As kids we got used to having Sunday mornings free. Once in a while we were forced to go to church. We hated going to church. We had some amazing ways of hiding. So that sort of contributed to my early aversion to organized religion. I saw religion as something man invented to explain his existence.
It took me a long time to realize how economically fortunate I and my family were...that we were pretty comfortable and it didn't seem that weird to have grandparents with a beautiful house in Cambridge and a beautiful place on the water and being able to fly around...
I think the same thing with Jesus. I had not realized how much He has been taking care of me. I just took it for granted.
The meat of my faith story is the way I learned that it wasn't really all about me.
I think the most significant part of my life was getting separated from my wife, Saiya. At that point, I didn't have a lot of friends. Most of the people I knew were people who knew Saiya. At that point, I wasn't sure what I was going to do with my life.
I have friends Bill Lang & David Ting. They were really Saiya's friends but we did things together. I knew they went to Grace Chapel which was just down from our house in Lexington. I had seen all of the cars... Grace Chapel seemed to be such a big, strange church. My kids were taking music classes during the week, so I sort of knew what the building was like. I wasn't sure how it worked, though. Wasn't sure what happened on Sundays. So, I called David and told him that I was interested in attending Grace Chapel.
We met outside in the parking lot and went to the 9:30 service which was the one that worked best for the kids — the more traditional service with the choir and it was beautiful. I was really struck by how nice the singing was, how even the simple stuff like being able to read the lyrics while looking up on the big screen and not always looking down at the hymnal.
It was quite different...and I was swept up in it... I remember we sang some specific hymns like one entitled, "Walk with me." It struck me that there was Someone out there that was going to take care of me. I was struck by how the sermons were so relevant to my life. I filled out a visitor card and a kind man named Fred Benkley called me. He called me a few times. He clearly had an unsinkable buoyancy, very focused on one of the books contained in the Bible... book of John. I was skeptical at the time but in my study of John, I learned that I am loved...and that there is hope out there. At the time I was pretty hopeless.
I also began to see God working in my life through some funny sequences of "coincidences," things that seemed only God could have known about what was happening in my heart. One of these was when I moved out of our house and needed to get my own apartment. My agent, Dianne Lakutis, turned out to be a member of Grace Chapel. She was very helpful and we would talk about Grace Chapel... I told her about how much support I got from going there.
Fred told me about Alpha...a non-threatening discussion group for people who were trying to figure out where God fit in their lives. I went and felt much at home. It felt that there were people there similar to me...like going through a divorce...and that there were people there that were different from me...people who were very devotedly spiritual and definitely that was not my experience.
The first thing that happened there was that I felt I could really reach out and help someone. There was a guy who was going through a divorce...probably losing his kids...it gave me a chance to show some kindness and not just be on the receiving end.
One Sunday there was a very moving sermon about Fear. It was about the apostle Peter talking with Jesus on the beach after the resurrection and receiving Jesus' forgiveness for denying Him. It had a lasting effect on me. It was at this point that everything crystallized for me. Christianity is a two-way street...it's not just a one-way accepting the blessing of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross for my sins. So I gave Jesus all that I knew of myself to all that I knew of Him. I embraced His forgiveness and leadership in my life...and this relationship with Jesus has been the best thing that has ever happened to me.
This faith journey was dictated by Andy Sudduth to Pastor Richard Rhodes, who read it at Andy's memorial service on July 28, 2006, at Wickenden Chapel, Tabor Academy.