The testimonies of modern young adults often begin with cookie-cutter evangelical childhoods, followed by “college”. In this format, “college” can take several forms, but most often it alludes to depravity, sin, and eventually godlessness. Some of these adults rediscover their faith in adulthood, many do not. My testimony is somewhat strange because I am a strange person, but it is approximately one of this sort.
I was raised by nondenominational parents who were, in turn, raised in the Catholic church and “saved” in their early twenties, then converting to protestantism just after college. They had six kids whom they homeschooled each through middle school, and of whom I was the second. As parents, they were as near to perfect as anyone could be in this world. They taught us about the Bible- perhaps more importantly, I credit my dad for my love of scripture- taught us about grace, took us to church, and tried very hard to live as examples of Christian humility and righteousness.
I asked for Christ’s saving grace when I was eleven at a boys’ summer camp. That would have been…1999.
From that point on, I took my faith seriously and tried to act responsibly. The early Christian life is fraught with overcorrections and often downright comical (particularly so when combined with puberty), but my heart was in the right place. A short while later, I entered public school. From my two high schools, I can vouch for the usual experience of homeschooled Christians. Ordinary teenagers were dull, boorish, and conformed relentlessly to their pagan popular culture.
Conversely, they described me as smart, nice, quiet, and odd. I had some acquaintances, but formed no real friendships outside of my church and never cared to. As a competent athlete, neither was I scorned or bullied. Midway, I transferred to an experimental hybrid of high school and community college and graduated with my diploma and an associate’s degree in technical writing.
During this time I discovered C.S. Lewis, thereafter the joy of thinking clearly, and the book of Proverbs. I began praying persistently for wisdom, like Solomon had. I also had my first eight-month bout with depression when I was seventeen. Though a disinterested, depressed, unambitious student, I only failed a few classes and managed to graduate with a cumulative B+ GPA and no plans for the future. In modern America, this means you go to college. And to go to college in modern America, you need someone else’s money.
My mom was understandably in favor of this, although my dad was highly skeptical. He always had good instincts. A physics teacher offhandedly suggested that I should consider doing ROTC to pay for school, particularly with the Air Force. Certainly, I should have begun praying for wisdom much sooner because these were all disastrous decisions.
It is entirely impossible to explain the extent of that disaster in such a short testimony. This was my introduction to “the world” on its own terms. Had I understood Jesus’ teachings about the world, that could have perhaps offset the effects of my teenage naivete. University was not a place for genuine learning as I’d been told, it was a place for social climbing, cultivating polylogistic utopian nonsense, and indulging in libertine decadence. Neither was the officer corps a place for a technically minded, patriotic, healthy young person like me (as I’d been told). It was, again, an institution for enforcing rigid comformity of thought among moderately intelligent social climbers. These brusque descriptions are not judgments of the value of these institutions, but rather simple observations of verifiable facts.
In such despair that I could no longer function as an adult and that I was considering suicide, I decided the least drastic course of action would be to drop everything and try to start over. Although this was probably the best choice available to me at the time, there are obvious financial consequences that will probably haunt me for a couple of decades yet as I inch back into solvency.
However, I consider my financial situation petty compared to the spiritual woes revealed by this admittedly short and unserious period of tribulation. And this revelation is, I think, a good return for the monstrous debts I incurred. I’m tempted to call it a measure of wisdom. Many thematic elements of scripture that were once mere abstractions, like the desperate wickedness of my human heart, are now as concrete in my mind as the ground I walk on. Meditating on my egoistic predilection, and on how poorly my faith endured under suffering, I can’t bear to imagine how my faith would have fared had my career been a roaring success.
In the meantime, I believe that my earthly purpose is to serve the kingdom of God in everything, to live humbly, to do justly, and to be alert and quick to obey if the phone ever rings and He’s on the line.