the word ‘our’ to describe God because he was not monotheistic like many now believe. He and Abraham were most likely Zoroastrians and not Jewish at all.”
Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!
What in the world was this guy even saying?! I looked over at the empty seat next to me, imagining Jesus in it. “Am I allowed to jump up and rip this guy to shreds, Lord?” Where was the straight history talk now? This was a lot more than just a basic understanding of the Christian religion. Now he was blatantly twisting the Bible to disprove itself.
I got through the night class and left, more than flustered by how the whole experience went. The rest of the course went back to normal, and the semester ended. The final came, and no one could guess the professor’s religion, which honestly didn’t even matter.
I passed the class, and as we received our tests back, he left us all with one final divinely inspired thought. “Remember, if ever in life you feel like you have finally found the answer…” Pause for dramatic effect. “…you’ve already forgotten the question.”
I sat in my seat, most likely wearing every emotion on my face for a few minutes, as I chewed that piece of crap over in my mouth. What in the world did that even mean? And why did so many of my classmates “a-ha” at that?
For at least an hour I chewed on that with Jesus. Together. And that’s one thing I really love about Jesus. He will sit and chew on a piece of crap with you for a whole hour if it means you find a solution.
The conundrum the professor created was, “How do I find the answer to a question that I seemingly lose as soon as I begin to find it?” Perhaps, more accurately what he meant was, “If you think you have found God or purpose, you have already forgotten that you’re not supposed to”.
The problem with all of this thinking is: I would not have the question in my heart if I weren’t supposed to answer it. It’s the very reason God wrote eternity on the hearts of men and put a hole on the inside of us the size of a galaxy. Because He wanted us to come looking for Him.
The question my teacher was asking all along was the wrong one. He kept asking, “Can I find God?” When in reality he didn’t want to. If he wanted to, he would have started by now, instead of claiming its impossibility as a philosophical paradox. And the reason he didn’t want to was because of who he believed God to be. And that is why so many of us fear searching for God. Because we are afraid of what we will find.
In religion, we start to imagine God in man’s image, rather than the other way around. It’s why Greek mythology is such a beautiful mess, not unlike that of a soap opera. The more we create God in our image, the more we project all of our own faults on Him. God’s wrath must be unjust and dangerous because I am out of control when I am angry. God’s wealth must be greedy because I could never have that much money and not be selfish. God’s love must be conditional. God’s grace must be circumstantial. God’s forgiveness must be earned.
In religion, we project ourselves onto the image of God, rather than us being a projection of His. So the real question my teacher should have been asking is not “Can I find God?” He should be asking, “What is God like?”