A Faith Journey to a Better Understanding
By Charlie Wehr
When I was growing up, my father always seemed to be in search of a better work situation which resulted in us living in 5 different houses in 4 different states by the time I started middle school. We always belonged to a church, but my parents didn’t seem very concerned about the denomination. We were Presbyterian in Michigan and Lutheran in Georgia – those are the only two I remember for sure. Not surprisingly, I failed to make a meaningful connection to Church and as soon as I was old enough to put up a good fight, I stopped going, except on Christmas and Easter of course.
In high school, like many teenagers, I was searching for meaning and tried to be open to new ideas, but never connected with any of them. I had friends who were active in their churches and Youth Groups – “Jesus Freaks” as they were called in the ’70s – but I never felt like I belonged there either. Those friends talked of “Faith” as if it were a switch that I could just turn on and “believe” if only I wanted to, which didn’t work for me.
I suppose that while busy with college, work, and relationships, I settled into a convenient belief that I was a good and kind spiritual person and I didn’t need church to tell me what to believe. It wasn’t until our first son, Jack, was born that my wife Sue and I started talking about finding a church so he could be baptized. Sue had experienced a strong connection to her church growing up and took the lead on shopping for a church. I chose not to voice any objections, even though I had gotten very used to my lazy Sunday mornings.
At first I felt that attending services at First Lutheran was something that I was doing for Sue, but that quickly changed as, bit by bit, I was “invited” to participate in so many opportunities. I can’t remember which came first, but teaching Sunday School, Vacation Bible School and the FLASH program were all early endeavors. Shortly thereafter I joined the choir and became involved in the music ministry in various other ways. Music was the key to my finding my place in weekly service. The most profound experiences I had serving through First, however, were the Youth Mission Trips that I was fortunate enough to chaperone. On these trips, I had the opportunity to work with others from our church and around the country to serve others in need. It was through these experiences that I developed a more mature understanding of my place with God and my community. I understand more clearly that my faith in God, which calls me to serve others, is not just something I do, it’s part of who God created me to be.