Safe and Sound
I grew up in a very secular society with no need for a savior. My life as a child was marked with no hardship and no great lack. Always comfortable, all our needs were taken care of. My sister and I were raised by parents who are still together to this day. From the time I started being conscious of my surroundings, life consisted only of the little pleasures provided in this environment. I was put in front of a television early on and still have a vague memory of watching it while my mother was cooking supper.
There was never any form of higher hope, vision for the future, errors or victories of the past, any form of higher being or invisible spiritual entities or any God or creator in the universe. No history, no heroes, no Savior that saves, for in our little suburban house, we felt safe.
This kind of upbringing would not at all allay my life to take any religious path, for I knew nothing of religion and my parents had never told me about churches or synagogues or mosks. I knew nothing of “God” and even much less of a “savior”.
The society I was raised in was marked by an oppressive religious history that made most common people reject any notion of an existing God or savior and made them look at the Bible as an old relic that clashed with the progress made toward a modern society. In my young life I met very few of the marginals in this society called “Christians”.
Encounters with Jesus
I was four or five years old when I had my first encounter. My mother got a job and so both my parents were now working. My sister and I then had to go to day care. There we were with an other family and few other children every day. Over time it seemed as if the parents of that family believed in something. Something called “God”.
One day the father was home and all the children were drawing with crayons in the living room. I was instructed to draw a man hanging on a cross. The man was bleeding. At some point the father came over to me and told me to put more blood, “There needs to be a LOT of blood…” So I obediently took the red crayon and applied myself to smother the hanging man with what would stand as his own blood. When I came home that day, I innocently showed the drawing I made at the daycare home to my father. He was furious. “You are never going back there again!” That was my first encounter with the savior.
Then there was Easter. Easter was marked by two main events in my life: a chocolate egg treasure hunt and the Jesus of Nazareth movie.
I remember the goodness of this Holiday being (in the midst of) a long week-end. On Sunday morning, my parents would hide little chocolate eggs in every corner of the house. Then would begin the exciting treasure hunt; my sister and I competing to find the most eggs and coming back with the many spoils.
Eating chocolate eggs, we would watch the movie, Jesus of Nazareth, on television. Somehow over the years I found myself being captivated by it. I remember the famous scene of the Beatitudes and when Jesus spoke those profound words, “blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth,” etc… causing an effect in the souls of the many sinners and religious leaders gathered around Him. Somehow, without understanding the meaning of these words, I knew they caused a stir in people’s lives around Him. Something resonated inside of me.
Toward the end of the movie, this very unfair thing happens to him and some people decide to crucify him. There he was, the savior hanging on a cross… with some blood. After that he resurrects and ascends into heaven to his father. Then what?
This conflict arose in me. I understood that the story of this man was probably the most significant in the whole world and that it influenced so many people’s beliefs but I could not understand what sort of positive change his death on the cross could have ever produced in this world. He died on the cross… SO WHAT? The injustices remain, the political corruption and poverty were still there and the environmental decline was only getting worse. Just look at the news! Even if people nowadays are living more comfortably, because of technology, and are more knowledgeable, because of science, I didn’t have the sense that they were more happy.
So, this is how what I ever knew of God and the savior was found to be irrelevant and inconsequential. Despite my unanswered questions, I turned a blind eye to this mystery and kept my walk on the normal path of a teenager, unaware of the sufferings of despair that would await me on that road.
He died on the cross… SO WHAT?
The Long Way Around
However, one thing that never left me was my quest for the knowledge of the truth which probably originated from the dissatisfaction of an existence without purpose. If there was anything worth living for in this life, it had to be some sort of meaning. I remember asking my parents if there is not more to life than to just going to school, getting a good job, paying taxes to the government and then dying. Their optimism and encouragement that we ought to do everything we can to enjoy every moments in life and do the best we can, somehow managed to comfort me a little. But these words of comfort were not sustainable and did not last very long.
My motivation at school rapidly declined and my outlook on existence darkened as I observed the social patterns of my peers in high school. I spent most of my time in bed, writing dark poetry about the fatal flaws of mankind. I became a deep thinker spending most of my time in my head, stunted in my social abilities.
Throughout my struggles I somehow managed to make few friends that were like-minded in their perspectives of this world. But even in this measure of togetherness, we were in search of exciting things to do. The little pleasures of life were taken to a higher level for me as we sought to reach an altered state. No sports, no academic studies or anything else would ever be the object of our gatherings. Throwing drinking parties would fully launch our escape from reality. More bad habits kept on developing from then on.
