Bio: From Addiction to Purpose

Nubble Lighthouse

After a high-school life full of partying & rock n’ roll, I barely made it out of high-school, and had a long stream of dead-end jobs. I jumped from being a minimum wage paid Barista (coffee slinger), to baker (working a 4am to noon shift), to landscaper (bagging grass from big gas-spewing mower) in a period of about 8 months. In the midst of that time, I met a good friend named Chip who took me in as a bass player in his would be band at the time. I had long hair and a wanna-be hippie attitude (John Lennon was my hero- and I still love his music). I began playing bass in his band, and my party buddy Joel joined in on drums. We’d show up at gigs in a half-aware state of mind and play this music with Chip. Some of it was normal to us- old originals Chip had written back in his days of partying when he was an extreme skier who got paid to throw himself off of cliffs. Some of the music was what some in Chip’s culture called “Worship Music”, and sounded all high and heavenly to me at the time. That music freaked me out at first, but I kept playing in the band. Chip and I had a lot of conversations and eventually he helped me get away from the lifestyle I was leading. He convinced me to inspect who this Jesus was.

So I got all moral on everyone, and cut all my hair off short and slicked back. I stopped partying, and instead engaged in frequent endurance running, vitamin popping, and chewing Sugarless gum. I didn’t pick up the Bible for very long sittings, because it totally freaked me out.

So I kept living this moral life, but found as time went on that the only people I could relate to well were bohemians, eccentrics, and outcasts. So really, during that time, Chip was my only official “Christian” friend, aside from a few acquaintances. Most “Christians” I talked to just seemed really lame and uptight to me. So I would always try to shock them by talking about weird past experiences. I think sometimes I shocked them, yet they probably were just worried about me. I definitely always wanted to get over on who I perceived at the time to be an “uptight holy roller”.

But what was I to do next? Christianity still seemed like this really lame religion full of hypocrites that wore preppy clothes, and judged people like me, who had lived a wild life and had the scars to show it. Where did I belong in all of this anyways? So although I had accepted the fact that Jesus was some kind of real, “god-like” deity, I initially rejected the institution of the Church, because I just didn’t see where I would fit in, nor did I see how it could help me. I spent a year and a half studying other religions, filling my mind with knowledge and philosophy, and keeping my life pretty pure on the outside- no partying, but inwardly I was full of anxiety and fear.

At the end of that period I actually relapsed back into the party scene for a bit. But shortly after, Jesus made it clear to me that He was the way into a right relationship with God. It happened in a religion studies class at Kent State University. We were comparing texts from Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. I read 1 John 4:8 that said, “God is Love, and anyone who does not know God does not know love…” I was floored, because this was the only purely loving God I had seen in any of the religions. All of the other gods contained falsely perceivable elements of love, yet not a God whose embodied nature was love.

I realized that Jesus had died for everything I had done wrong- past, present and future. I realized that because He died and then rose from the dead that I was able to have a relationship with God. I realized that I didn’t deserve this and wasn’t capable of living for God on my own, but Jesus made it possible for me. I realized that even though I was messed up, because I had accepted Jesus’ sacrifice God actually looked at me with love and clearly saw what I would become in the future and in eternity. God had known before I was born that I would one day hand my whole life over to Him. This realization made me want to live a life devoted to Him.

So I resolved to get involved with a church. It was difficult though, because I still had this wild past I carried in with me, and a background that contained no influence of the Church or Vacation Bible School. I was cynical coming in to the church, and kept my cynicism as a guard from what I thought would be brainwashing mind-blasts of institutional doctrine. You need to understand, I was raised by parents who hated institutionalized religion of any sort, especially the “Christian” sort. But I went anyways, and I was completely uninformed, confused, and flighty about it!

I skipped from denomination to denomination, finding a weak spot in every doctrinal system and fleeing to the next one. I was full of arrogance and impulsivity. When I met Sarah, the woman I would later marry, and found that she was struggling with the same thing, being flighty about denominational structures and all that, we both decided that we needed to commit to something. So we decided to find a “non-denominational Church” that we could go to.

So, Sarah and me got involved in a “Non-Denominational” Church. It was part of the Evangelical movement of Churches in the eighties and nineties. A lot of the things they did at the Church felt irrelevant to me at the time, but at this Church, we learned the Bible really well. We both got into the habit of reading it everyday.

About a year later, Sarah and I got married. Since we both came from backgrounds outside of the church our dating life was a struggle, but by the time we tied the knot we were beginning to honor Jesus with our relationship and marriage.

In the next year, we began to reach out to drug addicts, cynics, and new agers. We even started a group in our home under the leadership of a great missionary couple we had the privilege to know. Through this group, a number of people came to know Jesus, including my Dad.

I began an music internship in 2005 at the church we were attending. In addition to doing worship I got the chance to work with youth, start social justice outreach initiatives to the homeless and poor in our area, and work with wonderful cynics in college ministry as well.

By 2007, I got involved at an urban youth center doing outreach to kids growing up on the streets. We worked with kids coming from abusive backgrounds, drugs, gangs and cycles of poverty, and saw great results as these students came closer to knowing Jesus and changing their lives bit by bit.

