Jesus, The Missing Years

There has been much speculation as to what Jesus did between the ages of twelve and thirty. Some theorize that he traveled East and studied Buddhism. This brings to mind a line from a Ray Wylie Hubbard song, “Buddha wasn’t a Christian but Jesus would’ve made a good Buddhist.”

Good point brother Ray. After all, Buddha is known as The Compassionate One. Christianity was, in the beginning, an Eastern religion. It has become Western Europeanized and North Americanized to the point that it sometimes it’s hard to recognize. Well, that’s all good for another time and another day. All that being said, it brings me to my point…

Where was I for the twenty-six years of August 1987 until August 2013? Studying and practicing Buddhism, however erratically, was included in a chunk of those years. Those years would be the 90’s. I met some good Buddhists and some of them were monks. I learned the importance of meditation back then. I wish I could discipline myself to practice it more frequently. It is very important to stop, sit and just breathe. STOP. Be quiet. Listen.

Remember August 1 from the ‘Amazing Grace’ blog last week? It was written on August 1 to coincide with my conversion experience which took place on August 1, 1975.

We now go to August 1, 1987. Our family was having a nice afternoon at Point Reyes Beach which is north of San Francisco. I had been getting that “feeling” deep in my heart. THE SPIRIT was rumbling restless in my soul. Ok, what’s going on here, I thought. Every song and every sign seemed to whisper, “Alabama… Home.” I was getting nervous and you can only imagine how Melodye with an E felt. By the time we got back to our apartment in San Rafael, CA I was listening.

Me and Paul had tickets to a Hank Williams, Jr concert that night. I thought it a good opportunity to do some good ole honky tonkin’ on that Saturday evening and, maybe, get away from the serious soul searching I was wrestling with for awhile. WRONG!!! (Remember the McLaughin Report parody on SNL?)

It turns out all the Hank Jr concert did was to add to the case that was being built by THE SPIRIT. Return to Alabama. You have got to be kidding me! Hank Jr ? I will sleep on it. I slept on it. “Well I woke up Sunday morning with no way to hold my head that it did not hurt…” And I sent Paul and the kids on to church while I stayed home and did some ferocious grappling. I felt like Jacob… or Kris Kristofferson.

I prayed and I grappled and the more I did the louder it got. GO HOME! When Paul got back from church I broke the news to her. She took it like she did all the other “calls”, pretty much in stride, saint that she is. Thus we began to make plans to return to the “Heart of Dixie.” But where? When? How?

I continue to be amazed at how she rolls with all of these situations we find ourselves in but she was adamant about one thing concerning this move. She flatly stated, “If we are going back to Alabama there is only ONE place that I will move to… Auburn!”

Long story short is, three weeks later we find ourselves living in Starr’s Trailer Park in the Loveliest Village. With the help of her uncle L.C. Brown, who had been a principal at Beulah High School for many years, Paul got a job at Beauregard High School in Lee County. I submitted my credentials to the local Baptist Association there. Also I picked up the Opelika-Auburn News that first Sunday we were there and began to scour the want ads. I came to one job opening that jumped off the page at me. The Auburn Alumni association was hiring someone to speak to Auburn Club meetings and perform other various and sundry duties. I’m their man ! WRONG PART DEUX!!!

I did not even get interviewed for the job. I chalked it up as their loss. Now it is lesson time about how things work as a “civilian.” Sixty sets of World Books sold door to door later, I get a call from the said local Baptist Association. I was informed that Loachapoka Baptist Church needed a preacher. This was in January of 1988.

I met with some of the good people of the church and we set up a Sunday, that month, to preach a trial sermon. Now let me say here that I had been having some doubts in my walk of faith. I was very much disenchanted with the Institutional Church, and disenchanted is putting it mildly.

I had done a project on Will D. Campbell while at Golden Gate Seminary. He had been one of the biggest influences on my life at that point. I had found a friend in my disdain for the Institutional Church. Preacher Will had been out of it for many years. He had been a participant on the cutting edge of the Civil Rights movement. He was my hero. And if you haven’t read any of his works then HURRY up and do so. Start with ‘Brother to a Dragonfly’.

We return to a bright and sunny Sunday morning in the same January of 1988. I brought the message and it was very well-received. The small white clapboard building was almost full. They had turned out in force. I stood at the entry door to the church and shook hands with the congregants as they departed. They were all smiles. I could see where this was going. There was one small problem though… “I don’t believe what I just said.” That thought was blindingly overwhelming me. Rut Row! I did not participate in another sermon for almost twenty-six years. So that brings us to… Jesus, The Missing Years.


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