MY FIRST EXPERIENCE with organized faith happened within my first weeks out of the womb. My family was anchored by the beliefs of my parents and the Bible church we attended religiously every Sunday morning and evening for a total of three hours. My brother and I went to a weekly Bible club, a church youth group weekly when we were older; Vacation Bible School was a staple to our summer schedule and we occasionally attended church camp.
For the first seven years of my educational experience I attended a small Christian school. Most of my education was surrounded by the teachings of the Bible and life lessons rooted in interpretations of its teachings. When I reached high school I started attending a Catholic school. I will never forget the feeling of liberation making this transition. Catholic school felt like I was no longer surrounded by the strictness and constraints of the past seven years of school. Yes, there was a mandatory religion class that had to be taken and I felt like I could have taught my own at this juncture in my life. I was very relieved that many of my other classes were centered on a subject matter with no mention of faith or the Bible.
Close to my 17th birthday my father informed me that I now had the option of attending Sunday service with the family. At this point this was the only staple of church in my weekly life. I wish I had said, “I will be sleeping-in next Sunday.” I cannot remember my exact words but this is how I felt.
Atlas goes to church with an uncle
This Jesus-centered environment came along with strict living at home. We didn’t have television, instead religious radio was a staple in the rhythm of our daily lives. Moody Bible Institute was a household name and Pastor James Dobson’s voice still reminds me of evenings beginning the daily bedtime routine. Every book or music cassette that came into the house had to meet the approval of my parents. “Secular music” was not allowed but bootlegged tapes from friends did make it to my Walkman.
Moving into early adulthood attending church became less of a consideration for me. Occasionally I would attend with my parents when home from college because I knew how much it meant to them and I knew that this was an avenue to show-off their offspring to their community. Because of my extensive experience in the surroundings there is always a level of familiarity in church. But there is also a level of apprehension that occurs in me – it’s a byproduct of the constraints that ruled my life for so long.
In my early 20’s I did harbor some small level of resentment towards the vacuum of life in which I was raised. I felt like I had missed out on other life experiences and options that so many of my counterparts had gotten to experience. I also felt like I had no comparison and very little exposure to other faiths. Becoming a parent has tempered these feelings.
My faith-based upbringing taught me respect, honesty, humility, charity and volunteerism. My parents are the best living testimony of faith in my life! In becoming a parent I understand that focus and parameters are important and I see that my parents’ faith aided them accomplishing this. Sometimes I feel like I lack focus and direction in how I live my life and guide the life of our boys. I can now see how this faith and Biblical basis of values provided this guide for my parents when I was a child. I have no intentions to raise our children in a similar vein, but I am grateful that Grandma and Grandpa are alive and very involved to provide another outlook on life.
Steve SueWing lives in Juneau, Alaska with his partner, Susan, and two young sons, Meade and Atlas. He regularly posts to his personal daddy blog AkDad.com where he discussed everything from football to ski lessons to dealing with poop.