Saturday, September 17, 2011

About a Girl

When I was in high school, I got into a relationship with an older woman.  How much older?  I don't know, for sure.  I was (partially) a gentleman, so I didn't ask.  She was probably in her upper 20's or lower 30's, while I was just 16.  My teenage ego was at an all-you-can-eat buffet.

You've got to understand that I was far from being a Casanova in high school, or really anytime for that matter.  She was one of only two girlfriends I had in high school; the first one.  But using the term "girlfriend" to describe what happened probably isn't accurate.

The relationship started as co-workers in a restaurant, and took the next step with me providing private math tutoring at her apartment.  She was going to the local community college.  Why the late college start?  Well, I was a little slow to put it together, but I think it was kind of a big break-up, re-invent herself, rebound thing.  I was probably a rebound thing too, but I digress.

I know this is somewhat of a teaser, but I'm not going to divulge the details of the fling.  I'll just sum it up with the fact that I was (thankfully) too shy, inexperienced, and flat-out immature to take full advantage of what would have probably been a big mistake.  The relationship fizzled out before any real damage was done.

Anyway, part of that relationship involved me trying to spend any time I could with her.  She was a Christian, and a regular at her church.  So that meant that I escorted her to church several Sundays.

Her church was different.  It was non-denominational, and it was my first exposure to a non-Methodist church.  To me, for the brief time I attended, it sounded just like a Methodist church, but it looked completely different.  Specifically, there was no Christian iconography.  No crucifix or cross hung prominently behind the preacher.  No stained-glass window adorned the building.  If it wasn't for the pew-style seating, it could have easily been mistaken for just some generic meeting center.

Around the time before this woman, I had put my faith on a shelf.  I didn't go to church.  I still believed in God, but there was nothing about me or my actions which would have given that impression.

Then, there I was again, going to church.  Some might say it was God leading me back into His fold.  I would say it was just me, tempted by having a beautiful, mature woman on my arm, but that was not all.

In the back of my mind, going to church was one of those things I should be doing anyway, but wasn't.  Also in the back of my mind was the haunting question:  Why have I never felt God's presence or heard from Him?  So this church-going revived my thirst to know God.  It took on a significance well beyond this girl.

I started reading the Bible by myself for the first time in my entire life.  Starting with Genesis.  And I started taking hand-written notes; notes which would later serve as the impetus for my Bible summary on my other blog when I came across them about twelve years later.  While I read on in Genesis, there were some things which disturbed me a little bit, but not to the point of shaking my faith at all.  The weight of my faith was based largely on what I had learned of God in church and youth group, which was almost exclusively New Testament based.  The image provided to me was so good that the minor snags I found in my reading were as easy to dismiss as are the idiosyncrasies of dear friends.

I also started praying, which was the first time doing so in a mature fashion.  As a kid, I would pray to God to help me find my lost wallet, but during this personal revival, I was far less trivial.  The maturity of my heart for God far exceeded my knowledge of Scripture, and exceeded the maturity in any other aspect of my life at that point.  I was praying for the healing and good will for other people.  I was praying for God to use me in any way which He saw fit.

But I still wasn't hearing from Him or noticing any discernible signs of divine favor or involvement in my life.  There was no Holy guidance to direct me in God's will.

I began to reflect upon myself to discover what I may be doing which was hindering my relationship with God.  I began to be as upright as I could, changing habits which might be objectionable.  I thought back about my many sins committed that far, and I prayed prayers of repentance.  I remember around that time, Lent was getting ready to begin, and so I chose to give up listening to heavy metal music for Lent, thinking that perhaps that was somehow preventing an interface with God.  (Not being Catholic or knowing much of anything about Catholicism at that time, I just knew Lent was a time to give up something you enjoyed in order to get closer to God.)  I started listening to any sermons I could find on the radio to supplement my church learning.

Still nothing.  Still nothing.

I held out hope.  Someday, God would guide me, when the time is right.  Someday I'd know.  But without any divine guidance, my pious passion eroded away over time.  Hope was still there, but the passion was gone.  I was waiting.  Indefinitely.

