“If you’re an Atheist, why do you not sleep around with every girl you meet?” She asked as she continued to explain that we could not continue to date because our beliefs were so different. I was sad, another potential relationship squandered, but that wasn’t even half of the issue. There was an even deeper, underlying problem… I needed to answer the question she asked me.
December 7th, 2016: This was the day that this question was laid before me. For the life of me, no matter how hard I tried, I could not muster an adequate response. Immediately following this was a crisis of identity, almost 25 years of living my life a certain way and I honestly felt so dejected and unfulfilled. I spent my life refining and defining myself through my actions and personal beliefs and one question made me question everything. This was a huge deal for me because, for those of you who know me personally, I struggle with admitting I am wrong sometimes (way more than sometimes). What exactly did I believe prior to this question? Well, now that is a fantastic question. Here is how the old me operated.
Right off the bat. I claimed to be an Atheist, but I never had a compelling argument as to why. You could ask and I would say something along the lines of “oh, the universe is too big for there to be an all-powerful being watching over us here on Earth.” Little did I know that the size and complexity of the universe is actually a compelling argument for a divine designer. However, that is a topic for another time. For now, I digress. As a child, I was forced to attend Catholic church and being forced to go take part in something I didn’t understand left a sour taste in my mouth. When I was in high school, my brother and mother started attending the church we still attend today and converted to Christianity. Going to church was a waste of time in my opinion (at the time), but I went when my family did for the holidays to make my mom happy. I actually started playing drums for the worship band but I was interested in playing drums more than I was in exalting God because at the time I did not believe He was real. I was raised with Catholic/Christian values and always knew the basic principles of The Word. On top of that, I had a warped sense of purpose. I have always had a sense of purpose that I was destined for something great and that that purpose would be fulfilled through my actions. I was kind to others but I believed in working hard to obtain a particular job or make a certain amount of money, hanging around like-minded people who all want that success as well, or defining who I am by the things that I own (e.g., my clothes, a nice house, a nice car, etc.). Essentially, my success and fulfillment is determinant on my job title, my friends, and my possessions. In hindsight (Hines-sight for those of you who read my vision), I was just flat out stupid. That is the break down of who I was before my revelation.
This question was posed and I could not pinpoint the source of my morality and I was uncomfortable with that feeling. I started dwelling on the initial inquiry and a couple questions began to flow from it like a cracked vase: “if I cannot explain where my morals originate from, what else can I not explain?” “why am I here on Earth, in this place, in this moment?” “If I cannot find the explanation, where can I find it?” This was a classic case of the ‘crisis of identity’ story arc many main characters take in books and movies.
Keep in mind, this whole crisis of identity took place over the span of about 15 minutes. That is how quickly my mind was racing; searching my memory and mind for an answer that again, I could not answer. So, I decided to reach out to my younger brother. He dropped everything that he was doing and came to my aid after I called him in tears. My brother is a devout Christian who didn’t always claim that moniker, so I probed for the explanation of his salvation. I was straight forward and asked him how he became a Christian. We walked around and he explained his upbringing and where he stood with God. My brother cleared up many things I had misconstrued about Christianity. He began to lay the groundwork for a transformation that changed my entire life. I told him to reach out to one of his mentors so I could get more in-depth information because I was hungry for more information and knowledge, an expert’s opinion if you will.
December 8th, 2016: The very next day, my brother arranged a meeting between me, himself, and the Director for Apologetics for the church my family attends. For those who are unaware of what apologetics is, it is the argument that is meant to justify a belief. Basically, I met with an expert in making the argument for Christianity. I picked up my brother, who gave me the gift of my first Bible and drove to meet with the pastor. We met at a coffee shop and I listened to him talk for the fastest passing of two hours I have ever experienced in my life. He was aware of how logical I was and laid out Christianity with facts and in-depth, scientific and reasonable explanations. I sat across from him, hanging on every word as he laid out the details from the Old Testament to today. He ended the conversation saying “I’m not here to convert you, I’m here to give you the information. This is something you have to discover on your own.” It was the first time that I didn’t feel forced to pursue religion, the first time I was told I have a choice. He just happened to provide me with enough information to move forward and take the first step. He also recommended I read the book ‘I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be An Atheist.” I can tell you now, today… I do not have enough faith to be an atheist any longer.
December 11th, 2016: The week progressed and Sunday came. I had read, started studying, and formulated questions about this new worldview I was walking into. I woke up early and I willingly went to church for the first time in my life. I sat with the congregation and took in the message throughout the service. Feverishly scrawling notes on the program that was provided. I wanted to go back in and read the verses the pastor mentioned and take them in during my own research. During worship, the band played ‘Good, Good Father’ by Chris Tomlin and it struck a chord in my heart. The reason this song cut deep is that I grew up without a consistent fatherly figure in my life. My biological father left before I was born, my adopted father was manipulative and our relationship failed just as his relationship with my mother failed, and my stepfather was an alcoholic, choosing the bottle over his family. As you can see, not ideal role models. Yet, I heard this song and it was just a providential moment for me. I spent my whole life feeling empty for not having a father when I could have had one, I was just looking in the wrong places. I searched for the physical embodiment of the perfect role model when I just had to realize the perfect Father is within me and all around, always present and never failing. A good, good father. After the service, I was still curious, yearning for more information. However, I was still being held back by 25 years of habits and thinking.
