My So-Called (Christian) Life. Part 1

(As I was writing this post I decided to split this up over the next few days. I mentioned last week Lindsey and I were close to committing to a new church and starting in a new Life Group. However, since then we made the tough decision to let God lead us elsewhere. This series of posts will give a background of my church experience over my lifetime and end with where we are in the process of finding a new church family. Enjoy!)

Well over a decade ago, I headed with my parents to one of the most beautiful churches in downtown Columbus. It was St. Joseph Cathedral, the mother church of the Catholic Diocese of Columbus. I was there to receive a special blessing and reward by the Bishop himself along with several other lucky teen candidates from surrounding parishes in the state of Ohio. All of us had been selected as “Alter Server” of the year due to our dedication, responsibility and display of leadership in our performance on Sunday mornings. I was excited to receive such an award. There hadn’t been too many times before that I could recall where I received such recognition from someone else for my hard work. It wasn’t something I applied to win, but something that the Pastor of my then-church at St. Mary’s in Lancaster thought I was worthy of because of my years of dedication of serving Mass and other Holy events like Easter, Christmas and the like. I served as an alter boy from 5th grade all the way until the end of my senior year in High School. I always showed up early and volunteered to fill in when others were absent or unavailable. I felt important and excited to be part of the mass. Being an alter server was something special and not taken likely, and it filled a void to make myself feel Godly and acceptable in the eyes of my fellow Catholic friends at CCD (Sunday School) and at home.

Ironically, after seven years of washing the priest’s hands, helping with the Eucharist and so forth, once I graduated high school I stopped going to church. Regardless of how dedicated I was, Catholic Mass and Church was something that was required of me by my parents. Now that I was out of high school I chose to stop going. What was the reason?

Flash forward to today and my memories at St Mary’s seem like they were from another lifetime. There was a four year void from the time I stopped attending Catholic Mass and eventually found a new church home in Canal Winchester, Ohio called New Life, which being a non-denominational church was a complete 180 degree flip from anything I had ever experienced. The four years in between churches was an interesting time in my life. Lucky for me I was generally a good kid, but during those four years I went through an incredible transition that had many highs and lows. I became rebellious and was forced to be independent and any remnant of God I was holding on to was mostly let go. Thankfully during that time God put amazing people in my path and put me in circumstances that forced me to rethink what the definition of church was and the importance of it. Furthermore I learned of something that even called for more urgency in my life than church – an actual relationship with Jesus Christ.

Before 2006 I did not understand what this meant. After years of being an alter server and attending CCD classes my entire life, I was only told Jesus was “the son of God” and that he was my “friend”. I knew he died on the cross, that doing so was an unfortunate thing, and that he did it for us. As far as why he did it, and the impact it has on me and all the people on earth, I was completely clueless. Ignorant would have been an even better term. I had a bible, but never looked at it, and never really took the chance to really comprehend what it said. Until I graduated high school nobody offered to mentor me or share the true message of the gospel and what it shared. Before I started attending New Life, somehow I became fortunate enough to be swindled into visiting the church’s young adult group with some friends of mine. I remember one conversation at that group that sticks out in my head today. People were talking about when they were saved. I’m still embarrassed to say, but I really didn’t even know what they were talking about. Yes, I had heard of the term used before, but I honestly didn’t understand what we needed saved from, let alone what that had to do with Jesus dying on the cross. I figured Catholics did it our way, by just loving God and going to church, and that got us to heaven.  I figured “other Christians”  just coined my experience with the term “saved”. Was I ever wrong.

Do I blame the Catholic Church? Partially, but the Catholic Church can not be my excuse. The answers were always right in front of me in the Bible. I just chose not to read and find out. However, I feel somewhat cheated at times. Up until 2006 I felt like I had to hold a special allegiance to my own Catholic upbringing. I had a really hard time letting completely go of my Catholic roots as a I transitioned into an “ordinary” Christian life. I remember when I first started attending New Life’s services a friend of mine at the time came point plank blank out asked me “When are you going to admit you are not Catholic anymore?”. It wasn’t until later that same year in 2006 I believe I was finally able to admit I’d let go of Catholicism. Up until very recently whenever the conversation of when I was “saved” came up, I gave the excuse that I was raised Catholic, so I couldn’t really tell you the exact date I was saved. I would explain that I’ve always loved God, so it must have happened at some point. When this conversation last came up several months ago, granted I knew I had been saved. There was no question about that, but I was in denial of when. Most saved people have this incredible story of the time they were saved and how they said that “special prayer” and have incredible testimonies. Not me.

However, I’ve recently realized that if being saved truly means that you accept Jesus into your life to have a true relationship with Him, then there is no way I was saved when I was a Catholic. I was never a true Christian then because there was no relationship with me and Jesus. I’m still not sure of the exact date, but I can say for the first time publicly I believed it happened in 2006 (before I met Lindsey) during a service at NewLife where I broke down in prayer and handed all of my problems, worries, and stress over to Him. Ever since then, things have been alright for me. So if that was when, I guess I’ve been a true Christian for only 5 years.

But you know what, that’s okay. These last five years have been the most meaningful of my entire life. Praise the Lord for that!

2 responses to “My So-Called (Christian) Life. Part 1”

  1. Mom Avatar

    Scott, I have missed your entries, thank you for writing again. I Love you so much and I am so proud of you …… Mom

  2. The Hesterwoman Avatar

    I love when/how/what Scott Howell writes. This guy has some David in him….a man after God’s own heart. 🙂