i have always been fascinated by the way that we learn and develop throughout our lives. it seems some things are automatic depending on your family, your hometown, and other various support systems. why do we believe things the way that we do? is it our experiences through life? is it who has taught us? does the institution of learning we choose affect our judgments? i will be, of course, focusing on the religious or spiritual side of this study.

as a child, i went to sunday school at a church that my mother attended. i vaguely remember being a sheep in the Christmas play and can picture the inside of the sanctuary. my mother had been going to this church for some time because i had seen a picture of me getting baptized as a baby. this church was down the road from my grandparents, so it was convenient to attend the morning service and visit in the afternoon before heading home to get ready for the week ahead.

this changed around the time i turned five. we started going to church with my best friend terry and his mom. i remember a great deal about this church. i spent the next seven years of my life faithfully attending services. not just sunday morning, but sunday evening and wednesday, too. my parents were at odds about the amount of time we spent there. my father did not go to church and was uncomfortable with the idea and the people that would try to be friendly toward him. soon, my mother stopped going to church, and so did the fighting. without a support system in place, i, too, chose to stay home when the bus rolled up to pick us up.

i have had many types of church experiences over the years. i have attended an all-Spanish congregation with an interpreter, i said a prayer in a parking lot with a young man that wrote my name down in his Bible, and i tried my best to stay awake in a military chapel service. all of these interactions were great, but i still did not know what i believed or what i was supposed to believe. the best way i can describe it is that i had great respect for religion in my heart. my parents were husky, and there were two things I didn’t make fun of…chunky folk and church!

fast-forwarding a few years, i received some terrible news about a friend in a car accident. this event stirred me to seek after God. i wrote my testimony for an english comp paper and said i had “realized i was mortal and not superman.” whatever was tugging on my heartstrings, there was a local church with the same name as the one i attended as a boy. this time i had to find out why was this church right when there are so many flavors of religion? i opened the Bible for myself and read it. not just the cutesy scriptures, but all of them. not just the verses that were talked about in the Sunday school lesson, but all of them. when you open the Word for yourself, you are lead and begin to see the scriptures just as they are. some things require context and knowledge of the regional and period customs, but for the most part, the Bible reads better than tradition teaches it.

soon i was burning through Bible studies and then teaching lessons. i really could not get enough and, for the first time, understood what i believed! we rely so much on the way we were taught or what sweet aunt suzy told us that we miss so much of the treasure that is plain within the scriptures! it matters who you allow to speak into your life, where you attend school, the life experiences you have, etc. life is precious, and we cannot depend on an organization, a tradition, or a loved one to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12) i challenge you to do your due diligence in the Word, and i know that you will be excited with what you find. there’s so much more in the Bible than you realize, and Jesus has great things in store for your life!

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