I absolutely love the movie, “Finding Forrester” (2000) with Sean Connery and Rob Brown in the starring roles. The movie is about a friendship between William Forrester (Connery) and Jamal Wallace (Brown) and takes place primarily in the Bronx. Forrester, now in his 70’s, is a reclusive Pulitzer-Prize winning novelist who gave the world only one novel written back in his 20’s, and Jamal is a 16-year-old basketball player with a secret passion for writing. It is a wonderful story about an unexpected friendship that formed between them that changed both of their worlds. In fact, the story moved me so much (well, I’ve watched it at least a dozen times) that I decided to name this particular blog post from an article written by William Forrester in the movie with a subtitle of “A Season of Faith’s Perfection” (Jamal also wrote an essay for his prep school with the same title taken from Forrester’s article).
As I look back on the past three years in the midst of the greatest challenge I have ever had to navigate, I realized how much it has been my very own “Season of Faith’s Perfection.” I wrote about how this “season” began in a previous post, “Fuzzy Faith Fails.” Now I can give you more details about this continuing journey in faith.
During most of my year in Houston I attended a huge megachurch that I was familiar with from watching their weekly television program when I was still living and working at a private, Christian university in Florida. Over the years I had grown weary trying to find a church where I fit in as an older, single, professional woman, and found it very difficult to find a church where I fit in even though there were many in this town. During the four-plus years I lived and worked there I attended several churches; one for a year and a half, another for several months, and then I just sampled other churches until I stumbled upon the television program for the megachurch I attended in Houston.
This program was very upbeat and it brought me out of a rather dismal low point in my spiritual life at that time. I stopped attending other churches in the area and watched this program exclusively. In fact, I looked forward with great anticipation to their weekly broadcast. I even reached a point where I was telling my coworkers that if this church was located in the town we lived in, I’d be there in a heartbeat. That’s how much I loved watching it. It cheered me up during a very rough time at work when, eventually, my division was dismantled in January 2008. While my position was not abolished, I knew it was time for me to move on. As I’d been living in Florida since 1992, I had absolutely no desire to move out of the state, and I never dreamed about going anywhere else . . .
. . . except for Houston, where that megachurch was located. Now I didn’t look for jobs specifically in Houston, but I did go to HigherEdJobs.com on a daily basis looking for openings in my profession. And in early May 2008, I spotted the ad for the director position that I was eventually hired for and moved to Houston on September 25, 2008. That first weekend before I started my job I was too weary from the 1000-mile drive and unpacking my apartment to make it to the church service of the megachurch, located only four miles from my apartment complex, but I was there on the first Sunday in October and rarely ever missed a Sunday for the next nine months.
I had never been so excited about being a part of a church in my entire life. It was vibrant and people from all nationalities and walks of life were there; however, in a church that size, in order to meet people I knew I had to be involved in some way, which opened the door to two volunteer opportunities I ended up taking.
If you’ve read my previous post, “Fuzzy Faith Fails,” when I first landed in Houston I felt strongly that I needed to get up early every morning to have a devotional time to meet with the Lord and pray. I had not done this consistently for years, and while it seemed very odd to be doing it now, I did it regardless of how I felt and without fail. And due to the fact that my job (or rather my boss at the job) presented challenges from the very first week, I started to find a source of strength from my early morning devotions I hadn’t experienced in years.
I began to realize as I continued with my studies every morning before work that it was feeding me in a way that I wasn’t receiving from the megachurch, although I loved attending and considered it to be one of the highlights of my week. However, the one thing that bothered me about the megachurch was the total absence of talking about sin or confronting sin from the pulpit. The only time sin was mentioned was after the service when the pastor offered a “sinner’s prayer” for those attending the service who wanted to “accept Jesus as their Savior.” I always found this odd, not so much regarding the “sinner’s prayer” as many churches offer that at the end of their Sunday services; but it was odd because hardly ever during the sermon was Jesus mentioned and certainly not with any depth. The worship music before the sermon many times had music inspired and written from Scripture, but the sermons had pieces of Scripture that went with the particular story the pastor told in his sermon that morning. It bothered me that sin was never addressed since that is the whole reason Jesus Christ came to earth and died on the cross. It is no small matter (see Ezekiel 18 subtitled “The Soul Who Sins Will Die”).
As I continued studying early every morning throughout the ensuing horror of what unfolded at my job, I kept attending the megachurch as it “pumped me up” (as in an adrenalin rush, but not spiritually) to be able to face the next week at work. I attended this megachurch through the time I was fired in April 2009 until July 5, 2009, which was the last Sunday I attended. I longed for more depth from the pulpit as I knew the “adrenalin rush” I got from the Sunday morning service was not what got me through the horror of what happened at my work place. No, it was the time I spent with the Lord every morning before work from the time I landed in Houston that gave me the strength to get through it and, most importantly, gave me back my relationship with Jesus Christ that I let wane for so many, many years. And so I left the megachurch that drew me to Houston in the first place; but while I left the megachurch, Houston has never left my heart.
Well, this post is long enough so maybe I’ll write a “Part Two” later. But the most important thing I want to leave with you, dear readers, is that no matter what church you attend (or you might not even be attending a church), do not forsake a daily time of meeting with the Lord and reading His Word and praying, even if it’s only for a few minutes each day. Do it every day, without excuse and with your whole heart, and I can promise you it will change your life. How do I know this? Because it has completely changed mine.
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15 NIV 1984). The Message Bible states it this way, “Concentrate on doing your best for God, work you won’t be ashamed of, laying out the truth plain and simple. Stay clear of pious talk that is only talk. Words are not mere words, you know. If they’re not backed by a godly life, they accumulate as poison in the soul” (MSG).
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