I was raised in a Christian home. I attended an Assembly of God church as a youth and gave my life to Christ at the age of 13. I was active in the church, regularly inviting friends from high school to attend church with me and speaking openly with anyone who would listen about the love of Christ and the need for Him in their lives.
When I turned 18, I left home for college. My first year of college I still attended a church in my college town, but as each month passed, I attended less and less. I was discovering drinking and partying and, more than anything else, sex. Within two years, by the time I was approximately 20, I had totally dismissed my faith as a bunch of fables and myths. I started actively seeking out literature that presented Christianity and Christian thought as provincial and became obsessed with disproving Christianity. I joked to friends that I had become a "born-again" atheist, having found a new "freedom" by being free from the "lies" of Christianity.
Over the next 20 years, I spent my life as a non-believing individual, jumping at the chance to debate anyone, anywhere, who might profess any degree of faith in Christ. I went back to college to complete my coursework toward a degree in journalism, taking classes which included a philosophy of religion class in which my final paper was entitled, A Reasonable Denial of the Existence of God which earned an A+. The professor in this class--not a Christian by any stretch of the imagination--wrote a note in the margin of my paper, merely as an observation, that planted a seed in my subconscious. She wrote that although my paper did indeed present a logical, thought-out, intellectual approach to God's non-existence, what would my reaction be to a genuine religious experience--an experience not explainable by logic or intellect. I had no answer solely because such a construct seemed ludicrous, akin to asking me what my decision would be if I was to think about God while walking across the surface of the sun. Nonetheless, her question did present a situation that could transcend everything I had just written, turning my intellectual exercise into toilet paper.
Seven years after, I graduated from college. I was still quite the atheist although I was then referring to myself as a non-theist, determining that it was absurd being against something which didn't exist. However, events began to take place around me which through the luxury of hindsight now I can see were gently nudging me in a certain direction. The company I worked for hired a woman co-worker that was a Jehovah's Witness, who in her missionary zeal began talking to me about her "faith" as a Witness. Still the atheist and with my upbringing as a Christian, I started searching the Bible just to show her where she was not only wrong about believing in God but also she was doubly wrong by believing such a bastardization of Scripture. I was reading the Bible again.
One day, I called on a client of our company that was a ministry for gang members who were trying to leave their gangs. As I entered the waiting room to meet the head of the ministry, at the receptionist's desk sat a young girl who had all the markings of a gangbanger--tattoos on her hands, bleached out hair that was slowly growing out and revealing dark brown roots. I could sense that this was a girl that just yesterday could have been scoring drugs on the street or taking on multiple partners back at the crib. As I approached her, I fully prepared myself to talk with a typical gangbanger type, the likes of which I had talked to on the street before. As she looked up at me, there was a gentleness and quiet peace about her that totally caught me by surprise. She politely, quietly, asked me who I was there to see and if I could please wait while she notified him. She asked if I wanted coffee and if there was anything else she could do for me, just let her know.
I was blown away.
I spent the rest of the day thinking about her and asked myself over and over and over: What could cause such a change in someone? Government programs wouldn't make this kind of change I reasoned. Radio talk shows featuring pop-psychology were so wishy-washy I couldn't imagine their having this kind of impact on someone. I couldn't get her out of my mind.
The following week was a turning point. My daughters were then 1, 3, and 5 years old. Even though I was an atheist, I had become an atheist after first having a Christian foundation and then making a decision based on what I thought was all of the available information. I was very uncomfortable about raising my girls without offering them the same opportunity.
In early February of 1996, I was in the field calling on accounts for my company when I got a cell call from my boss. He informed me that he didn't have all of the details, but he had just gotten a call that my wife and children had been involved in a traffic accident. He gave me the address, and I hung up the phone and immediately headed to the site of the accident. I don't know why, but as soon as I hung up the phone in the cab of my truck, I looked toward heaven and said, "Dear God just let them be alright!" Here I was, the BIG atheist, and in what I perceived as my darkest hour, I asked God to make my family safe.
When I arrived at the scene, my family was nowhere to be found. However, the other car involved in the crash was being attached to the wrecker, and I was horrified to see the entire front end of that car crushed to the firewall. The female driver of that car was in the back of an ambulance on a stretcher with her neck in a brace and IV's running into her arms. I again asked God to please make my family OK.
I found a policeman and asked him if he knew where the other car involved in the accident was. He told me that he was the second policeman to arrive on the scene, called in to wrap up the accident report after the first patrolman was called away. He told me that by the time he had arrived, the other car was already gone. I asked him if it had been towed away or driven away, and he said that he didn't know. I identified myself as the husband and father of the passengers in the car in question, and he gave me a business card for the Police Department, instructing me to call the police station for more information. Not knowing what to do, I got in my truck and headed back to my office.
All the way to my office I talked with God. I was praying and offering God anything in exchange for the safety of my family. As I drove down the long driveway of my workplace, I saw the family car parked in front of my office. For the life of me I couldn't see a scratch on it. As I got closer, I was able to find a couple of places that showed the force of the impact on the body of the Pontiac but nothing that was even noticeable from 10-20 feet away. As I stared in disbelief at my car, particularly in light of the condition of the other car I had just seen, the front door of my office flew open, and my wife and children ran out to hug me. Everyone was in perfect shape without even a scratch. I held my wife and cried and held my girls and cried. Right there, right then, I re-committed my life to God. I found a church and that Sunday rededicated my life during the service as did my wife.
I understand now that the meaning of God's love for us is greater than any atheist's debate points. As they waste their lives away over meaningless minutiae, the bigger picture that IS God escapes them. The greatest truth that I have learned since I have "come home" again is that all of the arguments and debates in defense of an atheistic worldview exist for one sole purpose: justification of sin. The reality is that although I wanted to present my atheism as the result of learned, intellectual inquiry, the reality was that I--just as all atheists do--was defending my choice of refusing God and living a sinful lifestyle. The only way that I could justify getting drunk and getting stoned and having indiscriminate sex was if there were no absolutes railing against such behavior. By "proving" that God didn't exist, thereby rendering the Bible and all faith meaningless, I was then justified in doing "my own thing" when I wanted, where I wanted, and with whom I wanted. There is not an atheist out there right now who is NOT doing the exact same thing.
It's good to be home. Try it and you'll see.