These are the chronicles of the esoteric . . .
the road: a testimony
I transferred my church membership and the following is the testimoy I gave for the service.
Reflecting on life these past few days has renewed my convictions. Looking backwards is an excellent way to gain perspective, and I've found it's reminded me of just how blessed I am.
I grew up in a home that wasn't perfect - but the family that composed that home, I have to admit, was perfect. My parents taught me and my siblings by example and discipline what it means to be responsible, caring, and strong adults. They taught us integrity and faith. And they introduced us to a God that had nothing but the best intentions for us - a God bigger than any one of us could imagine.
I have many memories of prayers before bed as a family, and many memories of my dad leading devotionals from a book or the Bible itself. I remember asking him questions about God as a child - about what it would have been like to look upon all He had created from behind the eyes of a human creature, about how different it would feel to touch with human hands the world those hands had made. I remember wondering how God could love so many people in the world and still have time to know me by name and know the number of hairs on my head. I grew up knowing a big, strong, loving God, but at some point I started taking Him for granted. At some point, the importance He once had for me diminished, and He became no longer a major part of my life. I knew He was there, but I gave Him no more than a thought every once in a while.
I had a lot of questions and doubts in my teenage years, but instead of pursuing answers I pushed God aside. The circle of influence I had at this time was encouraging in keeping God at arm's length - I had one friend who knew of God, but this knowledge made no difference in his life. My other friends couldn't care less or mocked such beliefs. And so I began down a road of what I would call darkness.
And this dark road found me with two constant companions.
For a large part of my life, I have had overwhelming feelings of loneliness. A Third Day quote I related to all too well says, 'The day it feels like winter, and the night it feels like stone - you turn around and you remember when you're surrounded you can still feel so alone.'
Throughout elementary I drifted between different friend groups. I was bullied sometimes, teased often, and I've always found it difficult to leave my comfort zone so making friends was quite a task. Because my personality is to take everything in very deeply, I began to become increasingly insecure.
Existentially, I became confused, and I developed a strong sense of worthlessness. I was trying to find my place in a huge and intimidating world, and I quickly began to feel as though I didn't belong anywhere - I felt that I had no place, and that I was nobody.
In an effort to fit in, I became two people. For much of my teenage years, my second companion was another self - there was the self I presented to most people, and the self I was with my friends. At first, the shift from Eric to Eric was natural and I didn't really notice it. But I had a nagging inside me - I could feel something pulling me in a different direction, something that said to me I'm not alone. I could feel something telling me that where I'd gone is not where I would end up.
I ignored the nudge for a long time, but it never went away. A part of me knew it was God, but I didn't want to have anything to do with Him. I was afraid of what God would say, I was afraid of what God would want. I didn't feel like much of anything, so how could I be worthy to stand before God?
Eventually, though, I got tired of being two-faced - and I began to accept that some of the parts of my friends I'd absorbed were wrong. I started to follow that nudge, and in the privacy of my own room I started listening. And after a while I started talking back. And there God and I began a conversation that continues to this day.
Upon graduating from grade 9, I chose to leave a part of my life behind and attended MBCI. After three months of lunches alone and having no one to talk to in class, I began making friends - friends I could relate to more genuinely, friends I could be more honest with, and friends I still have to this day. I continued to struggle with not feeling like I belonged - like I had nothing to offer the world, and like I was nobody. I questioned why I had the friends I did. But regardless of the dark cloud, this was for me the beginning to a fresh start.
And it was also an introduction to the world of theology. I found, thanks to Bible class, that I had a deeper thirst for theology than I'd anticipated. Still, after graduating from high school I chose to attempt at pursuing computer science at the University of Manitoba. But it just didn't feel right. So, after much prayer and thought and discussion, I began a long journey at CMU - a journey that began with me taking so many theology classes my student advisor didn't know what to do with me. But after seven years of part-time school, I graduated with a major in biblical and theological studies.
In that time, I had several life-changing revelations. While following one of many theological rabbit trails in extra-curricular readings, I came across a book by G K Chesterton entitled Orthodoxy. In it, my world was turned around. After years of believing darkness, failure, and inadequacy were the true defining ingredients of life - after years of believing everything must end in tragedy - I discovered that this perhaps was not so. Chesterton wrote,
'Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief the superficial. Melancholy should be an innocent interlude, a tender and fugitive frame of mind; praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul ... We are perhaps permitted tragedy as a sort of merciful comedy: because the frantic energy of divine things would knock us down like a drunken farce. We can take our own tears more lightly than we could take the tremendous levities of the angels. So we sit perhaps in a starry chamber of silence, while the laughter of the heavens is too loud for us to hear. Joy, which was the small publicity of the pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian.'1
At some point, I came to depend upon the darkness I lived with - it had become such a companion that I needed it. But here suddenly I was thrust the idea that I might not be meant for unlit corners. And that scared me - it scared me to think God might want me to be happy here, and that everything could actually work out okay.
It took me some time to accept this - I wrestled with it over and over and it is probably one of the most difficult lessons I've ever learned. But once I let go and began to trust what God was teaching me, things started falling into place. I met a girl who showed me that in spite of my insecurities, quirks, and darkness, I can be loved by choice and not merely loved by circumstance. I found a niche at CMU that led me to find joy and many opportunities in teaching, discussing, and writing theology - a desire in my heart for knowledge of God. And I found Psalm 34:18 to be frighteningly true: 'The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit.'
Shortly after my day with Chesterton, I came across a passage in a devotional book my sister gave me. In it, Oswald Chambers wrote, 'Our friendship with Jesus is based on the new life He created in us, which has no resemblance or attraction to our old life but only to the life of God.'2 Chambers references John 15:15I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. and it is one of two Bible passages that has made me weep.
I am Jesus' friend. Me. Eric 'Last in Line' Doerksen. The quiet guy in the back of the class, too insecure to say anything, too needy of assurance to risk rejection. That guy, he's Jesus' friend. And suddenly I had a place in the world. Suddenly, I meant something. Because even though there are so many people in the world, God still had time for me - He still knows me by name. There is nothing I have found that has given me a sense of worth more than knowing that I am loved and chosen by God - and that He has given me a specific role to fulfill, even if I don't always know what that role is.
As I discovered a few years ago, stuck at home with a torn ligament, there is not one thing I can do that can define me more than fulfilling my God-given purpose. For it is not what I do, but what I receive from Him that asserts my being - it is our divinely-pointed receptivity that defines our reality - and therefore I am nothing without God.
In April of 2004, I was baptised upon confession of faith. For me, it is one of the most important things I've done - a public declaration of not only my commitment to keep Adonai at the center of my universe, but also to be kept accountable by my brothers and sisters to that commitment. So I challenge you, keep me accountable. God knows I need the help.
1. G K Chesterton, Orthodoxy (New York, NY: Doubleday, 2001), 169-170.
2. Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest (Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House, 1992), August 25.