Jon Baker, Chandler, Arizona
I was raised in the Lutheran church. There are Scandinavian roots in the family. When I was ten we moved out to a rural area outside of San Diego, California. We weren’t close to any church so we just stopped going. When I went to college I was what you would call a seeker. I was looking for information and trying to learn. I spoke to some Christian friends and asked them about their faith. I read parts of the Bible, just looking to learn not to join or to fill some place in my heart. I was just curious. I met many different kinds of Christians. I even met and talked to a Catholic priest. I found nothing objectionable about anything, it just didn’t quite stick. Yet.
I got married straight out of college and have been divorced since. My first wife was Catholic and that brought me more into the church. However, I had been exposed to a lot of ignorance and prejudice against the Catholic Church if not Christianity in general. This bias really kept me away from the Church. In 1993 I had what I guess you would call an epiphany. I don’t know what participated this experience at this time and place. I had been reading a biography about Bob Marley who was a very spiritual man. He was very deeply into Christianity. That really affected me. I had a lot of respect for him, his music and his attitudes towards life and I as I read his biography I realized this all came from his faith.
So, one day in June 1993 I had been reading this book outside on the patio and I came into the house and something hit me like a ton of bricks. I stopped dead in my tracks. There was something overwhelming happened in my brain and in my soul. I remember thinking, “What just happened?” I realized that whatever I had been believing before just wasn’t true. And God wanted me to go and find the truth. When God tells you to do something, you pretty much have to do it.
I was told to go to church. When I asked God which one, I got that it didn’t matter just as long as I went. My wife was Catholic and there had been some friction because of my attitudes and I said that I wanted to go to church with her. It must have absolutely floored her. So, I came into the Catholic Church with a lot of zeal. It was a bit extreme and I did some proselytizing and fell into some judge mentalism about people who weren’t in the faith. That moderated over the years. I was compelled in my heart to help those less fortunate so I did a lot of volunteering.
In 2000 my mom died and I had a latent bi-polar disorder that had manifested a bit before she died but after her death, I went completely off the rails on the crazy train. I left my job, became pretty much useless as a father and a human being, horrible to live around. My faith got mixed up in all that. Where does that go? Bi polar disease it is like putting my brain into a blender, buzzing it and pouring it back into my head. I was totally mis-wired. I turned to my faith during this time and I just didn’t find any answers. I didn’t find any comfort and I felt abandoned. I was doing a lot of swearing and shaking my fist at God.
We look for reasons when bad things happen and wonder why God isn’t doing anything. Why wasn’t he doing anything to help me? I had been a loyal, faithful Christian all these years and now he was just abandoning me. I was left with many questions and no answers at that time. Eventually I got treatment for my bipolar condition but I was still left with a heart full of bitterness. I was back to square one of questioning: What is this faith< Really? Who is God, Really? What is my relationship with God, Really?
Over time I continued to pray and think and instead of forming in my mind this image of who God is based on the bible and the faith, I looked at the reality of this world here and now, of my life and looked for who God really is. You can’t describe Him in a book. There is no church that has a lock on who He is. And you can’t put God in a box and say this is the way He is, period. As messy as we humans are, God is even more incomprehensible.
I ended up from being on one end of the spectrum where God plans everything to being somewhere in-between this and God winding up the universe and letting it just play out by itself. It was the beginning of my restoration when I realized that God works with us by giving us opportunities and it is up to us to make use of them. Now I had a better understanding of what our relationship was. It has its ups and downs and I learn more about God as time goes on. I grew up.
Debra Wuliger, figurative artist working with color, texture and pattern to celebrate life.
Image silhouetted with story. Ready for hanging.