God uses people to shape your faith. In a previous post we talked about how God can use special places in our lives to show how His purposes and plans are revealed in our lives. Important people also show us those truths. Two people in my life who have shaped my faith are my father and my brother, but in opposite ways.
One pointed to God and one denied His very existence
My dad and I started going on early morning walks when I was 14. He was an introverted engineer; so hard for me to know. I knew my dad had a strong faith in God and often saw him reading his Bible and praying. On our walks nothing profound happened, but my love and respect for him grew. If he loved God then so could I. My father was intellectual and quiet so as a young girl I had trouble connecting with him as I show in a little vignette below.
“The lawns glistened with dew, the morning sun slanted through the trees, and my dad and I headed out for a walk. I was 14 and our relationship was tentative as two reserved introverts struggled to connect. Dad had spent long hours immersed in the formative years of his company Quintron and didn’t have a lot of time left to spend with his kids. My brother had rebelled, rejected Dad’s values, became antagonistic to the Christian faith and conservative principles Dad held dear. Perhaps Dad decided to spend more time with his girls after his experience with Larry. I’m not sure why we started walking, but I loved that time with Dad. A lot of the walks were silent, and we just enjoying the morning.
I had not spent a lot of time alone with my dad
As a little girl I loved watching him as he developed one new passion after another. I watched him tie fish lures with his tiny forceps and vices, I watched as he pushed his wheelbarrow through the backyard when he began organic gardening and landscaping flower beds. We enjoyed asparagus, strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, and sweet corn.
I was amazed when he turned the bathroom into a photo lab dark room complete with photo developing slanted sink. He built Heathkit radios and a stereo system for Larry and I, and was a ham radio operator.
The project I loved the most was when he ordered a kit for a 22’ houseboat and built the huge boat in our garage. He soaked wood strips so they would flex to form the rounded hull and had a party so men could help him turn the hull over. When it was finished he named it River Runt and we could even waterski behind it on the Mississippi River and anchored at Hogback Island to relax on the beach. Dad sat on top of the boat with a beer and a little transistor radio to listen to the Cardinals baseball games.
He went to Harvard business school for a program in entrepreneurship and spent hours in the living room reading business books as Quintron became a successful reality.
He was also a runner and kept a detailed record of how far he ran. He ran the Duluth Grandma’s marathon when he was 59. By the time he was 81 he had logged 31,833 miles of running and walking!
I watched him hard at work with his hobbies, but we didn’t talk much
I was delighted when he wanted to walk with me. We kept a brisk pace and I remember sneaking furtive glances at his face. On one walk, wanting to connect, I finally started a conversation with my geeky father. “How does a refrigerator work?” Not exactly fodder for a father/daughter heart to heart, but interest lit up his face and he proceeded to tell me all about how a refrigerator works. I just enjoyed hearing his interest, hearing his voice directed at me. The topic didn’t matter. How does a refrigerator work? I’m not sure I remember, but I loved connecting with my dad.
Out of sheer exuberance at the end of our walk I would often break out in a run, arms pumping, speeding by the suburban driveways emanating from the houses like spokes on a wheel. Our techie talk was a connection of sorts. I knew my dad loved me enough to spend time walking with me, and that was enough for me!
My dad never told me in words about His steady faith in God, but I learned so much from his actions how to treat people with kindness and respect, how to fulfill your obligations and give back to the community. Like they say, actions speak louder than words. His faith was rock solid, a testimony to his little girl who loved to walk with him.
On the other hand my brother Larry was brilliant and eccentric. As an adult he’s a talented woodworker and has made many guitars, violins and mandolins from wood harvested from his own land. He played the fiddle and traveled to Ireland and played Irish jigs in the pubs. He wrote a book about a computer operating system that still sells on Amazon. But he also believed there is no God…. This vignette shows his influence on me concerning God:
“God is dead”. The wild frizzy hair of my brother Larry stood straight up as he thrust the red and black cover of Time Magazine in my face
“See look, this proves it, God is dead, Time Magazine only prints the truth.” Confusion set in. I was 9 years old in April of 1966 when that issue of Time came out with “God is Dead” emblazoned across the cover. I had never considered the possibility that all I had been taught was wrong. Could my parents, my Sunday school teachers, my pastor all be wrong?
Larry was 12 and knew so much, was right about so many things. He was the kid who sat on the speckled rug in our den and read the Q volume of Encyclopedia Britannica while I watched Leave it to Beaver. “The Q volume is the weirdest and I want to learn weird things”, he said. He read Moby Dick when he was 10 and wrote wonderful stories that he read to me. Larry should know. I was confused. But he was a tricky kind of guy, my sisters and I had to watch out.
Larry kept that issue of Time Magazine and stuck to his assertion. “Linda, God is dead”. He continued to talk to me, giving me all kinds of arguments and reasons why there could be no God. “Can you see him, can you hear him? They say the bible is true, but how could so many men over so many years write different stories that are all true?”, he asked. “But God is alive, I know He is”, I said, but my voice trailed off,
he had planted a seed of doubt in my mind and heart
This argument continued over a two year period. Larry teased and prodded, determined to beat my small faith out of me.
One day we had a fight and he ripped the book of Isaiah out of my bible. I was furious and grabbed my bible and lashed out to scratch his arm. Shocked at the damage I had done, I ran as he chased me up the stairs to my room. I slammed my bedroom door in his face. He left me alone and I sat on my bed with my tattered bible in my hands. He had me thinking. I read some of the Psalms knowing I needed to make my beliefs my own. I prayed tentatively, wondering if anyone was listening.
Larry told me that he rejected God and the whole moral code. He was angry that his dad no longer had time for him. God the father; our father, did they both abandon him? He told me there was no right and wrong, he could do what he wanted; there was no hell; that was all a bunch of baloney.
Larry did something for me that he will never understand. It greatly annoyed him the one time I tried to tell him what he did for me. “Larry, I know there is a God.”
I told him he helped solidify my faith in a loving God in a way no one else ever has. He forced me to think and pray and ponder
Was there a God in heaven? He drove me to read my bible, even though it was missing the book of Isaiah.
My faith in God became my one true thing
God was real; I knew that from reading His word. He was the only one who knew my secrets. He became my rock. I don’t think I ever would have paid the Bible as much attention if Larry hadn’t piqued my interest with his Time Magazine, then caused me to become a seeker when things turned upside-down.
That Time Magazine has long since been pulverized in a dump somewhere, written by a mere man who didn’t know God. My bible may lack the book of Isaiah, but I could trust it, trust God. Thank you Larry. Your quirky fun side, your atheist side, both have shaped my life”.
Think about the important people in your life
I would guess two or three come to mind immediately. That person could be a parent or sibling, a favorite aunt or teacher, your best friend, or even someone you didn’t like being around. How did they impact you? Can you look back and see God in your story? God uses people, who did He use in your life?