January 1st, 2017: I went to church with my mom and this was the day I knew, the day I knew wholeheartedly I believed in a God that is kind, forgiving, and all-loving. The culmination of my studies and conversations with believers helped in this process, I prayed many nights and finally had my answer. What a fantastic day to come to this realization as well (new year, new me… anyone? okay) After the service, I approached the woman who was standing near the prayer table. This was an area where people who have just accepted the Lord and we would just share a moment. I spoke to a woman who asked if I had accepted Jesus Christ as my savior. Without hesitation and with confident resolve, I simply responded “yes, I have,” and then we prayed.
January 28th, 2017: I met with the worship leader of the church that I attend. We sat down and he talked about his upcoming mission trip to Japan and we dived into my ongoing walk with The Lord. I have known him for several years and as I have mentioned above, I played in the worship band with him, albeit for the wrong reasons. We discussed coming back to play for the worship band and this time I felt excited because I didn’t want to play music for myself anymore. Near the end of our meeting, he said to me “you were a really nice guy before, but ever since you have come to Christ, you are a completely new man.” It meant a lot to me because it was the first time that my works were reflecting my newfound faith. I knew that I had made the right decision and my conviction grew deeper.
February 3rd-6th, 2017: I drove to San Diego to visit my best friend and talk to him about my sanctification. He is one of the wisest, kindest, and is the most purposeful person that I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. We have been friends for about ten years now and I’m so blessed that he remained patient with me while I lived a lifestyle not consistent with his. It was such a meaningful trip for me because it was filled with conversations that were not surface level. We had deep, meaningful talks about our goals and faith and I learned more about my best friend in this one weekend than I did the entire year previously. I’ve devoted myself to staying in contact with him and sharing my journey with him, while hearing of his journey as well. If you are reading this, thank you so much for your prayers and for being someone I can always rely on. However, the weekend came to a close and too short it was. I eventually had to come back to the real world but I obtained some experiences and memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life on Earth.
February 13th, 2017: This was a day that I was invited to attend a small group with some of the members of the church that I attend. I woke up that morning incredibly anxious. I did not know what that gathering would entail. I started driving to work and I made the decision not to go. I felt peace and got to about lunchtime when I started thinking deeply about my reasoning for not going. An inner argument occurred and it ended with me telling myself I was going to go. I would try it and if I didn’t feel that ‘click’ with the people there, I wouldn’t go back. I am so very glad The Lord gave me the strength to go to this small group that day.
I got there thinking it would be awkward trying to connect with these people who are so much further along in their walks with Christ than me. Yet, the connection was instant and ‘earlier that morning’ Zach felt like a big dummy. I started talking with all of these interesting and incredibly gifted people. I met an engineer who I’m going to have coffee with here in the near future, a kindergarten teacher with a passion in her heart to educate the young, a physical therapy doctoral student who had moved to our city just a month earlier and plugged in immediately, a seminary student who was so funny and knowledgeable about The Word, a future nurse who was born in another country and is just so astute and purposeful, she lives and breathes The Lord and she intrigues me immensely.
The best part of meeting everyone is that we come from all different walks of life and united with one common goal: to grow among fellow believers and examine/better understand The Word. I am beyond excited to continue going to this small group and developing bonds and fostering relationships not only with the people who attend but with The Lord as well. This community is so incredible and I felt at home in their presence.
February 19th, 2017: I went to church with my family with the rough draft of this post swirling in my mind. It was boiling in the pot and I just needed a few more ingredients. One crucial ingredient came in the form of the sermon that our pastor preached not 10 hours ago. He spoke of how to live a life led by Jesus. Going back to my sense of purpose that I was looking for, I immediately connected with the message. He went one to say that we, and even the best Christians, try to walk in perfect alignment with The Lord and are searching for a dot on a blank whiteboard (this was the analogy he used today with a giant whiteboard on the stage). The message was that your goal should not be the dot, it should be a box (drawn on the whiteboard) which are the defined parameters of being led by Jesus. These parameters included working with your strengths, providing for your family, doing work that is good for your soul and others, and allows you to reach your true potential. To show your works within these parameters is how you accomplish a joyous and rewarding life. A simple concept with powerful meaning. The services I attend never cease to amaze me. It’s a blessing to see what God is doing in our lives.
Right now: I realize that I’m so early but I just wanted to share the incredible journey I have gone through in the past two months. This journey is its infancy but I am hungry to grow and show my newfound faith through my works and strengthen my relationship with God. I have been given the facts and now I believe.
Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” John 1:50
I have been reborn and I cannot wait to see greater things.