I've had a busy week, hence the posts have been a little lacking. It has been an interesting one too... Let me start with a little history.
I'm African, born and raised. The only thing missing is the nice dark skin, but other than that the African Sun glows in my eyes and her blood runs through my veins. When I was about 16, I was whisked away to New Zealand, and then when I was 22, I voluntarily moved to the US (The cute young lady to whom I am now wed, was largely instrumental in this however). I love the principles that the US is built on, I love the freedom, and I love the opportunities that my kids have, but I still think back to Africa on occasion.
Wednesday afternoon, as my mind drifted back to the neighborhood I grew up in, I thought of an old friend who I have tried to get back in touch with, but have never been able to track down. Well, a couple of Google searches later, and I found someone with the same name, in the same area, and working as a webmaster (He and I were both computer nerds growing up). It seemed like a good possibility this could be him.
A couple of emails later, I am back in contact with him, as well as a handful of other friends. It was so exciting I had a hard time falling asleep that first night.
Aside from the exciting emotions of finding lost friends, also came the realization that I have changed dramatically...
As a kid, I had no social skills, my best friend was likely the family dog, and I was an ultra conservative, homophobic, devoutly Mormon kid. The one area where I was a little different was on my views that all men are created equal - not the most popular opinion under an Apartheid government, but that was about as radical as I got.
Now lets jump forward 15+ years...
Fortunately I think I have picked up some social skills along the way, so right off, it's tricky knowing if old friends will recognize me. My current greeting of "Hey! What's Up?" is a far cry from the little boy who sat quietly in the corner.
I've graduated from the conservative way of thinking, where I believed that the purpose of government and other leaders was to make rules and enforce them. I now adopt the more libertarian approach that all people are basically good, and can be trusted to do the right thing (even if it's different from what I think should be right).
I must admit that I did raise my eyebrows a little when I found out that one friends brother just had a Civil Union performed with his boyfriend, now spouse. But in the grand scheme of things, that isn't going to affect me. While I may not practice or feel personally that homosexuality is they way things were intended to be, the fact that two people love each other enough to make a life commitment to each other is honorable.
The final area is the one I think has bothered me the most... When I describe myself as a devout Mormon, I am meaning someone who holds rigidly to the doctrine and the instruction handed down from leaders with rigid and often blind obedience. Experiences, more particularly in recent years, have allowed me to realize that such a course of action is (in my humble opinion) contrary to how God created us. The main belief taught by the LDS Church is that men (and women) have the potential to become like God, but unfortunately, the way the principles are taught is often manipulative and induces fear into the followers, thus appearing to limit their freedom and be in direct opposition to how things should be.
I'll be the first to admit I don't know much. I have some personal beliefs that I have come to find out for myself regarding God, eternal life, and how the principle of a Savior applies to me, but I think this understanding is something that resembles more of a journey than a destination. I still affiliate with the LDS Church, and personally feel that many of the principles that the church has and teaches are useful in finding truth, but I'm not the blindly obedient robot that I once was. I guess that that I would classify myself as an Agnostic, Christian Mormon with Deist influences and still searching for more.
My old friends are still very devout Christians, just in different Churches and following slightly different paths. One is currently studying to be a minister and doing some amazing things with you. The hardest thing was knowing how to talk to someone who believes that God controls every aspect of his existence, when my thoughts are... "Hey God gave you a brain, figure it out yourself - It's time to put the big boy pants on!" But in reality, who am I to impose my views on him. Ultimately we're just two people trying to make it through this life - why complicate it with an argument that neither of us can win, because neither are right and neither are wrong.
Anyway, sometimes it is good to look back into the past to see where we have come from, what experiences have shaped who we have become and then I think it is important to realize that we are not tied to our pasts, or our futures. The past is unchangeable, the future is ours for the taking, and right now I am glad to be alive and be free to choose for myself.