One afternoon, as I decided to lie back on my bed, a vision suddenly and unexpectedly began playing out like a movie before my eyes. It was a completely new experience and took me totally by surprise.
In the vision I saw a man floundering in the ocean. He was exhausted and looked about to drown. It was night-time and I saw distant pinprick lights on the shoreline. The ocean was dark and the man was struggling to stay afloat. He clambered towards what appeared to be a rock in front of him but as he reached out to cling onto it, it floated off like a piece of loose Styrofoam. What the man thought was a stable landmass to grab onto for stability and much needed rest was not what it had appeared to be at all. It felt in the vision as though this was the last chance the man would have for survival. He was just too tired to keep on swimming. Then the vision ended.
When I left high school I had no idea what career path to follow. I suddenly had to make some very important decisions about my future and I was immediately conscious that there was nothing by which I could judge my decisions. There seemed to be no available reference point by which I could judge and decide whether or not I was making the right decisions. It became obviously critical to me that the question of God’s existence first be settled in order to know how to properly proceed. Surely my decisions had to reflect and be a response to a deeper underlying meaning and purpose? I needed an objective standard, a reference point, according to which I could establish the value of my choices and be sure that they were meaningful choices. I couldn’t decide whether or not choosing, (for e.g.) to follow a career in psychology would “make me into” a psychologist down the road, or whether the decision to become a psychologist had to be based upon something internal, something that made me “feel” like a psychologist on the inside, that was there beforehand or even that it was something “written in the stars”, something that I knew was “right” in a kind of predestined way. Yet on the inside I felt totally void and could not decide if there was anything that I truly believed. I had no sense of purpose, which was simply there just as a consequence of being born. I started feeling very ‘lost’.
Exposed to philosophy upon entering my studies at University, I was further introduced to the teachings of some of the great thinkers, which further fueled my quest for understanding and the hope that I would, ultimately, be brought to some kind of truth to live by. I remember watching a television programme where a woman was recounting an experience she had of meeting with some (supposedly) alien beings. They asked her for “truth tested by fire”. She gave them a bible. I wondered about that decision of hers, but I definitely identified with their quest for truth. I had a sense of their utter desperation. They had scoured the universe for Truth. They believed it valuable enough to travel light years to find. It was like the continued existence of their race depended upon finding it.
I was always conscious that, implicit in the belief that life is a purposeless accident, a random event with no meaning and going nowhere, is the basic futility of all human endeavors and worthlessness of human life. This underlying belief system fostered in me a no-care attitude, which led to drug abuse, depression and a morbid obsession with death. I tried but could not come to terms with death. Life itself seemed purposeless; what sense could I be expected to make of death? The idea that you have been thrown into some meaningless existence, not going anywhere, gives you the sense that you have no intrinsic value and are therefore not worth caring about either, just the product of some random event. At University I began experimenting with various drugs like LSD and speed and immersed myself in the Gothic subculture, which romanticizes death (possibly to make it easier to deal with). My own conclusions about “Reality”, as I understood it to be, made it impossible for me to square up to life. It seemed too harsh to be able to deal with. My suicidal thoughts, obsessive introspection and sense of isolation only grew. I was becoming more and more depressed and my drug habits were growing worse and worse as I increasingly tried to find an escape from my crushing sense of emptiness, loneliness and despair. After a while I began turning inward, looking for answers “within me”.
To paraphrase Dostoevsky, the existentialist philosopher, “If God does not exist, then everything is permissible.” Without God there is no Objective Truth, no absolute moral code. I realized that if God does not exist then there is no accountability. We can do as we please and nobody actually has any authority to claim that their moral code (or lack thereof) is a more valid perspective than ours. Adolf Hitler is no worse off than Mother Theresa and Mother Theresa is no better off than Adolf Hitler if God does not exist. The murderer who murders for material gain is simply living by a certain belief system that cannot be challenged because, if God does not exist, then there is no ultimately meaningful standard by which to condemn his conduct. It’s all man-made in a universe without God. Governments actually cannot make rules because nobody with sufficient authority gave them the mandate, unless you want to adhere to the concept of a “superior race” (like Hitler did). Even so, on what basis would such “superiority” be established? In a meaningless world, everyone’s life is meaningless and why should we obey rules made by people whose lives are just as meaningless and insignificant as our own? Their views carry no absolute weight, at least no more weight than ours. To be completely one hundred percent selfish would make far more rational sense in a world where human beings have no intrinsic value, dignity, purpose or destiny. Without the Spirit of God, we are left relying on the human mind as the only source of guidance, an utterly subjective basis and according to evolutionary theory, only there in the first place because of its survival value. If there is a God, then He must define the meaning of “truth”. If there is no God, then truth can be defined in any way simply because there is by implication no objective truth anyway. This realization of the moral void just added to my overall sense of despair.
