God exists. God of the Bible exists. I didn’t always believe that, but knowing that now, how can I convince any readers of the truthfulness of that statement? Maybe if I admit my previous ignorance, would that help? Or would that seem that I am making this essay all about me? Nevertheless, here I go…
My youth was spent on normal mid 20th Century American pursuits- like learning how to ride a bicycle, playing Cowboys and Indians, going to Sunday School, learning how to catch a baseball and a football, smoking cigarettes, stealing from my Dad’s coin bank, shoplifting, lying about every wrong thing I did… Well, I don’t know how much of my youth was actually “normal,” but those things I do remember.
My adolescence was also spent on normal American pursuits- from trying to fit in, sports, studying, binge drinking, listening to RocknRoll, finding a girlfriend, attempting suicide… you know- “normal stuff.” Lots of fun with a spattering of darkness.
My young adulthood started off with a more intertwined complexity of depression as my foundation, having a job without any thought to a career, and seeking to escape my reality by smoking marijuana. As I continued my escape, I ended up in California chasing the Hippie Dream. I was a couple years late, but still went through the motions. The Hippies were no more. Yet, I was stoned and didn’t really notice.
By that time, I was snorting every drug I could find, including the use of the hallucinogen, LSD. One night after “dropping a tab,” I encountered what was called a “bad trip.” It was really very bad, as I saw myself tripping and falling into a deep dark abyss, and there was no way to stop. I remembered my Sunday School lessons from the Bible, and I reasoned that if God really did exist, now was a good time to find out. I went up onto the roof and said something like, “God, if you are there, please help me!” Fortunately for me, He was there. I was instantly rescued from that bad trip. Impossible? Perhaps. I certainly had never heard of such a reversal before! So, I think it qualifies as a miracle. God did what I was helpless to do, and there was something more: For the first time in a long time, I really felt good, really great. Such happiness was something I rarely, if ever, had experienced- at least for a long, long time- but I was extremely happy at that moment.
It was such a great experience that I repeated it two more weekends, dropping the acid, going into the same horribly bad trip, climbing up to the roof, calling on God, and He would again rescue me! But then, like a distant echo in my mind, I heard the reality of what I was doing… I was banging my head against a wall, because it felt so good to stop! So, I left off chasing the Hippie Dream, but had no where else to go.
Eventually, I hitchhiked my way to an invite to visit other road weary young adults and get a meal and a place to sleep. Turns out it was an older retired Pentecostal Missionary who had turned his home into a youth hostel. It was more than that, it was his Rescue Mission. All the young people there had learned to call on God to rescue them from their diverse journeys. It didn’t seem at all strange to me that before supper we would join hands and pray. God was in my life, and it didn’t seem odd either that after dinner there was singing, prayer, and what they called their personal testimonies- that is where individuals would share their experiences with God, and specifically how Jesus changed and continued to change their lives for the better.
After a week or so, I came to a revelation that not only was my life a mess, but that I was responsible for that mess. My choices, my way of thinking, was the reason for my sorry condition. It wasn’t the War, Society, my parents, nor God. It was me and me alone. So I prayed asking Jesus to forgive me and come into my life. He did.
Not only was a great weight lifted off my shoulders, as I so often have heard in various other circumstances, but the difference was that I also felt all washed and clean inside. There was no more guilt, nor shame, nor confusion, nor depression- not a hint of darkness whatsoever. I had never heard of anything like that before in any circumstance. Another miracle.
The Missionary recommended that I start reading the Bible, first the New Testament a couple times, beginning to end, and then start with Genesis and read the entire Bible. Admittedly, I only understood a few passages enough to absorb them, but I had been”born again,” and therefore was just at the baby stage of learning how to walk in this new life and gaining sustenance on baby food.
Afterward, after I returned to my parents’ home, I had a time of rehabilitation, working with leather and fabrics, working odd jobs like mowing lawns- things that teenagers do. But I was far from being a teenager. There was damage from drugs done to my brain cells that needed time to heal before my life could develop much further. Choices have consequences.
I suppose God could have instantly healed my brain, but that would be kind of cheating when I needed to learn and grow. We need healthy brains to learn healthy things. You see, I had been going through my life stuck in adolescence, not realizing that I had missed the boat. I hadn’t realized that during High School I had been expected to transform into an adult. Sadly, by the time I did realize it, I was twenty-eight years old! But God is faithful and was about to catch me up.
For example, the Bible taught me that I was supposed to work, to earn my keep, and the only thing available to me without any employment record was through Temporary Services. It was not a life sustaining type of employment, but it got me back into the swing of things.
