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No Denying It Anymore

My grandmother’s funeral was set for December 30th. Life went on as normal for several days after Christmas with little or no thought of the events of Christmas Eve. At the time I was actually working harder than ever—almost 70 hours a week, six days a week, with the seventh day taken up doing mandatory community service to work off an overdue traffic ticket fine. I made sure to get the day off for the funeral, which was to take place in Hemet, California, where my grandparents, uncle and cousins had all lived for many years. Family gatherings always seemed to bring out both the best and worst in me and my kin, so you never quite knew what was in store. But this was different than your average gathering.

At the funeral my father read the eulogy he had prepared. He was a great writer and speaker, always chock full of witty little gems. And although we had our political differences, I would generally have agreed with the overall humanistic spirit of his thoughts. But as I leaned against my sister in the bittersweet sorrow of the ceremony, certain thoughts contrary to my dad’s wise words kept creeping into my head, thoughts that really didn’t seem like my thoughts at all because they were so foreign to my way of thinking.

Underneath all of the strong emotions that attend the burial of a loved one, I began to get the uncanny feeling that these contrary thoughts weren’t coming from inside my head at all, but from outside. All the while the “rational” part of me was fighting them off in the background as if they were foreign invaders to my mind—specifically religious invaders that kept coming in waves. This is no mere metaphorical speech, either—the perception was now very clear that these were not my thoughts at all. But that idea was just too much for me to swallow, and so I had to ignore it. Plus I felt petty for dwelling on these things when I should be focusing on honoring my grandmother’s memory.

Then my uncle stood up to perform what seemed to me to be some sort of Protestant last rites. My uncle is not as eloquent a man as my late father, and he also struggles under the weight of a checkered past. All he really did was read from his big blue Bible. The first verse he read struck me because it said in traditional King James Bible language the same sort of message as one of the contrary thoughts that had come into my head earlier during the eulogy. At first that didn’t seem such a surprise; if the thoughts popping into my head were religious in nature that they’d be sure to have a parallel to a Bible verse. But then the second verse he read was also a biblical rephrasing of another of the contrary thoughts I had had. And on it went, each verse paralleling a thought, for either five or six verses (to this day I don’t know the verses). To make it more startling, somewhere along the way I realized that the verses were summarizing the contrary thoughts I had had in the same order I had them! Something very strange and seemingly beyond coincidence was happening, something I couldn’t so easily sweep under the carpet as I had with the Christmas Eve vision (and even that now came back to me).

There had to be a rational explanation. Perhaps my uncle had just chosen those verses in rebuttal to the humanistic thoughts my dad had spoken during the eulogy. After all, they were known to butt heads on occasion. But then it dawned on me that there could have been a wide variety of religious thoughts one could have thought during the eulogy. How could my uncle have thought point-by-point exactly what I had thought—unless he was some sort of mind reader, which was also out of the question. But even if he had consciously chosen the verses, though, I couldn’t forget that I was already convinced that the contrary thoughts did not originate in my mind in the first place. They were just too foreign to my way of thinking. I was being confronted with so many anomalies challenging my atheistic and anti-supernatural worldview that something had to give. I suddenly had the overwhelming but wordless sense that I really knew almost nothing.

The funeral had ended, as had my firm grip on certainty. I approached my uncle in a strange sort of mental shock that was also a kind of peaceful surrender. The foundations of my world had crumbled away, but instead of feeling panic, there was a strange calm and awe. I said to him something like, “The Bible verses you read were point-by-point the same ideas as these thoughts that came into my head during the eulogy.”

To my surprise he didn’t even raise an eyebrow. Instead he smiled with this creepy look of “knowing” that I was beginning to think shouldn’t really seem so creepy after all. “It’s like somebody’s been reading your mail, huh?” he said.

I barely mumbled out a “yeah.” I can’t remember exactly what I said next, but it was something like “So what do I do now?”

He said something about sitting down and looking at the Bible with him, which at this point I had no real objections to doing. I had already experienced something undeniably supernatural directly related to that book, and it really wasn’t a very far leap to become a believer in its key figure, Jesus Christ. All of those verses and everything inside and outside of me seemed to be pulling me almost irresistibly toward that decision. So after looking through some scriptures and saying a new believer’s prayer, it was done. I had become a Christian.

My uncle handed me that Bible and said, “It’s yours.” (So many miracles would continue to surround that Bible that I almost came to believe it had special powers! For one astonishing example, click here for my first post.) My uncle then gave me a brief talk on prayer and Bible reading, encouraging me to feed spiritually on God’s word daily just as I feed my body. He also warned me about the spiritual warfare to come, that there was doubt ahead and danger of falling away from Christianity. Then he sent me on my way, new Bible in hand, as the funeral party was dispersing.

Back at his house, I sat at a small table and opened the Bible. I really couldn’t absorb much of anything I read it in, but it was nice that several of my relatives came alongside and expressed their joy at my conversion. Still others seemed to shake their head with disbelief or condescension. The rest of the day seemed insignificant compared to the magnitude of the miraculous events of the funeral, and even that seemed a strangely remote and isolated event that I still couldn’t quite get my mind around (and still quite can’t). In fact, the very next day saw some of the spiritual battle my uncle had warned me about. I was already beginning to “fall away.” But as you hopefully read earlier, God's undeniable divine direction would soon come with miraculous power and get me back on track. God would not let me slip away so easily.

So many more miraculous Christ-centered things would happen over the course of the next year or so that I would come to see the insanity of ever doubting in Jesus again. In fact, I soon realized and still can only believe that it takes much more faith to believe in chance explanations than it does to believe in the supernatural. I could go on and on about other miracles that happened, some that sound so crazy and so hard to believe that I hesitate to share them. I do plan to share some of them in the near future.

One word of clarification. I do not tell these things to people to brag or puff myself up as some sort of holy man. I am just a sinner saved by grace—the same grace God makes available to everyone through Christ. I don't really enjoy blabbing on and on about my miracle-filled experiences—this is not an exercise in self-gratification. In fact, I have not shared them often and have waited almost 19 years to publish this, and then only after feeling strong conviction to do so. I share them now so that people can at least better understand for themselves why I now am the man I am, and hopefully for them to consider what import these things may have to their own lives. Perhaps you were even meant to read this....

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