Sunday, May 17, 2009

A struggle with faith

(this is another long one, if you want to read... cool, if not... whatev) :-)

What a weekend...

Let me give you a little back story.

For the last two weeks James and Athena (the founders of Transitions Global) have been in India, doing the groundwork for setting up a safe-home for survivors of sex trafficking. This has been bittersweet for me... In the last 5 and a half months I have grown really close to James and Athena and I now treasure their friendship. Along with their friendship, I am constantly in awe of their compassion and drive to serve the girls we have in Cambodia and the girls that we will serve in India and soon here in Portland. I can't say that I have ever seen zeal like they display from anyone else. I am truly honored that I get to stand beside them and contribute whatever I can. Sometimes, I honestly feel like we are staring into the pit of everything that is dark and disgusting in this world and reaching into it to pull these girls out. I can't think of anyone else that I would want to be in this fight with. So, while I am beyond excited that we (as an organization) are opening a home in India, I miss the daily phone calls and meetings between myself and the Ponds.

However, this has given me a good rest (seriously these guys set a pace like none other. It is awesome, fierce, manic and beautiful! I can only try to keep up) and time to think and process some things. Also, my wife went down to Bend for a girl's weekend and the girls were at the sister-in-laws house. So, this weekend I had some serious quite time.

The last several months I have had a real struggle with my faith (I know some of you just rolled your eyes, cause either you think faith is a crock or you are a "super-christian" and can't believe that I would be struggling... but I don't care, this is my blog).

You see I grew up in the bible belt and bounced around between Charismatic and Baptist churches... I was also told a lot of stuff that I believed only because I trusted the people who were feeding it to me, not because I was really thinking about it and processing it... Since then all of the people that I really looked up to have let me down in pretty huge ways (that is not to say that I have been perfect). This I believe is just a part of life... we live a shitty world and bad stuff just happens.

Several years ago I needed a wake up call and I got it! My wife left me and took our two kids and moved to Oregon. The following year I drank and smoked my troubles away while sleeping on some really good friends' couches....I did things that as a "good little christian" I never thought I would do. Then one day my wife called and told me that I should move up to Oregon and give things a go. I still remember being in the front yard smoking a cig and asking God how in the hell did I get my family back... I did nothing to deserve it.... At that moment I heard God say (no not audibly, but in my spirit) "that is grace."

So, I find myself in Portland Oregon (almost six years ago... man has it been that long?) and stumble into a church that is mostly Reformed (a totally different way of looking at faith than I am used to) and find a lot of love and unparalleled abnormality... People meeting in pubs to talk about God, the worship leader holds poker tournaments at his house while smoking cigars and pipes, people are late to services but are not frowned upon, people are not dressed "right", there were pictures of Jesus on the wall that made him look more black than white (which I love cause how many pale skinned middle eastern guys have you ever seen?)

At the same time I am at this stage in life, I am reading up on all kinds of other religions and really starting to question my own faith... I mean really whether it is the Angel of Moroni, Buddha, Jehovah, Allah, Vishnu or Christ it all sounds pretty crazy. Right?

So.. while I am wrestling with all this I start to learn about Human Trafficking.... How do we as an American public (let alone the church) not know about this? I think we live in (as Bill Hillar says) a uterus. We have it so good here in the States. Did you know that we make up only 6% of the world's population, yet me take up over 40% of it's resources? Or that only 8% of the world owns a car! Seriously, even if you car is a piece (which mine is) you are still way ahead of the material possessions game. Experts have said that it would take about $20 billion to feed everyone on the planet, every year. Americans spent that much last year... on ice cream. Meanwhile 40,000 people died last night from hunger.

This weekend things kind of came to a head for me... I had someone email and ask me if she could give me money. She also, said that she had a vision of me the night before and I had my head in my hands. It was really bizarre because the night before I was looking at the budget and it was not good... and I did in fact have my head in my hands. I went to Cambodia in December and raised money to film a documentary on a survivor of sex trafficking. The money did not turn out as planned and it set me back quite a bit... I have been playing catch up ever since. Turns out the amount that this lady sent me is exactly what I needed to get caught up! How crazy is that?

