You have been in how many countries? This was the response of a businessman that I had been talking with. He had asked me earlier when he discovered what my job was how many countries I had been in. My response was more than a hundred.
"We are the happiest country in the world, because we don't believe in God as those countries beyond the mountains do"
"What's the matter with you? How can you not know the answer to that question.....it's in all the newspapers? What world are you living in?"
Such a tirade being thrown at a shy, sensitive teenager by a social studies teacher in front of her peers can bring humiliation and shame. It can not help but reinforce her own feelings of insecurity and self-doubt.
Even though this happened to me over 40 years ago, it still hurts to think about it.
The look on my husband's face confirmed our desperate plight. He was using all of his strength to steer the boat upright & to keep us alive. He cried out, "Oh Lord, SAVE US, PLEASE, SAVE US!"
My Mom was the daughter of an itinerate preacher. She saw to it that my brother and I attended church every Sunday, beginning at a very young age. However, as I grew older, I drifted away from the teachings of my youth only to make a lot of mistakes.
But God wasn't through with me yet. It was many years later as I waited for my daughter at a bus stop that a little old woman with a kind face asked me, "If you died tonight, do you know where you would spend eternity?"
I used to think that I could find favor with God by going to church and reading the Bible. Many times I tried to live a good life, but eventually I would fail and not live up to my expectations. I wanted to do good, but was not able to be consistent. I could not change the person I was, although I really tried.
After a long pause on the telephone, the nurse finally said, "I will need to have the doctor call you back in a few minutes with the biopsy results."
I knew by her response that I did have cancer and that my life would be now going in a completely different direction than I had planned. It happened in a moment.
"If God doesn't really exist, then what's the point in living?"
I stared out at the Californian mountains pondering my existence; only 15 years old. I had grown up in a religious family knowing about spiritual things, but my life felt empty. I was conflicted; one side wanted everything that this life was offering me: sex, drugs, money, power and prestige while the other quietly hinted at other lesser-known realities in my life: purpose, peace, love, forgiveness and joy.
I grew up feeling insecure and afraid. My father was either away from home or drunk. My mother was also usually gone. She had to work long hours to make enough money to take care of four children and pay the rent. I often feared that something horrible might happen to my parents and that I would be left alone. I wanted to be sure that I was a good child so that they would not leave me. I wanted everyone to think that I was a good boy and worth loving.
I knew all the best hiding places on our family farm. If my father found me, he would put me to work doing chores that often demanded more physical and mental endurance than I had as a young boy. It should have been a positive experience working side-by-side with my father. But it wasn't. I felt like an absolute failure when I didn't live up to the daily expectations I felt he had of me.
Hiding was my escape and my place to find rest and solace. Even today, I treasure time alone and away from the demands of work and parenthood. Time alone is when I think most about God.