“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.'” – Luke 15:4-6
Finding out that I had a sister blew me away. It wasn’t so much that I had a sister, I had heard rumors in the past about a possible sister, it was the fact that both of my parents had lied to me about her existence when I had asked them about it in the past. My father had been in the armed forces and had impregnated my sister’s mother while they were a couple, they split up, my father met my mother and just 7 short months later, my father and mother conceived me. He didn’t realize she was pregnant when he left but I guess there had been correspondence that alluded to that fact many years in the past, when i was just an infant. My father at the time completely denied it, claiming that my sister’s mother was just a prostitute that he had hooked up with one night in the Philippines, he swore he had used protection and that there was no way that the child was his….this was all a lie…..one that my mother helped concoct. I was livid.
“My father at the time completely denied it, claiming that my sister’s mother was just a prostitute that he had hooked up with one night in the Philippines, he swore he had used protection and that there was no way that the child was his….this was all a lie…..one that my mother helped concoct. I was livid.”
I’ll never forget the look on my mothers face when she found that my sister had contacted us. It was a mix of rage, sadness, hatred, and a deep spite. She told my father that we were to never speak of her again, which I objected to and said that if she were my sister then I wanted to meet her as soon as possible. The fight that ensued was not pretty and we each spent a lot of time not talking to one another over the next few days. One morning my father came into the living room and said he told my mother we would either have my sister come visit or he would seek a divorce. My mother consented and a few months later we watched as the bus pulled into the stop in town. She would be staying with us for the next three months.
When my sister walked off the bus it was apparent that she was family. So much so that if you got me a wig, shaved my facial hair, and put me into a dress we would almost appear to be twins. I hit it off almost instantly with her, we talked about our pasts and both admitted our drinking issues and trouble with relationships. It was funny but at times it was like I was talking to myself in how similar our lives had paralleled one another. There was one thing about my sister though that drove me crazy, she was insanely religious, and still is to this day.
“….if you got me a wig, shaved my facial hair, and put me into a dress we would almost appear to be twins. “
When I say insanely religious I mean it, everything was about god and how he had done this, how he had done that. I told her I was an atheist and she laughed it off stating that her pastor said that no one is really an atheist and that god just hadn’t gotten a hold of me yet. Sunday mornings drove me nuts, she would play religious songs while getting ready for church, the bland christian rock that seems to be produced by a machine instead of human composers. She would ask me several times each Sunday if i would go to church with her and each time I said no she would look hurt and act as if I had said something incredibly offensive.
One night I overheard her praying for god’s help in getting me to go to church and so I figured, why not give her some sense of accomplishment. She was only going to be there a few more weeks and I thought maybe she’ll quit on the religious talk if I go to one service. So the next time she asked if I would go to church with her on Sunday I said No, but I did agree to accompany the family to a Wednesday night bible study later in the week. My sister was thrilled and beamed with joy that morning. I remember thinking I’ll get this service out of the way and then that will be that….I was wrong.
The drive to church, that Wednesday night, seemed to last forever. I couldn’t wait to get the night over with and so each second went by as slow as molasses. We arrived at the church and I began having second thoughts, I stood outside the church for several minutes while I smoked a cigarette. Breathing out a long heavy breath I started my way to the door, step by step I made my way closer, I reached out, turned the handle and walked through the door….then something happened.
I want to step away from the story for a moment and say exactly what I believe now happened. I walked through the door and was hit by a wave of nostalgia, which in turn released a good amount of dopamine and adrenaline. I had been so stressed a few minutes earlier that when the nostalgia hit I was put at ease. I had been through a lot in the past year and was at an incredibly vulnerable moment. The nostalgia was too great; the place smelled the same, looked the same, and the environment felt the same. It was like coming home after a long trip. It was a good feeling and one that my mind would do strange things with over the next couple of hours.
At the time though it was as if I had been struck by a bolt of lightning, I believed I felt god’s presence and I was sick of what I had become since I had left the church years earlier. I remember walking into the bible study and just sitting there not knowing what to do or say. The minister asked everyone to tell the church why they were there that night, when it got to me I said, because I need to go to church and I need to be saved. We prayed a prayer that night and truthfully I did feel different, it was an experience that would keep my doubts at bay for several years to come.
The next morning I awoke with a new energy, I thought I really had been saved. I talked with my sister and we began reading the bible together. I opened it and like magic this passage from Joel was the first thing I saw.
“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:” – Joel 2:28
It was as if god was speaking directly to me. This was the call that I had failed to feel so many years earlier. It was clear to me that god wanted me to preach and I wouldn’t wait around to do it. I spent the next week and a half reading the bible voraciously. It didn’t take me long to realize just how much I remembered, I could easily quote passages by memory and I knew that god really did want me in the ministry. I went to church the second Sunday since my conversion and told the congregation what god had told me. They all praised god and said that they were sure god would use me greatly. After the service I waited for the pastor to be alone and I approached him, i asked if there was anything that I could do for the church that might prepare me for a ministry, he thought for a minute and said that I could teach the Pre-teen Sunday school class if I wanted and if he saw that I could handle it the next Sunday. I was overjoyed, it was a small step but I was moving a bit closer to actually being the minister god had called me to be.
Looking back now I can’t believe how quickly things happened. I went from drinking, drugs, throwing up in a poor girls bathroom, nearly dying of sickness, finding out I had a sister, meeting my sister and then becoming a Sunday school teacher after just two weeks. It seems crazy all that had gone on in just a few short years and all that still lay ahead of me in the years to come.
I hope that I have been able to convey just how low I had gotten in life and how easy it was for religious faith to prey on me. I know now that there was absolutely nothing supernatural about the feelings I experienced when I walked through those doors that Wednesday night, it would all become apparent to me years later when I began having some doubts about the faith and doing some research. For now though we have reached the halfway point in the journey and I hope you will stick with me through the end. Thank you for reading!
To continue on to part 12 click here.