An Enemy of Christ

I grew up in church.  Specifically, I grew up in an Italian Pentecostal Church.  We dressed up, we sat on the other side of the church from the girls and we learned strong morals.

I am very grateful for my upbringing in this church despite their strict teachings.  Many good, sincere people came up there.  Many of these people wound up being my Sunday School teachers throughout my childhood.  I still think of them with respect and amazement that they led such moral lives.  I tried to…

I tried to be good.  But as the teen years hit and my parents moved us to another church, I began to meet other kids my age who didn’t grow up with the same moral restrictions.  Largely, I kept to myself and didn’t say much to people about their lives.  I just watched.  But as the teen years began to wind down, I started to question the benefit of morality as I was brought up.

Inevitably, every young person begins their own wake up time where questions are asked and decisions are made based on the answers or lack of answers.  I saw friends with far less scruples getting by just fine and decided that I didn’t need to hold on to these outdated morals.

I went through my own sort of Amish time of discovery.  I realized that drinking alcohol was indeed fun.  Sex was not something to be embarrassed about!  They had lied to us!  So for the next many years, I indulged.

I didn’t lose my faith.  I just got very lax in it.  I kept going to church, even if I was hung over.  By this time, my family was going to such a large church, that no one paid any attention to a couple of drunk friends sitting in the back.

Judgmental?  Evangelical?

I began to sincerely resent the church, ironically for NOT caring enough to call me out!  By this time I had started playing in my first band called Grievance Honor (warning to my older readers, this band was heavy metal).  We were a bunch of guys learning to play music and wanting to go out and preach hellfire to people in bars. So we all quit drinking and decided to take the moral high ground where we could aim our index fingers at the sinners easier.

We began practicing at the drummer’s church on Saturdays and playing in bars many of the other nights.  We were extremely evangelical and brought a strong message of judgment while largely forgetting the love of Christ.  The church people voted to kick us out because we were playing in bars.  The pastor came to us and told us the news but said he was going to let us stay because he believed in our ministry.  However, several weeks later, the church people overruled him and we were shown the door.

This and other church related issues began to erode my Spirituality.  I was the primary lyricist in the band and I began writing more songs about the church and how it has more victims than converts.  For example, this song was called “Litter part 1”

Circles cut in the floor of heaven
Falling through I
As the church’s industry claims another victim
Dormant leaves swirl and now I am confused
For I want to lash out and crush them under my feet
I have been a fool for a time
But will I rush to the aid of the betrayer
And therein see my own reflection?
Do not mourn for me for I have found the truth
But those who have brought it have blindly lied and misled
And now the hollow of my eyes grows weary
With the strain of yesterday’s pain
And the feelings of inadequacy will be my hope for tomorrow
But nevertheless, I do feel hate
And I do feel pain
And I do want out as I seek personal justice

The band was often discouraged from playing songs like this or our song “Ichabod” when the crowds would be made up of Christians to avoid giving the Church a bad image amongst sinners.

You Are Worse Than Me

But something dynamic happened along the way.  I got beat up.  Not physically.  But spiritually, emotionally and mentally.  The band was selling emptiness.  We had all kinds of songs about judgment for your sins and why you need to get on the right track.  But we didn’t have any songs about the simple fact that Christ LOVES us all.

Somewhere along the line, I realized that while I was yet an enemy of Christ, He died for me.  It was a tough thing to be honest.  I always felt that I was a good, moral person.  It’s the whole reason I could stand up on that stage and point my finger at you in judgment.  I was not as bad as you.  But…  I was an enemy of Christ at one point.  We all are or have been.  For all of us, self matters more than anything else.  But soon I realized that my piety, my moral superiority and my judgmental mindset was all SELF serving.

No there was no God serving aspect to it at all.  It was 100% about me.  Me, the enemy of Christ out selling judgment for those who would buy it.  But God explained it to me one night.

Hate Night

One night, I was with a friend at a Mortification concert that I didn’t want to be at.  Grievance Honor had been broken up for about a year or so.  Our last show had been in Jefferson City, Missouri where I had the honor of praying with a young lady to receive Christ as her Savior.  I remember introducing her to the local youth pastor and asking him to make sure she gets discipleship.  He was very blessed.  We all were.

Back to the Mortification concert.  My friend and I stayed outside most of the show because we didn’t want to hear this band and I was tired of people asking me about Grievance Honor as people at Christian metal shows would do at that time.  A lot had happened in that year since the band had broken up and I had been spiritually free-falling.  So we stood outside as people began to leave.  One by one they streamed out the doors.  All of the sudden I get a tap on my shoulder.  I turn around and it’s that youth pastor from Jefferson City.  He was so excited to see me.  The first thing he asks me was…  guess what?  “When is Grievance Honor getting back together and coming back to our town?”  I was so full of anger and so bitter that I laced into him.  I cussed him out and made such scene that even my buddy stepped back away from me.  The man looked at me, his face pale and shocked…  then he quickly walked away.

I went home that night.  I had not been praying at all.  But I laid there in my bed and distinctly felt God speak to me.  He said…  “Way to go…  What you don’t know is the work I did in that man’s life during your show.”  It wasn’t just the young lady’s life.  The Pastor’s life was impacted as well.  I felt crushed.  I felt conviction.  I felt like an enemy of Christ. By the way, I have never been afforded the opportunity to tell that man how sorry I am.  I hope someday God allows that.

Recognition and Redemption

I began to be enlightened to the power of the love of Jesus.  I was not a good person, I WAS as bad as the next guy and I was no friend of Christ’s.  I was a friend of Rick Mester.  Through my attitude, my behavior, my selfishness and my hate Jesus gently reminded me that EVEN THEN AT THAT MOMENT…  He died for me.  He died for me with full knowledge of all the things I have done and will do.  His love is so deep that I cannot comprehend it.  I don’t have to look at the murderers or terrorists or the worst of the worst to understand His sacrifice.  I can see it in the sacrifice He gave for ME and my filth.

Pastor Don spoke today about the power that God gives us to overcome ourselves.  It’s such a very hard road.  Believe me, this blog is more for me to re-read as I go forward because I stumble back into myself every single day.  But God has seen fit to continue to work in me and help me to understand that the things I fall for every day are not the big picture.

I pray He never leaves me alone… that He always bugs me and lets me know that He loves me and that He is making me a better human being who is absolutely capable of reflecting the love of Christ.  It’s a huge responsibility for us all.  But it pays to remember that as reflectors, we are not responsible for the source of love.  He is. He is love, He is mercy. It is our job to reflect that out into the world.

I leave you with the lyrics of a song from my band (Sombrance) called “Mercy River

Even before the mirror fell
I didn’t know myself so well
And now I’m staring at this wall
And I can’t see myself at all
Maybe I should have listened
Maybe you think too much, she said
But I don’t know what to do
With all these words inside my head
Can you come and comfort me
Open up these weary eyes
Let your mercy cover me
Like a thousand lullabies
And the rain bleeds slow
And the tears of grace flow
I’m lifted up – Down in the Mercy River