Ronin of the Spirit

Because reality is beautiful.

Ode to the Good people, abandoned

So for English I had to write one of those “who I am and where I came from” papers. I talked about my childhood a bit. I’ve an odd relationship with my childhood: My parents were pretty different. They made an interesting home life for us and all of us kids grew up a little confused about our place in the world. Through it all, I think they meant well, though. Yes, they held some odd viewpoints and values, but I think that they did everything they did because they really loved us and wanted the best for us. I think that’s why we all turned out OK.

But as anyone reads this blog or knows me understands, when I was kid I thought I had all kinds of problems. As a young adult my biggest problem was all the problems I thought I had. (Which disguised the fact there were actually somethings I could work on, but I wouldn’t find that out for years.) But as a 14 year old I was a bundle of insecurities and self loathing.

So, when I was 14, I visited Emmaus Bible College where my sister was a freshman. I met a lot of people there, but most importantly for this story, I met Jason, Tyler, Sarah, and Paul. Jason is still one of my closest friends, a crazy home experimenter and hacker. Paul is also still one of my closest friends, my go-to-guy for anything I need career advice on. While I was finishing high, school Tyler and Sarah fell in love and got married.

My senior year of high school I was dating this girl from my hometown. One night I had a vision. I saw her getting pregnant and us buying a house behind the window factory, where I was would live for the rest of my life. That didn’t appeal to me. I had around $4000 I had saved up throughout my short life. I had been alternating between wanting to use that money to (1.) buy a used airplane and teaching myself to fly or (2.) going to Pittsburgh, legally changing my name, and inventing a new life for myself free of the constraints Christian living. Both had problems: if I bought the plane, I would not have enough money to leave home. I would have to stay with my parents “forever”. (Forever being more than 2-3 years to an 18 year old.) If I moved to Pittsburgh and started Me 2.0 I thought I would probably do such crazy sinful things that I would kill myself because of the guilt (or at least that was the plan. I was 18, don’t judge.) If I went to Pittsburgh, I was going launch into crazy orgies and stuff, if I stayed home I was going to start sleeping with my girlfriend. (My apologizes to the good people of Pittsburgh. I don’t know why as angry young man, I fixated on Pittsburgh and not New York and LA like everyone else who wants to leave a small town and go to the big city. I don’t know why I thought orgies would be particularly available in Pittsburgh either. ) Either way, I was getting laid and feeling icky.

But I had a third option. I could take my $4000 and pay for one semester of Bible college. It was the path of least moral failure. But I still didn’t feel really good about myself. We went around the auditorium and said why we had come there. Everyone said “To learn more about JESUS!” I knew for a fact at least one of the guys on my floor was there because his parents told him that if he went to a year of Bible college they would give him a Jeep Wrangler. So when it got to me I said “I’m just here to meet a nice Christian girl and marry her”. Now this wasn’t strictly true, I was there so a girl back home didn’t get pregnant, but I really didn’t mind the image I thought this gave me, and I was uncomfortable about lying about Jesus. Lying about God to impress your friends just seemed (and seems) like a really awful idea.

Well, it turned out, not surprisingly, the guy who went to Bible college so he wouldn’t join (or start) a sex cult in Pittsburgh was NOT really cut out for Bible college. I met a girl there who was much life myself (named Lydia): a basically kind person who life had beaned her with a series of complicated hard to deal with things. In that environment of judgment, conformism, and emotional and sexual desperation we found each other and leaned on each other to survive.

And the person who was a life line to us: Sarah, Tyler’s wife. Now, I’d known Sarah since I was 14. She’d come to Emmaus with her own story of what she wanted to run away from (something I would not find out until years later) and when she had met geeky, awkward, bespectacled me, I reminded her of her brother Paul. So she was really nice to me. She was always really happy to see me and listened to all my silly talk warmly. Gentle reader, do you remember when you were 14? How would you have felt if an attractive, street smart, 20 something women treated you kindly? If Sarah had told me to cut my right arm off and give it to her I would have.

Well, then I was 18. Sarah opened her home to Lydia and me. She trusted us, listened to us and gave us a home. That last bit is more important that you can imagine. Both Lydia and I had good reasons to never want to go back home. We both had loving parents who meant well but just didn’t get it, and “Christian” friends who characterized the Sanhedrin a lot more than the Son of God. (Her more so that I. Everyone has a different burden to carry, I’d be lying if I said hers wasn’t heavier.) Sarah’s house was warmth and honesty and openness. It was the place we could go and be our real selves instead of the Christian selves we had to be at Emmaus. Sarah was my hero.