Many years later, when I would pick up the Bible again to study it, I mused to myself, wondering if, with just a little divine encouragement, if Abel would not have been killed, like my faith.


  1. My husband and I have discussed this lack of divine guidance. He attributes it to God only directly working with a few people and feels rejected by God as a result. It makes me think that any God that exists doesn't intervene at all. Of course, it's also a complete faith crusher for many, as in your case. And some just keep waiting and waiting. It's fascinating how there are so many ways to interpret the same non event. Thanks for sharing.

  2. It's difficult to respond to this one, partly because there are so many unanswered/unanswerable questions, and partly because it's hard to understand why God chose to speak to millions of others but not you. The most obvious unanswered/unanswerable question is why would a woman involved in a relationship so wrong that it could have gotten her put in jail for many years feel comfortable taking her under-aged boyfriend/potential boyfriend to church? And why would you have thought that it was okay, too? The Bible says repeatedly that God does not answer the prayers of those who are willfully involved in wrongdoing. Maybe you both knew that what you were involved in was wrong, or maybe you didn't. Maybe it was too long ago to remember. But that's a glaring issue. Other unanswered questions involve your attitude. Were you willing to give up all you had to follow Jesus? Did you acknowledge your sins, and that you were a sinner in need of help? Did you repent and turn from your lifestyle? The fact that you, a kid barely old enough to drive, were involved with a middle-aged woman who, for all you knew, might have even had an estranged husband, makes me wonder if you understood what it meant to acknowledge your sins and say yes to a different way of living.

    Don't think I'm trying to be judgmental here. Heaven knows I've done far worse things than you have. I'm just pointing out one possible reason for God's silence when you prayed to him. You were praying for the healing and good will for others. That's good. You were praying for God to use you. That's good, too. But the first prayer of someone who hasn't accepted forgiveness has to be one that acknowledges the need for a savior, and I'm not certain that you were willing to make that acknowledgement.

  3. @DoOrDoNot
    I can definitely understand your husband feeling rejected when it seems like so many other people hear from God. I felt a little rejected myself, but, as I mention above, I held out hope in waiting, and waiting, and waiting. Your view, which seems aligned to the Deist view, appears to be the most accurate to me. :-)

  4. @Ollie Wallflower
    Before I respond to your questions, I would like to remind you of a couple points to consider. First, as you probably know, the Bible does not mention anything about the proper age for relationships, and there is some evidence suggesting that fathers sold their underage daughters (by our standards) according to OT Biblical Law. Second, of course you do remember the circumstances surrounding Paul when Jesus first spoke to him.

    I did not want to get into the details, but, by your line of questioning, I have to do so, at least a little, to help you get the full picture. As far as my physical relationship with this woman, it was confined mainly to a few petting sessions, including one which could be considered heavy petting. Oh, and I did sleep with her once... I was fully clothed and she was in full pajamas. Other than some groping during the aforementioned petting sessions, there was no sexual activity. As I recall, that more-intense physical part of the relationship lasted over a period of a couple weeks, but downgraded to just hugs and kisses upon evening departures for the few more months that the relationship continued. As I said, the "relationship fizzled out before any real damage was done."

    OK, so now for your questions.

    What was she thinking? I never asked her about that aspect of the relationship, so it would be difficult for me to say.

    What was I thinking? Biblically speaking, I think it would be difficult to make the case that I was willfully involved in wrongdoing, except for maybe the fact that her father wasn't the one orchestrating the relationship. ;-) The relationship was wrong by our modern norms, and to some extent, modern laws. At that time I didn't really know the law much, but I had thought the legal age of consent was 16. The thought did cross my mind that, given our age difference, it was a little odd being in church with her, but I was not thinking along the lines of it being illegal. However, as I mentioned above, the physical part of the relationship cooled down pretty quickly, and I definitely did not think that just exchanging hugs and kisses was wrong or sinful. It was at this latter period in the relationship when I started getting more serious about God.

