Former Atheist encounters Jesus
I was born and raised in Des Moines, Iowa, by parents who were intelligent, kind and relatively moral. My mom tells the story of when I was in kindergarten, and told my grandmother with great pride that there was no God. I grew up believing that everything was relative, that there was no absolute truth, and that the best thing we could do was to be a “good person.”
I knew very little about the Bible. I didn’t know what a book, chapter or verse were for. I was unfamiliar with even basic stories of the Bible like Daniel in the lion’s den or Jonah in the whale. I didn’t understand why we celebrated Easter or Christmas. I didn’t know the famous children's song, “Jesus Loves Me” or the well-known Bible verse found in John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life."
When I was ten years old, I was promoted mid-year to the fifth grade, after receiving a perfect score on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. This marked a major change in my life. While I had once had a core group of friends, I now became an outcast. As I grew, I came to believe that religion was for weak, simple people – not for thinkers, like me, who “knew better.”
I became what I call now an “evangelical atheist," meaning I was an atheist who was trying to convert others to atheism. I got a weird thrill out of debating Christians – seeing them all as simple, hypocritical fools.
In college, I was involved in an intimate, though abusive, relationship with a man and we were engaged to be married. Two months before graduation, I broke off the engagement and moved to St. Louis for a final student teaching placement, leaving a box of wedding invitations and a wedding gown back in my Illinois dorm room. I had distanced myself from my friends and family and I was miserable. For the first time in my life, I truly was completely alone.
Out of the blue, a girlfriend who I hadn't spoken to in over a year called me. I was pulled urgently out of teaching a class. Incredibly, she had asked her mother to track me down to invite me to her wedding which was the very next day. To make matters even more unbelievable, she was getting married right there in St. Louis.
The next day, I reluctantly attended her wedding, not realizing the course of my life was about to change. At her wedding, I met a young man named Bill who was willing to discuss Christianity with me without running away. After many late night conversations – or I really should call them debates – about God, I asked Bill how it was that a person came to be “saved,” this Christian-ease word that he had used with me several times before.
For the first time in my life I heard the gospel, the good news of Jesus, the Christ. I heard that I was a sinner; that Jesus had died to pay the penalty for my sins; and that through His death, I could receive His forgiveness, enjoy everlasting life and know that my life had meaning and purpose. That night, with the faith of a tiny mustard seed, I prayed that if God was real, that He would answer my prayers. I asked Jesus to forgive me of my sins and to forgive me of years of blasphemy. I acknowledged Him as my Lord and Savior and, my life has never been the same.
This little atheist, who had once ridiculed Christians for their faith, was dramatically changed. The Bible tells of Jesus healing a man who was blind and that after his healing, some skeptics asked the now-sighted man about who had healed him. His answer was, “I don’t know. One thing I know. I was blind but now I see.” (John 9:25) That was my experience. I didn’t understand what I was getting myself into, but I knew that Jesus had changed my heart in a visible way.
As 1 Corinthians 2:14 says, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” When I put my faith in Jesus Christ and became filled with the Holy Spirit, I suddenly had an ability to comprehend and believe the Bible where I had once thought it was all nonsense. My personal views on many social topics changed within weeks. My life finally had the meaning and purpose that I’d always craved.
Since that time, in April of 1994, I cannot tell you my life has been easy. There have been many incredible trials and tragedies that I can share with you on some other occasion, but God has walked with me and guided me every step of the way. He has drawn me into a daily reliance on His grace and has been faithful to me when I’ve been afraid.
Allow me to close with my life passage, found in 1 Timothy 1:12-16.
“I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”
Now I'm working on a book titled, "God is Real: The Eyewitness Testimony of a Former Atheist." You can visit my blog at www.TeachWhatIsGood.com or watch my testimony on YouTube at www.youtube.com/c/formeratheist58