Posted by bryanzug - 2011/02/21
How can he walk across a field salted by the retreat of the last glacier with countless stones and pick out arrowheads?
Why can the human eye detect a tiny artificial form lost in nature’s torn and turbulent cosmos, a needle of data in a haystack of noise?
It is a sudden, sparking connection between minds, he supposes. The arrowheads are human things broken loose from humanity, their organic parts perished, their mineral forms enduring—crystals of intention.
Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse in Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon
: : :
Roo & Tug —
The story of how I came to follow Jesus has a funny start, a puzzling middle, and what I imagine will be a chuckling eye watered end.
First you should know this about how it began:
God tricked me into the whole thing. And here’s how He did it.
: : :
I was eight years old and I hated doing yard work. Really really hated it.
We had a big yard and lived in the desert, so the work was hard. But mostly I hated it because I was lazy. Television and fort building were much more interesting to me than subduing my particular section of creation.
My best friend at the time was Doug Maddi. I always liked his name because when you reverse the first two letters it sounded like “mug daddy”. This is very funny when you are eight.
Growing up, no one in my family practiced any particular kind of faith (a phenom that Richard Hughes, one of my Pepperdine professors, would later identify to me as ‘civil religion‘). While a vague sense of God, justice, and the golden rule floated around the house, I had never been to a church of any kind.
But when I’d spend the night at Doug’s house I would go with him to Sunday School.
This is funny when you think about it, because Doug’s parents did not go to church either. But his yard was a lot smaller than ours, so I don’t think the yard work thing figured into his motivation.
So on Sunday mornings, we’d walk to the Methodist Sunday school a few blocks away, the one with a 1960’s hippy Jesus “One Way to God” finger painted on the chimney of the Sunday school house.
When I realized I could get out of more and more yard work, I began going on my own every Sunday morning.
: : :
I should also mention here that there was a girl involved.
Her name was Mim. I had had a crush on her for the longest time and she was best friends with Doug’s sister. Her parents taught some of the Sunday School classes in the hippy Jesus building. So when we went to church, I got to hang out with Mim and her parents.
It didn’t really matter that Mim was not into me, because I was pretty good at memorizing passages of the Bible.
In her parent’s class, if you were good at that, they’d compliment you a lot and take you to Knott’s Berry Farm a couple of times a year.
There weren’t a lot of compliments floating around my house at the time, so I’m pretty sure that figured into my motivation as well.
At Pepperdine, when my sociology professor, Larry Keene, later pointed out that we tend to like people who first like us — something he called the junior-high-do-I-like-you-I-don’t-know-do-you-like-me law of love — I wondered whether I had started following Jesus for the wrong reasons. I’ll riff on that one later.
But at that time it’s safe to say I was in it for the trifecta of laziness, a girl, and some compliments.
If it weren’t for the white haired old lady, I might have gotten away with it.
: : :
Before we broke out into the group with Mim’s parents, all the classes would gather to sing those songs — the ones that introduce you to big themes that you never really doubt as a kid.
We sang “Jesus loves the little children” and I got saturated with the idea that God is good and loving.
We sang “Father Abraham had many sons” and I got initiated into the notion that God had been up to something intentional for a very long time.
We sang “The horse and rider fell into the sea” and I got steeped with the sense that God is a just protector who does not abandon His children.
The lady who led the singing was the white haired great-grandma flavor of old.
In between the songs, she would tell us the basics of the faith — the things C.S. Lewis calls “Mere Christianity“.
She said that we had all shaken a fuck-you-fist at God when we did things that were wrong (my paraphrase), and in that we were at an epic impasse with this holy just Creator.
This was news to me because I thought I was only shaking a fuck-you-fist at my brother and my parents when they acted like idiots.
Was this grey haired old lady actually calling out as arrogance something that was merely an observation of the obvious?
How could I be the one on the wrong side of the equation? I was the good son. The one who went to church. The one with straight A’s. The one with all the cub scout badges.
But the story did not stop there.
The grey haired piano playing gramma told us about how Jesus died on a cross and rose from the dead to pay the debt owed to God for our rebellion.
She told of Jesus as a great rescuer who had come to save us from ourselves (and not primarily from external forces or others).
: : :
Over the course of about 6 months in 1978 I was an eight year old who wrestled these angels.
As we built up to Christmas, I began asking more questions of my family — why we celebrated Christmas when we didn’t really believe in this Jesus as rescuer.
That was the first time I remember asking my dad questions he had no real answer for.
But it was obvious to me that something had happened millennia before that had caused entire cultures to orient themesleves to the events in question.
If the baby Jesus was able to stock my shelves with this many Star Wars toys, there was definitely something afoot at the root of the story.
These are the connections an eight year old makes. These are the pattern recognitions of a light saber obsessed boy.
So on Christmas Eve, having just turned nine, I remember praying something along these lines…
“God, I’m not sure how all of this fits together, but I figure that if a world who does not really acknowledge you gets as worked up as Americans do at Christmas, then there may actually be something to this King of the Universe deal.”
“So I figure I’ll hedge my bets and ask you to be my Lord.”
“Good night. I’ll see you in the morning amidst the wrapping paper.”
More soon about that puzzling middle.
Much love —