One day, while riding the bus Downtown to get my job assignment I noticed the Agway Seed Mill. It was a small white building I had seen many times before, but today it was as bright as dayglo paint! A small voice said “Go there, and I will get you a job.” Okay… So, I went there the next day. The Mill Foreman, Walter, said they were hiring for seasonal work, sent me for a physical, and he put me to work- with the lead crew- the very next day! God’s provision, if not another miracle. He was giving me what I could handle after breaking me in with Temp work: 6 months seasonal employment.
The Agway Mill crew happened to be organized with the Local 110 Grain Millers Union. Within a couple years, however, they moved the Mill outside of town, and I felt it would be too far for me to drive. So, I went down to the Local’s office to see if any of their bargaining units were hiring. “Why, yes. Right across the street. Rich Products is hiring.” Within a week I was an employee at Rich’s. The rest is history, working there for about thirty years. There was no gap in my earning a living. Another provision.
There are practical and pragmatic results in following Jesus’ precepts and example. Meat and potatoes, not pie in the sky. The Gospel’s purpose is not for a person to become so spiritually minded that they become no earthly good. We are to continue walking, talking with, and listening to Jesus. Below is a passage from 1 Peter 1:3–9, a kind of map for the Born Again Believer:
“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. Through these He has given us His precious and magnificent promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, now that you have escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities and continue to grow in them, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever lacks these traits is nearsighted to the point of blindness, having forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.”
Of course, my life has not been free from error and often I have fallen short, and been “ineffective and unproductive.” However, when I continue to listen and obey, to read the Bible and seek His presence in my everyday life, and to respond to the call to act, God has continued to provide with everything needed for living, and for entering into the commitment of marriage, and for supporting my family of Patty and our five children. Jesus has even continued His support, remaining faithful even at the times I was not. More miraculous provision.
Yes. God exists. God of the Bible. He loves us and wants us to have a better life than the one we invent for ourselves. Remember, He doesn’t take our lives away. Jesus’ purpose is to give us a rich and satisfying life, “I have come that they may have life, and have it in all its fullness.” John 10:10. He refines us like silver, removing the dross.
Here is another illustration from my life in practicing God’s presence. I now find the event rather humorous: I was living in a third floor studio apartment on the West Side of Buffalo in the SUNY College district. I was working the midnight shift at Rich’s. So, socializing was not really practical. Instead, my free time consisted of listening to “Jesus music”and studying the Bible. My kitchen table was covered with dictionaries, concordances, and other Bible resource books, including several Bible translations. That was the scene’s setting; here’s how the scene played out:
I was taking my Saturday night bath and was listening to a new Christian record by a young woman I had never heard before. Her voice was different. It had a tremolo quality. I remember saying to myself, “Her voice is weird. I don’t like her.” The bathtub immediately began to vibrate intensely, the waters stirred, and I also began to vibrate rapidly inside and throughout. I heard a loud voice in my head saying, “But I like her.” God had just scared the arrogance right out of me! I won’t ever be so high mindedly critical of any of God’s daughters singing to Him any time soon. “…it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Hebrews 10:31. God does exist.
Finally, I could go on about the time I was suppose to die in the hospital. I could relate
the story of my acute hemorrhaging pancreatitis that gave me only a 10% chance of survival, but people prayed, and so far, I have lived more than an additional forty years. I could relate the story of my heart attack that I thought was just a little allergic congestion in my lungs, but there was this reality of the quadruple bypass heart surgery that followed. That was almost twenty years ago. I could tell of the miracle of God delivering me from cigarette addiction in just one day where I woke up one morning without a single craving for that morning smoke. Never smoked one again; never had the urge to. I had always enjoyed a smoke with my coffee, at the bar or diner, walking and talking and hanging out with friends. Then 24 years old, I had been smoking cigarettes since I was 14. Not a miracle? Is that not a proof of the existence of God who cares, who comforts?
Being born again doesn’t mean we have escaped to Paradise. We are still Earthbound. But Jesus sustains throughout all the hardships of life. And by paying attention, He provides a way out, a way through trouble, and strength to carry on. The promise of Paradise is in our futures. If we remain faithful, if we appreciate what God is doing in our current situations, if we continue walking with Jesus, we will recognize He is the Path, the Reality, and Life’s Vitality. God is faithful, and He calls us to walk in faithfulness too.
Seek God first- not fortune, not fame, not popularity, fancy clothes, not material wealth, not big houses. “These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs,” both physical and spiritual. (Matthew 6:32, New Living Translation) I think that whatever dominates a person’s life will probably also imprison them in a way, or lock them in to a particular mindset, or perhaps develop such deep cynical perspectives that close the mind to new thinking and ideas.
Referring to Jesus, the Bible says in Luke 4:18, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free…”
Need a miracle or two in your life? Need to get free? Need your eyes opened? Jesus has always come through for me, and I’m nobody in particular. Jesus will come through for you, too. Admit your need for God’s forgiveness. You will be pleasantly surprised.
Consider getting Jesus into your life. Put out your welcome mat. Ask Him to come in.