“They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.”
—John 17:16

The trouble with born-again Christians is that they are an even bigger pain the second time around.
—Herb Caen

*   *   *


READ PART ONE in which I relate my rise from the dank dungeons of Midwestern religion to the heady heights of heroic hedonism.
READ PART TWO wherein is recounted some stoned adventures in Churchland and an encounter with a rather curious clergyman.
READ PART THREE which tells of a trepidatious visit to a cliff and of my precipitous leap from it.
READ PART FOUR that describes a surprise invasion by an invisible being and the strange transmogrification which resulted.
READ PART FIVE wherein the entire account is brought to a remarkable climax on the doorstep of a testy unlicensed pharmacist.

*   *   *


It’s a weird thing to forfeit the deed to your life.

When God forecloses on you, you are, of course, insanely thankful that he has canceled the crushing spiritual debt which had marked you for death. You are delighted that you now have an actual relationship with a God who is no mere idea or human construct. You thrill to an amazing grace that not only obliterates your sin but empowers you to negotiate the troubled waters of a broken world. When God takes possession, you marvel at the coherence of the universe and of your place in the grand story. You are full of hope, confident that good will triumph and that justice will be established. You now know the truth and, like the user manual says, it has indeed set you free. Yeah, you’re officially a Jesus freak.

But there is something else too, something deeply unsettling about the Jesus thing. When God annexes you, your tether to the familiar world comes unhitched. Suddenly you are pulled from the only ground you’ve ever stood on. You’re now a stranger in a strange land, a land in which everybody else seems very comfortably at home. You feel dislodged, still in the world but no longer really of it. No matter how you try to adapt, no matter what you do to fit in, you always feel like the odd man out.

faceThe first brilliant rush of salvation obscures its sheer otherworldliness. You’re utterly and gloriously trashed by God’s brazen incursion into your domain. But as the initial shockwave of redemption dissipates, you begin to realize that it was you who were delivered to God’s house, not the other way around. You had thought that you were inviting Jesus into your life, but it dawns on you that, being dead in sin, you didn’t have a life to invite Jesus into. What God actually did was yank your corrupted keister out of the empire of darkness and haul it into his kingdom of light. You’ve had a major change of address, buddy. A revelation like this can totally mess up your plans for the weekend.

Or your life. Since the day of that awkward visit to the pastor’s office and my soul-boggling encounter with the Holy Spirit, I haven’t exactly been what you’d call normal. I’m haunted by the man behind the cosmic curtain and, in spite of the inexcusable fundamentalist bigotry of it all, I’m twisted enough to believe that the culturally maladjusted Jesus of the Bible is still the only way to eternal life. If that doesn’t screw you up, nothing will.

So here I am, nearly 40 years later, still working the freak show. It has its ups and downs, but, as they say, that’s showbiz. Besides, where else would my dysfunctions be considered an essential part of the act? We Jesus freaks are a peculiar people for sure, and sometimes the show can be a little too freaky even for us. But, hey, we’re family. It’s actually a pretty good gig.

Oh, in case you’re interested, we’re hiring.

*   *   *

Freak in Training—Cracking Open the User Manual


5 Responses

  1. Friendly Fred,
    A pleasant finale to such a Freak Show spiritual experience that you have described as your life! I am happy that you, being you, dared to refer to my keister, corrupt though it was, as nothing more than a drop in the proverbial generic keister bucket, and that you did not get personal about my metaphorical booty/body part(s). Keep up all the good work you do, Fred, you are are (usually or often) truly an inspiration to me. GBY.

  2. thanks, Fred. …for your story, the whole story and nothing but the story, so help you God. I’m helped today by what you’ve written. dk

    • He has a way about him, doesn’t he Dave! 🙂

  3. Fred, I am emotionally disillusioned. After reading your stories, I was led to believe you would obtain a higher plane of enlightenment and achieve godhead status rather than mediocre Christianity similar to the rest of us. Who now do we look to now that our hopes in your greatness has been shattered on the rocks of disappointment…Oh well, back to serving this Jesus guy.

  4. Fred…thank you! I am presently praying and loving a son who wants nothing to do with God or life. While he has not taken your “trip” he has gone his own way. Thank you because your story demonstrates to me once again the power of God to bring us to a knowledge of His love and grace….and radically change our lives. I needed to hear it again.

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