The Switch Is Turned On

As with many people, the religious beliefs I was raised with were taught as absolutes, and to question their validity, well, let’s just say THAT wasn’t encouraged. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) for me, I have always been intensely curious and questioned everything. “Church” and “religion” weren’t exempt from my questions. If anything, I had the MOST questions about God and His fan club. It drove my Mom and Dad crazy. “Because I said so” never carried a lot of weight with me. I wanted to know and understand WHY or HOW. Yes…there were a LOT of heated debates growing up!

I remember one time when Dad and I were “discussing” the idea of going to hell if you died “in sin.” I was having a hard time with the concept because it seemed so unfair to me. I challenged, “You mean to tell me that if Billy Graham (he was the most “Christian” person I could think of) was building something in his garage, whacked his thumb with a hammer, and in a reaction to the instant pain, yelled, “dammit!” And then later on, before he had a chance to repent, dropped over dead from a heart attack, that he, Billy Graham of all people, would go to hell just because he swore?” Dad told me, “You can’t be sure, so why risk it?” It was at that moment I knew something was wrong with this picture of religion. I just didn’t know what it was.

Growing up in a Charismatic Christian home, I was regularly exposed to Bible teachers like Kenneth Copeland, Kenneth Hagin and others. Their teaching cassettes were played constantly…in the morning while getting ready for work and school, after dinner while Mom was cleaning up the kitchen, in the car while driving and just about every other free moment of time when nothing else was happening around the house. That constant, ongoing teaching of “The Word” left an indelible impression on my perception of spirituality and my purpose in life. It also helped shaped my early decisions concerning the supernatural.

The influence of those Bible teachers became even more evident in 1986. I had been living on my own for a few years by then and was working as a commercial photographer and offset cameraman at a printing company in Southern New Jersey. While I loved my job, I also had a growing feeling of unrest deep inside me. I wanted to do more with my life…make a difference in the world. I was just unclear what that “calling” was.

As I thought and prayed about it, I realized that I wanted to be a Bible teacher. I didn’t have a desire to pastor a church or anything like that, but I loved research and studying the Scriptures, so teaching made sense to me. When I realized that becoming a Bible teacher would likely require me to attend a Bible college, the choice was an obvious one…I needed to attend Kenneth Hagin’s Rhema Bible Training Center in Tulsa, OK. I knew it would make Mom and Dad proud and it would be a huge step in the right direction for achieving my goal of being a Bible teacher. At least, that’s what I told myself. Reality told a much different story.

I’ll spare you all the “trials and tribulations” I experienced while at Rhema. Let’s just say that I learned a LOT of valuable life lessons in a short period of time that had nothing to do with being a Bible teacher, but everything to do with who I am as a person today. There was, however, one defining moment of asking BIG questions that occurred while attending Rhema. It forever changed my views of the supernatural and how I interacted with it. A switch was turned on inside me that has remained on and active ever since. Let me explain.

When I first arrived in Tulsa, it took me a few weeks to find a place to live, so I stayed at a cheap hotel that allowed me to pay by the week. Attending Bible College on a daily basis was quite a switch from working a fulltime job, but I enjoyed it. As you would imagine, though, in an environment like that, it can be extremely easy to compare yourself with everyone else, especially if you’re insecure, which I was at the time. I began to notice how everyone else seemed SO much more spiritual and “in tune” with God than I was. Fellow classmates shared regularly how God talked to them or gave them powerful insights in prayer. I didn’t have any of that going on, and as time went on, I began to really stress about why I couldn’t hear God talk to me. Actually, I believe “obsess” is likely the better choice of words because it’s ALL I thought about.

I remember so clearly one particular night in my hotel room. I had worked myself up about not being able to hear God’s voice. I was crying and feeling sorry for myself. It was pathetic…not a pretty sight. I literally spent hours crying and questioning out loud, “Why can’t I hear you? What’s wrong with me?” Exhausted from the drama of it all, I remember collapsing on the bed completely spent when all of a sudden I heard, “Are you done now?” It wasn’t an audible voice, but it was as clear as if someone was in the room talking with me. I asked, “God, is that you?” And I heard a response very clearly, “I’ve been talking to you all along, but you have been so fixated on NOT being able to hear Me that you completely blocked out My voice.” I could hardly believe it. A switch had been flipped and from that day forward, interacting with God, the Divine, Creator was as natural as breathing. Who knew that the secret to it all was silence and listening with your heart? Of course, little did I know in that moment that the switch ALSO turned on other things….

Comments

Jason says:

Really liking the look of the new site and hope it turns out to be what you were planning!

Kate says:

Hey Tony, I had the same thing happen one day. I rarely made an effort to pray, but one day something happened to some friends and I decided to ask for a solution for them. That spoke to me, was not my thoughts. It spoke in the third person, offered great advice and spooked me out completely…in a good way. What it took was the listening with all my heart instead of trying to figure out an answer for myself. Thanks, I needed to hear this tonight. I think I’ve got some listening to do.

Cat says:

Love it!! can’t wait to hear more!