I don’t feel like who I used to be.
Not at all.
Is that what Jesus meant when he told Nicodemus about rebirth? The stigma around “born-again Christians” is quite severe. As with religion, there are about a million taboos, and terms that small groups have tarnished with poor behavior. I don’t adhere to that. I look to the truth of a word, and try to ignore my own personal anger at my idea of the word, and try to consider what the word or idea really is.
I don’t feel like old Justin. I feel like new Justin. Is my name still Justin? Or do I have a new name? Like when God renamed Jacob “Israel.” I couldn’t say for sure, God doesn’t really talk to me in a literal voice. At times I wish desperately that he did. At night I’ll ask him to show me strange and beautiful dreams, sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. A lot of times I don’t remember them.
All these puzzles and clues I like to put together… It’s fun trying to draw a path between signs and happenings in my past, that pointed to this future of unimaginable, unfathomable restoration. It’s completely unbelievable. I suppose I am now a new person.
But then why is it still quite difficult to resist my nature of making mistakes and causing trouble? Naturally 95% of the trouble, which was related to drugs and alcohol has been removed. That trouble, and it’s incredible power over my life was so complete and so disastrous in nature, that once removed, it feels like a sunny day in paradise. But there is still so much within me that I would not have there, in a perfect universe.
This is not a perfect universe. In fact it’s flying apart, or so the scientists tell us. God however, is perfect. The Bible says to live by the spirit and not by the flesh. But I find this often difficult. Why should the temptation of sinfulness, lust, desire for pleasure, carnal ideas, gossip, and other errors have any ability to reside in a being rebirthed by God?
I couldn’t say. The Bible says we will still be tempted, and we will still sin. The weight of sin is heavy in my heart, when it happens, and I see it happen, and I feel sad as it happens. This must be the heavy burden of all man kind, before and after reception of salvation through the mercy of the Creator. Sin, mercy, grace, my mind used to snap shut at these ideas.
Now I hear them and see them written, and I understand. Sin is just.. a mistake. Something I do, that isn’t right. And we all know what that is, whether we want to admit it or not. Saved or unsaved, our conscience informs us. Mercy? Well I didn’t like the idea of that. It felt condescending to me, like I needed mercy right? Haha. Oh, indeed I did. I was just too proud, prideful, and arrogant, powerhouse nietschian mentality to realize that a perfect being’s mercy is exactly what I needed. Grace? Well grace is a beautiful word. It means receiving without deserving. And I love that.
The Bible says that to those who do not or cannot receive the savior, these things will seem foolish. And they seemed very foolish to me for very many years. It seemed completely backwards, after all, science and public school had taught me what a backward idea religion was long ago. A white bearded man with a crown of giant rays of sunlight sitting on a cloud throwing lightning bolts at unsuspecting humans?
Public school very effectively filled me with an arrogant notion of superiority over such “old” and “backward” ideas as “organized religion” the idea of “organized religion” being the ultimate taboo. I was superior to that. My forerunners were expertly picking apart the universe cell by cell, and they had it all figured out. I put my unquestioning faith in their theories. I enjoyed the arrogance I felt, and further enjoyed the pursuit of discovery for understanding the universe at large.
After all, what had this God thing ever done for me? Allowed my family to collapse in on itself? Made me feel guilty and bored every Wednesday at CCD? I watch my family live a sort of double life, one in church for an hour, and another the rest of the week.
Yet every time I was in trouble, miserable, defeated, or awfully lost it wasn’t darwin I cried out to, but God. Why is that? Does every human being have an innate deeply planted inner knowledge and knowing, of a one true God? Well, what about all the suffering in the world? How could a guy in a white rob allow any of it?
It hadn’t occurred to me that while I was busy blaming God for the problems of the world, people were committing the crimes. God didn’t drop a bomb on Hiroshima. A guy at a desk ordered that. Another guy in a plane pushed the button. God could’ve swiped it out of the air, but then how would there be free will? If God protected us from our mistakes, would that make him a better God? A more worthy God?
I didn’t like how God conducted his business. I thought I could do it better. Oh, the infinite pride I felt. But what were the facts? Was I really that great? Or had I spent my whole life making mistakes and screwing things up, with various interludes of somewhat passibly decent behavior? If I really viewed the raw facts, could I say I would be a likely candidate for an interview as ruler of the universe? Better write a powerful cover letter for that interview.
