Going South

I think it’s only fair to tell you that when I decided to move south, I was totally thinking Florida. Or Texas. I considered going many places but Georgia was NOT one of them. It was not even in the top 10.

 

After having a couple of years of excess and not getting anywhere, I decided to pack it up and move south. One thing my therapist had eluded to was that I needed more social opportunities, mainly more exposure to women. Iowa is about the worst place for a single young guy because the state is over run with attractive, tall, well-educated men who have solid work ethics, good family values and who are generally better grounded than the sort of fellows one finds on either coast. And eligible men outnumber eligible women by almost 2:1. Part of this was driven by the fact that there are simply more opportunities that appeal to men in a state so into agriculture. Working outside in minus 20 weather appeals a lot less to women than men.

 

One of my good friends had actually moved to the Atlanta area and seemed to be doing okay. Scott grew up milking cows and had been living in the area for a few years. I saw him when he came back to visit his relatives and that was about it. So on my way down to Florida, I visited him and his two roommates. I just stayed a couple days, and the guys kept extolling the virtues of living around Atlanta. I just wasn’t interested. They offered me a chance to stay with them but I had other plans.

 

I was going to Jacksonville to stay with my old college roommate, Tom. He had a smallish apartment but said I could stay for a bit until I got things worked out. So we planned on me staying for 30 days or less. And I did get a part-time job right away telemarketing for AT&T. It’s crazy how big telemarketing was back then.I worked there, trying to work up to getting on full-time but it just wasn’t working out. Reach Out America was kind of a rip-off plan and once I figured that out, I wasn’t very successful.

 

At the end of the month I had a decision to make. Either get an apartment and make a serious go of it, or go back to Iowa. OR I could go back to Atlanta. I chose the latter. There were opportunities in Jacksonville but not like there was in in Atlanta. So I called Scott and he and his roommates were keen to have me stay there. So I did stay there and ended up moving in and living there for a time when Scott moved out to go to California. It was real convenient for me to just take over that portion of the lease.

 

So far there hasn’t been much spiritual discussion because there was none. I did not go to church in Iowa or Florida during those two years. I had gone to 12 step groups but that’s not the same. But in Atlanta I would eventually go back to church.

 

Scott had been a member of a church singles group for several years and when he came to Iowa to visit he would sometimes talk about this group and the trips they took and the activities they did. So when I came back up from Florida I went to a few of these with Scott. The people seemed very friendly and welcoming. Very welcoming. Especially the ladies. The unfavorable demographics of Iowa were almost turned around in the metro Atlanta area. In fact, this is where so many of those young women who left the Midwest ended up. And I had myself a few of them courtesy of that church singles group.

 

At first, I was more involved with the purely social activities. We played volleyball every week and then there was a meeting once a week. They also had a Sunday school class, but it was a while before I was involved with that. In some ways, there was actually 3 different groups. The volleyball group was the wildest, and were definitely into some hardcore partying. After playing volleyball, we’d go to a bar somewhere which was often a karaoke place.

 

The group that had their meetings at night were a tamer group. They planned many other activities like camping trips, day hiking trips, shopping trips, skiing trips, and other social outings. I would say that this group was more determined as a group to pairing off.

 

The Sunday morning group drew mostly from the evening group, but was much smaller. When I eventually went it was taught exclusively by a woman who was a singles ministry staff person. At the time most people were in their 20’s with a few in their 30’s. The leader was a gifted teacher who really liked teaching and generally being around this group of young adults.

 

The United Methodist church of the south could give the Baptist churches of the north a run for their money, as far as being theologically conservative. However, Methodists are also pretty socially liberal which is why the excesses of the volleyball group were so well tolerated. It was this mix that enabled my re-entry into church life. I would have rejected anything heavier handed but wouldn’t have gotten anything out of a church that was less structured in their creed.

Over the period of a couple years I began teaching the Sunday school class on occasion and eventually led in the overthrow of the staff member who had a hard time letting go of control. Once more of us got into our 30’s we had become more capable and independent and more members wanted to participate in the teaching. The committee structure of the church actually facilitated this as a couple of us were members of the adult Sunday school council. We saw how other classes were run and we wanted to become more in line with them.

 

From the time I became involved with the Methodist church I enjoyed the adult Sunday schools. I enjoyed it even more once I began teaching. I was even asked to teach a few other classes around the church.

 

This particular church was a VERY affluent church in a VERY affluent suburb of Atlanta. Up until moving to this area, I had never seen a Jaguar or a Range Rover. But here they were common place. Money was almost a religion and this was how most people measured their worth and the worth of others. So many of my lessons challenged this view. My most famous lesson was when I dressed all in black and took on the role of Satan. I basically challenged the class members over their view of money, accusing them of mismanaging their faith. Of course, to Satan this view was not a bad thing. But this does not jive with the Biblical teaching on the subject.

 

Occasionally things went really well and I was taken to task. But on more than one occasion my Satan persona was too good. I easily could have bundled up every soul in the joint and carried them out in my back pockets. I tried to take more extreme views like Martin Gecko from the movie Wallstreet even playing his “Greed” speech. When every person in a given class agreed with it, there wasn’t much more I could do. I peeled off my “Satan” name tag and had to go to work as a teacher.

 

The teaching actually helped deepen my understanding of scripture more than anything else. In order to teach something, especially using my preferred format of open discussion, a body has to have an understanding going frontward and backwards. I had to dig into the context more and know more about the people I was teaching about. The Methodist materials do a fair job of this but I often would look for other books, writings and sources.

 

It was as a leader of this singles group that I met Arwyn. But that is a story for another time.

 

So my affiliation with the Methodists goes back to my own infant baptism but I sort of wound my way around the spiritual landscape before returning there. I’ll have to do a few more entries to flesh out a few things. For instance I feel like I should write something special about my Catholic connections and affinities since I have a small but attentive Catholic audience. It would say a lot more about my ignorance than any real understanding or knowledge.

 

And then there is very real earthy aspect to my faith almost more in line with Native American beliefs than the prevailing protestant ethic. Or at least what seems to be the main ethic of my neighbors.

 

The major reason for this series was to see if I could find some answers to some good questions posed by a couple of astute readers. Mainly, if I am indeed suffering, what is the purpose for it? What meaning can be derived from what is happening now from the past? Is there some lesson I should have learned then that I have to learn now?

 

I don’t claim a lot of answers but the process has been somewhat instructive.

 

I’m going to give it a rest for now. It’s the end of the line for the time being. I’ve other things to write on other topics. I’ll probably also have to fill in a thing or two as time goes on.

 

D.

 

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2 Responses to “Going South”

  1. Therese Says:

    “Pain makes us think.
    Thinking makes us Wise.
    Wisdom makes life bearable.”

    Everyone’s path to salvation and happiness is very, very different. I hope that you are able to find some answers.

    Thanks for sharing this.

  2. Cat Says:

    It is almost impossible to read. The feeling of being all over the place, not being sure where God fits in if at all. It is very close to home.

    Thanks for sharing this, indeed.

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