by Debbie Altman
My religious upbringing consisted of going to a Catholic church, mostly on Christmas and Easter. My parents would drop me off to take the appropriate catechism classes to qualify me to participate in the Catholic ceremonies of First Communion and Confirmation. Although I have since seen and become aware of many true and vital Catholic Christians, my initial experiences in the Catholic Church caused more doubt than faith. The form of worship appeared shallow and ritualistic, and I deduced that if this was all that God was, or required, then He either did not exist, or if He did; that our experience with Him would be more relevant, meaningful and constant. I was unaware that other churches or approaches to God even existed.
As a result, my teen years found me vacillating between agnosticism -doubting God, and atheism. My high school years were characterized by analysis and intellectualism. I could not accept even the basic premise that a God existed that was all-knowing and all-pervasive. I remember when a friend had invited me to church and the message was about “God taking control of your life.” I thought to myself, “ I can control my own life! I don’t need anyone else to control it!“
My home life was becoming rather shaky with parents who had been married for nearly 28 years, and were on the verge of divorce. My mother, who although is a loving and beautiful person, was succumbing to alcoholism. On the outside, I was the perfect child; I did everything right, and I was in control. I never did drugs, drank or lost my virginity. I graduated Salutatorian of my high school. Although everything seemed perfect on the outside, within me, there was a growing dissatisfaction. I realize now, that my perfectionism was a way for me to cope with the instability in my home. But there was also a sense of my own “falling short.” Despite how “together” I looked on the outside, I knew my own thoughts and imperfections.
Late in my junior year, I met a girl who seemed so “good!” She always made me feel uncomfortable, but not because she did anything to try to make me feel that way. But, somehow we ended up becoming best friends. We loved each other and had great times together until the subject of God came up. She tried to tell me how wonderful Jesus is, and I tried to tell her how naïve and simplistic she was to believe in Him! And we would both end up in tears.
My friend would continue to invite me to church, but I refused to go. Finally, a year and a half later, due to a funny circumstance, I succumbed and went to church. I would not have gone back, but I met her really cute and friendly male cousin, and decided I would go back to see him! What I heard and read in the Bible over the next few months was that Jesus was a real and intimate God that desired to know me, love me, forgive me, and to work in my life and to help me become all that I wanted to be. And I wanted that! At first I hesitated in accepting Him because I knew there were some parts of my life that were not perfect, and I did not want to be a hypocrite! The pastor visited me one day and explained that I did not have to clean myself up, that Jesus loved me as I was, and that He would take care of everything else. I was skeptical, but I trusted Him, and he was right!
I have been a Christian now for 36 years and there are not enough pages to describe how wonderful God is and how He has transformed my life! I now understand what my friend meant when she shared with me, Psalm 34:8,”Taste and see that the Lord is good!” He can’t be described…you have to “taste” Him.
One last thought; my intellectual concerns were not tossed aside. Much reconciliation exists between science and the Bible, if only you will take the time to investigate. If anything, the beauty, diversity, complexity and sophistication of all that exists, can only shout the probability of a Divine Creator!
Debbie is the wife of Pastor Craig Altman, and together, they founded Grace Family Church 18 years ago. She is a former RN and mother of a 27 year old married daughter and 26 year old son. She is also known as “Nona” to her precious granddaughter. Debbie enjoys family, reading and the beach, and is inappropriately competitive at board games.