April 8, 2016

Baptism Profile: Greg Mullen

Name: Greg Mullen
Hometown: Harare, Zimbabwe
Vocation: Musician
Favorite Ice Cream: Mint Chocolate Chip

1. Tell us how your story started.

I was born and raised in Zimbabwe and moved to Massachusetts when I was 15. I was brought up in a culture informed by post-colonial British sensibilities and attended a Christian school called St. John’s where we sang hymns every day. Our family attended church for holidays and when I stayed with my grandma I was forced to attend Sunday school. Christianity was very much a structural part of my reality as a child but not something that I connected with very deeply on a personal level.

2. Tell us about how your story intersected with Jesus’ story.

I remember as a young teenager, maybe 13 years old, being given a pocket Gideon’s bible and reading it cover to cover. I really loved to read and even though much of the language was beyond my comprehension I understood enough to have a meaningful experience connecting with the the Word, especially the gospel of Jesus Christ. That was the first time that I felt the presence of Christ in my heart. Around that same time I began playing guitar and singing in a worship group with a few of my friends. I remember connecting the devotion that I felt with singing songs of praise (both those contemporary tunes as well as the hymns that we sang daily) with that sense of Christ’s presence in my heart.

3. Describe what your journey of following Jesus has looked like up to now.

At a certain point I began to feel rebellious towards the closed, conformist nature of my culture and I became very aware of certain hypocrisies that I perceived in the behavior of adults in my life. I remember having the distinct impression that “Christian values” were being used to justify white superiority and a culture of cruelty and fear. At that point I gradually began to reject Christianity as I knew it along with the rest of the culture in which I was raised. I was somewhat relieved when my parents announced that we were moving to the United States as a result of political and economic turmoil in Zimbabwe at the time. When we moved to the States, my exposure to conservative Christian values in American culture further solidified my position that I wanted nothing to do with the church. I grew my hair long, began to experience depression, discovered weed and punk rock and proceeded to be a real pain in the ass for my parents until I went off to college. Throughout all of this time I was doing my best to ignore Christ altogether but I was still grappling with my spiritual reality in the face of God. I dipped my toes into whatever mystical traditions called out to me and began to cobble together a meditation practice. Throughout the years I had a variety of spiritual experiences which led me to different types of connection with the Infinite. This spiritual quest was informed largely by my need to escape my own emotional suffering. Through everything from yoga and meditation to the psychedelic experience, I felt the presence of God by stripping away my own layers of ego and identity and realizing that there was always something that remained, an unchanging point of perception from which everything was witnessed. This was the basis for my spiritual understanding and self-healing as I fumbled through the beginning of my adult life and tried to create a sustainable reality for myself expressing truth through music, a process which led me through a bunch of weird day jobs. Last year I got a job working at a juice bar and met a girl named Emily who seemed to embody in her very presence the kind of peace and light that I had been searching for. Between mopping floors and peeling bananas we talked deeply about our lives and our spiritual paths and through those conversations fell in love with one another. What astounded me about Emily’s path was that she had arrived at this place not by gradually forging her own Spiritual tradition pieced together over years, but that she had been directly changed and saved by the grace and mercy of Christ. As we talked more and she began to share scripture with me and encourage me to read the Word on my own, I had this growing sense that Christ had been walking right behind me all throughout my journey. I felt that He had never left my heart, even though I had done my best to avoid confronting the reality of His love. Over the course of this Easter that just passed I connected very deeply and personally with Christ. I saw him on the cross and I saw myself witnessing his crucifixion. I read about Peter’s denial of Christ and I felt the pain of that denial. I also felt Jesus’ boundless understanding, mercy and forgiveness. I have emerged from this time contemplating what Resurrection means for me at this point in my life. I feel that baptism is the right way for me to begin what feels in every way like a new chapter of my life and I am so grateful and humbled to have found the Vox community right now, just when I need it.

4. How do you sense God leading you to participate in creating His Kingdom here on earth?

I sense God tying a thread between all the varying experiences that I have had and invigorating me with faith in Him and subsequently in myself to serve as a connector and bring people together. I feel that my artistic passions and my ability to relate to all sorts of different people across cultural boundaries will be used in interesting and exciting ways to bring love, light and healing into the world. I want to make a joyful noise for the Lord! I am so thankful for Emily and I feel that through our love, we will empower one another to be better and brighter servants of God’s will. I would love to have children some day, God-willing and raise them with Christ. I am more excited about the future than I have ever been and although I know there will be challenges and difficult times, I feel that I can meet those challenges and endure those difficult times with Christ in my heart.

[Photo by Elaine Roome]

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