Running Away and Coming Home (Part 1)

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Y’all. I love new christians. I love how straight their priorities are and how fresh their legs are and how excited they get about stuff like loving other people and telling their friends about Jesus. Today’s Field Notes Friday features my friend Eric Posadas (follow him on Twitter @EricPoz), a new christian and an increasingly light-filled guy. 

A few months ago just after his baptism, Eric shared his journey to faith with my husband. Eric is super articulate, and the way he tells his story is so raw and beautiful I’ve decided to devote two days to featuring it (in its long, lovely glory). 

I come away from Eric’s story with two powerful reminders:

1. Never give up on someone who’s far from home.

Because…

2. No one’s so far that God can’t call him back.

Enjoy…

-

Recently, I was asked by my friend, Justin, to share my journey from darkness to faith through a series of questions and answers. And as I reflected upon my journey, I felt slightly silly. I had no deep tragedy to shatter my trust in God. No inexplicable circumstance of a downtrodden, grief-stricken life which left me no choice but to question God’s existence. In fact, looking back, I was just a spoiled kid. Not happy with the way things were going and deciding to run away from home. Convinced I could do better on my own, and at the very least, not have to follow the rules of the household. I packed my things in my TMNT backpack and was on my way. Only, I wasn’t brave enough to deliberately “run” anywhere. So I let myself simply wander away from home instead.

When I think back to what derailed my faith, I pinpoint it to when I was around 12 or 13 years old, and I got a peek at the man behind the curtain. I was a kid who had grown up believing the Father of our church was truly connected to God. A direct channel to all things holy. I had openly confessed my sins and secrets (some embarrassing stuff, too) to this man believing it was on par with confessing to God. I’d pray the prayers he prescribed to doctor me up, and enthusiastically felt I was on the right track to Heaven. I spent years this way. Believed that intense prayer in silence, communion and confession, and church on Sunday was the path I was to take.

Then, one day after mass and a stern finger-wagging about our church needing to donate more money, I joined my dad on a visit to the Father’s house. I walked in and was greeted by cigarette smoke and empty beer cans; one in his hand. He shuffled around in normal clothes instead of the fancy robe he wore in church, and football was playing on his very nice, very big TV (wait, I thought the church was hurting for money…).  I tried to wrap my mind around what it meant but couldn’t really come up with anything more than this - the great Oz was as normal as me.

That day stuck with me over the following months. This representative was just a man who drank beer and smoked. The basic things I presumed a Christ-like figure avoided; especially one who stood as an intermediary. He was nothing more than a man. Just a man. How did confessing anything to him cleanse my soul? Had it all been a lie? More questions than I could even ask aloud circled around my head. I was lost. Confused. Hurt. Ashamed.

My interest in faith and church faded after that encounter, and the structure of the Catholic religion went from feeling traditional to repetitive. I was a drone. Mouthing the same old prayers with no pure intent other than to look like I was praying. I didn’t just lose faith in the local church, but in the Catholic religion as a whole. And since I wasn’t raised any other way (a Catholic is a Catholic is a Catholic….there is nothing more) I just lost interest in all spirituality.

I didn’t ever emphatically decide to stop believing in Jesus or in God. I just didn’t care to even think about it anymore. Before long, I was off to college and found myself lost in sin.

Guilt would surface, at times, as I knew what I was doing wasn’t what God wanted for me, but I just shrugged it off.  Growing up, I always thought salvation was something I had to earn. I don’t know if it was the fault of the church, or my parents who didn’t really push religion much, or just my misunderstanding and misinterpretation. But, I recalled the process of having to inform the Father the time of my last confession and needing to ask for forgiveness. If I didn’t confess often enough, I wasn’t allowed to take communion. I hadn’t earned it. And since communion was highly touted as the body of Christ, I essentially didn’t deserve Christ, in my mind.

I also was never really taught to know Jesus, and act like Jesus. I just thought if I was a good person, I’d be set. And, well, I wasn’t interested in being good just yet. The bad was too much fun.  And I wasn’t motivated to work hard to “earn Jesus”, either.

I never knew all I had to do was ask for grace, and it would be given to me.

When I think about my journey I keep thinking of control. I had absolutely no control as a kid watching my dad beat up my mom. I had no way to help or to escape. The smell of alcohol; my mom’s pain, both emotional and physical, manifested as tears rolling down her face; the anger in my dad’s eyes when they met mine; the yelling; the pleading; those pictures are all still fresh on my mind. So much evil present all I have to do is close my eyes, and I’m right back there, even 26 years later. Fresh lump in my throat. Fresh sweat on my palms. Sinking stomach and focused resentment. As new as any memory created since then. More so.  Back then, it built up hate in me as Mom and I cried together. True hatred fortified with true helplessness.

So once the wheels fell off religiously, I promised myself I would never feel helpless again, nor put trust in anybody but myself.  In college and as a young adult, I felt control when I chose what to imbibe or inhale. When I chose to sleep with a girl I hardly knew. If I chose to really tie one on and go for blackout mode. It was my choice, and I needed to feel that way.  I deserved to feel that way. I had really dark days, but I felt a weird comfort in knowing it was my choices that put me there.  My choices…not anybody else’s.

When I felt I had lost the path, I convinced myself I was creating my own, and I was ok with that. All I had to do was look around me and note I was surrounded by friends making the same mistakes to feel comfort and normalcy.

Along the way, God tried to intervene. And even as I lived in the shadows, I was keen to that fact….