Thursday, March 3, 2011

My Story -- Part 2

In response to “My Story,” an “anonymous” respondent questioned, “What is it, exactly, that leads you to believe that these are experiences initiated by the Judeo-Christian God, and not some other god? Furthermore, is it possible to differentiate between otherworldly experience and natural, brain-based phenomena via experience alone?”

The encounters themselves didn’t bring me to a faith in Christ, but just a sense that somehow, Christ was involved. He was the only one who I resisted. I had been willing to try meditation, any form of psychotherapy or incantations, as long as it didn’t have anything to do with Jesus. Somehow, my Jewish identity and everything else I held sacred – my family, history, culture, self-identity – was threatened by the idea of Jesus. I also held Christianity in utter contempt. Too many Jews had been killed in the name of Jesus.

However, my bloody chain-saw encounter brought me to the point where I had cried out to my unknown Benefactor and Lover, “I don’t care who You are. I just want to know the truth about You!” And I meant it! I now realized that for years, He had secretly been watching over me. At this point, I knew that there was nothing more important than to find out His identity, whatever that identity might be.

I was convalescing in the hospital for four days. Meanwhile, the people who had rescued brought me books to read. They were Christians, and the books reflected this fact. They were very elementary, but they talked about an all-powerful God of love and forgiveness who intervened in our lives. The conviction that my Benefactor was Christ began to grow. In one way, I resisted this awareness, but on the other, I had made a vow. For the first time in my life, I was determined to know the truth, even if it would cost me everything.

After I returned home from the hospital, I began to pray, “If this is all about Jesus, You need to prove it to me.” I lived far away from others, at the end of a dirt road. I needed to travel to see my surgeon, who wanted to inspect the surgery. However, I had only one vehicle, a stick truck, which I could no longer drive. I therefore needed to hitch-hike. I prayed, “Lord, if this is about Jesus, please show me by giving me incredible rides!”

One driver stopped for me and cracked his window. “I don’t know why I’m stopping for you. I never stop for hitch-hikers. Finally, he said, “You might as well get in!” On the final leg of the expedition, a couple of red-necks stopped for me. I told them I was going to the hospital. They pumped the gas so hard, I thought we’d all get killed. While on the highway, the front tire blew out, but the car held the road, something they wouldn’t stop bragging on.

“I told you I’d get you to your hospital, and that’s just what I’m going to do.” We drove the rest of the way to the hospital with a flat tire.

I decided that I’d try to find a prayer meeting. I had read about this in one of the books. God was supposed to answer prayer. I wanted to see for myself. I wasn’t ready for a full-blown church service. I didn’t think I could handle that, but an out-of-church prayer meeting was something I thought I could deal with.

It was a strange and uncomfortable experience for me. However, I was strangely drawn to a couple who invited me to a Bible study they were hosting in their home. Although I didn’t commit myself to coming, I knew that I would. Fortunately, they were studying about the Messianic Old Testament prophecies, which Jesus had fulfilled. I was impressed by the fit and began studying the Bible on my own.

I was filled with questions and doubts, which would drive me one way and then another. One day I believe that Jesus truly died for me, taking the penalty that I deserved. This filled me with joy, but the next day I’d wonder how it could possibly be that someone would die, and suddenly god would decide that He loved me. I just didn’t seem real. However, as I continued to study the Bible, I began to see that this idea had some coherence. Forgiveness had depended upon the entire Old Testament sacrificial system. Animals had to be offered in the place of the sins of Israel. When they brought the sacrificial animals, the priests would have to place their hands upon the heads of the animals and confess the sins of the sinner upon them. According to the Bible, it was Jesus who had fulfilled the entire Mosaic system, something established in preparation of the Promised One. Stages made some sense to me. My Benefactor had revealed Himself in stages to me.

But this seemed pretty depressing and unnecessary to me. I had been inculcated with the thinking of our psychotherapeutic age. What we called “sin” was simply a neurotic reaction to not having had our needs met. The Bible brought me into a foreign, extra-worldly system of thought, but one that was also strangely attractive. It was all about a benevolent, all-powerful God, like the one I had encountered. It was no longer about me and my struggles to prove myself.

The Christian faith might have seemed strange, but it was doing far more for me than my succession of highly recommended psychologists, each of which had left me worse off than I had been before. Besides, they never were able to answer my prayers.

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