I was an atheist prior to 1977, but that instantly changed the day I heard His voice behind me call me by name and tell me something that would shatter my atheism to its foundation, and produce two irrefutable facts that I simply couldn’t deny: Jesus is alive! and His love is immeasurable.
One of many weaknesses I have will be attempting to communicate the depths of the love of God through my personal experience and testimony. I pray as you read, you will be edified and encouraged so that you too will believe in the living person of Jesus Christ and that He would solidify in your heart how much bigger He is than any of our religious ideals of who we think He is and what He’s capable of in our personal lives, today.
My brothers and I were raised in a wicked and very toxic home environment throughout our childhood, one in which continued to cast a shadow over my life for years to come. As children, we thought everyone experienced the physical and emotional torture as we did, having no reference point to guide us otherwise. We simply didn’t know any better. It wasn’t until my friend Chris, at the age of 16, asked me about the fingernail marks on the back of my arm that I was told for the first time this wasn’t normal. I wondered how my brothers and I got so lucky. I often wished for just one day of peace; no yelling, no hitting or slapping, no hairpulling, no marks on my body. It was like a game of Russian roulette with my mother, with a loaded gun pointing straight at my head each day.
We knew domestic terrorism long before the term became popular; never knowing why but always knowing it would happen, but from the hands of the one that should have been nurturing and loving; our mother. She terrorized her three young boys, almost every day, throughout our childhood. The terror would normally begin with loud and obnoxious bouts of obscenities, screaming hateful things and name calling, belittling, then as she stared at us with pure evil in her eyes while we were ordered to put our hands behind our backs, she would cross the line by slapping our faces, repeatedly, over and over and over again. It was like target practice for her, and she would continue the assault until we cried, got injured, or when she felt some type of emotional release.
The hitting and name calling seemed endless. If by chance your normal instincts took over and you tried to block one of the blows to the face, or flinch, she would yell at us even louder demanding we put our hands behind our back and don’t move, then she would proceed even more aggressively to hit our faces over and over. When the fit of rage subsided, she would either grab a handful of our hair (at times we lost clumps of it) or dig her nails into the backs of our arms and guide us to our rooms where she would shut our door and forced us into isolation, sometimes hours, other times for days. The terror didn’t stop there. Anxious and nervous, minute by minute, moment by moment we waited, hoping she wouldn’t barge back into our room to continue the battering, which happened quite often. Many times, in the middle of the night she would barge into our rooms and flip on the light and begin the terror all over again. The emotional and mental terror was far worse than the physical pain.
We learned to welcome seclusion; a survival skill that stayed with me into adulthood. We spent more time in isolation that I care to admit, but to me it was my safe haven. Sometimes after her fits of rage relinquished she would sit us on her lap and tell us she loved us.
I grew up believing love involved terror and pain. I grew up hating love, and everyone else. I had no concept of what love was, and instead I learned to hate and I was good at it. I thought I was defective and didn’t have the capacity to be loved or to love. As far back as I can remember, from the age of 3, this was our childhood. Terrorized by our own mother. There are other situations growing into adolescence that I simply cannot delve into here.
Consequently, this was the reason I didn’t believe in God. Although forced into attending Mass every Sunday, I thought God was a fairytale, so why would anyone desire to attend church, any church. My question of unbelief may be somewhat different than most, but many people start the question of unbelief with the following, “If there is a God, why…”. My question of unbelief was, if there is a God why would he allow three young boys (and one daughter who she gave up for adoption at birth) to be terrorized throughout their childhood to the point of having scars that would last into adulthood and terrorized by nightmares, memories, fear and torment. So, I chose not to believe in God.
It wasn’t uncommon for me to mock and ridicule those that did believe and spoke openly of God. I thought they were weak and ignorant people. I didn’t care how big you were, if you mentioned God to me I would be in your face because I simply didn’t care. My mouth spewed garbage and hate everywhere I went. I would use God’s name in vain and it was just a part of my vocabulary. I recall a women rebuking me one day for it, asking me, “what has God ever done to you?” and I responded back, “you are ____ crazy lady, get away from me.” Little did I know my unbelief in God and mocking those that followed Him would change abruptly.
This part of my testimony may be challenging for some to believe but I can only tell you what happened, 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. Never in a million years would I believe this could happen, let alone to me. I had never heard an audible voice before this day and have haven’t since. I still don’t quite understand why it happened, but it did. I share this testimony in the hope, that you too, will believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
In early 1977, 17 years old, I hit a pivotal point in my life, relentlessly terrorized by the thoughts and nightmares of my childhood, and yet still living in the house with the person that inflicted the pain, my own mother. I was in a very dark place in my life at this point, one in which the thoughts of suicide were frequently entertained and had been for many years. One day, while visiting my friend Karen, her mom (Marilyn) began telling me about Jesus and that He died for my sins and rose from the dead. She said that Jesus cared about my hurts, my pain, and that He truly loved me.
Not too long after that, I made a bad decision that hurt my best friend, Chris, and his family. I was grieved by my actions and at the end of my rope. I felt like I had no one to turn to, so out of desperation I turned to the person Marilyn told me about; Jesus. With no other hope, I began to cry out to Him from the depths of my soul. If you are real, if you are who they say you are…and I began to whisper His name, “Jesus”. I pulled into the driveway, walked into the house, and into my bedroom where I shut the door behind me. I got about 2-3 steps into my room when suddenly, and as clearly as anyone speaks and as audibly as anyone hears, a man’s 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’ve seen 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 turned back and 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’s a God and Jesus is real! There were no more questions in my mind; no doubt to His existence. The atheist became a believer, in a moment. But even more surprising was the fact that I realized, it didn’t matter what I had done in my past, how low I have stooped, how unfit I was, how underserving, how emotionally destroyed I could be; or even how I felt about myself. At that moment, I knew I was loved, something I had never known before. Me, someone who hated himself and everyone else. Someone who hurt so deeply inside and terrorized by the wicked memories, that death seemed like the quickest way to make the pain go away. With just those words, my heart changed and I felt hope and love for the very first time in my life. As I sat there, my shock and amazement of what just happened suddenly turned into the most incredible peace and comfort. The God of the universe, the living person of Jesus Christ, was willing to move outside the normal parameters of human understanding to reveal Himself and His love to me that day. What a mighty and awesome God!
Even today, 40 years later, when I think back on that moment, many times tears roll down my face, thanking God for His goodness, mercy, and His great love. His love saved my life, literally, both physically and spiritually, and lead me into studying more about Him and the great sacrifice He made for us, and how He came to set us free.
God continues to demonstrate His love throughout the world, yes even today. Jesus thinks you are worth dying for because of His great love He has for you. There is no greater love because love is the very nature and essence of God. That’s who He is. He is God and there is no other. His love is powerful, immeasurable, and unrelenting, and will bring you face to face with the reality that compels us to love Him back and to show love and mercy even to those who have hurt us. No circumstance is too great, no obstacle too big, bondages break, hurts and pains of the past become distant memories. Yes, we can crawl back and lick the vomit of our past if we choose to, but why should we after finding The Treasure in Jesus Christ.
This is my testimony, and my message to you is: Jesus is alive! and His love is immeasurable.
“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)