I left this response on some cool guys blog, after he asked me a question about my "story" I wont publish his name unless he comes over here and says it's OK to do so.
This cool guy was once a Christian and then somehow became an Atheist.
I only graduated high school because none of the teachers wanted me back. If it had to do with grades I would have spent at least one more year at my high school. BTW, I loved my school and teachers etc. I went to Catholic grade school and high school and it seemed I spent about the last six years in the principles office.
I then spent 4 years as a military policeman in the USAF. When I got out I basically had a few jobs, but like you have been self-employed for over 20 years. And had I known what the future might have been, I definitely would have changed some of my "business decisions" as well. I have run through all my IRA stuff, cashed in all of my life ins. money, and sold 2 pieces of property I owned, just to be broke. So I don't see retirement in my near future either.
I'm telling you all this 'cause our stories seem similar,except you raised boys, I'm raising girls.
I also have always struggled with religion. My Mom was a Baptist when she married my Catholic Dad. I was about 11, and that's when I started attending Catholic schools.
I was never a good Baptist or a good Catholic. I didn't really care about church or faith. I did however start going to Mass with my Dad, when It got me out of going to church with my Mom. Those Baptists seemed like they were mad at everyone and everything. And besides all my friends were at the Catholic church.
Now, I was never actually forced to go to Church, but it did make life a little easier on me if I just went with one of them. But for the next several years I saw what I thought was hypocrisy in both churches. Although being crammed into a 72 nova with 5 of your best friends looking for whatever kind of trouble you can find is a blast, something seemed contradictory about having 3 cases of beer in the car, trying to go get laid, or pick fights with the local public school loser kids, and yet every time we passed a church or cemetery all of my friends would make the sign of the cross?
And at my Mom's church there was always some kind of drama, and every year they kicked another Preacher out the door or the church would split over the pettiest little chicken sh%* stuff. (things like what color the carpet should be.)
I can remember a cool pastor my mom's church had, I went to a Cincinnati red's game with his son and he smoked a doobie under the scoreboard.
And probably the closest thing to a Christian I saw was a couple of Nuns who were my teachers in High School. But even some of them beat my ass on occasion. I remember my 8th grade year at Sacred Heart about 20 of us boys decided to play hookie together, I think there was only 25 boys in our whole grade. We would have probably even gotten away with it, but one of my friends left his lunch at home, and when his mom brought it to school all hell broke out. Picture an old panel sided station wagon, stopping in the middle of the road, 3 old heavy set nuns jumping out of the car chasing 20 dressed up little a-holes all the way back to school. In 1977 at a Catholic school, Nuns could still beat you with whatever they felt like. And that day, they did. (I tend to ramble and get sidetracked, sorry.)
BTW one of those kids, to this day is my best friend, he has grown up in his Catholic faith and is one of the finest Christians I know.
I was Baptized when I was 9 years old in a tiny old country Baptist church. And pretty much for the next 11 or 12 years God was an after thought.
But my oldest sister had a boyfriend, he was the first Christian influence in my life, maybe even my whole families life, I really don't know? He's been married to her now for 32 years.
About the time I met my wife, we were both "out in the world" so to speak. I couldn't get the thought of God out of my mind set. Although I was a Military policeman, I would indulge in a little toke now and then.(IF you tell anyone, you might ruin my chances at a run for the White House?) And I was doing pretty much what most people my age were doing?
But I knew I didn't want to marry my beautiful girlfriend (Now my wife of over 24 years) and take her down the life I felt I was headed. So we began to talk about God and stuff. She accepted Christ soon after, I rededicated my life to him, and we started the journey together about the time we got married in 1985.
Over these last 24 or so years, I often felt a lot of the things you did. I once even felt I was to good for the church. I was gonna stay a Christian, just stop going to church and avoid all those "phonies". But I realized that I wasn't as great as I thought I was, and if God could put up with me, then I should put up with others. I kinda found out I had a plank in my eye and I was always whining about everyone Else's tooth pick.
The Christian walk is like a marathon, we should pace ourselves, be respectful of others, but do only what we feel God wants us to do. Not Mom, not Dad, Not a Priest or a preacher. Realize that I should love all, but am only responsible for myself.
God has been patient with me, I don't deserve his grace, but I'll take it. I've never been scared of God's wrath or judgment. I wanted God's approval, his love. But was never scared of Hell. I finally understood that God loved me no matter what, I didn't need to earn his love. He loved me just the way I am. And if I fall short, so be it, He still loves me. I'm not gonna stress over it.
I'm sure you think I'm a full blown psycho after this response, but sometimes I get carried away with myself. I don't know if there is anything specific I can answer for you, but I'll be glad to answer any questions you might have.
You want some Irony: 5 years ago we joined a Baptist Church.
I would never tell anyone what kind of church to go to, except one that proclaims Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Hope you find yourself in one like that come Sunday morning, even if it's just for old times sake.
Thanks for the space. If you made it through all this and actually read it, wow, thank you.
Peace bro, feeno