steps to the edge of a cliff
Yesterday I started things out talking about my past, at least in a religious sense. We made it as far as the Assembly of God church and my junior/senior year.
Now, things were tough for us financially and emotionally, and I understand now the needs that drove me in search of spiritual fulfillment. Everything else was so completely out of my control, but here was something I could have in my life and no one could take away (or so I thought…more on that to come).
The problem is, like most drugs, after a while, it isn’t enough and you need more and more in an ever escalating climb that is only ever going to lead you to a very, very long drop. My life became increasingly wrapped around church and prayer and bible study. I shut out family that were not believers. I immersed myself in like minded folk and decried the intrusion of the real world.
Again, I have to say that this wasn’t forced on me. I chose it. I used it as a shield against the evil around me. I’m sad to say that one of those who got shut out was my father. With my parents separated and well on the way to divorce, he became the focus of what I saw as evil. In my very warped teenage mind he was solely responsible for ruining my life.
This is about the time that an itinerant preacher came into my life. He was charismatic, and he had a rough around the edges, strict way about him that appealed to my needs at the time. He came with a message about the dangers of rock-n-roll, one that to my less than educated mind seemed well researched and documented and powerful.
I started helping out when he was around. Then my mother and I got sucked into his dream of his own mission style church. It was a little more conservative, a little more evangelical, a little stricter than the AoG, it was the next “more” I needed, like stepping from one drug to the next because the highs just aren’t as good anymore.
We established a store front church, this preacher, his assistant and a couple of families. We held Sunday morning and evening services that we pumped out onto the street through speakers mounted outside over the door. My mother worked as the bookkeeper. We had a little bookstore in the front, selling bibles and tracts and books approved by our preacher.
I wanted to minister myself and started studying to do so. I moved into helping run the song service portion of the church services. If you’ve never attended and evangelical, charismatic sort of church, they don’t sprinkle hymns throughout the service the way other denominations do, they start out the service with a series of songs and depending on the size of the church, this is either done with a song leader and musicians or, in our case, a sound system and a series of pre-recorded songs.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I was only steps away from the drop off. I was running full tilt on ground that was about to fall away.