I haven’t been able to keep up with my Sunday Bible study much of late. Been traveling. To Italy. To Austria. Mom’s been in town. Excuses, I know. And initially, I felt a little bad about missing a few Sundays, for I had committed to writing a reflection on what I had been reading in the Bible every week, and I didn’t fulfill that commitment. But as I walked around Hermosa Beach this morning, I felt that pressure melt away. This New Year’s resolution of mine – to finally, finally read the Bible – has never been about sharing my faith.

It’s been about finding it in the first place.

I would, however, like to share something with you. About the reason why I’m writing this particular piece. About the reason why I’m reading the Bible at all.

In June, I began dating the Greatest Human I Know. Her name is Delaney Knudsen. Delaney, and all of her family, are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, known to most as Mormon. At the time, I couldn’t tell you the difference between Mormon and Methodist and Catholic and Lutheran and Islam and Buddhist. I figured, as the months went on, and Delaney and I became closer, I should learn a little something about what she believes. So I read the Book of Mormon. Whole thing. Every word. Which was great. I loved it. I felt, though, a nagging guilt.

I had read the Book of Mormon, but I had never even read the Bible.

Sure, I’d opened to the parts we were told on the occasions I had gone to church. I’d plucked some nice verses off the internet and bandied them about like a good Christian boy. But I didn’t know anything, honestly. I knew the stories of men named Laman and Nephi better than Moses and David. I knew Alma and Mosiah better than Daniel and Joseph.

I knew the Mormon faith better than my own.

And what was my own, anyway?

I didn’t know. I knew there was a God – The Big Man Upstairs, or BMU for short. And Jesus was his son. That summed it up.

After reading the Book of Mormon, I felt a certain accountability to explore my own faith. To read the characters in the Bible I had heard so much about but didn’t actually know. It’s a bit like the time before I had watched Game of Thrones – I had always heard the characters and references, but didn’t get them, because I hadn’t watched it.

Now, as I’ve been reading, I’m coming to know, and the irony of me finding my own faith on an inspiration of another is not lost on me. The LDS church has a fun tradition on the first Sunday of the month. I call it open mic Sundays, where everybody in the congregation has the chance to speak their testimony of God, how their belief has been strengthened or discovered or whatever it is they’d like the share.

This isn’t the first Sunday of the month, but I had an excused absence, in Austria, and another, in Italy, so I’m giving myself a pass.

This is mine.

The previous 500 words have been informative in terms of why I’m now reading the Bible, discovering my faith. But those are the easy pieces of the puzzle to this faith journey, the ones with the straight edges you know are borders and are therefore pretty simple to put together.

Guy meets girl; girl takes him to church; guy explores faith is not a new narrative, even if the twist of the Book of Mormon inspiring me to read the Bible is a bit unusual.

But let’s go back. Examine it a bit further.

Delaney and I met at AVP Austin. A tournament neither of us thought we were going to play. The only option I felt confident in going with was Raffe Paulis. Otherwise, there wasn’t much point in traveling to a loaded qualifier without hopes of qualifying. One day before registration closed, Raffe got back to me, said he was in. When it takes that long for someone to confirm you as their partner, you know you weren’t their first option. I was probably Raffe’s last hope.

Delaney also hadn’t planned on going. She was burned out, didn’t really search for partners. Until Raffe’s girlfriend, Avery Bush, reached out, said she’d be down to play. Delaney figured why not.

Against odds on both sides, we both went. Against astronomical odds on my side, Raffe and I made main draw, my first, which meant I had the chance to actually meet Delaney, who had been playing at a different site. Because Raffe and I were still in, they came over to watch us play and we wound up riding home together.

So the reason I’m studying the Bible is because of a girl from a faith I had never explored, whom I met playing in a tournament neither of us expected to play, partly because I did something I had never done and was highly unlikely to do.

But let’s go back. Those pieces, too, are fairly easy.

A beach volleyball tournament? Is that where we met?

A younger version of myself would have scoffed at the notion. We didn’t play beach volleyball in Maryland, lest you count jungleball on the grass on those flimsy nets put up at graduation parties. We didn’t play volleyball at all, lest you count gym class.