2008-2010 were years of finishing a masters degree in Biblical Studies, working in a coffee shop, and playing in a cover band in coffee shops and bars where we had the chance to reach out to those way outside of the church. All the while I had numerous chances to continue doing music at a few different churches and continued to be involved with mentoring urban youth.

2010-2011 was a year where we helped to launch a worship venue called “Green Resonate” out of the Chapel in Akron, Ohio.  I continued to work at a coffee shop and work with urban youth during this time as well.

2011-2013 were years where we lived in a little bohemian, yet rural ski-town called North Conway, New Hampshire.  This is where our lovely, wily little treasure Charlotte Sofia White was born.  I was an associate pastor of worship, and got to launch a young adult and youth small group.  We were in a church re-plant called “Journey Church”.  I completed a Masters of Christian Studies through Trinity Divinity School out of Deerfield, IL, and became ordained as a pastor through the Christian and Missionary Alliance during this time.

Jesus has thoroughly changed my life- and it’s really only the beginning…

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9 thoughts on “Bio: From Addiction to Purpose

  1. Very well written. We have to talk about this though. I do remember going to church every sunday when you and I were kids, and that was not something you and your family did. After a childhood filled with religious guidance I eventually started to view it as a cancer to social progression. Don’t get me wrong..I don’t begrudge anyone’s beliefs and I think it’s great if you’ve found happiness within it’s walls. It’s just ironic i guess. Being as I grew up without a choice, and you found it at an age when it was appropriate to find.I’ve often thought we should not teach our children religion until the age of at least 16… Sort of like a drivers license. Religion is a heavy concept. Far heavier than put your blinker on or right on red. Yet so many children grow up like myself. It is forced on them, and then the rational part of their brain asks questions, and that eventually leads to being dissulussioned. To be clear.. I am only writing this because I thought what you wrote was candid and interesting and frankly convincing. I suppose I’m still fighting an internal battle with my thoughts as far as organized religion goes. In spite of it all I wish you all the best man

    • I appreciate your response man. Yes… in a sense I was fortunate that my parents didn’t lay too much “religious baggage” on me when I was younger. To be frank about it (which I usually am), Gary was hitting a one-hitter on the way to business meetings all the way up to the age of 57- 4 years ago- when he made the same commitment I did at 20. My home was a little mini Ireland growing up- Mary Ann was a disenfranchised Catholic who got booted out for divorce, and then Vatican 2 kicked in and kind of confusingly “re-accepted” divorcees by mandate of the pope. Gary’s parents told him he was satan for questioning their fundamentalist protestant doctrine at the age of 13, and got let loose into an era of Vietnam, Rock n’ Roll, living in the Cleveland ghetto, tripping out on LSD, and flipping the bird at the Bible and church in a priestly robe before performing David Bowie’s “Suffragette City” in his band Pyramid. So I guess I did have religious baggage… more that my folks argued about religion and yet rejected it at the same time. That’s what left me so free to explore every religion- from the Tibetan book of the Dead, to Astrology, to B.K.S. Iyengar’s “Tree of Yoga”, etc… I then started reading the Bible in comparison with this stuff- just freely and trying to throw out all the hypocrisy I had seen in most “Christians” I knew at the time. And it just blew me away. It’s like I couldn’t poke holes in it. And it would take me back into better parts of my life- like moments during bad trips on mushrooms when I’d be crying and praying to the wind or whatever… And to this day I’m still trying to poke holes in it’s logic, and it continues to respond to me by transforming my logic and my life. That’s a part of my story I guess- and it continues. I did notice that your struggle with religion comes out in your music- which is really great by the way. Know for sure you’ve got a definite fan in me, and an old friend. I’m spreading your music around to everyone I know around here- including some good friends of ours in a band “Bethesda”- I told em’ to bring you out to play gigs with them, and they have a good name in the Cleveland/Akron scene right now. Here’s a link: http://bethesdaband.com/ If you ever need anything let me know. And can I make a request that you put that stuff on ITunes so I can buy it?

  2. Pingback: 2010 in review « benwhite29

  3. Hi Benjamin,
    My name is Karalynn and I am also a believer in Jesus Christ, I found that I have passion for human trafficking and helping people understand that they mean something and are cared about. So I started a blogging project called Not Just A Number, which I am using to bring about awareness of human trafficking and try to show people that yes, there are 27,000,000+ people who are being trafficked but they are not just numbers they mean something they have faces names stories, and unique fingerprints, just like you and I. So I want people to see that those in trafficking are not just a number, but neither are those who aren’t being trafficked you, me, the guy that wrote the comment above this. We are not just a number. So I am asking people to share their life stories or testimonies along with their first name their broad location (i.e. state, or country) and a picture of their fingerprint. I would be honored if you would share your story, if you choose to, just email me at we.are.notjust.numbers@gmail.com
    http://wearenotjustanumber.wordpress.com/

  4. Hi Ben,
    To God be the Glory! Great things He has done!
    Only God can change a heart. ” There is no pit so deep that God is not deeper still” – Corrie ten Boom.
    I’m enjoying your writings, Ben. Keep going!

  5. Pingback: Denoument | God, Drugs and Rock n' Roll

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