Just who am I anyway?

My name is Andy, I’m a seeker.  I’m also an addict in daily recovery.

I’ve spent the better portion of my 40 years seeking all kinds of things, turning away from God.  Who I am, like all of us, is shaped by my experiences.

I’m the youngest of three, born in Chicago and raised in a northern suburb though I’ll always maintain I grew up in northern Wisconsin.  The story behind that for another time.  My sisters are 7 and 9 years older than me and have both helped and challenged me at various stages throughout my life.  My younger sister has been a friend, a sounding board and a champion of me.  So quick to bring me into a conversation and introduce me as her *adorable little brother*.  My older sister has played the role of sibling, mother, counselor and minister.  She nourishes me in ways I can’t explain, and if not for her and her husband I doubt I could dig into my faith and be as rigorously honest as I am.  Or try to be.

I had a nice church growing up.  It had a rich history, and friendly faces that still bring a smile to my face.  It’s a place I can go back to, and I suspect I’m still seen as the 5 year-old in scratchy green knickers and matching vest from the church directory circa 1980.  I was always challenged by church, but it was mostly because of the community and not matters of spiritual development.  Because I went to a different school, and perfect church attendance was not something we strove for as a family, I never really felt a connection and never developed many friendships there.

My sister and her husband began going to Willow Creek and introduced me to their church at a time I needed it.  They gave me a couple cassette’s from messages Bill delivered, one of which I kept coming back to during that chapter of my life.

I went through confirmation at my childhood church, because it’s what you do.  A few years later, a Willow Creek-style church opened close to my home.  I had a chance to be closer to home, and worshiping in a church that was speaking to the parts of me that were in greatest need during High School.  I was accepted there.  I helped play a role in setting up on Sunday inside the movie theater.  I was also able to be a student leader with the youth ministry.  I felt a connection with the community and a sense of belonging to God.  Things my soul has been crying out for.  Then I went to college.

After graduation, and with all credit to my wife (then girlfriend) we got involved at the church we both grew up in volunteering with the High School group.  It was an opportunity to go back to a place with lots of personal history, and I felt connected to the church community.  As I reflect on this time, I realize I still didn’t have a personal relationship with God.  I did what I believed I should be doing, what I believed was expected of me as a Christian.  I don’t know that I ever really felt God.  My life, my desires, my problems were mine and God was relegated to Sunday… At best.

I’ll skip through a few years which included job transitions, a move to New York, a few attempts at church and then finally arriving back in Chicago where we were once again introduced to Willow Creek.  This time Holly and I found them at their location downtown courtesy once again of my sister.  It felt good, but I was always awkward.  I could never put my finger on it, while I always enjoyed the messages something wasn’t resonating in me.  There’s a pattern that seems pretty clear now, it hasn’t always been that way though.  I got into a rhythm of going because it was what was expected of me, later to not even going.  It seemed appropriate because I wasn’t getting anything out of going to church, so why take 1 or 2 girls away from home when I could just relax?  My distance from God increased to a place of estrangement, and it mirrored my personal relationships.  My interest was on me, and there wasn’t room for others, certainly not a real-intimate relationship with God.

In 2014 my fall was completed.  The depths of my lying, deceit and manipulation came to be known fully.  I nearly lost it all.  Everything I held dear, all the sudden seemed like an unattainable mirage for me, and for my wife.  The life filled with selfish ambition brought me, my marriage and my family to the edge of ruin.  To say that I am married still, let alone alive, is nothing short of a miracle.  I am, we are proof of God’s love, mercy and unwavering grace.  I will sing the praises of my wife, my sister, her husband and our therapists to no end and without hesitation or shame.  Without them, being here isn’t a reality.  But without Christ, none of them are there for me, for my wife and daughters in those hours.

At the center of it all, all along, has been a God that has been trying to get my attention.  My own pride, my own selfish ambitions kept me from being able to hear Him.

The truth is, I’ve had a hole in my life that I just adjusted to but has been there all along.  I used all kinds of worldly things to try and fill that void.  I kept going back to the well of my ancestors trying to get water that would never quench my thirst.  I always believed I was in control, that *this* will be the thing that makes me whole.  Looking back to my failures, the spring of 2014 was the hammer over the head that was inevitable.

I could never have a relationship with Christ, because in doing so I would have to admit how broken I was, and am.  I have never been in a position to admit weakness, let alone defeat and I believed that even handing that honestly over to God wasn’t appropriate.  I believed that who I was, the things I had done separated me from God’s perfect love and excluded me from the Kingdom of Heaven.  I thought that to come to Jesus, I had to get myself right, that I had to be perfect before I could get right with Him.  Once again, I had an inaccurate perception.  Mercifully, the ground is level at the foot of the cross because I finally came to Christ completely broken.  Flawed in every way.  He knew my heart, and never gave up on me regardless of the distance and the darkness.

I’m right with God now, and have a loving and contentious relationship with Him.  Every aspect of which feels real.  It feels appropriate and like the kind of relationship a Father and son should have.  It feels like a kind of honesty and dialogue we can both handle.  I’m not perfect, and perfection isn’t something I strive for any longer.  Perfection is unattainable despite my previous beliefs, and as a seeker it’s one thing I’ve actually given up seeking.

The evidence of God whispering to me are all around.  My ears however have been filled with my own voice, and clouded earlier opportunities to hear His voice.  I still struggle, and likely always will fight my own selfish nature.  I joke that discernment isn’t my strong-suit… That’s an understatement.  I’m still trying to be more still, so I can hear God’s voice and filter out my own.  It’s a process, imperfect to be sure, but one that has breathed something into my life that I always wanted.  In fact it’s something I was always seeking but never actually knew it.

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