'He spoke as if Jesus was a real person. It was breathtaking'
Anne’s story | The amazing knowledge that you are not alone in the universe
“My teen years were very angst-filled. Where do I fit in the universe? Is there a God? How do I connect with God, if there is one? I felt a profound existential loneliness. What happens when I die? My mother was an atheist, so that may have affected it. She often said that she thought it would be better if we did believe … because then we’d have some kind of hope, even if it was completely delusional. I used to lie in bed at night imagining lying in a coffin for all eternity.”
“Along the way though, God kept putting Christians in my life. I didn’t necessarily know them, but they were prompts to tell me that Christians existed [and] believing in Jesus was a thing.
“One day, I was at university and it was lunchtime. I was on the grass outside the library and two girls came up to me. They were doing walk-up evangelism [I found out later]. They seemed nice though, and they sat down with me, and tried to talk to me, of course not realising that I’d had a lifetime of angst. So I fired off all my questions at them. ‘How do you even know the Bible is true? And what about evolution? And how do you know that Jesus rose from the dead? And what about other religions? Why would yours be true?’
“They probably thought I was a belligerent sceptic. Afterwards, they seemed sad that they couldn’t answer all my questions. They went off after a while, but before they left, they said, ‘We’re not sure. We just know God as our Father. We know that he loves us.’
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“To them, it was probably like they’d failed, but to me it was another prompt. God was putting people in my life who actually believed. Christians existed. Believing was a thing. I couldn’t get rid of a compelling sense of needing to decide about God. But I would probably have to study Hebrew and Greek and archaeology first … so that I could answer all my questions and research the original documents.
“Then, in my second year at university, another friend told me about Jesus. He spoke as if Jesus was a real person, as real as you or me, and he suggested that I read John’s Gospel. So I did. And the figure of Jesus – his authority and divinity – just loomed out of the pages. I found it breathtaking. I realised that being a Christian wasn’t about being good, or about following ritual, it was about what Jesus had already done for us on the cross. It was a gift of grace.
“So at Easter that year, I surrendered to Jesus. And, in that moment, I had a powerful experience of being filled with the Holy Spirit! I had an overwhelming sense that God was real and with me. It was so powerful. I was united to God because of Jesus. He was absolutely real. It was the most amazing thing in the universe! After that, I told everyone! And I read the Bible voraciously.
“I had a little red Gideon’s Bible (with the New Testament and the Psalms) and I read it all the time – on the train, everywhere. And Psalm 139 jumped out at me. ‘Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths you are there …’ (v 7-8)
“Everywhere I went, God was with me! It was a real thing! I would never be separated from him. And I would never be the outsider anymore, or excluded, or lonely. It was amazing! Of course, afterwards, I still needed to have all my intellectual answers, and I found them over time, but it came much later. First of all, I was united to Jesus.”