But they do play in Florida. Especially in a town called Navarre. It’s a place tiny enough that the only real thing to do there is to play beach volleyball. Courts are lit up at night at a bar called Juana’s, one of the few in town and where most everybody in the town goes at night.

I had moved to Navarre four years prior to meeting Delaney. I had moved there on a whim. On a decision made quite drunk, actually. In January of 2014, I had been snowed in at my best friend Jason Wheatley’s house. We had been drinking beers, watching basketball, eating his now-wife, Jenny Kim’s (now Wheatley) delicious food. By the time I went to leave, the roads were too dangerous for a sober person to drive, and I wasn’t really all that sober. So I stayed. Declared I was sick of the snow. Moving south.


Don’t care. Anywhere south of Virginia till do.

Two weeks later I got a call from a lady named Eleanor at the Northwest Florida Daily News. She wanted to do a preliminary interview, see if I was a fit for the high school job I had applied for. I laughed out loud. I had forgotten I’d applied at all.

That April, I moved to Navarre, Florida, a town I had never heard of. A town in which I knew not one person, save for Mark Lammey, who moved there with me for six months before turning back. A town where I discovered beach volleyball.

So the reason I’m studying the Bible is because I’m dating a girl of a faith I had never before explored, playing in a tournament neither of us expected to play, making a main draw I was never supposed to make, in a sport I had never played prior to my 24th birthday, which I learned in a state I moved to because I got snowed in at my friend’s place, hired by a newspaper I had forgotten I applied to.

The pieces are getting trickier now. But still: Let’s examine this further.

The call to California? Didn’t expect to get that, either. Jason, my aforementioned best friend, had moved to Brea with Jenny, then his fiancé. Jenny’s family runs an educational consulting company named Admission Masters. It was scaling and expanding quickly. They needed help in the writing department, someone who could guide high school students on their college application essays.

I fit the bill.

Good timing, too. I was a year and a half into my Florida life, and I had grown restless, bottled up. Ceilings had been hit. I was itchy. The sports writing mecca is Los Angeles. Same with beach volleyball, this new passion of mine.

Imagine that.

Since we were kids, Jason and I had always talked about moving in together. We even tossed around the idea of buying a giant house and raising our families together. Somehow, I lived with virtually everyone in the states of Florida and Maryland but not Jason. At the moment in which my restlessness was reaching its zenith, Jason and Jenny offered me a spot in their house in Brea, as well as a job.

A job that would take me to California. A job that would expose me to the best beach volleyball in the world. A job that would serve as the first building block, the foundation to what has become a spectacular life on the West Coast. A job that I was also entirely unqualified for, but one I accepted no less.

So the reason I’m studying the Bible is because I’m dating a girl of a faith I had never before explored, playing in a tournament neither of us expected to play, making a main draw I was never supposed to make, in a sport I had never played prior to my 24th birthday, which I learned in a state I moved to because I got snowed in at my friend’s place, hired by a newspaper I had forgotten I applied to, then lured to California for a job in education for which I was certainly unqualified.

I can continue to go back. All the way to fifth grade, honestly, when I received my first impetus to pursue sports writing, the gig that led me to that newspaper in Florida, where my life was flipped upside down and sideways. But I wouldn’t want to bore you. So here’s the simple story: Sports writing led me to Florida, which led me to beach volleyball, which partly led me to California, a move made for a job I never imagined I’d take, which served as my foothold while I improved at beach volleyball, which allowed me to become good enough to qualify in a tournament I didn’t think I’d play, where I met a girl from a different faith, who for some reason said yes to dinner at a restaurant called Serve on Second, who handed me a book of a faith I’d never explored, which then led me to exploring my own faith.

I often wrestle with the question: Coincidence or God? One thing could be coincidence. Two? sure. Three? Maybe. But when I go back, examine every step, every strange puzzle piece that led me to reading the Bible, finding my own faith, and those steps can be traced back to fifth grade? I cannot, just cannot, attribute it to coincidence. It’s too much for me.

So that’s what been on my mind these past few weeks. Why I haven’t put out a Bible study.

And anyway, it’s been for me all along.