My Story of Faith

My journey to Christ is very long and meandering, but I will attempt to give the story in its entirety here.

I was born on 30 May 1981 of the Common Era in Rockford, Illinois. My parents at that time were members of First Presbyterian Church in Rockford, and soon after my birth they sprinkled (“baptized”) me. We only went consistently when I was very young, from birth to about age seven or eight. I did receive one Boy Scout Religious Award from the church as a five year old, but do not remember much else from the experience. Due to the given reasons of coldness of the church, departure of the good pastor, and my annoying self (I guess I would always finish the work they would give me halfway through the sermon, and then I would whine the rest of the time, which was “highly embarrassing”), and for the unstated reasons of my parents’ wavering beliefs, we stopped going to that church in 1989.

My next experience with Christ began in about 1992, when I would occasionally go with my friend to Second Congregational Church in Rockford. For being a part of a presentation in 1993, they gave me a Bible with my name on it, a copy of the RSV. I went very intermittently between 1993 and 1995, sleeping in on Sunday morning most of the time. There, too, I received another Boy Scour Religious Award in 1995. From then on, due to my wavering belief, I stopped going to that church.

I never thought much of religion for the next two years, being too busy with school and other affairs. Then, in 1997, while examining chat rooms in the America Online member room section, I chanced upon the room “God is a myth.” Here I felt at home at this time, being young, ignorant, and foolish. I agreed mostly with the atheists and agnostics in the room, but considered myself one of the latter. For all of my disbelief, I could never deny that there was a higher power. I just felt I could not find him.

I realize today how much hateful garbage I spewed in that room. While believing in God, I could not stomach the existence of Jesus. Christianity, in my young eyes, had too much blood on its hands to be true. I fell in deeper and deeper with this crowd.

My return to God and the discovery of truth began in December, 1997, with some seemingly unfortunate circumstances. My first relationship had ended rather abruptly. I had never seen it coming, and I could not believe it. I went into a form of withdrawal, and, as a sobbing mass on the couch, I demanded this of God: “God, if you truly exist, give me my love back within the week!”

About six days later, I began a my second relationship. God had answered my prayer, yet I had not realized it. I still hung out in the chat room, and was still an agnostic. I told God that the prayer He answered (which I did figure out soon) was a prayer He answered because He existed, but that did not make His Son credible. So I continued to blaspheme Jesus.

The prayer and its answer, however, impacted me. I began to search for God. The decay and eventual end of my second relationship in June-July 1998 hastened this search. On the advice of my mother, while I journeyed in Europe in June 1998, I began to read Huston Smith’s The Religions of Man. I read about Hinduism and Buddhism, and found many great ideas in them, but could not accept them. They did not offer anything for me on Earth; they belittled my existence by saying that I was on a journey of many existences. I then read about Christianity, and found it to be good in idea, but despaired. While their theologies were interesting, the real-life practice of these religions was very disappointing in their differences.

In late July 1998 it was clear that my relationship was dying. My girlfriend had met someone new, but only as a friend. I knew, however, that he would become more, and, upon reading Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha (in which I saw that I could be strong by myself, and could be independent), I terminated the relationship on 22 July 1998. I also then commented, “I don’t need anyone. I will be single for my whole senior year to concentrate on getting into the University of Chicago.” I would go on to eat those words.

It was at this time that God’s providence and love for me was made evident in the introduction of Sarah into my life. I had known about her existence for about four years, since she was a student in my dad’s freshman history course and then in my mom’s English course the next year. In February 1998 she had come over to my house to talk with my mother, and I was present. She would later say that she hated me because I kept butting into their conversation. I was disinterested in her, since at that time I was with another. Later on, in about April or so, a mutual friend of ours sent out an e-mail about some topic she was interested in to all of her friends, and Sarah and I were on that e-mail list. I responded to that message on the e-mail list, and the next day I received a private e-mail from Sarah, saying that she remembered me from that day in February (she later said that even though she hated me, she gave me the benefit of the doubt, since I was my parents’ child). From that point on, we talked in instant messages. I distinctly remember finding her very annoying because she was always happy and kept telling me about how she was graduating (I had a year to go).