    Were you willing to give up all you had to follow Jesus? Yes. At that time, I didn't have much to give up anyway! :-) But I was willing to give that up. It's not like I heard God say "Hey, go out on this mission and abandon your home" and I replied "Um, is there anything else I can do?" I didn't hear anything at all, but at that point I would have given it all up.

    Did you acknowledge your sins, and that you were a sinner in need of help? Yes, though I did not specifically mention that request above. I knew I need help, and I admitted it to God.

    Did you repent and turn from your lifestyle? I did mention my repentance above. Of course, for the teen I was, there wasn't much of a "lifestyle" to give up. But what was wrong, I did repent of. Even in my relationship with this woman, when the physical relationship cooled down, it wasn't that there were not opportunities for more. I fought my hormones for awhile to help keep myself in check to prevent it from becoming more as part of my reverent revival.

    (No, she did not have an estranged husband, just an ex-boyfriend. A boyfriend who I am sure she wanted to marry, and still pined for during the term of our relationship. Of course, that kind of helped me cool my jets, so to speak, as well.)

    I had accepted Jesus' forgiveness, although the churches I had been in seemed a lot less focused on making such a proclamation as churches are today. As such, I do not remember reciting any special magic words to acknowledge this fact. It just came naturally out of my admission of being a sinner and needing God's help and forgiveness.

  5. I feel bad that my questions compelled you to tell the lurid details of the relationship; details which you had intended to keep private. I didn't mean for you to explain the depth of your physical relationship. But... now that you have, I can see that while it wasn't triple X in nature, it certainly would have been viewed as a sexual relationship in the eyes of the law. If I did those things with a 16-year-old girl, I would be charged with several counts of lewd and lascivious conduct, among other things. In our society, that relationship was illegal, so it was wrong on that basis. It was also wrong from a Biblical standpoint, according to many NT and OT passages, because you were sexually involved with a woman you weren't married to. And one must assume that your conscience told you that it wasn't kosher to be involved in that.

    You said that you aren't sure if you viewed the relationship as wrong at the time. But you're a smart guy now and you were a smart guy then. If the pastor of that church had asked the 16-year-old you about the nature of your relationship with that woman, I suspect that you would have denied the sexual aspects of it, because you knew that it wasn't right. In any case, what is clear is that you had *not* recognized and/or acknowledged that you were involved in something that was wrong, so it's a foregone conclusion that you had not repented and admitted that you were a sinner. But let me read on....

    In reading your stories of your attempt, as a teen, to follow God--and I should point out that I've read several of them in addition to this one--I always notice the glaring absence of an acknowledgement that you were a sinner, in need of a savior. You knew that you sinned, but I don't think you thought that you needed a savior. A typical story of salvation goes something like this: "As I read the Bible, I became aware of what a sinner I was, and I cried out for God to forgive me. I repented, accepted Jesus as my savior, and asked God to help me live a life of righteousness." Your story doesn't include any such acknowledgement of a need for Jesus as your savior. Earlier you wrote, "I thought back about my many sins committed that far, and I prayed prayers of repentance," but that was in an effort to discover what was hindering your relationship with God. You stopped listening to heavy metal music (as if there's something wrong with that!) for the same reason. These things indicate that your desire for a relationship with God was sincere, but at this same time you were involved in a relationship that was wrong and you either didn't see it as wrong or didn't want to give it up. It's as if you wanted to try out the life of a Christian, but you weren't ready to admit that you needed Jesus to forgive you and become your lord.

    What remains a mystery to me is that God, through his Holy Spirit, did not convict you of your sin at this time. (At least, there's no indication in your stories of this happening.) That's the first step in salvation, and it's absent in your stories of your attempts to follow God. Was he trying to, but you weren't listening? Is it his plan to do so later on in your life? *These* are the questions I can't answer; the questions I struggle with.

  6. @Ollie Wallflower
    LOL! If only you looked at Scripture with this much skepticism! :-)

    If that pastor had asked me about the sexual nature of the relationship, I would have denied it, but that has more to do with the fact that I prefer to be private about such matters and "it's none of your business" just comes off as a little rude.

