Confessions of faith: Steinhorst

After trying to find answers on his own, a man discovers God’s answers to life’s important questions.

Gabriella Moline

“Figure it out for yourself.”

Don Steinhorst heard those words any time he asked his parents questions while growing up. And as a child, Steinhorst had a lot of questions, many regarding how he came to earth and what God’s purpose in his life was. Those questions are difficult for some parents to answer, and it’s not surprising that their answer to his questions was not really an answer.

Finding his own answers

Steinhorst turned to reading the Bible. After reading Genesis and the creation of Adam, Steinhorst concluded that God had created him in the same way as the first man was created. He believed God formed him with clay and breathed the breath of life into him from heaven, with no parents involved.

He came across a magazine one day with a picture of a nursery in a hospital. For him, that was the final piece of the puzzle regarding his birth. Until the age of 13, Steinhorst concluded God had placed him in the nursery at birth for his parents to pick up and take home.

Steinhorst had one Lutheran parent and one Catholic parent and was raised in the Catholic faith. He attended catechism class every Friday and learned the church’s teachings, but he never opened a Bible.

His parents also did not take him to church to learn more. The reason was simple: his little brother often made noise and disrupted the service. In catechism class, Steinhorst learned that if you do not attend church, then you are going to hell, unless you attend confession with the priest.

“To me, going to confession was a nightmare,” says Steinhorst. “I figured back then that I was the most sinful human being who ever walked the face of the earth. I assumed every other family went to church on Sunday, except us.”

When his family casually discussed church and religion, Steinhorst was perplexed that they were not more concerned about going to hell.

So, like the other mysteries in his young life, he came to his own conclusion. Steinhorst decided that his family must be secretly going to church each Sunday and that it was all a test from God. But by these standards, he had failed, because he himself missed church each week. He was miserable because he had was not part of his family’s secret attendance and he did not make the effort to go himself.

The thought of going to hell tormented Steinhorst. The catechism instructor told Steinhorst’s class that anyone carrying a mortal sin would not have their prayers heard by God, so Steinhorst stopped praying altogether.

He also cut himself off from people. He did not want anyone to know his secret—that he was going to hell. It weighed on his heart heavily. At school, he did not talk to any of the other students. He hid and avoided any conversations. The only friends he had were his cousins. “It got to the point where it was literally almost making me sick,” Steinhorst says. “Every time I went to religion class, it made me feel more and more guilty all the time.”

When he was 20 years old, his whole worldview changed. Steinhorst discovered that his whole belief in God was wrapped up in how he figured things out for himself. But that was all wrong. After making this realization, he immediately became an atheist.

Finding God’s answers

Steinhorst and his cousins went to see a movie called The Late, Great Planet Earth. They expected it to be a horror movie, but they found it made a deeper impression on them than they expected.

The 1979 movie, narrated by Orson Welles, is based on the book of Revelation and its descriptions of the end times. Steinhorst had never heard of this book of the Bible before and found himself both fascinated and terrified by the content of the movie.

In those catechism classes at the Catholic church, the priest said there was no reason for him to have a Bible. Steinhorst had never explored the biblical texts himself; he only read Genesis and absorbed what he heard from his instructors.

After seeing The Late, Great Planet Earth, Steinhorst decided to buy the book of Revelation at a local bookstore. The cashier told him, though, that he could not just buy one book of the Bible but would have to buy the entire Bible. Steinhorst left the store that day with a Bible. “That was the first Bible I ever owned,” Steinhorst says.

Steinhorst began a journey exploring the Christian faith. He started listening to Christian radio programs. He looked up Bible passages that were mentioned in the shows. His faith and life began to grow.

Steinhorst eventually joined a Christian church near his home. He was not completely happy with some of its beliefs, so five years ago, he visited St. John, Fox Lake, Wis.

David Nottling, pastor at St. John, says that Steinhorst just showed up in church one day and has been coming ever since. “He would even sometimes let me know if he was going to miss church or couldn’t come one week,” says Nottling. “I couldn’t get him to take the classes at first, but he kept coming to worship.”

After a major surgery, Steinhorst knew he would be out of work for several weeks. So he decided that it would be the perfect time to take the courses with Nottling and become an member of the church.

“I can remember in class one time that we were talking about Martin Luther, and Don borrowed my book on him,” Nottling says. “Don told me that he experienced what Luther went through, how he was afraid of God.”

As a member of St. John, Steinhorst feels a sense of peace and comfort in knowing that Jesus has suffered and died for his sins. He also has developed new relationships and friendships. Last spring, he sponsored a trip to the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter for a group of children and adults from the congregation. This was the first time he traveled out of the state of Wisconsin.

“I did a complete 180 compared to where I was before,” Steinhorst says. “I’m so happy now.”

Today, Steinhorst goes to church and Bible study every week, not for fear of going to hell if he misses but because of his deep love for Christ.

Gabriella Moline is a member at Zion, Crete, Illinois.

Did you know that “Confessions of faith” has been a series in Forward in Christ for ten years? Started in April 2008 to share stories of peoples’ journeys of faith, this series also helps teach the differences between the teachings of WELS and other religions and gives us all the opportunity to rejoice in the work of the Holy Spirit. What do you appreciate most about this series? Any favorite stories? Share your thoughts with us at [email protected].


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Author: Gabriella Moline
Volume 105, Number 4
Issue: April 2018

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