El retablo de las maravillas

For years I could tell you the services that would generate a revival at the end. The services where the Spirit would come down and we would spend hours afterwards singing, dancing, screaming, etc. All this was our evidence of the Spirit of God. I hated these services, not because I didn’t want to be a part of them, but rather because I knew how to make them for others. I found that I could only sit and watch as the spirit moved and touched every single person but me. I spent thirteen years in a Message church watching the moments that were built upon, encouraged, all to better experience the worship. I could tell exactly when the songs were just right and the preaching struck a cord and the people would be touched. I was trying desperately to understand the mechanics of it so that I could break it down and make it work for me. I wanted nothing more than to give myself over to the spirit of God as it rolled over the people. After years of traveling to multiple churches it was a shock to actually stay in one where my father wasn’t the lead minister. So I determined to try and understand what this prophet and pastor had that I needed. The Message had regulations for nearly every part of life, and I was desperate to try anything if it would mean I would get it. I never wanted to feel ashamed when everyone was discussing the time it became real for them, and I had nothing to share.

I was never able to ask questions though. My pastor and most of the men in the church that held positions of authority, didn’t like someone constantly asking how they’d gotten it. My father had asked me to listen and obey when we were around others, to trust in his faith and that all my questions could be answered later. The Message used this trust in my father and my pastor that everything would be answered later to put all possible questions “on the shelf.” The answer to everything became, “Only Believe.” Many of those questions would sit on that shelf until long after I left the Message, thirteen years later. Until this point in my life people loved discussing and debating and sometimes arguing God and the Bible. I wanted to break this down so that if I could understand it; I could share it with others. My father’s primary point in a sermon was always, if I can understand it being the simple man I am, then anyone can understand the Word of God. I had to get it so I could share it like him. Trying to go back and ask my father would earn me, “I just haven’t listened to enough tapes for that yet son, give me time.”

I was afraid my entire time under that belief that I had somehow lost God, in my failure to see what everyone else was seeing. I thought that maybe everyone else in there had an answer or a piece that I hadn’t yet found in that level of my faith. It took me thirteen years of desperate praying and searching to realize I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t getting all it was made up to be. I tried in every way I could for years to make the experience more for those in the pews, to show them the power of the Spirit, in teaching and audio/visual directing and in supporting my brothers and sisters of the faith. I put my heart and soul into my sincerity, looking for the key that would make it all click together for me. I wanted that piece whatever it was, for years.

I started to wonder as I found the cracks in everyone else’s faith where they just didn’t have answers. I’ve seen so many very solid intellectual debates on doctrine crumble because someone didn’t know why something was done in that manner, only for the purposes of doctrine and tradition. If so many, not only within my church building, but the other Message believers and the prophet himself were witnesses to the Spirit within them, working through them, then I had to be the one that was wrong. We are taught that we are already undeserving of so much, so I could only think that I was the one that was lost. I realized slowly that not everyone had the missing piece I was driving at, but they were still able to receive the Spirit in worship and in hours of prayer, that I never could seem to achieve. I realized as I began to let go of my anxiety to find it, to go through the motions as though I had found my piece, many of those “elect” few that had been ordained within the Message with me had the same look I had before. I watched so many who I had thought of as having solved the puzzle that were coming to find out how I had finally found “it.” It tore at me that everything real to me as a child in my church life was now a facade I lived for others to see while I was secretly still trying to find the missing bits, alone. It only scared me more when the leadership of the church, which I was fast joining, suddenly began to look at me with an almost comfortable confidence that I had finally settled into this position.I was afraid for the first time in my life that the Bible may not have the answers I was looking for, that all of the sources of trust that I had upheld couldn’t help me, and I was lost.

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