Saturday, April 30, 2005

The long strange trip

The story of the Bowling Green years comes with a disclaimer. Some of the events that had an impact on me spiritually may have different interpretations, depending on who you talk to. Occasionally I will use pseudonyms for some people. The events I write about are according to my perspective. With that out of the way, let’s dive in.

I chose Bowling Green over other schools because my brother and best friend were both attending. I wanted to be a teacher, but other than that I didn’t have an overriding purpose for my life. I started in the fall of 1987 and I knew I wanted to hook up with a Christian group. At the community college in Elyria we had Intervarsity Christian Fellowship; at a big school like BGSU they had to have more than one. And I was right. In the first couple of weeks that school was in session all the groups were in recruitment mode. Campus Crusade for Christ took surveys to get names. BG Bible Studies had a table in the student union and sponsored a concert. Everyone had a method, a hook, and being the spiritual butterfly that I was I hopped from flower to flower. Some guys from the Fellowship of Christian Students invited me to dinner. The Campus Crusade guys had me over for a Bible study. I enjoyed CC a lot because of their emphasis on the Bible, but eventually I settled on a group called Active Christians Today (ACT).

ACT was connected with the Church of Christ. What branch of said church I don’t know. I visited their meetings at first because my best friend had been going before he left school. Simple meeting structure- praise songs led by someone playing an acoustic guitar, offering taken for missions, short Bible study, and out. They had a house close to campus which served as a hangout and meeting place. They also met for worship and communion on Sunday mornings. Nothing fancy. I can’t really say for certain why I chose them over the plethora of other groups on campus. But in the second semester I found a reason.

Her name was Elizabeth.

Elizabeth was a Christian of less than a year at that point, bubbly, full of zeal, the kind of zeal I wanted/needed in my life. It was her zeal that attracted me, and her beauty that drew me in. I had been attracted to a lot of women, but she was the first one I ever totally fell in love with. Separating my emotions for her from my emotions for the Lord became a tricky thing. We spent a lot of time together and became good friends. I fell head over heels and thought this was it. I have met the one.

She wasn’t the one.

Elizabeth had some very definite ideas about where her life was going and who was going to be involved in it, ideas she felt were from the Lord. And the Lord didn’t have me on her things to do list. The “just friends” speech reared its ugly head. I was heartbroken, but instead of just accepting reality and maintaining a good friendship I had it in my head that I could change her mind. We continued to hang out, eat dinner together, go on long walks, and talk. To the casual observer it would have looked like we were dating. 18 years later I say we were dating. She would have a different interpretation.

I am going into detail on this because I firmly believe that theology and beliefs are not formed in a vacuum. If people view Jesus as the ultimate non-conformist it’s because they themselves are non-conformists. Pacifists love the non-violent Jesus. People who don’t want to be judged love a Jesus who never judges. I have frequently heard Christian sisters claim that the Lord wants them in a “season of singleness.” That season usually begins out of dating frustration and ends when the cute guy of the moment finally gives her more than a passing nod.

When this story is complete you will notice that I made a lot of choices about the life of the Spirit based on what girl smiled at me that day. For right or for wrong that’s how I conducted myself, which shows how uncomfortable I was in my own skin and how deluded I was into thinking that the answer to all of my problems would come waltzing into my life with a body very unlike my own.

In the first weeks of the 1988 fall semester Elizabeth expressed to me her dissatisfaction with ACT. She was charismatic (the "soft" way of referring to tongues-talking Pentecostals), I was charismatic, but we were going to a group with a decided anti-charismatic slant. She wanted to try something different. A light went on. I knew a group! The Fellowship of Christian Students. As we sat on the steps of the ACT campus house we decided to visit FCS the next night.

Things continue to get curiouser and curiouser….


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