My name is John. I was born as Austin into a very liberal home in which no religion was present and God certainly was not spoken of very much. This suited my brother who never seemed to grasp the purpose of God or any god for that matter. I never had much guidance and as a simple mind who desired some sort of structure, albeit subconsciencely, I followed my brother's every move. I believed what he believed, I did what he did, I admired him. I rejected God and over the years became more of a nihilist, unable to accept truth. I believe this came about because of a general lack of trust in people. I vigorously attacked those of faith because I hated protestants from my brief stint in a few of their churches. I could see right through their superficiality and had no trouble disposing of them, berating some until they cried and or completely lost faith. I was a mad man. There was nothing, so the only rules I had to abide by are the ones that affected me set forth by men, other than that, I did as I pleased. I was not much into drugs but I loved to drink and womanize, I loved to get a pretty woman and destroy her, send her home broken.
Deep down there was a part of me that wanted God, that knew there was really something there. It was when I was challenged by someone who told me that I attack a God that I do not even believe exists, that I dont know anything about these faiths I proclaim are not true. He said, what about love? You cannot see that yet you believe it! He was right, how could I reject love, I felt it, and I am wrong for criticizing these faiths I know nothing about. I did not realize that it was the people I despised, not Christ, not scripture, and certainly not God the Father. As a self professed nihilist this threw my whole world into chaos, a chaos that would ensue for the next several years as I started my journey for the truth.
As I did not generally have a bias for the actual religions I had a very unique perspective. I could delve into these religions with no pre-conceived notions or bias at all, although I did hold some towards Christianity. I studied Islam and was shocked to find out how wrong I was, it was not a religion of peace and tolerance, in fact I came to the conclusion that it is more of a cult, stemming from a nestorian sect. Next I became interested in Judaism, which I have to say I fell in love with. It was so deeply rooted and mysterious. Everything about it seemed beautiful to me. I studied kaballah in depth, I began deep meditation sessions and bought every book on Judaism I could find. When I felt I was ready to convert my world was shattered once again, I was laughed at and told that I cannot convert unless of course my mother is Jewish. Needless to say I was filled with anger, how could I not convert? What does this mean for my salvation? I was confused once again.
Disappointed with Judaism I started studying buddhism and even frequented a Dharma center. I enjoyed the company more than anything. The people were so genuine, so nice and gentle, but the meditation was empty and boring, I tried to hide my contempt for it but I think they knew. This was followed by some of the oddest songs I have ever heard, Korean hymns for Buddha. Not really my thing. So reluctantly I began my study of Christianity. It really did not take long to realize that Christ had indeed existed historically, and I did begin to believe the scriptures. Yet I fell into the trap of interpreting things the way I saw them, its quite natural when you are under no authority other than yourself.
I bounced from church to church, denomination to denomination and became increasingly disgusted. I had come to the conclusion that all I needed was my bible and God, nothing else. At this time I was living in Las Vegas, my girlfriend was the only woman I trusted and she was Ethiopian Orthodox. I payed very little attention to it and she never really pushed it but my closest friends, one Coptic the other Ethiopian, had exposed me to it quite a bit. At one point my Coptic friend Adel had taken me to a Greek Orthodox Church. It was Pascha and in a strange sense, I felt home. I remember smelling the incense and feeling joy, yet it was stifled by an overwhelming sense of guilt and a desire to repent, I had to fight back the tears. When it finally came time to receive communion, I approached it with no fear and no understanding. It was a relatively young priest and he asked, "Are you Orthodox?" I quickly replied "Yes" and he said "What church do you attend?" I said "I dont know?" and he said I am sorry I cannot give this to you. I walked away rather embarassed and wondered, how the hell did he know I was not Orthodox?
Instead of taking the time to understand I left angry. How could he do that to ME! I thought for some reason that I knew everything and thought, whats the big deal, its just communion? It was not long after that incident that I could not take life anymore, I did not know what to do. I kept thinking of what I could do to escape, I could not find God anywhere or he did not want me, either way I felt that I was going to explode. I had saved virtually every penny I earned over the last 2 years I had lived in Las Vegas and decided that I would just go somewhere. I broke up with my girlfriend, whom I did not deserve, and flew back home to see my parents. I stayed for a month or so, with my money I had saved and what my grandpa had given me I decided to go to Ethiopia. From what my friend had told me about it, and the little research I did on it, it was a deeply spiritual place.
It was here in Ethiopia, that I found God. I tried to argue and sway the people to see my point of view, but even the taxi drivers completely manhandled me in these arguments. I was somewhat dumbfounded to say the least. Despite the fact that I was not particularly fond of the Orthodox church, I began dating an Ethiopian Orthodox woman. The only thing we clashed on was religion. When we would drive by a church, for instance, she would cross herself, I would yell at her for it. I was in a total war with what I wanted Christianity and God to be, and what Christianity and God actually were. I was so conflicted, it was like I knew this was true but I did not want it to be. I would go to an Orthodox church for prayer, only to storm out because it HAD to be wrong!
One morning my wife went out shopping, I had decided to stay home as I was not feeling the best. She had came home with a book written in english by an Ethiopian, a Nibur Id or Arch Bishop. It seemed more like a history book than anything but it did have some religion, Orthodoxy, within. When my wife went to school I decided to read a bit before Africa Cup of Nations came on and needless to say, I never went and watched the games. I was mezmerized by the words I read and I remember reading the word "Tewahedo" in Ge'ez, and the explanation of the nature of Christ, as this is what Tewahedo means. I remember it bringing me to tears as I read it over and over again. I sobbed uncontrollably, our Ethiopian neighbors probably thought I was a lunatic, but God spoke to me through that book, like a knife through the heart I began to die. Two years later I was buried and resurrected a new man.
As Austin I had dedicated myself to the world, to lust, to deceit, to hatred, and anger. As John, I have dedicated myself to serving The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit, one God. To serving the church of our Lord and defending it against foreign invaders. Instead of dedicating myself to serving the world, I now rebel against it.