For years I searched for God. I couldn’t find Him. Amidst horrible experiences in church, I felt alone, unloved, and betrayed by the very people who once promised that God was there. There in that building. There amongst these people.
Yet, I couldn’t find him.
I am a singer/musician and enjoy playing my guitar and singing for crowds of people. When you are a singer and trying to become known, you sing whenever you can, wherever you can. That includes places that serve alcohol. While I personally see no harm in singing in these types of places, because they are useful in helping you to improve, the church leaders were sure I was hell bound for stepping foot inside such a scandalous place.
When the youth group’s music leader discovered that I was out “partying,” I was given an ultimatum. Choose God or the devil. At that moment, the end of the Jerry Lee Lewis movie, Great Balls of Fire, was flashing in my head. I wish I could have said, “If I’m going to hell, I’m going there playing the piano.” Then I would have flipped my hair and sauntered out the door. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. I just looked at this man who had made me feel so small and asked, “What am I doing wrong? All I do is sing. What is wrong with that?”
It was explained to me that unless I was beating someone in the head with a Bible for the duration of time spent at the venue, I was morally wrong. I couldn’t argue anymore. This person had made me feel like I was the worst person in the world. Deep down inside I knew I wasn’t.
I left church that night and never returned. God wasn’t there. And if he was, that was not a God I wanted any part of. I was done.
I spent years refusing to visit churches with family members and was strongly against “religion.” I searched for God through religion once before and he wasn’t there. I searched for God through sitting in a church building, and he wasn’t there either. I was not going to waste another minute fretting over finding God.
I continued playing music anywhere and everywhere I could. When I would sing in bars, I would observe the men and women around me. Some of them looked sad and lonely and I always felt bad for them. Perhaps coming to a bar and being surrounded by strangers made them feel less alone. I also began to notice how music had the ability to be uplifting for the entire room. The dance floor would light up with smiling faces and the people who had looked alone before the music started, started to look happy. That made me happy. I was a part of bringing happiness to sad people. That reinforced what I had always believed. It is my purpose on this Earth to play music to help others. Of course, I reap the happy benefits as well because I love playing music so much!
These observations in bars, as well as other venues, contradicted everything I had been told by churches. I was always told that using my voice for God meant that I was singing in church. That caused me a great conflict internally because that’s not the case. Jesus spoke with types of individuals that others shunned and that was the type of example I wanted to follow. No matter what genre of music you sing or the type of place you sing, God can use you to help others. God can use you to bring others into light. I can’t count the number of individuals I have spoken to about church while in the confines of a bar. But Jesus couldn’t use me there, huh?
In the nine years that passed, my heart began to soften and I reflected on my experiences. Often times I doubted myself. Should I have turned my back on church? Should I have discounted God from my life? Is church really so bad? Where is God?
I started to look around. The things I had taken for granted, I started to once again appreciate. The good in people. The God that shows in people. That’s it! How had I missed it? God isn’t in one particular religion or a particular building! He is all around us all the time! I’ve been looking in all the wrong places.
Then I started to look at the beauty in nature. God is in the stillness of the mornings, in the songs that birds sing, in the sun which offers much needed warmth to a cool earth, and in the hearts of men, women, and children.
There He is. All along, He had been there. My mind and heart had once again fully opened to the thought of God and attending church. He had pulled me from a world of doubt into a world of tolerance and acceptance.
I am now a member of the Catholic Church and actively involved in the music in my church. I’m not ashamed that I continue to play music at places that serve alcohol, because I have the chance to be a positive influence in someone’s life. I can finally use my talents for God by singing in church and singing in other places without feeling like I’m wrong. I know I’m not.
In retrospect, I am thankful for that horrible experience. Even though I was distraught for several years, I appreciate the fact that I was shown the ugly side of church people.
I refuse to be one of them.
I challenge you to sit with sinners. Hug the sick. Sing to the lonely. Help the poor. Uplift the downtrodden. Remember that God loves them, just as He loves you.
I also challenge you to look for God. Really search for him. Not only in the confines of a building, but in all the people and things surrounding you daily. I am sure you’ll find him there.