God plays a long game. Or as it says in the Bible:
The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.2 Peter 3:9, NASB
I was born behind the Orange Curtain to a non-practicing Catholic and a sometimes-agnostic/sometimes-atheist. I would attend Catholic mass with my grandparents occasionally, and my parents, despite their apathy towards God and religion, would take me and my sister to shows and concerts at Agapeland in Anaheim. We even owned a few LPs with dramatic readings of some of the big stories of the Bible, like Noah, David and Goliath, Daniel in the lion’s den, and so forth. My sister and I listened to those a lot.
When I reached high school, I began to seek and ask questions. I dabbled in meditation and managed to dig out an old RSV Bible and started reading it. At this point, my dad shared his worldview with me, which was basically “God helps those who help themselves” and warned me about getting too involved with religion.
In my senior year of high school, my best friend was dating a girl who was involved in a lunch-time Bible study on campus, and invited me to attend. It was then that I knew what I had been seeking, and I gave my life to Christ. I got involved in a local church and was absorbing everything I could learn about God, Jesus, and the Bible.
After spending a few years working after graduation and not going to college, I joined the Air Force. I first duty assignment was Edwards AFB. I was on my own, in a manner of speaking, and without my church or any accountability, I began to drift.
I met my wonderful wife, Michelle, and we were married after six months. I went to Korea for a year, came back to Colorado, where we had our first daughter, Katy. I separated from the Air Force, and we moved to Utah. Out there, among the Mormons, we decided mutually that we needed to find a church. We found a Calvary Chapel, population about 30. Our attendance was spotty, but the tiny congregation loved on us and kept us coming back.
My job in Utah ended, and we moved back to California, to the Antelope Valley. I got a tech job down in L.A. and began the long terrible commute. We found a church in Lake Los Angeles, that we attended occasionally. We bought our first house in Palmdale, and as grace would have it, our next-door neighbors were Christians, and invited us to their church. We attended occasionally. They moved away, replaced by our new neighbors, Chris and Gina Arreaga, who attended Central. They invited us. We liked it here, and really were blessed by Dave’s preaching, but we kept slipping out the door after service, never getting involved or getting to know anyone here except our neighbors.
We had more kids, four by this point. When the oldest, Katy and Teddy, were junior-high age, they asked to start attending youth group. Our attendance at church was in the “off-season” at this point, but were happy that they asked. We dropped them off at youth group faithfully every Wednesday. Then Nate was old enough to go, and eventually Katy graduated out and Beth started going.
Two more kids were added to our brood, and we occasionally showed up at church, and slipped out the door after service.
Then the kids asked to start attending Sunday service. I said yes, and, I am embarrassed to admit, dropped them off on Sunday morning. Every Sunday, I hoped no one was looking at me as I dropped off my kids at church and didn’t stay myself. I wondered if someone would see me and think “why don’t you park that car and come in and join us.”
Personally, I was sinking. I struggled with depression and insecurity. I questioned my work, my activities, everything I did, my purpose.
My marriage was hitting a low point, and Michelle and I started talking about seeking help, all the while mentioned to each other what we knew we needed to do: go back to church.
One Sunday morning in August 2018, we woke up, looked at each other, and said “we’re going to church today”. I think we all know where that prompting came from. It wasn’t a happy return, however. I was angry the whole drive, we were arguing, and it was very tense for everyone. But we told each other that this time it was going to be different. We were going to get involved. We were going to get to know some folks. We weren’t going to sneak out the door when the service was over.
We came back the next week. There was an announcement for sign-ups for a marriage ministry: “re|engage”. We looked at each other, unspoken words that said the same thing: “we’re signing up for that”. We did, and we were so immensely blessed by it.
We met people, and made some good friends. As we got to know people, it became clear how much a path was paved by the presence of our children: “oh, you’re Teddy’s parent”, or “you’re Beth’s father”. Yep.
We became members. We got involved. We’re in a discipleship group, and are getting involved in other places in the church.
Looking back, God was planting seeds in my life. He was patiently waiting, but not just waiting. He was cultivating, planting, watering, fertilizing. He was patient, knowing when the time was right, when it was time to reap the harvest.
Each day for me is a battle. My struggles are still there, but I recognize my value in Christ, as a bearer of the image of God. I know my worth, and I know my ultimate destination.