While I could tell you at great lengths about my darkest moments so many years ago, about finding myself laying in the fetal position and begging for death while putting scissor blades to my wrist—that is a darkness of my past not nearly as important and relevant as the phase I am in now. By only mentioning that in passing, I am letting you know that my history with darkness and atheism runs deep, but its stint ended and relationship with Jesus has replaced the road leading to misery and hopelessness.
For those of you who don’t yet know Jesus in a personal way, I wonder if the reason why is because when you hear about Him, you instantly find Him connotative with that of a child’s bedtime story—you know, something only for kids? Perhaps you’ve felt like the person bringing it up is naive. But this is all from the point of view of someone who has never had a relationship like the one you can have with Jesus. I know, because I used to hear the name of Jesus this same way.
People are amazed to know I used to be an atheist because of the way I am now. By no means am I some saint, but I try to shine a light for others because of the passion in me for the Truth that Christ’s resurrection means an eternal life with peace, joy, and love—that no matter what pain I’m experiencing here on Earth, Heaven will unequivocally make up for every second of suffering here in this life. That promise comes with accepting Jesus into my heart and believing in the Good News of who Jesus was and still is. So… how did I get there, if I was an atheist?
Basically, I was an atheist from 0-years-old until I was just barely passed 22-years-old, and I’m not quite 30 yet. Though raised Catholic, I didn’t understand anything I was being taught, and so I naturally didn’t believe in any of it. In fact, I remember kind of mocking the receiving of the Eucharist (“Eucharist” is the Catholic term for the cracker which represents Jesus’ body during Communion) when I was first being introduced to it. Why? Because it seemed silly to me. “Here’s a cracker. It is the actual body of Jesus. Take it seriously.” WHAT?? Why?? It’s—a—cracker… I was only in 3rd grade when I received Communion for my first time, but I was only going through the motions I was instructed to follow: “Walk up, put your hands together with palms facing up, say ‘amen’ when the usher finishes speaking, and then eat it.” Got it. Eat the cracker. No, it’s Jesus. Not just a cracker. The whole thing was ludicrous to me, but I did it until I was confirmed a Catholic in 8th grade. The very next year–two years after my parents divorced, two of my grandparents were killed in a car accident, and new family moved in—I didn’t just state my frustration with a theology I clearly misunderstood—I declared my disbelief and labeled myself an atheist.
Do you recognize or relate to some of the mistakes of the church system I experienced while growing up? If you’re currently experiencing disbelief, maybe you can even relate to the frustration towards rules and instructions that mean nothing to our ears. To choose relationship with Jesus, what usually helps is a little context and a realistic backstory to who He was and is.
The context is that Jesus loves us, has always loved us, and WILL always love us. The realistic back story is that for over two millenniums, millions of people have given their lives to the pursuit of emulating Christ, even become martyrs in the process (does that not say something about the man of Christ as more than a myth, fantasy, or hoax?). More of the story is that Jesus was seen by over 500 people post resurrection, validating all of the claims of Jesus pre-crucifixion. That makes His claims to be God (which are what got Him crucified to begin with!) true! If He had stayed dead, everything would have been over, and Jesus’ story would be nothing but an obscene disappointment. But He did rise, and people did witness it; many have died for His Truth.
For those of you who aren’t quite familiar with Christianity, it is the one walk of faith set apart from all other religions where you don’t have to do anything to receive God’s love; rather, it is freely offered. It is in accepting His love that changes us. Relationship with Jesus is a relationship involving the soul. Though there have been some notable physical experiences with Jesus, they are referred to as starting from inside and working their way to the surface—such as being embraced “as if the Lord hugged me”, or “like the Lord caressing my face”. The Lord shines His light upon us—and by the “light”, I am referring to the truth that Jesus is the Light of Heaven. So, if you understand that and use the metaphor from Heaven as a reality in our Earthly experiences, the light of Christ shining on us is His presence with us, and we can feel that presence in our hearts, our souls, and—when we’re most in touch with His voice and His presence, even a form of physical touch unlike any other you’ve ever experienced by another living being.