In July, when my relationship ended, I sent out a mass e-mail to everyone I knew announcing it. I said that the relationship was over, and that no one should feel sorry for me, as I was fine with it. Thankfully, Sarah didn’t listen to me, and did feel sorry for me. Quite spontaneously a couple of days later, while talking on IM, she asked if I wanted to go hang out somewhere that Friday night, and I accepted.

So we went out, and after a couple disasters, the night ended. She was going to see “Saving Private Ryan” with a friend the next day; however, that friend canceled. Having nothing to do, and being interested (I swore that she was sending me signals that Friday night), I asked her if she would see it with me, and she agreed. While we were waiting for the movie to begin, we discussed religion, and I shared with her how I was disappointed with how the theology of the Bible did not seem to be actually shown in the world. She then told me about her faith, and how she only used the Bible for her faith, and added nothing to it. I was interested, and so I agreed to study the Bible with her.

On Tuesday, 28 July, 1998, Sarah and I began our relationship. Many conversations we had together were focused on religion. The first event of note was on 15 August 1998, when Sarah and I attended her friend’s wedding. The friend was a Baptist, and in her vows, said she was going to submit to her husband. Since my mother was (is) a feminist, and I had a feminist upbringing, this impacted me greatly. Sarah and I, after the wedding, drove to Galena, a two hour and a half drive west. The entire time we discussed (okay, argued/fought) over this submission issue, with her saying that she was going to submit, and me being incredulous over the whole issue. I learned many good lessons on this day, notably, that I should study more and always see if things are so, and not fly off the handle over issues.

Thanks to Sarah’s advice, I soon began reading the New Testament. I did this over the period of August-October 1998. I would read a few chapters to many books a night, and I would ask Sarah any questions I had on the material. We also continued our discussions on faith issues.

During this, my senior year, I was taking a German course at the local community college on Monday and Wednesday nights, and I worked on Sundays at the local grocery store. On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, however, I did not have German, and so Sarah asked if I would accompany her to church on that evening, and enjoying being with her, and with nothing else to do, I agreed. I went and met Rick, the preacher, and many members of her family. The church was very warm and welcomed me. I enjoyed the experience.

Since I was a little bull-headed, and using work as an easy excuse, I did not return for a bit, despite Sarah’s urgings. I realized, however, that I should probably go, and so I talked to my boss and moved my hours up so that I could attend services on Sunday evening. Beginning in the middle of December, I began going to church continually on Sunday evenings.

About a month later, in mid-January 1999, Rick approached Sarah about having a Bible study with me, and in turn Sarah talked to me about it. I felt honored, that the preacher would care enough about me to want to study. So I agreed, and we began meeting on Thursday nights. We discussed a multitude of topics, and he would tell me later that I would drain him mentally with every meeting we had.

I grew steadily in knowledge and faith, and began to discuss issues of faith with some Mormons that were on a Yahoo! Message Board. I would get into debates, formulate answers by myself and would verify them with Rick. By March, my faith had grown to a decent size, as had my knowledge.

I began discussing the issue of baptism with Rick on around the 11th of March, 1999. I had, in my mind, a great plan wherein I would be baptized on Sarah’s birthday, conveniently on a Sunday in April. By that Sunday evening, however, I decided against my plan, and on that night, the 14th of March, 1999, I confessed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and I was baptized per Acts 2:38 for the remission of my sins in the manner of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8. At that point, I also became a member of the Tenth Street Church of Christ in Rockford, IL.

Since then my faith has grown stronger and stronger, and I have engaged in much work for the Lord. I have worked with many churches, both in a formal and informal capacity, and have finished my Bachelor of Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Hebrew & Semitic Studies and Classics. I am currently working with the Lord’s people in Venice, California as their evangelist.

May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

ELDV

2 thoughts on “My Story of Faith

  1. Just out of curiosity, Ethan – do you have any formal training in Ministry/Bible (Bible college, preacher training school, etc.)?

    1. I have formal training in Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, and Greek. I intentionally avoided the Bible college and the preacher training school. I have worked with some preachers, but not in some formal school concept.

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