All through my Varsity years my searching continued. I began reading up on Buddhism and started meditation; I read up on the world-view of the American Indians and the New Age gurus of the current age, gravitating towards the new age teaching coming out of a place called Findhorn in Scotland. However, when I read that the founder’s husband died in a car accident I remember feeling very discouraged and felt that the accident was way too arbitrary for God to be involved in what they were up to. Still somehow I had the idea that I would come out at the answers I was looking for if I continued looking inside myself. However, as much as I did, my life was not changing or improving but all these wonderful ideas and philosophies continued to leave me feeling hollow and unfulfilled.
One day I was sitting on my bed quietly trying to calm and “centre” myself, when I heard and saw three small words appear within me:
I LOVE YOU
The experience surprised me greatly yet I knew intuitively that it was God Himself who had spoken to me. Still, I couldn’t get my head around this event of God Himself speaking to me. I knew inside of me that it was true, yet my mind could not absorb it. My life did not change and I even began smoking more dope. Just having my mental belief in God strengthened did nothing to actually change my life, which kind of surprised me and even made me a little worried. I was still basically unhappy and still searching, still going through hours of black depression. Around this time is when the vision mentioned above was shown to me.
Then one day I found myself driving to a friend’s house to say goodbye as he was leaving for the UK the next day. Sean was my Christian friend who had become a Christian while we were at University together. Sean told me that an evangelist had visited his dad one day at their house and his dad had accepted Christ. Sean went from being an intellectual atheist to becoming a Christian, a transition I could rationalize away to a certain degree because I had studied sociology and I knew the power of influence from significant others. However, what did not quite gel with the whole sociological explanation was that I knew Sean well and he was an intelligent and independent individual, quite capable of making his own well-thought-out decisions. Nevertheless, Sean and I remained friends and therefore I was off to say goodbye as he was leaving for an indefinite time. Our conversation turned to God and while we were talking another friend of Sean’s also arrived to say cheers. We all three sat together and then Sean’s friend said one line that just penetrated right into me. He looked at me and said,
“No-one cometh unto the Father except through Jesus Christ”.
Those words immediately registered something inside me. They then both asked me if I would like to pray with them. It felt rather awkward but I thought “hey, why not, it’s not like I don’t believe in God or anything.” I kind of felt that I knew just as much about God as they did and to not pray would almost be like demonstrating ignorance and “losing” the whole debate about God’s nature that we were just engaged in a few moments before. I couldn’t talk about God and then decline to pray afterwards. So we kneeled down together and I prayed something along the following lines:
I confessed to having sinned and missed the mark or standard God has set. I was led to pray that I accepted Jesus’ substitutional sacrifice for me by suffering on the cross on my behalf and that I would accept him as Lord and Saviour of my life. Sean’s friend told me to repeat over and over “I am washed by the Blood of Jesus.” Although I didn’t understand the full meaning of the words at the time, when I said them over and over, peace filled me and began to wash over me. I suddenly felt wrapped in warmth that I couldn’t describe. Out of nowhere tears started flowing and I couldn’t stop myself from crying. I felt so alive and humbled at the same time. How wrong I had been. My entire “intellectual edifice” that had been built up over years came crumbling down. It was immensely humbling but so liberating. All these years I had been trying to approach God as I was, not first acknowledging my moral failures. Once I had accepted that Jesus had died to pay for my sins and then approached God on this basis, the way to God was perfectly clear. I didn’t realize that the block between me and God was there because of sin. I had not even really been conscious of sin in the first place and I had no real understanding of sin at all at the time. Only once did it ever cross my mind that I may have “sinned’’ in a Christian sense. I knew that I had sinned because I had had premarital sex. Other than that the whole concept of sin was basically foreign and distant to me. However, the Bible does declare that it is our sin that has separated us from God.
As I sat on Sean’s couch with tears streaming down my face, God spoke to me words that I will never forget. I saw a gate opening and I heard the words “Jesus is the Gate”. I also “heard” a sound like a waterfall or something like the wings of thousands of doves. Sean told me afterwards that the Bible says that the angels rejoice over one sinner who repents. What I had heard was the sound of angels rejoicing. The sun broke through the clouds after the prayer and began to warm me all over so that I had to get up and find another seat. As I sat down, the sun rays fell onto me again immediately and I remember Sean laughing because it was just so symbolic of what had just happened in my life. The gate in my heart had opened and God’s favour had begun to be poured out into my life.
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