Eventually I didn’t really consider it that often. I’m here, it’s now, let’s live. But living wasn’t really working after the divorce of my parents. I was powerfully miserable, and powerfully upset, tending to bury those feelings rather than face the anguish of dealing with them. Naturally blinding myself was a careful process of learning to ignore my own failings, while magnifying the failings of others. In fact this bizarre process lead all the way to agonizing endlessly over conspiracy theories, false flags, and political issues. If there was any way to avoid facing myself, inward and outward, I was all about it.
Still I was curious. Science was interesting and all, but it didn’t seem equipped to answer big questions like “Why am I here?” “Where am I going?” “What is the purpose of all this?” This longing lead me into studying philosophy, politics, and eventually lead me onto a path of spiritual seeking. Those questions weren’t going anywhere. I was always a young man obsessed with big questions, and naturally, I couldn’t avoid them in drug use forever. Naturally, science said there was no purpose, you only live once, which seemed synonymous with the world’s view: get all you can, at the expense of anyone and everyone, live large, and somehow it will make you happy. This view had fostered the demise of civilization all together, while vague notions of “all the death” caused by “organized religion” seemed to populate the minds of people.
I was beginning to see the pathetic hypocrisy of claiming science as an end to the search for meaning, while the search for science and it’s immoral mentality was claiming the end of mankind. How could, after all, the universe have been created from nothing, be going nowhere, with no intended purpose, flying apart, under such circumstances? The circumstances were powerful in fact, all the perfect alignments of nature, the sun, the planets, all allowing for a perfect environment fostering survival and relative prosperity for the human form. And why would each human being be drawn to a search for a higher being, if in fact there was no higher being? Would not humans be utterly content with a finite amount of time and then quiet passage into oblivion? Humans seemed less that content with pleasure pursuit and the cold reassurances of science.
I knew I wanted a life of happiness and peace. That wasn’t happening at all unfortunately. I was a confused, depressed drug addict. Naturally I sought help for that within the bounds of conventional society. I went to rehabs, detoxes, mental hospitals, and saw innumerable therapists and counselors. “Coping mechanisms” “daily self care” “self help books” and “inward reflection” utterly failed. And I will say I went to great lengths to attempt any solution but a spiritual one. None of these methods could lift my spirit. None of this information stayed but for slight reflection as I walked out the door, on the way to go buy another box of coricidin to trip out of reality again.
So I began to earnestly seek, or at least attempt to seek a higher power or understanding. Given my arrogance and my quiet anger at Catholicism, Christianity, I pursued the ideas of the New Age movement. This movement promoted a sort of Godless spirituality. It promoted ideas of oneness, telepathy, spirit beings, synchronicity, and naturally, all people were gods, meaning I was a god. I liked a lot of it, some of it synched with my firm beliefs on morality, that I was utterly failing to live out in actual practice. I was the hero on the journey, and if I would just seek and believe, I would be OK. It was a lot more acceptable to my friends at the time as well. “Christianity” seemed so backward. I often said hipster things like “I think religions are all paths to the same place.” This obviously sounded great by modern standards of tolerance and openness. I could accept all the various religions of the world, and take a wide scope. I was sitting at the edge watching the various workings of humanity, leading all to the same afterlife of beauty. What a thing!
This faustian form of spirituality managed to assist me in staying clean and improving my life for a short period of time. Unfortunately as my predicament improved, so did my self-will and powerful sense of pride. The ideas of this spirituality were so vague I felt nothing to hang onto. It didn’t really seem right, but it didn’t seem particularly wrong either. After all I was being very tolerant and “wise” in my conclusion. All religions are paths to the same place. What a powerful thing to say, what a tolerant and wise view, right? Too bad I was just repeating something that sounded good. I had no idea what the actual truth was.
So the addiction, depression, and sadness continued for several more years. It’s really quite foggy to even recall. The truth was that science had failed to explain the universe to me, and it had failed to heal my inner pain as well. Those were the raw facts on the ground. The truth was also, that an all inclusive idea of spirituality had been a vain attempt to sound intellectual and continue playing god.