Along with that... I went to go see John Eldredge (author of Wild at Heart) speak on being "Fathered by God"... The experience with the vision lady, hearing John speak, and just processing a lot of things has led me to make some conclusions.... (I don't know if anyone is still reading at this point but here you go)

1.) I am choosing Christ... I don't have all the theology crap worked out but, I believe he died, was resurrected, and he and he alone has made a way for me to go to heaven (whatever heaven looks like).
2.) I want to live like Christ lived (I also want to live like Gandhi, the Dalai Lama and Muhammad... but mostly like Christ)
3.) I want to learn what it means to be a true Christian (not a 20th or 21st century American Christian) but a true Christian.
4.) I want to love and live with reckless abandon! I am tired of hiding my heart in an attempt to keep it safe. I want to give myself to my Wife, my Daughters and the World until there is nothing left to give.
5.) I want to stop judging people (unless they cut me off in traffic or ask me stupid questions). Whether they be of a different faith, sexual orientation, they are making decisions that I don't agree with... whatever. Let them be and focus on me. Love them regardless.

I think that sums it up... if not it is a good stopping place.... I will probably have another rant soon. :-)

Thanks for reading.. Love you all... Feel free to comment. I would love to hear your thoughts.


EBMurphy said...

I love this post. I love your bravery and your honesty, and I'm so glad to be in this fight with you! Thanks for putting yourself out there in so many ways. It's inspiring.

Zoa said...

I love you & Marv very much and I am so happy to call you my friends :) thanks for your honesty Seth- I think it is awesome!!

Jon Dale said...

Hey Seth. I work closely with John Eldredge's team at Ransomed Heart. Thanks for sharing your story.

Pam said...

Hey Seth - Pam in Denver and one of TG's biggest supports. I loved your post and Amen to 1-5. I could not have put it into words any better!

shabnam aggarwal said...

I love this piece- it completely lacks any molecule of masking. You put your heart and memories out onto the paper and have no qualms sharing your secrets with us. It's unheard of in this world and amazing that you are here, willing to help save the people who most need it.

Andrea Thom said...

Seth, I can't thank you enough for your honesty, and bravery, in this post and for what you are doing for humanity. My mother is very religious; I, like my father, am an atheist. Given the fact that I grew up with my mother, I can tell you that there was one singular experience that led me to be a non-believer. When I was about 10 years old, a friend from school invited me to go to church with her. I enjoyed the experience, but my young mind was confounded by one concept, and I asked her about it. "How can he be the father, the son, and the holy ghost all at the same time? " She looked at me and said, "We don't ask questions." That was it, and it scared me. If I can't question, how can I understand? What I envy, and wish I had, is the faith, love and strength that many people find in religion. What I fear is the judgement, exclusion and hatred it inspires in others. I tend to focus on the latter, and far too often I have to prevent myself from judging those who are religious; your five conclusions have resonated with me, and I know I will no longer be so quick to judge. In the words of Gayatri Spivak, I have been "brought to crisis" by your words, and am grateful for it. Keep doing what you are doing, and please keep sharing. You are truly an inspiration. P13804

Pam said...

This is in response to Andrea's post. In my humble opinion, a person of faith is always asking questions. My most frequent question is "Are you sure, God?" Please don't judge all people of faith. Most of us are just ordinary people trying to live the greatest commandment the best we can while "loving people where they are at".M2239

PS: How can water be a liquid, a solid and a gas?

Julianne said...

Your words brought me to tears, which is inconvenient as I am currently at work answering phones at the front desk of an ad agency.

I wanted to thank you for sharing your heart. We cannot earn grace, or it would not be grace. I can tell myself that over and over, yet it isn't until I hear a story like yours that I begin to really understand God's never-ending love for me. Keep telling your story, to anyone who will listen. Thank you for what you do to stop injustice in the world. Drain yourself of all the love you have to give, and watch Jesus fill your cup again and again.

Thank you thank you thank you!
God Bless!