Chapter One – Part Two: My Long Road to Faith

         This is the second in a three-part post of Chapter One of my latest book, Becoming One with Christ: The Lessons of King David.  If you missed the previous post, please find it on my website, located at www.davidrichardsauthor.com

 

 

 

Moving On

         The first book I read immediately after my dad’s passing was Dinesh D’Souza’s Life After Death: The Evidence.  It was the first book I’d read of his and would not be the last.  In it, like a lawyer making their case before the jury, D’Souza lays out his case for life after death.  His conclusion, delivered in stunning simplicity, is that Jesus Christ is the singular living evidence for life after death.

         Over the next twelve years, I was a “seasonal” Christian, meaning I went to church at Christmas and Easter, celebrating Jesus’ birth and resurrection.  Growing up, I would have considered myself a “one-hour” Christian; I had regularly attended church with my family for one hour a week.  The label of one-hour Christian is generous in that, once you take away the singing of the hymns, any announcements, tithes and offering, and communion, what you’re left with is the reading of scripture and ten-to-fifteen minutes of reflection by the church leader or pastor.  This isn’t an indictment on church; it’s only a reflection on how arid my practice of faith was growing up.

I didn’t study the Bible on my own, and while I had served in the military and become a student of history in pursuit of two masters’ degrees, my studies were primarily focused on the evolution of warfare, and not the rise of Christianity, or the depth of meaning to be extracted from its collection of stories.  While I knew about King David, and thought it was cool that I shared the name with someone who lived thousands of years ago, I wasn’t concerned with or even interested in his story.

 

 

My fiancée and I were married in the Spring of 2009, and we divorced in 2016; it was the second divorce for both of us.  She is an amazing woman and comes from a beautiful family.  Before meeting me, she had no exposure to the military, and that had given me the greatest sense of relief, as I sought to create an identity different from the only life I’d ever known.

We had tried to go to church regularly; we were both yoga instructors.  She was fulltime, while I taught classes on weekends.  I’d discovered yoga the weekend after I left active duty in August 2006, and instantly became hooked.  Something about yoga and its explanation of the internal journey appealed to me, offering me something traditional Christianity as it’s taught hadn’t.  While I went lightly into Hinduism, she had immersed herself in the concepts taught in books such as the Bhagavad Gita, a staple in many yoga teacher training programs.  We had thoughtful discussions on the merits of oneness espoused by Hinduism and how inviting it was compared to the dogmatic and what I perceived as the often-unforgiving approach to monotheism practiced in the United States.  She openly wondered if, during his largely unaccounted-for childhood, Jesus had ever ventured to India.  Additionally her children, and her daughter in particular, bristled at the idea that someone other than their dad should take them to church to try and form their beliefs.  If I went to church, which wasn’t often, I went on my own.

I knew something was missing from my life; I just couldn’t put my finger on what it was.  Christ was part of that, but he wasn’t the only part.

During our time together, I scoured the internet, looking for verifiable proof of Jesus’ existence.  I also entertained the counterargument from people like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, famous atheists who cited the material sciences and all the evils of the world as demonstrable proof that God did not exist.  I knew I had to explore alternative views, if only to validate in my mind the beliefs by which I operated.

I didn’t bother looking in the Bible.  Inherently, I believed I knew what the Bible said; I wanted some other source.  I’m sure this desire was influenced by my job at Cisco, one of the world’s largest providers of networking equipment.

With the rise of the internet, more of the world’s information was available online than at any time in human history.  Like many people, I was overwhelmed by Facebook and the sudden ability to reconnect with friends from high school and college.  I have wasted hours on YouTube and Instagram, watching other people’s videos.  Surely, with all the information being uploaded onto the world wide web daily, there must be some new revelation about the life of Christ, collected from new discoveries or previously unknown sources?  Unfortunately, many of those early searches yielded next to nothing.

As our marriage progressed, that idea that something was missing persisted.  As had so often been the case in the past, I looked at my intimate relationship, and decided that’s what needed to change.

To cope with the parade of friends and girlfriends I witnessed growing up in the military, I became the consummate people pleaser.  By that, I mean to say, I found my identity in response to and in the reflection of others.  I was always looking to adapt myself to fit someone else’s life.  When I elected to join the military, this penchant for people-pleasing persisted, most often romantically, when I would give up my sense of who I was to be what I believed someone else needed in their lives.  Invariably, as the relationship leveled off, my identity, as underdeveloped as it was, would come back to the surface.  I would grow disenchanted and identify the source of that disenchantment as my partner.

This pattern was fostered early in my life when the idea that God’s love had a face, and that face was a woman’s, occupied me at a very young age.  It seemed obvious that such an elegant and specific vision of faith must have been sent from On-High.  It was the direction to which my internal compass naturally pointed, and that compass would guide me throughout my life.  That is perhaps the best explanation I can provide for the breathtaking clarity I was blessed with, at such a young age, at having such a sound understanding of my life’s purpose.  I was going to find that face.  I watched movies like Cinderella and Snow White, convinced that such love existed, seeing in their conception a pure, unbridled love, a love that could overcome the most unimaginable darkness.  By the time my second marriage started to feel stale, my conviction had been raked over the coals.  I’d abandoned so many of my morals and didn’t like who I’d become.  Still, the idea persisted.

Of course, my mind wasn’t solely focused on Jesus.  Besides my job and teaching yoga, I had immediately gotten into another relationship as the marriage ended.  I had friends and hobbies; I had a life.  I had competing forces inside me; I listened to heavy metal just as often as I listened to yoga music.  I could go out for drinks and be rambunctious with friends and the next day go to a yoga class and talk about the idea of unity or oneness.  As difficult as it may be to perceive at this early stage of the book, all my focus was centered around the Love of God.

The relationship after my second divorce had been something of a last hurrah; I entered it with the idea that, perhaps I’d been wrong.  If there was one idea I hadn’t sincerely explored when it came to love, it was the idea that God didn’t exist.  Perhaps it was time to consider the alternative, one that I’d never fully embraced, to test out the hypothesis and understand the kind of life it might afford me.  To do this, I needed to find someone whose company I genuinely enjoyed and give up on an idea I’d held onto since I was 4 or 5.  We could have a happy life for the next thirty or maybe forty years, and then that would be it.  I found someone who loved football, listened to the same music I did, and didn’t believe in God; it was the veritable jackpot.  At the time I believed it was my deepest test of faith.

While she was adamant in her belief that God didn’t exist, as our relationship stretched into 2018 and 19, I couldn’t bring myself to abandon the idea.  Things began to change in 2017, when I started assessing what it meant to take accountability for my life.  I completed a lifelong dream in publishing my first book, became a life coach, and started spending more time working on my internal development, all as I sought to deepen my contribution at work.  I started examining my values and beliefs, holding each up to a greater light, so that I could discern if they were still serving me, or holding me back.  This led me to see the virtuousness in our relationship, something I valued, even as I had planted the seeds of sabotage early in our time together.

We will close out the first chapter with a short post to start off next week before moving forward into Chapter 2.  Have an AMAZING weekend!