From my earliest recollection, Church was a part of my weekly routine.  My dad was a Southern Baptist minister and that meant that we went to church every Sunday morning, Sunday evening and Wednesday evening each week (whether we wanted to or not).  I turned my life over to Christ at the age of eight during an RA (Royal Ambassador) Wednesday evening service.   I was baptized shortly thereafter but honestly I didn’t feel like anything really changed in my life.  I decided to follow Christ when I became aware of sin but to me I was just doing what was expected of me.

I really liked Church as a child.  It was full of nice people and I looked forward to seeing the familiar faces each week.  Honestly, Church was probably the one “social” happening that our family had on a regular basis.  So I embraced my Church family as a child.

As I grew older, I began to grow very cynical about Church.  I saw gossip, judgmental behavior and politics creep into Church.  I also saw how Church affected my Dad.  He was a pastor and Church was among other things his job.  I soon realized that Church caused stress and anxiety for him.  

I also became pretty jealous of Church.  My dad spent time with shut-ins, sick folks in the hospital, hours at Deacon’s meetings and I often found myself competing for his time.  In retrospect, I am sure many kids feel like they compete for their dad’s affections, but I blamed Church for his stress and long hours.  All of this culminated with me hitting my teenage years with a pretty bad attitude.

When I finally was able to leave the house and go off to college I pretty much left church behind as well.  I loved the Lord but had some pretty bitter feelings about Church.  To me Church had become a place where “good people” seemed awfully judgmental and divisive.  Maybe I was wrong, but I had a pretty negative opinion of Church.

After graduating college and marrying Terri-Lynn, we became involved in Church.  It was a good experience for me because for the first time in my life, my father was not my pastor.  I actually enjoyed Church again and felt re-energized.  But I had a big problem in my life.  I was becoming too focused on my career and I started to allow my career to take precedence over everything.

I was pretty successful in my job and by the time I was 33, I had become CFO and shortly thereafter President & CEO of the company.  I was punch-drunk with my career.  The money was good and the perks were great.  I felt like I had reached the mountaintop and it felt pretty good.  The only problem was that it was all about to be swept away.

The company was not in the best financial shape when I became President, and business dynamics continued to work against us.  Eventually it became apparent that we had run out of options.  On July 16, 2003 I sat in Federal Bankruptcy Court in Raleigh, NC representing my company that had filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy the previous day. 

Over the next several months I worked tirelessly to save the company and salvage my job, but it was not meant to be.  We had gone from a $225 million company with 1,600 employees to an afterthought.  I worked with the courts and creditors to liquidate the pieces of our business and eventually the task was complete.  I went from CEO of a multimillion dollar company to sitting at home watching Oprah with my two young children in what seems like the blink of an eye.

In retrospect, that was the best thing that could have ever happened to me.  I lost the “stuff” that I thought was important.  However, God never abandoned me.  My family grew closer.  It took losing “everything” for me to realize that I was a very rich man.  I had a wonderful family, good health and a Savior who was guiding my every step even though times were rough.  I fought depression, self-doubt and felt grief over my lost opportunity.  It was a difficult time in my life, but there was no doubt that Christ finally had me where He wanted me to be. 

I became a better husband, better father, better friend and more appreciative follower of Christ.  I came to realize I had allowed my career to take precedence over everything else in my life.  It had become my “God.”  I also gained a new appreciation for all the blessings that Christ had bestowed upon me even when I was pursuing another god and even when I had a sour attitude about Church. 

Christ rescued me from myself.   I tried my best to leave God and He pursued me tirelessly.  He pulled away my most precious things in order to show me that he had a better life for me.  He even renewed my love and passion for the Church.   It is wonderful to know that I have a savior that disciplines, pursues and loves me more than I deserve.

From my earliest recollection, Church was a part of my weekly routine.   Now I can proudly say that Christ is part of my soul and not just part of my routine.

– Dale Fite