Changing lives: He wasn't forever lost, and his life wasn't beyond repair.
Jeff grew up in a home where there was no clear religious conviction; his father was an atheist and his mother an agnostic. Despite the lack of any definite faith, he remembers there being a general spiritual element in the way his family lived—a sort of Christian expectation of kindness to one’s neighbor. Jeff had to look elsewhere if he wanted any categorically religious answers to the deep questions of life like “Why are we here?” and “Where are we going?” In high school he experimented with various Christian churches. He would go to services that his friends were going to. He went to Baptist services with a girlfriend and her family, and he spent some time attending Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church.
Although these experiences got him to think more deeply about spiritual life, he never felt satisfied. None of the churches offered answers that made sense to him. He found the images of the afterlife that he was given particularly unsatisfying. It didn’t make sense to him that the afterlife was some vague experience of being, like a bird flitting about in the ether to eternity. “Why doesn’t life just continue like it is in this world?” he wondered. That seemed more logical to him.
So rather than devote himself to any specific denomination, he felt satisfied for a time to keep a simple, personal spirituality. He held himself to two main principles: to work hard to be the best person he could, while acknowledging that he would make mistakes, but try not to.
These two principles kept Jeff afloat through the turbulent times he had ahead of him. His life would be a path forged by a lot of hard work, with not a few difficult decisions and some painful junctures along the way. He attended college and married his college sweetheart. After graduation, he poured himself into work, supporting his wife and two children. Although his work progressed, his marriage came to an end seven years after it began. Hurt and confused, he soon met another woman and married again. When this second marriage ended, he felt he had come to the end of the road.
Jeff began searching for answers once again. The old longing for a satisfying faith began to hover in his mind. During this time, he gave up his life the way it had been and began to search for a new way to live. The Lord was guiding him, although he wasn’t aware of it.
Jeff didn’t know what was in store when he went on a business trip over Valentine’s Day four years ago. There, he met his future wife, Heather. It wasn’t a profound love-at-first-sight experience. They became friends, neither wanting to rush into something more serious.
They stayed in touch and spent the following months dating and developing a relationship. Although they had a well-established friendship, he and Heather had never discussed religion. One day in the car, though, a question about the nature of the afterlife came up. Feeling more at ease with Heather than he had with anyone in a long time, he told her the ideas he had kept to himself for years: that when people die, they keep on living; that they are human, just as they were on earth; that relationships, like marriage, continue after death. Heather’s eyes welled up with tears. He had no idea he was describing the very belief she and her church held dear.
After this, their relationship grew deeper. They talked about everything. As they were living in California at the time, Heather introduced Jeff to the Rev. Mark Perry, pastor of the San Diego New Church. The Perrys became mentors for Heather and Jeff, supporting Jeff’s increasing passion for learning about the New Church and the Heavenly Doctrines. As he studied the doctrines, he found they answered his long-held questions in a way that made sense to him.
As he grew closer to Heather and felt his spiritual hunger satisfied, Jeff found that part of him was at peace. With this new worldview, he felt safe, sane, and secure. What had long felt hard and heavy became easy and light, as if a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. The more Jeff learned about the religion, the more he wanted to be a part of it. Most comforting of all, he felt a renewed sense of hope for himself. He wasn’t forever lost, and his life wasn’t beyond repair.
A year and half after meeting, Jeff and Heather became engaged. They met with the Rev. Perry, and he told them about betrothal. Jeff was struck by what he learned, having never heard of betrothal. He decided to be baptized and confirmed on the same day as their betrothal.
Their betrothal was a precious time for Jeff. He learned a lot about love, discipline, and respect. He and Heather knew they both had been working on their individual spiritual lives in the past, but their betrothal brought their spiritual lives together. They felt connected in a new way.
Heather and Jeff are now married and have a one-year-old daughter, Annabelle. They live in Austin, Texas and attend the fledgling New Way Church. Jeff manages a home concierge and services company, CHORE Masters LLC, that he and Heather started. He is also an active participant in the life of New Way Church.
Jeff makes a point to tell as many people as he can about the New Church. Why does he have such passion for growing the church? Jeff says it’s because there are so many people who are where he was in life before he found the New Church. It was through finding the religion that he became comfortable with who he was. He has gained new confidence in himself, knowing that life makes sense and that religion is something he can understand. There are so many searchers like him in the world—people who are trying to find answers to the big questions about life. Jeff wants to pass on the gifts he receives as he continues to discover the New Church.
(Jeff is a member of the New Way Church in Austin, Texas.