Once again the facts on the ground weren’t looking good. So why, near the end of 2012 would I choose to call out to Jesus Christ and ask him to save my life? I don’t honestly know. I was reading a Bible quite a bit in my endless days of tripping and slowly fading out of existence. Nothing really seemed to stick. Why, at my wits end, at rock bottom would I call to Jesus Christ? Could it be true, that only the ones who are drawn to Christ by God can even call out to him for help?
What was happening at this rock bottom moment? I had given up months earlier, of ever living a normal life. I expected and often hoped to die. The pain I felt was ceaseless and all consuming. I didn’t even believe anything could save me. At the end, I didn’t even want to be saved. To put into perspective what was happening, I had been hospitalized for overdoses twice, been in several mental hospitals for suicidal behavior, and eventually committed for several months, as being a danger to myself. My body was shutting down. I could hardly stay awake during the day, and after dosing my drugs I would often have to sleep for days after just for my body to recover.
Unconditional surrender is a difficult place to reach, but I had found it. And I had called out to a Jesus Christ. And a Jesus Christ had answered. Within a few short weeks everything changed.
A total reversal. A reversal that was not possible under my own power.
I began attending recovery groups again, started making money renting rooms, bought a car, made new friends, listened, learned, and actually started to care about existing again. I am telling you the truth at this very moment my friend, I did not have this in me. Many cannot even imagine how low I was at this point. I am telling you the truth, I had no power to create a rebirth in my life.
This rebirth was facilitated by a being of immense power, and by a savior by the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Some guy from two thousand years ago, who died on a cross… had died for me? Had saved me? Was restoring me? It all seemed so backward. How could this be possible? How could it be true? It had all seemed so intolerant and backwards.
But there was the evidence. It was right in front of me. It was compelling evidence to a man who had been broken to the point of no return.
Had I failed to consider the hundreds of millions across the world who had similar experiences? Had I failed to factor the miraculous into my scientific calculations? Or had pride and hatred utterly blinded me?
I am telling you the truth, when I saw Jesus Christ personally save my life from all the things I had done to myself, I knew it was all real. Did I even deserve this kind of gift? No, I certainly did not. After all who had I been and what had I done? I had claimed morality while acting vile and cruel, if not to others, then most certainly to myself.
A supernatural occurrence had taken place in my life. Knowing how I had been, utterly knowing just how low I had been, how can I now say, seeing all the powerful change in my life, that there is no God or Jesus Christ? How can I reconcile the evidence and somehow stack it in a way that once again claims atheism, when such utter and complete evidence lays before me?
I was: an addict, overweight, defeated, no car, no job, had dropped out of college, and I couldn’t even properly care for my own hygiene.
I now am: in recovery, physically healthy, victorious in spirit, have a car, renting rooms, and in college at the largest Christian university on the planet, Liberty University, working towards a masters of divinity
How could such a restoration possibly occur in a happen stance world?
There is only one conclusion in my mind, that seems to properly weigh the evidence, explain the events of my past, and feeling of hope now in my heart:
Christianity is true
Jesus Christ is the one and only Savior
God is the Father of those whom love him, an all powerful, unconditionally loving, and purely merciful creator of all things
If your mind snaps shut at such a conclusion, I understand oh so well how you feel. But I share my testimony, as truly and honestly as I can, so that perhaps, your heart will open to this idea, just a bit more than it had been before beginning to read this testimony. I tell you at this moment, I have told you the truth of the events that have just been explained. In fact, what would my motivation for lying be? Why would I care if you believed or not, if some powerful change had not occurred in me, which now warrants in my spirit, a desire to care for someone besides myself? There was no caring in my heart before. There was only the mark of the great plague of modern mankind: pure selfishness.
Consider the things I have written carefully, that perhaps you may someday find the consciousness of your belief in an all loving and all caring God, personally working in your life. I am not a full life believer, raised on constant Christianity, quietly accepting without questions the precepts of such a faith. I am much like many of you, a skeptical dreamer, lost for a time in a fast paced world of pleasure pursuit, but now, found in an utter truth I could no longer ignore.
I witnessed the power of the one true God first hand. What I have written is true to the facts of my history, and I testify to it, that you may believe as a result.
My only advice in all of this is: Earnestly seek, without bias and you will find the true answer to the great question of: “Why?”
May this God of uncommon love guide you to his son, Jesus Christ, so you may receive the life that comes after this one. May God keep you until that moment 🙂