I was raised in Catholicism. I attended a Catholic grammar school, high school, and university. The latter two institutions were my choice. But let’s be clear. I was Catholic because I was told I was Catholic and reared under their teachings.
The God I knew was a far-off, distant God. He was an enormous figure with a long, white beard and was old. He sat on a huge golden throne and had a booming, thunderous voice. He was to be always pleased, and you did not want to disappoint Him and secure a future reservation for the fiery, red regions. The only way to Him was through a priest, dressed in a robe and other adornments. When you did mess up, you needed to face that priest and confess your sins to him, and he had the power to absolve your sins. He would sentence you to repeat a series of Hail Mary prayers to be recited in front of a statue (graven image), while keeping track of your penance with a rosary.
After graduating from college, I aspired to becoming a police officer. The odyssey of landing my dream position lasted a grueling two years. I successfully graduated from a six-month police academy, completed an additional twelve weeks of field training, and then survived my year-long tour on probation. I had not yet arrived, in fact, my career was just getting started. Now with all of that behind me and a set schedule, it was time to fit God back into my weekly routine.
It was not more than a few weeks later that I received an invitation to an in-home Bible study. I had never been to one before, and it just so happened to be on my night off. I went to the bookstore and bought a Bible. I was ready, or so I thought. I had no idea what I would encounter that night. I met Jesus. The study took a nice dive into Exodus 20. A lineon-line, precept-upon-precept study of the Ten Commandments revealed to me that I had been lied to.
The ten statutes chronicled in the Word of God were not the same Ten Commandments that I had committed to memory. The second commandment: Thou shalt not have any graven images, had been conveniently removed, and the final commandment: Thou shalt not covet had been split up into two: Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, and thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods. I had been lied to, and I had proof!
Instead of being angry, I became inquisitive. What other lies have I been taught? What other truths are in this Bible? I embraced the Sabbath immediately. Don’t get me wrong, my observance of it was a learning curve.
Salvation and the pathway to it: This was new territory for me, an actual relationship and asking Jesus into my heart. I had never heard of such a thing. The simple gospel was preached to a hungry, seeking individual. What would I have to give up? It was obvious to me what I had to gain, eternal life.
I prayed the sincerest-most-ignorant prayer…”Lord, give me a sign.” And through His merciful grace, He did. I surrendered to Him without having to take a bullet.
My homework assignment was the book of John. I traversed two verses in red letters that changed my life. “If ye continue in my word, then ye are my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31- 32). A few chapters later, I discovered Christ’s declaration: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).
The gateway to God is NOT through a priest, but through Jesus Christ. I left religion and found a relationship. Just when I thought that I was in the pursuit of truth, I found out that Truth was pursuing me.