Yesterday I began writing about How I Got Here in an article that somehow began to turn into a loose autobiography. I got as far as walking into my first day at a new high school and being confronted by a cute girl whose first words to me were “If you ever tell anyone, I’ll kill you. I’ll absolutely kill you.”
So there I was in Ancaster High, a new Christian and a terribly unmotivated student. For the first semester I enjoyed spending lots of time with that girl; we’d spend our first class together every day and found that we had a lot in common. I seem to recall asking her to go to a youth group function with me once or twice, but she wasn’t interested. She wasn’t a believer, she was seeing another guy, and seemed to just enjoy me as a friend. And that was great. Second semester came around and since we no longer had any classes together we pretty much lost touch.
I finished up at Ancaster High and earned grades that were good enough to get me into McMaster University, a school just down the hill in Hamilton. I could live at home which suited me fine as I didn’t have any real interest in going away. My only real memories of the first year of university are playing euchre (I played a ton of euchre that year) and of getting my first email account. I certainly did not do a lot of work. I didn’t party as so many people do in their first year (and, in fact, never went through those wild years so common to even Christian teens). I just rode the bus to school, played euchre, went to my classes and went back home. I continued attending those Dutch Reformed churches, though I was beginning to feel a certain distance from them as time went on.
In the summer between my first and second years of university a strange thing happened. The phone rang one day; my little sister Susanna answered, handed me the phone and said with a smirk, “It’s your girlfriend.” It wasn’t my girlfriend (I actually hadn’t ever had a girlfriend); instead, it was Aileen, that girl from high school. She was calling under the pretense of asking me about McMaster University. She told me that she had been looking at her options for university the next year, had remembered that I was heading to McMaster, and thought she’d ask me about the school. The strange thing is that her father had worked at McMaster for twenty years (as I’m sure I reminded her) and would be more than capable of answering any of her questions. It turns out that she actually wanted to ask me as her date to a murder mystery party; she was no longer seeing that other guy and needed someone to go with her. Now the phone call made a little bit more sense. When I told my parents about this call my mom said, “Wow. Isn’t that a little forward of her?”
I was way too timid to go to a party where I didn’t know most of the people, so I turned her down. She called me a little while later and asked me if I’d like to go somewhere else (our memories have faded and we can’t quite remember what it is). I shot her down again, too bashful to meet new people. But through that summer we began to talk on the phone and eventually I got up the nerve to ask her to go out for ice cream. When we met up I explained that I was a Christian and she wasn’t and therefore I couldn’t date her. We could be friends but nothing more. And then we promptly started to date anyway, largely out of the eye of my parents who would have been understandably concerned about this.
But God was good despite my missionary dating. Within a few months the Lord saved Aileen and she made a profession of faith. We began attending a different church in town, one outside the denomination I had been part of for so many years. And there I found a new excitement in my faith. We made many dear friends and grew a lot in our knowledge of the Bible. In the summer of 1998, about 3 years after we began dating, Aileen and I got married. The girl who first threatened to kill me became my wife. We were young (I was 21, she was 22), we were poor (she was intending to do one more year of university and I was working at Starbucks) but we loved one another and thought that life would always be this fun and easy.
Now the purpose of these articles was to talk about a few years that provide the backdrop for the beginning of this blog. And we’re almost there. In 1998 Aileen and I got married and in early 2000 our son was born. This was where our theological convictions began to change. Shortly after Nicholas was born we had a bit of a difficult situation with our church. The elders were expressing to us that we ought to have him baptized right away; we were rather hesitant. Though we had always held to infant baptism, it was not until we actually had to think about having our own son baptized that we really investigated it. And I soon began to feel that infant baptism was not biblical. I told the elders about my hesitation and this led to some confusing circumstances where we felt we were being told we were free to take some time to investigate but where we soon found that the elders were beginning the early stages of church discipline. I do not remember all the details. I do know that Aileen and I were young and arrogant and that the elders were godly men who truly wanted to honor the Lord. So I bear no animosity toward them. I believe it was right of me to withhold baptism, but I’m sure the way we went around expressing this was full of youthful stupidity.
Right around this time, I found a job in the computer field (along the way I had graduated with a degree in history and then gone to school to pick up a fistful of computer certifications) in the town of Oakville. We decided that we would move to Oakville to be closer to work. This gave us an “out” of the situation where we could leave our church on good terms but without baptizing our son. And that’s what we did. For a couple of months, we attended a local Baptist church, quite literally our first sustained experience outside the Dutch Reformed fold. And then we packed up and moved to Oakville.
We were now in a new town and ready for a fresh start. We knew no one in the community and knew nothing of any of the churches. So we pulled out a phone book, turned to the listing of Baptist churches, and started visiting them.
There’s one thing I need to point out here. When we left the Dutch Reformed churches, we believed that we were leaving behind our Reformed faith. I had heard the term “Reformed Baptist” but thought it a contradiction in terms. As we left those Reformed churches we were deliberately leaving behind that Reformed heritage, hoping to find a church that would have good theology but, more importantly (at least in our minds) a desire to evangelize, to take the gospel into the surrounding communities. We had never been part of a church that emphasized evangelism or really seemed to understand its importance; in all the years I was in these churches, Aileen was, quite literally, the only adult I ever saw baptized–the only adult anyone ever saw baptized. There was lots of internal growth but non-existent conversion growth. And this was very disappointing to me. I longed for a church that would be faithful in evangelism and I became convinced that this could only happen outside the context of Reformed theology.
And so we moved to Oakville ready to become Baptists, ready to forget about all the Reformed theology I had been raised on. I had still never read any Christian books and had almost no knowledge of the Christian world outside the context of those Dutch Reformed churches (the one exception being the ministry of Charles Stanley whose program I often listened to on the way to work).
I suppose I’d better end here for today and pick up again tomorrow or early next week. We’re finally at the point in history where Aileen and I went to the church that would really form us in interesting ways and lead to this blog. (Read Part Three)