I thought God was dead
Before I became a Christian I had no time for religion. I considered it a human invention, sold as ‘truth’ and followed by people too ‘gutless’ to live according to their own sense of morality.
I was polite to Christians but inside they made me angry. They promoted an absolute, namely, God, and I didn’t believe in absolutes – they were a denial of human freedom. Christianity was simply an oppressive system of thought and the sooner the world was free from its ‘taint’ the better.
I lived out my atheistic beliefs. I even made a will that specified a humanist funeral – to tell the world that God was indeed ‘dead’. I used my teaching position, both subtly and overtly, to undermine Christianity.
I sent hostile e-mails to various Christian anti-abortion groups, and this led me to participate in Christian on-line forums. I enjoyed the challenge, often boasting to my students about my ‘victories’ in arguments. I read the Bible in order to challenge it.
But after some months I became more than intellectually curious. I found myself battling against a desire to ask, ‘Are you there, God?’ I was angry with myself for wanting to even ask this question.
As my curiosity grew, so did the conflict. Partly in response to a challenge and partly to try to end a ‘journey’ I didn’t want to make, I decided to visit a church. Apart from a couple of weddings and funerals, I had never been to a church service before.
For three successive Sundays I sat outside the church in my car and watched, my pride hurt. When I finally made it through the doors, it wasn’t with a seeking heart but hoping to confirm my criticisms. Then, I reasoned, my life could return to normal.
For months I listened and the conflict and frustration grew. For some reason I couldn’t just quit and walk away from it all. I could only do that once I had gathered the ammunition needed to justify my unbelief.
So I decided to create a situation (an argument) to justify leaving in a self-righteous manner. But these people wouldn’t play my game. I tried to engage the pastor, but he also refused to argue. I was left angry and frustrated – and still needing an excuse to quit and walk.
Then one day, driving home in the car, God suddenly became a reality. I knew he was there. It was a simple ‘knowingness’ – like knowing the reality of the air I breathe. For over thirty hours I struggled with God. No sleep and no work.
I tried desperately to convince myself that my sense of his reality was just some psychological phenomenon. If I ignored him, I reasoned, and stopped going to church and reading the Bible, I would soon recover.
I went to bed early, quite at peace. I had a strategy to deal with God’s seeming reality and was quite chuffed with myself. I even had a story to share – how Christianity had almost indoctrinated me!
At one o’clock in the morning I found myself wide awake. I went downstairs and just sat there. A sense of nothingness just grew and grew – beyond a mere negative emotion, beyond depression.
And then I became aware of the presence of Christ. I did not see or hear anything but I knew his reality and presence. And I knew he was saying: ‘That’s enough now’. He was right. It was enough.
During the moments that followed, I did not decide to adopt some religious principles or embrace some therapeutic system. I didn’t even become ‘all religious’. Rather, I entered into a relationship with my God – One who had hung on a cross for me so that I might be reconciled to him and know him.
On reflection I believe that the awful nothingness I experienced that night was a glimpse of what it means to be separated from God. Now, by his grace, I will not face such a thing when I die but will live with God for ever.
This all happened on 30 October 2002 and I was baptised seven months later. Today I remain assured of the reality of Christ. Through the many physical, spiritual and emotional trials that followed my conversion, I have discovered more than ever that Christ is no illusion.
With trials have come great blessings, the greatest being the constant affirmation that Christ is alive today – still calling people to know him. He remains the closest and wisest friend I will ever know, who will guide me daily through this life and eventually into heaven for eternity.
That is the power of the God I once declared ‘dead’.