Mike’s Faith Journey PART I: Train Up A Child In The Way He Should Go
here are two kinds of Christians: those who have experienced a crisis of faith, and those who are going to. Well, maybe I can’t speak for all Christians – all I know is that I talk to a lot of people who say that the faith they inherited in their childhood is no longer viable, meaningful, or sustainable. And I know from personal experience how profoundly isolating and disorienting it can be when the things that you knew to be truest and surest in the world come crashing down like a house of theological cards.
I don’t wish it on anyone, really. I certainly didn’t go looking for it – but it found me nonetheless, and I’ve spent the years since rummaging through the rubble trying to figure out how and what and whether or not to rebuild. But to understand how I got here, I need to give you a little backstory. Cue music for a childhood montage!
I grew up the middle child of 5 in a conservative Christian family in rural Alberta. In many ways, Alberta is like the Texas of Canada. It’s full of farmers, ranchers, hunters, and oilfield roughnecks. It’s the best. I’m sorry, Texas…it just is. Wheat fields and cattle ranches sprawl across the prairies to the east while the breathtaking Rocky Mountains keep watch like ancient sentinels to the west. My youth was filled with snowboarding in those mountains and playing ice hockey on the pond near my house.
Also, church. My youth was filled with church. In the best kind of way. Singing in the praise team? Been there. Leading Bible studies? Done that. Responding to the altar call every single chance I got at church camp? Got.The.Tshirt.
By the time I graduated high school, I had memorized – memorized, y’all – whole books of the New Testament, many of which I could recite in their entirety with 10 mistakes or less. I have the embossed plaques to prove it. Galatians? Memorized it. Philippians? Memorized it. 2 Timothy? Puh-lease. There’s a recording on a cassette tape somewhere of almost-three-year-old me, reciting Psalm 1 in my pudgy toddler voice.
My relationship with the Bible began before I even knew the Bible existed! My love for the Bible grew with me and I found it to be reassuring, steadfast, unshakeable, trustworthy, and absolutely true. Which is why it was so devastating – terrifying even – when cracks began to form in the theological foundation I had laid.
I know from personal experience how profoundly isolating and disorienting it can be when the things that you knew to be truest and surest in the world come crashing down like a house of theological cards.
After graduating from high school, completing a Discipleship Training School with YWAM, and attending 2 years of college, I decided I wanted to go into ministry so I transferred to Trinity Western University to study theology. It was here that the fault lines first began to appear. The faith system I had built over the first 20 years of my life rested on intellectual reasoning and personal experience. For me, my faith wasn’t just an add-on or accessory to my life. My faith was my identity, my purpose, my calling. It gave meaning to my life, hope for my future, a clear set of tracks to run on that would not lead me astray.
I had studied the Bible a lot – at least from a certain perspective. There were no inconsistencies I thought I couldn’t reason away – and if reason failed, I had a personal relationship with God to fall back on. As I began my first year of theology at TWU, I knew I was ready for anything.
Anything except RELS 102: Intro to New Testament. More on that in Part II.