When I broke up with Lydia I was so ashamed. I was ashamed of what I had done. I was ashamed of what I had not done. I was ashamed of breaking up with her in the first place. I was ashamed that I hadn’t done it sooner. And I didn’t want to go to Sarah and Tyler’s house anymore. They had seen me as my most honest self: a good man but not a Christian, desperately lonely, easily hurt, and high strung. Every time I saw them, it was like looking into a mirror of who I really was.

But not who I wanted to be. I wanted to be Amazing Christian! I wanted to love Jesus so much that I didn’t sin anymore. I wanted to be GOOD man. I wanted to be rich, or have the capacity to be so and not take it because I choose poverty out of love for Christ. I wanted to be the best Christian in the world. And every time I looked at Ty and Sarah, I saw the people who saw what I really was.

So, gradually, I stopped calling. Stopped dropping in. I moved. They moved. Time passes.

Now its 2008, nine years after I left Emmaus. I don’t want to be Amazing Christian anymore. More than not caring if I meet the churches ideal, I now consider meeting the churches ideal a moral failure in and of itself. I find that I really care about the people that loved me back then.

So I called Tyler and Sarah up. Sarah answered. We talked. She’s having some problems. She had rough life physically and emotionally when she was a kid, and those scars run deep. Sarah’s strong, she’s holding up. And Tyler is a good man, always was. He takes good care of her.

But they could have had one more friend helping shoulder the load. One more person to listen. One more person to cry with. And I pushed them away. On purpose, because horror of all horrors, they saw me for what I was instead of who I wanted to be.

So, to Sarah and Tyler, Anna and Joe, Ben and Heather, Scott, and anyone else who I have forgotten, or purposely not put on this list due to its public nature.

Thanks for trying, and I am sorry I pushed you all away.

June 10, 2008 - Posted by | Religion, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. That is interesting and I want to give you a hug or something. There are a lot of problems in this world and I think each of us has our own burden we bare and shame we carry no matter how hard we try to let it go. Joe and I have this philosophy about faults and that you can not blame someone for their faults they do not know about but once a fault is known they are responsible to fix it and that goes for ourselves. How can one grow if they do not change. I would hazard to guess you are no longer the same person you used to be 10 years ago. I was thinking about how I was 10 years ago and I don’t think I would recognize myself because my ideals and philosophy on life has changed and hopefully for the better. I have always liked you Israel and I still do. You are welcome to come visit us any time. I think Germany is a little far but I want to stay in touch.

    Comment by Anna | June 10, 2008 | Reply

  2. All I can say is…. uhhhh DUH! 🙂 Did you think we were perfect or something!? HELLO! 🙂 ROFLOL! ok so I’m trusting you REMEMBER me! hehe! so I can get away with saying this!

    Comment by heathermama | June 11, 2008 | Reply

  3. I just have to say something else… did God ASK you to be poor out of love for him? ok I must admit I have LOTS to say… 🙂 But I think I’ll save it for that Glass of wine we have here waiting for you! 🙂 You’ll come home before heading out right?

    Comment by heathermama | June 11, 2008 | Reply

  4. just thinking… i hope i didn’t sound judgmental. there ARE answers to these hard questions that fill your blog! These are great questions! The answers are so full of hope. Hope that you never imagined possible! And I would love to chat about the freedom and love and joy that fill those answers. I hope we can chat soon. even if it’s over glasses of wine on speaker phone! 🙂 Becky Too! I have some replies to post on her blog too! I’ve missed you both so!

    Comment by heathermama | June 12, 2008 | Reply


    Comment by truthwalker | June 12, 2008 | Reply

  6. Wow. Nine years? I dont know if I ever told you but the second semester got pretty boring after you left. Not like we got to hang much first semester, but it was cool to hang at camp the summer before.

    Yeah, I gave up the whole “best x-tian in the world” thing around the same time. Emmaus was “that year” for me when nothing really made sense. I planned on going for a year, everyone from camp that was going told me “ooooh, you’ll go for a year and want to stay for four”. Well, you may have only lasted a semester my friend. But I decided to stick it out and earn a nice foil stamped piece of paper that said “I survived one year of fundementalism”.

    I gotta say though, it woulda been fun to have you around for some conversations with Ivan Stanky. HA!

    Comment by Tony | June 12, 2008 | Reply

  7. Pittsburgh? It is so weird to find out things about people we think we know years later. You shoulda been there the first time I met Sarah, Anna could probably tell you all about it. You have made me think some good thoughts. Have I ever told you I think you’re pretty cool?

    Comment by CC | June 22, 2008 | Reply

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