Having experienced 22 years of atheism and misunderstanding Jesus, I also experienced heavy pains of worthlessness, meaninglessness, and anger towards life. Some people respond to the world and its unexplainable circumstances, when cornered by the question of the existence of the supernatural–with the last resort excuse that the universe is a enormous constitutive mass of thoughts and feelings, and therefore God is just the total sum of peace, love, and happiness—which is one way to explain paganism, or even pantheism. Pagans don’t worship Jesus, but they won’t worship God, either, so they combine various random elements of different religions to create one “safe” religion—still denuded of Jesus or God—but without complete disbelief in everything supernatural or spiritual, considering themselves safe from the accusations of closed-mindedness.
My response was to live inside of my anger and doubt for many years, exhausting any choice to give the supernatural a place in my life. That kind of living is exhausting and very undesirable. Hence the scissors to my wrists reference from earlier. Disbelief is the worst prison to live inside of just shy of solitary confinement—being restricted from any outside world communication is just inhuman, it’s no existence at all—disbelief, on the other hand, is living life without believing you even have a reason to exist. The terrifying reality of solitary confinement is truly believing you shouldn’t be in there, believing there is purpose in desiring to be on the other side of the restrictive walls separating you the outside world. Disbelief is experiencing that existence without even knowing why, and worse—disbelieving there is even a reason to know.
I explain about solitary confinement and disbelief to give you the picture of me living in disbelief for most of my life, including the most traumatic time period of experiencing life after my parent’s divorced— shattering most of everything familiar in my life. After living in that, the one thing I had left was curiosity to get me to tomorrow. Why live tomorrow? Why not just die today? My thoughts would taunt me day in and day out, hanging onto the fear that if I was wrong, then I would go to Hell and burn forever. Curiosity may have been the key to keeping me alive, from a secular point of view, but I look back on my time before finding my faith and I realize now that God was hanging onto me, desperately hoping I would not give in to the temptations of the enemy telling me to take my own life. God allowed the trauma of my parents’ divorce to give me a more complex reason to need Him as the Source of strength in life. God knew I needed Him above all else, and that the way to my heart was pulling out the floor from beneath me, having me in what seemed like a free fall position for long enough to desire nothing but Him. That free fall period were my atheistic years post divorce. When I finally reached the point where I became desperate for a purpose beyond death, Jesus became the only thing left I could see. I reached out for Him when I was 22, and He immediately took my plea for help.
The process of becoming a believer wasn’t exactly overnight—it took me a couple of years of asking questions and experiencing the devotion of others’ praying for me in faith, as well as seeing the differences in my life as I started trying to believe. One of the most notable examples was something I wrote about in my post, “Paving the Way For Trusting God: Part 2” where God provided rent when I was about to be evicted from my living situation. That was just one example, but simply nothing else could explain what happened to me. Obviously a person put the money where I found it, but God inspired that person to do it because there was no one else who even knew I couldn’t afford rent. God spoke to someone and they followed through. That is one of the most obvious examples of Christ acting in my life, other than fantastic friendships and people supporting me through the faith while directing me back to Christ when they did. Over time, Christ became much more real, and far from just a one-dimensional character in an old book from millenniums past.
No, Jesus is real. He is real to me, and millions of others. He can be real to you if you’ll accept Him into your heart. Just say a prayer and He will show Himself in a way unique to you and your relationship with Him.
I love ending posts with prayers. If you aren’t sure where to start, try praying like this:
“God, I don’t know if You’re real. But if You are, please speak to me. Show me who You are. I want to know You and I want to receive Your love for me. I am sorry I’ve neglected trying to know You, and I want to try that now. Please meet me where I am and show Yourself in my life and in my heart here, today, now. In Jesus name I pray and ask this. Amen.”
Now let Him speak into your life. I pray you would recognize Him above all else. If you would like to share your experience, please do so! I have a contact form from the Menu option on my homepage. I’d love to hear how Jesus is speaking to you.
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