I grew up in church.
By all accounts I was a respectful church kid from a good family. I had a praying mama that ensured my sister and I never missed Sunday morning church. Growing up in church culture I was offered numerous gospel presentations at a very early age. I clearly remember praying a sinner’s prayer after many different services. I remember even more clearly being anguished later on that the prayer never seemed to quite stick for me. Though I was assured of its effectiveness, I had always had some nagging reservations about my eternal state.
By the time I was in middle school I assumed it stuck, and I found other things to anguish over like football, girls, and being “hard.” Those middle school years were some of the roughest. I hit an early growth spurt and by the time I was in seventh grade I was at my current adult height (6’2″). I had sideburns and chest hair in eighth grade. I was a freak (or at least felt like one) and I chose to use my formidable size to intimidate others. Because of my mom, I still went to church but I sat in the back and was a virtual mute, unaffected and too insecure to break out of my social shell.
I was pretty sure everyone hated me, but not as much as I hated myself.
By the time I got into high school, the football gig was working out pretty well for me. I found a nice outlet for my size and rage, and got plenty of praise for it to boot. Before my ninth grade year I decided the tough guy schtick was wearing thin so I opted for trying the nice guy routine. This was a delightful surprise for many of my former middle school peers.
Things were looking up on the church front too. At least as far as I could tell.
Around this time our church welcomed a new youth pastor to the staff with a wicked sense of humor and hairiest back you have ever seen. Jamie Strange remains to this day for me as an encouraging friend, wise counselor, and just flat-out one of my favorite people in the world. He was a great leader during my formative spiritual years.
In high school I found my niche with football and friends. By the end of my ninth grade year, I got drunk for the first time. This became an almost semi weekly occurrence until the end of my junior year. All the while, because of an excellent “nice church boy” act, I was being propped up as a leader in the youth group.
I remember one time being asked to teach a high school senior bible study. I was a junior in high school at the time. I’m sure some Best Actor Award accolades are due somehow for that.
After a year or so I was able to identify a couple other guys playing church within the youth group. Takes a hypocrite to know a hypocrite. It wasn’t long before we’d congregate at a kegger on Saturday and learn how to hide a hangover on Sunday.
And so the games began.
On Spring Break of my junior year, my church buddies and I took off for the PCB strip. I bought the beer because I knew a good spot that didn’t card, and remember, I did look thirty five years old. With two beers in my pockets and one in hand we walked the strip, treating girls like trash and mere objects of our desires.
“It doesn’t get any better than this” I thought.
But the party ended rather abruptly for me soon after that. In fact, it screeched to a stunning halt when I found myself sitting in the back of a cop car listening to a police officer chatting with my mom on the phone.
To Be Continued…..(Part Two Here)