I’ve since realized that flipping through the thin pages of ancient words not only contributes to the meditative experience of scripture reading but also binds me to the generations of people who read them before me.
I didn’t formally grow up in church or with conversations about spirituality happening around the dinner table. My parents believed in God, but we never went to church or really talked about religion, good or bad. They loved us fiercely and have always been wonderful, giving people. They’re more godly than most “godly” people. Nevertheless, faith just wasn’t a part of my childhood.
Further, most of my friends were going on youth retreats and to Vacation Bible School, but the news was reporting multiple scandals in the Catholic Church and stories about fame-obsessed preachers scamming congregations for money. All of this combined left me very confused about the concept of spirituality.
My faith has always been unsteady, something I wanted and needed so badly but unsure of how to fully grasp it. There were a couple of fleeting years in high school where I dove into Young Life and absolutely loved it, but I let it slip away. In college I was back to depending on my own devices and seeking pleasure in earthly temptations. On the outside, I graduated with highest honors (summa cum laude) at N.C. State University, but on the inside, I felt empty.
Six years ago, we decided to visit Long’s Chapel in Clyde. Prior to this, I hadn’t been to a church in decades, except for once when I attended Jubilee in downtown Asheville.
Rev. Chuck Wilson was the pastor at Long’s Chapel and was the person standing at the pulpit when we stepped into the sanctuary. Before meeting Pastor Chuck, I had the opinion that preachers were of average intelligence (if that) and lived to make people feel guilty.
But at the end of that first sermon at Long’s Chapel, I looked at my husband with a grin and said, “He is really smart.”
It seems like a weird initial statement to make after a sermon, but it was honestly my leading thought. I was so impressed with his knowledge, articulate delivery, classy demeanor, and academic approach. I think I needed convincing that he was intelligent before I could even begin to listen to the parts about God and scripture.
Since that day six years ago, my faith has enjoyed highs and battled lows. There have been moments, even relatively recently, where I pushed God as far away as possible, but I’ve learned that when I do that, I fall into such a dark place, only tears, melancholy and despair come to the surface.
The only constants during a troubling, unwinding, magical season of growth and reflection have been Pastor Chuck and Long’s Chapel. And those two constants kept me from falling into the darkness forever.
Despite finding a church and pastor that I adored, I was still leery of the Bible. For most people, the Bible is at the heart of their spiritual journey. But my spiritual journey had more to do with seeing God’s grace in the eyes of people and in the life of a church and less to do with pages of scripture.
At the end of June, my husband came home with two copies of the book A Daily Walk Through the Bible. He bought one for me and one for him. It was high time he and I became acquainted with the Bible.
We’ve vowed to hold one another accountable to complete the 365-day journey of reading the entire Bible. I began this task viewing it as an intellectual challenge, but as always seems to be the way with God, my Bible-reading journey has become much more.
I became so engaged with the book of Genesis, I finished it four days early. Why didn’t someone tell me how captivating the Old Testament is?
To highlight my ignorance even further, I thought Genesis was only about creation. I never knew it included the stories of Noah’s ark, the saga of Cain and Abel, and the inspiring, beautifully-written narrative of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. I was flipping through the story of Joseph at rapid pace like it was a Harry Potter novel.
We’re on day 18 of our challenge, and I’ve discovered that the Bible isn’t as daunting or old school as I thought it would be. It took me 36 years to open its pages, but I finally did it. Everything always takes me longer than necessary. I’m not easily convinced of things, even a well-known fact that the Bible can be life changing.
Pastor Chuck was appointed to a new church in Matthews and preached his final sermon at Long’s Chapel at the end of June. As was expected, a lot of tears were shed. We learned that Rev. Chris Westmoreland would join us as senior pastor.
Considering my attachment to Pastor Chuck, I was skeptical about anyone stepping up to the pulpit in his place. But God impressed me yet again, which I had a feeling he would. Pastor Chris has wowed me during his first two sermons. His youthful energy, humor, musical ability, and intellect have made me very happy and hopeful. I’m excited for this new season at Long’s Chapel.
I’m starting to gather my own evidence that pastors are way smarter than I am. I’m sure those brow-beating, hee-haw preachers are still out there somewhere, but luckily, God has placed some amazing ones in my life. He also led us to Long’s Chapel and guided my husband to a bookstore that now has us reading the Bible in 365 days.
God has a quirky, whimsy way of doing things. Perhaps that’s why I’ve grown to like him so much. He’s not as different from me as I thought he would be.