05 April, 2011

The Faith Entry Pt 1

This is perhaps the most challenging posting I'm typing. It's not so much of a challenge per se to think this through because I've been thinking about it, it's more of a challenge to actually publicly post my personal opinion, experience, and observation on this heated topic. My observation on how convicted actors' were to their acting system/instructors was simply a "warmup" so to speak. Some actors who read the last entry were a bit offended by what I stated, though most didn't deny what I stated.

So I'm going to wrestle with the topic of God. (Yup, that's a Biblical reference already!) Just fyi: I'm no theologian, pastor, lay leader, or guru. I was a seminary student for a mere 22 days before dropping out. (Hey, at least I could say that I was once a Fuller Seminary student!) Some who read this may not think I have much authority on the topic. No matter. Their credentials are no more of an indication of authority either. The bottom line is that their credentials are not inherently significant. The significance has been created by man, regardless of how often those men "prayed about the topic." And yes, I'm saying men as in the masculine context because the majority of the decision makers on the topic of credentialing faith have been men.

I was "introduced" to God and Jesus at a very young age. When I began kindergarten, my great aunt trekked from Fresno Cali to Oakland Cali and moved in w/my family. My parents had been in and out of the hospital for one medical condition after another. It was also that time when my younger first cousin was born, and it was explained to me then that my parents didn't "have me" in the same fashion that my aunt and uncle "had" my cousin. I was "chosen" by my parents. My great-aunt or "Yee Pau," as my sister and I referred to her, would read her Bible to us kids before going to bed. So while she stayed with us, our family routine was grace before meals, and a Bible story before bedtime. When my parents recovered and my aunt returned to Fresno, that routine gradually phased out.

Several years later in the summertime school break prior to 4th grade, I was "reintroduced to Christ" while being sent to Vacation Bible School. I didn't know it then, but the adoption and rejection issue was a dominant dilemma for this 8 year old especially with all the bullying I had to deal with during school. During one of the closing prayers, the children were asked if anyone was "interested in being born again," and I adamantly raised my hand. At that point in the 4th grade, I'd sneak into my parents medicine cabinet and took a sleeping pill or two. The idea of "being born again" had such appeal. Imagine my disappointment. From that point forward, my common phrase was "F*ckin God." Oh and I eventually stop attending church at some point during the 5th grade. Saturday and Sunday afternoon lion dance practice had priority.

It's not that I never thought about God or anything like that over the years, it just became an afterthought. The majority of my family on my mother's side are Christian based, so family weddings would be in a church setting. Funerals were conducted by church pastors, ect. I've even did the occasional Easter and Christmas pilgrimage. For the most part, in junior and senior high school, the people I tend to clash with the most were those who were known for their devotion to their respected church. My attitude then was if that's who's going to church, I'm not interested in going. Conversely, while other friends of mine were invited to a Friday Fellowship, THEIR sentiment was, "Jarrett, naw not here!" Add to this the study of literature and history which highlighted the hypocrisy of the Church as a whole along with my mantra I created in the 5th grade and you got one cynical person towards faith of any kind.

It's no coincidence that I gravitated towards "recovering Catholics" when it came to dating. Then again in some ways, that was consciously by design on my part. A high school recovering Catholic girl meant easy sex, and that was considered important for the typical 17 year old male.

It wasn't to I was twenty when I was challenge on making any declaration on faith. From the time I was 18, I had this crush on one of my friend's cousin. I'd sound like a bumbling idiot when I was around her. It seemed like I couldn't get a coherent sentence out of myself verbally when she was around. When I was around twenty, I took a course on race relations which covered topics like Malcolm X and The Black Panthers. I became coherent after that. Any opportunity I had was about conspiracy theories and the haves versus the have nots. She became interested in me since my sentences weren't just coherent, but coming from a different angle as compared to other guys who were after her. Suddenly just like that, we began exclusively dating each other. Dream come true for me because I waited over two years for the opportunity. No sooner than it began, she was already taking measures to end it. The reason: she returned from a church retreat, "re-committed to The Lord," and felt that it was no longer right for her to go out with me. I explained to her about my VBS experience, and she countered that it took place so long ago. Finally after a week of being "broken up," she eventually called me for a compromise: Lay off the Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam rhetoric, and join her mom in attending church service. Like a guy who's gaga over someone, I agreed. So I started attending church...with her mom!!! Where was she? Well at that time, she had ongoing "rehearsals" on Sundays. So throughout the entire Salvation Army Chinatown Corps College Fellowship, I was only known as "________'s Boyfriend." So from age twenty to twenty-one, I was regularly attending services and college fellowship. Even after her and I split up, I was still attending services for a few months after the split.

Less than a year afterwards, I began what was going to be a three year relationship with a classmate from College of Alameda. Within that academic year, I became eligible to transfer colleges and I went to San Francisco State. She transferred to Pacific Union College in Angwin. "PUC" was a college ran by the Seventh Day Adventists. She was someone I met from a "religiously mixed" family: her father is Roman Catholic, and her mother is SDA. I didn't have the greatest of impression of SDA's since my SDA friend two years prior borrowed money and never paid it back. The difference between what was taught by Salvation Army versus SDA was that SA was big on the Old Testament military terms, while SDA were very adamant about having worship services take place on a Saturday, and any deviation (ie: Sundays) was considered anti-Christ. To them, any church that wasn't SDA was considered "false and Satanic." Funny because that family had their Christmases separate: mother and kids one service, father separate service. Never was able to figure out whether or not or how they reconciled that difference.

During that time of that relationship, I was in my early 20s and I discovered the drug ecstacy. What that whole experience provided for me was the sense of connection. It didn't matter that the connection was drug-induced or not. It was the connection and the euphoria that I couldn't get enough of. When I wasn't able to access the drug, alcohol was my bad substitute. I bring up the topic of drugs because of one important factor: that sense of connection I received as a result of using drugs was what I was looking for in all my spiritual pursuits. Church talkstalks a good game of "community," but that's all that is: just talk. I bring up the topic of experimenting with drugs and going out to drink because that becomes a factor in my spiritual pursuit.

I went in back-to-back relationships after the young lady with the SDA background. This new relationship was someone whom I'll admit I took as serious as I was capable of taking. Someone whom I really considered marriage with. Of course at age 25, with the excessive partying I wasn't ready for such a responsible endeavor. Also at that time was when I came face-to-face with my biological mother. That experience alone became a reason to increase the alcohol intake. (It wasn't a grand experience lets just say) Long story short, we split up shortly after I met my biological mom. I decided to go back to church, any church.

Thus began my journey with The Salvation Army...(again)

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