God has revealed Himself to me through the collective spirit and benevolent works of others. It took me more than 42 years to get the message. But once I did, I knew that He is and that He loves me. Knowing this, I became happier than I had ever been. The relationship with my wife improved and I grew closer to other family members and friends. I seem now to have more friends too and I am able to find more time to be with them. I’m also happy because I have found a church community that doesn’t make me feel as though my worthiness as a Christian is being constantly measured and judged. I attend Sunday school and Worship Services because it makes me feel good; I enjoy the socialization and fellowship involved. I help out where I can in this community, again, because it makes me feel good to do my part and others let me know that they appreciate what I do. I give because I know that my gifts will be put to good use and, again, because it makes me feel good. I do none of these things to ease a guilty conscience.
It took me such a long time to accept God and His plan for my life because I had grown up in a society that was dominated by one particular religion. In this faith, belief was not considered a matter of personal conscience. If one wished to belong, he or she was expected to follow the party line, period. There was no room for personal interp- retation of scripture. Moreover, the dictums of this religion were impossible for me to accept because all were not welcomed on equal terms. Therefore, I rejected them and along with them, all religion. You see, I was confusing what I had been taught as a child about Christ and His Church with the whole of Christianity, so I resolved simply to do without worship. I turned for many years instead to philosophy and logic with my doubts and fears. But reason was not enough. I was lonely without a relationship with God. Knowing nothing with which to compare this void but confusion, I felt no particular need to find a substitute for the religion that I was born to. More important, I had what I thought was good reason not to find a substitute — the desire to avoid adding insult to the injury I had caused to my extended family by not being an actively participating member of their faith.
Christ was there for me all the time and something deep within me assured me of this. But I could not acknowledge Him.
I reasoned that to do so, in a manner that would be acceptable to my own conscience, would be to reject others who loved me. I thought it would break my grandmother’s heart if I joined some other church. But I was wrong. For years my dear wife tried to make me understand that this was wrong but I would not listen. I could not. Others tried to reach me too but to no avail. Then one day, while I was away on a business trip, many years ago now, I paid a visit on the widow of a dear friend, a minister who had years before befriended me on my own terms, accepting me just as I was. I went to console this dear lady but something else happened instead. She turned the tables on me by asking me to attend Sunday services with her where Gerald, her husband, had last ministered. I agreed to go expecting to enjoy her company and to meet some nice people, nothing more. But when I entered the sanctuary of this church I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit so strongly that I could no longer deny the truth. I cried. For the first time in my life, I cried for the joy of knowing God and I was able to pray during the worship service, sincerely. After the service I knew that I still had a relationship with Gerald. Even beyond the grave he was still my friend. He had loved me as a son — still loved me in fact - and I loved him. Later-on then, it hit me … If Gerald was still real to me and the things that he stood for were still meaningful to my life, then so was Christ!
After changing my lifestyle and accepting Christ as my personal savior, I went home to visit my grandmother in the nursing home where she was spending her final days. We talked about family and about days gone by, about my childhood and our love for one another. Then we prayed together. Her heart was far from broken and mine was greatly relieved. Healed by the love of Christ, my heart was finally at peace. If you already know the kind of peace I’m talking about, praise God. If you’re still struggling to experience it, let me suggest something to you. Stop your struggling and let your heart take the lead. Talk to God, sincerely. He will answer you as He did me.