I was a church member going through the motions week after week, but in my heart God was a fictional character and the story of Jesus was nothing more than a myth. I guess you could say I was a church-attending atheist. That was, until early 1977 when I heard His voice call me by name and tell me something that jolted me into the reality that Jesus is no myth; Jesus is alive!
This may be challenging for some to believe but I can only tell you what happened that day, as honestly as I know how, and any doubt you may have, I pray, will be overshadowed by the living person of Jesus Christ. There was nothing I did to deserve this. I am by far the least likely person this should have happened to. I was not expecting it, never in a million years would I believe this could ever happen, let alone to me. I had never heard an audible voice before this and have never since that day. I still do not quite understand why it happened, but it did.
As a child I was forced into attending mass each week. It meant nothing to me but a waste of time. To me, those that believed in God were weak and ignorant people. In early 1977, 17 years old, I hit a pivotal point in my life and was in a very dark place, one in which the thoughts of suicide were frequently entertained and had been for a number of years. One day, while visiting a friend, her mom Marilyn, began telling me about Jesus and how He paid the price for my sins. She told me “for God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life “John 3:16.”
But the fact was, I still struggled with the thought if God truly existed. And because of that I continued to make lots of bad decisions and hurt friends and others that were close to me by my actions. At this point I was at the end of my rope.
One day while driving home I began to weep, I felt like I had no one to turn to, so out of desperation I turned to the person Marilyn told me about. Marilyn said Jesus cared for me and loved me so much He died for me, so I began to cry out to God. As I pulled into the driveway, I began whispering “Jesus, I love you.”
I don’t know why but that is what I said. As I walked into the house and into my bedroom, I shut the door behind me, continuing to whisper, “Jesus, I love you”. I got about 2-3 steps into my room when suddenly, and as clearly as anyone speaks and as audibly as anyone hears, a voice behind me and slightly to my right, called me by my name, “Greg”, then He said, “I love you”. Startled, I quickly turned around to see who it was but no one was there. Again, with an external audible voice (I heard this with my ears), He called me by my name and said, “Greg… I love you”.
With no hesitation, I immediately opened my door and ran out of my room, took a left down the hallway, a right, a left through the kitchen, passed through the living room, and into the family room where my mom took one look at me and said, “what’s wrong with you, you look like you just saw a ghost”. I can only imagine what my facial expression looked like. In shock, I said nothing, but slightly nodded my head, no. As my mom continued to watch TV, I sat there in amazement pretending to watch TV too, but in fact, in that moment, I was jolted into the reality that there is a God and Jesus is real! There were no more questions in my mind; no doubt to His existence. But even more surprising was the fact that, at that moment, I realized it didn’t matter what I had done, how low I have stooped, how unfit I was, how underserving, how emotionally destroyed I was, or even how I felt about myself. I knew at that moment He deeply loved me, with a love that I had never heard spoken like that before. Someone who hated himself and everyone else. Someone who hurt so badly inside and terrorized by wicked memories of the past, that death seemed like the quickest way to make the pain go away. With just those words, my heart was changed and I felt hope and love for the very first time in my life. My shock and amazement suddenly turned into the most incredible love, comfort and peace, something I had never felt before.
You may be at a place in your life where I was, an atheist, or you may have doubts to the fact that God is real and Jesus is alive, or you may be hurt and crying out for help with no one else to turn to, you may have fallen and feel that God will not take you back, or what you have done in your past cannot be forgiven. Let me tell you what I can testify to. He loves you with an everlasting love, a love that gives life, peace, and comfort. A love that will pick you up out of the darkest place. Cry out to Him because He is listening, He cares, He is real, He is Alive!