‘I’d been meditating for four years and hadn’t felt a moment’s peace.’
Kristi’s story | In search of a higher power
“I grew up not believing in God. I had a troubled youth and I struggled with eating disorders, depression and drugs. By the time I was 21, I was a heroin addict. At 22, I realised I was going to die if I didn’t do something, so I went to the Buttery for seven months. It’s a drug rehab centre near Byron Bay. While I was there, they introduced the 12-step Narcotics Anonymous program. Basically you admit you’re insane and that you do terrible things. You seek a higher power because you realise you can’t fix yourself.
It was the mid 80’s in Byron Bay – a very New Age, Hippie culture – so, initially, my search for a higher power began there. I had a deep-seated prejudice against Christianity. I came from a left-leaning, intellectual, atheistic background and saw Christians as the cause of, or complicit, in the problems in the world – as hypocrites and racists. I remember that a Christian at the Buttery tried to tell me about Jesus dying on the cross for our sins, and it all seemed like mumbo jumbo – a weird ritual. Buddhism seemed way cooler.
So I pursued meditation and tried to ‘find’ myself. I joined political movements, including a stint with communists in the Philippines. But over time, I began to see that political movements didn’t seem to change things. And truthfully, I couldn’t even change myself. By then, I’d been meditating for four years and hadn’t felt a moment’s peace.
So I played my last card. I ran away. Perhaps travel could fill the hole inside me. I went to China to see if communism really did work, and I travelled to the area near the Li River. One day, I was sitting on a mountain peak, overlooking the most beautiful natural vista… and I realised I felt dead inside.
This really worried me, so I decided to go to an Ashram in India. I travelled to Shanghai and found a boat leaving for Hong Kong. I suddenly had a really strong feeling that I needed to be on that boat. I got the last cabin. But when I got inside, there was someone else sitting in my cabin. Her name was Laura. She was an underground missionary to China.
I asked her why she was a missionary. She said that God had put his love in her heart for the Chinese people. I stared at her and then asked, “Do you feel that God is with you all the time?”
She thought for a moment, and then replied, “Yes.”
I found myself crying. I realised, in that moment, that she had what I wanted. I asked her what all this business about Jesus dying on the cross was, and she asked me,
“What do you think is the worst thing people could do to each other?”
“And do you think pedophiles should be punished?”
I replied that I did, and she then explained that Jesus died as a way of dealing with all the deep injustices and wrongs in the world. It was God’s perfect combination of justice and mercy… the only way that the world could be made right.
For the first time, it made logical sense to me. She lent me the Gospel of John. I read it that night but it seemed like dry bones to me, so I gave it back to her. Then, on the last night on the boat, I stood on the deck by myself. I was in turmoil. Jesus’ death made sense to me, but I just couldn’t muster up the faith to believe in God. So I said, “Look Jesus, I don’t believe in you, but if you do exist, please reveal yourself to me.”
I suddenly felt at peace. The next day I went looking for a Bible and read it in my rat-infested backpackers in Hong Kong that night. I stopped at John 13. “A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (v34)
It was at that moment that God revealed himself to me as the God of love. It was a visceral experience. I was completely overwhelmed by his presence and love. It was as if I’d come home. It was absolutely beautiful.
It’s now been 31 years since that night in Hong Kong. The next day I met up with Laura again and she led me in a prayer where I asked Jesus into my life. In the last 31 years, God has completely changed my life. I’m no longer an addict. I went from being a high school drop-out to getting a PhD. I am learning, more and more, how to be free in Christ and how to delight in him. It just gets better all the time.”
Kristi’s story is part of Eternity’s Faith Stories series, compiled by Naomi Reed. Click here for more Faith Stories.