‘I asked God to convince me in three weeks. Patience was never my virtue!’
Ray’s story | The fork in the road that led to life
“I grew up in a devout Maltese Australian Roman Catholic home, which meant we went to mass three times a week. To be Maltese was to be Catholic. No matter how tired my parents were at the end of the week, we always went to mass.
I have lots of fond memories of my upbringing. My mother taught me that God was personal, and it left a lasting and profound impression on me. Our parish priest was deeply loved by everyone in the community and I remember him patiently answering my questions like, “Can a child be a pope?” I clearly remember learning the doctrine of the Trinity from my Filipino nun in second class. There is one God, who is three persons, Father, Son and Spirit. I feel indebted to the foundation I received.
Nevertheless, as I grew older, it became clear that whatever relationship I claimed to have with God, it was very much on my terms. It was amazing what life style choices I got him to agree with. He had become the god of my imagination.
After school, I went to university and met a friend who came from a home that didn’t believe in God. To my surprise, she suddenly became passionate about Jesus. It didn’t take me long to realise that she had something I didn’t have. The living Jesus was very real in her life. One day, she challenged me. She said that Jesus was either Lord of everything, or he was a liar, or a lunatic. She said I needed to make a decision. Who did I think he was? I could see her logic, but I didn’t want to think about the implications of Jesus being Lord of my life. By that stage I was in party mode and living in Bondi. So, I put the idea on the back burner and tried not to think about it.
Sometime later I was counselling an alcoholic woman at a rehabilitation centre, as part of my social work training. It was then I realised I had no reason to care for others. Not even my loving family background could give me reason to put others before myself. It was a kind of an existential crisis. I dropped out of social work and fell into a series of dead-end casual jobs. Then one morning, while working around Dover Heights, it came into my mind that if Christianity was true and Jesus was really the Son of God, then I was probably in big trouble. At the same time, I remembered a promise of Jesus. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find.” (Matthew 7:7) So I made a pact with God. I promised to read the Bible, and I asked him to persuade me within three weeks, if it was true. Patience was never one of my virtues!
I started reading the Gospels, trying to find out if Jesus was the eternal Son of God. It was the first time I’d truly read the bible with an open mind, as an adult, and it was a profound experience. I knew a lot of the stories, but what was completely new was the portrait of Jesus that emerged. I simply fell in love with him. There was a ring of truth about everything Jesus said and did. This was the Son of God, in all his glory, and I couldn’t deny it.
Several weeks later, I was in the Hotel Bondi with two of my friends. They knew I’d been reading the Bible, and were concerned for me. As a result, they tried to dissuade me from becoming a Christian by telling me all the things I’d have to change in my life. Since we sinned in similar ways they could be very specific. As they spoke I imagined a fork in the road of my life. I could keep living on my own terms, doing all those things for the next sixty years, and be cut off from God forever. Or I could surrender to Jesus as Lord, make a completely fresh start, and enjoy forgiveness now, and acceptance on the Last Day. I said, “Guys, I think you’ve just persuaded me. I’m a Christian!”
They thought, at the time, it was a phase I was going through. It’s now been 41 years. I can’t begin to tell you the joy that came into my life. It was as if my whole life I was free-falling until I landed on the truth and love of the Lord Jesus.”
Ray’s story is part of Eternity’s Faith Stories series. Click here for more Faith Stories.