This is all I know: Before I was born again, I hated that book. I wanted nothing to do with it and I didn’t want it around me. The few times I tried reading it (for a class assignment), I could not. The words ran together and seemed to be written in a foreign language. I did not speak God.
After I was born again, the first thing I reached for was a Bible, like a newborn reaching for a teat. I read all four gospels in one sitting. It was the first time I’d heard the words of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Thank God he spoke English.
While I was reading through the gospels, God showed me what had happened to me. I read: “And seven devils were driven out of Mary Magdalene”, and God said: “That’s what happened to you, only there were a lot more than seven.” Then I understood: I was a Jesus freak. That’s the only way I could frame it: “Jesus freak”. As a former atheist, I had no other reference point. Over time, I learned to call myself a “follower of Jesus” and “born again”. But for the first while, I was just a Jesus freak.
Since the day of my rebirth, I have not let go of that book. It’s always within arm’s reach or in viewing range. I have a Bible by my bed and one by my computer, and another halfway between my bed and my computer. There are two more in my closet, carefully wrapped in clean white plastic bags. I read them so much, the pages fell out. I taped them back in, but then the covers fell off. Sometimes you just have to let go, but I couldn’t bring myself to throw them out. So I keep them swaddled in plastic, next to my swaddled dolls.
I read the Bible every day. Sometimes, I read whole books within the Bible, and sometimes I read only a few lines. I let God guide me as to what I should read. And then every once in a while I’ll read the whole Bible again, from cover to cover.
No matter how many times I read it, I never tire of it. Just like the first day, it feeds me. It’s always fresh. It’s always new. I always see something I hadn’t seen before. How is that possible? How can you read the same words every day, and yet every day see something new?
If God said: “You can have only one earthly possession”, I would have a Bible. There’s something about that book. It’s just a book, but it can’t be just a book. If it were just a book, I could have read it as easily as all the other books I read when I was an atheist. But I couldn’t read that book. I didn’t want it anywhere near me. The words all swam together. If it were just a book, those things would not have happened.
This is all I know: “I once was lost, but now I’m found.” I’m a Jesus freak. You can tape pages back into a book, but you can’t stop the cover from falling off. You can learn something new from the Bible no matter how many times you read it. And the Bible is not just a book.
How would you describe your beliefs and reasons for believing when you identified as an atheist?
Thank you for your question, but to be honest, I didn’t have a reason for believing. I didn’t believe God existed. I thought only idiots believed in God. I was born again after reaching the tipping point of what I now recognize as a spiritual crisis (every aspect of my life, from finances to employment to personal relationships, had collapsed). I was in deep deep doo-doo and subsequently in the deepest despair of my 36 years. Though I didn’t know at the time that it was God who had done it, I was given the very great privilege of seeing the horrendous state of my soul (which, like God, I didn’t believe existed, but you can’t argue with something staring you straight in the face). The knowledge so terrorized me that I immediately ran out of the house I was sitting and down to what I thought was the only “safe place” in my world — the seashore. In my tormented mind, I reckoned if I could just get to the seashore, the pain that was so all-encompassing that I could no longer breathe would stop. So I raced down to the seashore (about a mile away) and collapsed on the sandy beach. There, without making a sound, I gave up. I simply gave up trying to figure everything out and trying to fix my own mistakes and trying to do everything by myself. I gave up. My will broke. And in the next instance, again without making a sound, I cried out for help from the bottom of my heart. I did not know I was calling out to God. I did not believe in God, even at that point. The call for help came from some part of me that I didn’t even know existed, it had been covered up in sin for so long.
But God heard my cry, and God responded.
In the blackness of what I know now was my death, God gave me a choice between two options: I could choose to forgive someone who had done me the worst harm of anyone in my life, or I could choose not to forgive that person. I was shown that if I chose the first option, all the pain would stop, but if I chose the second option, the pain would not only continue but worsen. I was shown, by the warmth and brightness of a light shining on that choice, that the better of the two choices was to forgive. All of this was done in a series of tableau against a black background. Communication was not by words but by understanding. I still didn’t know this was God. And solely because I wanted the pain to stop, I chose to forgive.
At that instant, God showed me that the pain I felt was the pain I’d earned. Nothing had been done to me that I hadn’t in some way or another done to other people.
And then God healed me.
The next thing I heard was the sound of a great rushing wind that seemed to go on and on. I opened my eyes to find myself lying on the sand, facing the ocean. I could only see the sand, the water, the sky. I stood up and looked up. I had never in all my life felt so amazingly amazing. There are no words to describe this feeling; only those who have been healed from sin know what I am talking about.
I didn’t know what had happened to me. As a former student of classical literature, all I could think was “tabula rasa” — clean slate. I had no idea I was actually born again.
I didn’t want to leave the beach because I associated this feeling of extreme peace and euphoria with being there in my “safe place”. But God (even though I still didn’t acknowledge his existence) assured me that I could leave and the feeling would come with me. So I made my way, slowly, slowly, back to the little cottage I was house-sitting. There had been no-one on the beach at the time of my visitation, but I passed a few people on my homeward journey. I felt intense love for them, strangers though they were. When I got back to the cottage, I bee-lined for the Bible that the owner, Mildred, had placed on a little table in the centre of her living room. I sat down at her kitchen table and opened to the page where it said “The New Testament of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ”, and I started reading it for the first time in my life. I read all four gospels in one sitting, and it was during the reading of the gospels that God showed me I was born again.
That was nearly 17 Earth years ago.
I was born again from atheism. I had no desire to believe in God, but I did desire the truth at all costs, and I did desire love. Now I know that God is Truth and God is Love, so I guess you could say I was searching for God without knowing I was searching for him.
Thanks again for your question. Sorry for the long answer. I hope you got out of it what you wanted to know.
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