In Pursuit of the Unknown
For most of my childhood, I had been raised up in a church environment but wasn’t very intrigued by very much of it. I was one of those children that basically went through the motions and wanted to get baptized so I could see what the drink and bread for communion tasted like. This went on for quite some time, up until we moved away from Michigan over to Washington when I was about 14 years old. I’m still not sure to this day what inspired me to visit our new pastor after one Sunday service, but it completely changed my life. I asked him rather nervously about Hell and whether or not just wanting to stay in good standing would be enough to save myself from a bad situation. He seemed to give me a neutral expression implying that this was a question he was pretty used to before answering: “The problem is that you’re looking for fire insurance. That’s not really how God works.” I realized at that point he was right. I hadn’t quite gotten into theology yet at this point, but this was the day that the mental cogs began to spin and lead me towards a desire to know more about God and the world present in the Bible.
At that point I had begun to take my faith with significantly more sincerity. Things were still moving slowly, but eventually I had decided to undergo a serious baptism the following year. I’ve never forgotten the warm water with the sun coming in through the stained glass right on my position that day. The entire congregation was watching, and after leading me into a medium sized tub my pastor was asking me to repeat after him “Do you acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the Son of God? Do you accept him as your savior?” After answering yes to both questions, he dunked me backwards. The moment I hit the water and for a couple seconds following, there was absolute silence. When I was pulled up my only functioning sense was sight. I saw hundreds of people clapping and smiling for me, feeling the water calmly dribble down my face. I knew that I had done this for the right reasons, and that it meant I was truly making a commitment and a promise this time.
I decided to put a little more of my time towards religious pursuits, so I figured I’d start attending a youth group on Thursdays. While the previous two churches in my life had introduced me to God, this was the church that challenged me to question my faith and why I held the beliefs that belonged to myself. It wasn’t the kind of gathering where everyone wore sweatshirts and dress pants, and conflict was far and few in between. I spoke with people who struggled with serious addictions, who had overcome them. The atmosphere was far more intense and emotional than anything I had ever experienced in a church before. It was here that they would bring in people who were hurting or had moved on from their hurt, giving their testimonies and what brought them to God. To me, this was where scripture left the pages of the book and had begun to pour out into my personal life. This was the point where I began giving the actual study of theology much more serious thought. My fascination for studying God’s word was compounded even further one night when one of the volunteer adults working at the church was discussing religion versus faith with me. Ray, the man I was speaking with, basically explained to me that while religion is a structure that assists people in getting to know God, the relationship with God is what the Bible focuses on above all else. It was at this point I began to look a little more into scripture, and had begun reading the Bible from beginning to end at a pace that would take me almost a year and a half.
Briefly into the beginning of my journey through the Bible, my family had moved once more to the state of Michigan. At first, I was gradually consuming the Bible one chapter a day. As time progressed and I became more familiar with the literature, what was once frugal and tentative observation had now become a rapid devouring of scripture at somewhere around four chapters a day! The theological universe had drawn me in with many questions such as what was symbolic versus literal, as well as how many of these people had the strength to do what they did. How was Isaiah feeling when an enormous fire produced from nowhere, and everyone he’d known who had mocked him suddenly became aware that he was actually right? How distraught and terrified must the apostles have been when their God, their leader, had died right before their eyes? When my reading was complete, I had even more questions than I had begun with! Who wrote each of these books? What had been altered? Why were those books altered over time? The world of theology has been and always will continue to be a library with pages that are not missing, but rather hidden. I knew for a fact, however, that in order to get the most out of studying this fantastic and frightening world I’d have to integrate myself into the scholarly community of theologians. The unparalleled sanctuary for me to accomplish such a goal, I had realized, was through college university.
When entering my Biblical Literature class for the first time, I remember sitting in the cool bliss of a sixty degree class had to offer when I was only assigned the first three chapters of Genesis, but getting home later that night I’d learned a plethora of new information regarding how scripture was “canonized”, or regarded as authoritative by different religions, as well as how long this process probably took and a general view of what the scholarly world knows about the Bible’s origins. It was at this point that I began to strongly consider pursuing some sort of degree in Theology. With each passing day I’d begun to realize that the scholarly community may not have all the answers, nor did I expect to find all the answer in my lifetime, but I realized that what we had figured out was very impressive given the time lapse, and that college was definitely the next step in seeking answers to my dynamic, constantly evolving questions about this universe that has class room full of thirty or so other students. At first I was a little skeptical on what that shaped, and will continue to shape my life. From ashes to ashes, my passion for theology will remain a driving force in my pursuit of knowledge.