    Let me help you out here, because you seem to be hung up on this relationship:

    1) My revived commitment to God outlasted the relationship with this woman by a lot, at least in teen perspective. I would say that I had fairly high passion for 7-8 months before it began to fade due to a lack of acknowledgment from above. Naturally I stopped going to her church, but I kept reading the Bible and listening to Christian sermons on the radio.

    2) Before, you had asked about lifestyle changes. There wasn't much that changed, because there wasn't a whole lot I could do to get into trouble at that age. I was not a partier, drinker, or a druggie, etc.. However, as I am reflecting on it again, I do remember distancing myself from one of my friends. He was quite more mischievous than I was, and I recognized that as sinful and a bad influence on me, so I shied away from him. That pretty much made me alone outside of school, as he was really the only friend I had hung out with outside of school at that time.

    3) Yes, I did indeed acknowledge my status as a sinner and my *need* for a savior. I had never been to a fire and brimstone church before, but I knew roughly what awaited the unsaved through the exposure I had, and it was enough for me to know that I needed Jesus as my savior. I apologize for not specifically mentioning that.

    If there are any more specifics you would care to know about what I felt, or what I admitted to God, or what I asked from God, feel free to ask. It's much more accurate than assuming. ;-)

    Was he trying to, but you weren't listening?
    If so, I sure could not discern it. That was the problem.

    Is it his plan to do so later on in your life?
    That would be pretty interesting at this point. ;-)

  7. Wow, we share something else in common. But a girl when I was 16 yo was part of my reason for reconsidering the Christianity of my youth (I was an atheist at 14 yo - shortly after confirmation).

    But unlike you, God spoke to me. Dramatically when he told me how to find the dead rotting body of my best friend when I was 17 yo. Even less dramatically in prayer.

    I never gave up on Christianity because of lack of communion, nor because of science (I believed God used evolution, etc). I wonder if you had heard God's voice if you'd still be a Christian?

    1. Funny what a woman can do to you, isn't it Sabio!

      I remember reading about your spiritual experiences, including the one with your best friend, the one about the rapist ghost, etc. They were quite interesting to me, for sure. I asked myself that same question at that time, about what if I had heard from God. Would I have later left the faith?

      In the end I had to just say "I don't know." I know enough to say that what we think we will do, and what we actually do when the time comes, are often quite different.

  8. You said,
    " I know enough to say that what we think we will do, and what we actually do when the time comes, are often quite different."

    How true, how true. I say this same thing several times a year. Our overlap in thoughts is interesting. You weren't in Hitler's army in your previous life, were you -- I was. :-) did you read that one?

    1. Alright, I give up Sabio. I could not find where you were in Hitler's army in a previous life. Can you help me out? :-)

    2. Oooops, sorry. Typing in "German" in my search bar, you'd have found it:

      My Previous Life as a German

      You are one of those rare people that actually listen -- you take me off guard!

  9. interesting blog...sorry my name here would be anonymous coz i don't have any blog or webpage yet..i was planning to start out something like this, where i could write my views about God and Christianity, and also a bit of my life story and life lessons.

    your story made me wonder how i influenced the spiritual walk of my x-boyfriend who was also younger than me, and also a Christian who was less passionate than me but more Bible intellectual like you, and he also often told me about his struggle or desire to hear from God and experience God's presence.

    we also broke off before real damage was done. romantic feelings started to die down after we committed to be in a relationship with our parents' and God's permission. We didn't had as much physical intimacy as the usual, we didn't even ever kiss. i later on sometimes felt annoyed towards God for His divine intervention in our relationship but His thoughts are higher than my thoughts, someday i would see completely why i should thank Him for leading us to a break up.

    We came to a point when we decided to have nothing whatsoever, not even hugging or holding hands, because I heard from God through reading the Bible during my daily devotions in the morning that He was asking us to give up romance for a time of prayer (1 Cor 7:5). well, Paul was talking to married couples there but God spoke to me that the principle there is that physical intimacy is like food which we needed to fast in order to hear from God better through prayer. i had several interpretations regarding what God was suggesting or what he was planning to lead us into...either a break up later on or grow in spiritual intimacy first or both...but it was clear what He was telling me to do which was to tell my partner what i God was telling me in my quiet time.

    i found it hard to tell him until we almost kissed. we both agreed that our first kiss should be in marriage. i know i was only being tempted that time and we won't enjoy a lustful first kiss and it would surely lead to sinful greater physical intimacy which might be detrimental to both of us since we were still just students that time and he would be going to medschool after college. i loved him and i didn't want to ruin his future and with God's spirit of self-control, we just hugged.

    Even so, it was hard for me to surrender that to God, but i was encouraged when my boyfriend took leadership as the man and decreed a sweets ban and confirmed God's Word by saying that fasting from physical sweets may be necessary for me to hear better God's will.

    That summer love season in my last year in college was when i heard most clearly from God. and i think it is because it was that time that i had the most willingness to obey. Because for me, my most treasured and anticipated inheritance from my Heavenly Father next to Jesus' second coming was his promise to give me a son that would grow up in His ways, filled with love, and sensitive to His voice, and i know that he had to grow up in a God-directed family, so i want my love life to be perfectly according to His plans and purposes, i wanted to make sure i obey every Word of God concerning love life. And indeed He directs us into and along the narrow path, he instructs things difficult, painful, and costly to do. But He was gentle as He took it slowly to lead us to decide together to call off the relationship and part ways.

    God won't speak to us unless we are willing to listen in faith. God won't show His face or his presence if we are asking for it to test him and prove that He is really there because of our lack of faith. if you seriously want to hear from God, don't give up on waiting. David cried out to God without ceasing until He delivered him. And He praised God who hears those who call and wait on Him. He would test your faith, just as He lead the Israelites in the desert for 40 years before they had a different kind of taste of God's more visible presence in the promised land.

  10. Dear Anonymous, thanks for sharing your story. Christianity seems to be working for you, so that's great.

    I find it odd that God would talk to Satan, but not me. Don't you? :-) And, by the way, the 40 year walk in the desert was more for punishment than for a test of faith. God became angry with the Israelites when they were afraid of the Promised Land's existing residents, because those residents were larger and more numerous. Because of their fears, God opted to slay an entire generation of Israelites in the desert over those forty years. Funny how that worked out. And that test of faith did nothing to prevent the Israelites from later falling away. It was all a wasted effort on God's part, unless, of course, God is not really omniscient of the future...

    But, hey, if Christianity works for you, keep it, and avoid reading the Old Testament.


  11. @ TWF
    I am so glad I am subscribed permanently to these comments. Your comment reply to "Anonymous " was my best morning reading today. I love it when you make the obvious even more painfully obvious. And when you pull it off in a paragraph, it is a great delight. What the heck are people thinking? Oooops, that is the point, they aren't thinking. They are cherry picking their favorite ideas and creating a fantasy in their heads that they can never test against reality. Well said.

    The "historical" parts of the OT just seem like a long myth to say, "Look, you listen to what the priests say, and all will go well, otherwise, YHWY will make shit happen. And he is a mean ass."

    But it is hard to remember that message when you read Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastics, the Gospels and put it all in a blender and then filter out the stuff you don't like.

  12. @Sabio
    Ha! Thanks man! That's a great nutshell summary, and I think that to some extent "listen to what the priests say, and all will go well" still holds true, at least with regards to keeping your faith.

    There are so many concepts in page after page of the Bible that it is hard to keep them all straight. That filtering may be either natural or intentional, or both. As a budding atheist, I used to think that if people read the Bible, they would plainly see its myth. Now, I'm not surprised that people can read it and still believe. People get distracted by the thousands of cherries, despite the fact that they are swimming in millions of pits. :-)

  13. Came back to re-read. You might want to add some time markers here. This was a highschool story == did this chapter end in HS?

  14. That's not a bad idea, Sabio. I'll put some markers up on the index.

  15. And, yes Sabio, aside from the waiting and hoping, which lasted well beyond high school, experience described here was all in HS.