Eventually high school ended and college followed up which I abandoned quickly since the motivation for school did not reappear. After the process of becoming a useful tool for society through higher education was disrupted, it became obvious that I did not know what my purpose was and still had no clue of what to do with my life. But I knew how to indulge in my inclination to live for pleasure. Working a job I hated, spending all my free time trying to have some fun, showed that I was a slave to my evil desires. As I was moving fast on the conveyor belt of life I could see that so much of my time had been wasted. This kept instilling an anxiety in me that I would never be socially accepted. I had no hope of establishing my legacy for I still remained in an identity crisis. I started to need a savior.
I started hearing God’s voice calling me. The phone rang but I didn’t pick it up. It was the voice of my conscience crying out in my heart. I remember one night alone in my apartment. After one more step of compromise I was feeling this heaviness coming upon me, as if the ropes of death were enrapturing my soul. For the first time I realized that I was under a death sentence. Like the sword of Damocles hanging upon my head I finally saw that it could fall on me at any time. In my desire to live and not die, I asked God to save me.
The course of events eventually led me to get rid of my belongings, unwittingly preparing my escape from a place where God’s presence wasn’t. That same summer I left my country and headed west. Wherever the wind would blow would be where I hoped to find my destiny and the answers to my life. In my excitement I wondered deep inside if this was going to be the spiritual search I always needed. After a few months hitchhiking I realized that I would never go back home unless I found what I was searching for.
At the end of several months of hitchhiking my feet became weary of walking and my back of carrying a heavy backpack. I purposed to find an organic farm where I could volunteer for few weeks before I would get back on the road. Walking down the beach in Los Angeles I saw a man a little ways off. Somehow I had the strong feeling inside of me that I had to talk to this man. I started telling him what I was planning on doing. He started looking on his smartphone and found the address of a farm where a community lived. It looked to me as if they were some sort of Christian, hippie commune. A week later I started making my way to the farm. Not that I was very attracted to Christians but something in me knew that God was leading me there. Perhaps I could learn something.
What I had just stepped into I soon found out was far more than just a christian group but a community of believers who shared the same convictions. They were living the same way as the very first disciples of Jesus, except that they weren’t calling him Jesus but Yahshua1, the Hebrew name for “salvation of God.”
A Few things stood out to me. As I observed the many children’s bright countenances I saw that they were different than the ones I had seen in the world. Maybe it’s because they didn’t get put in front of a television… then the people living there were coming from every background of life and different social classes, families and singles were actually living together and getting along with each other. I could tell there was peace here. Unlike any regular church the “service” happened twice a day instead of once a week and everybody was free to speak what was on their hearts. They sang together, they ate together and they worked together. I fell in love with the life that I was witnessing and came to believe that God was living here.
The Savior In Person
Then one special evening, everybody was gathered for a celebration of Yahshua’s resurrection. One of the men stood up and asked the little children, “Who saw Yahshua today?” Then all the children started raising their hands. The question literally startled me. Was not Yahshua somewhere in heaven with the Father? If He ascended long time ago to His Father, how could any of these children claim to have seen Him? Then the man went on to explain that the reason the savior died on the cross and resurrected from the dead is so that He could send the Holy Spirit to those who are being gathered together, His people… The same Spirit that causes birds of every feather to dwell in the same tree, getting along with each other.
I was awestruck with new revelation. My entire life I never understood what this man hanging on the cross did that was so special. But all of a sudden everything started to make sense. There it was before my eyes, the witness of His resurrection, a people in unity living resurrected lives.
Because the savior took their place in death to pay for their sins, they could be forgiven and be reconciled to their Creator so they could fulfill the purpose they were created for. No longer were they under the death sentence; for the wages of sin is death. They live in a place where they were totally free to lay down their lives and love each other the same way Yahshua loved them, free from being slaves to their selfish, evil desires.
I knew from then on that I would become a disciple of Yahshua. Soon enough I was immersed in the waters of baptism and died to the old man in me in order to become a new creation in Messiah, transferred from the kingdom of darkness (a world system ruled by selfishness) into His marvelous light, the community of the redeemed ones.
Now I fulfill my created purpose by loving the way the Savior loved, and by learning how to keep His Spirit in my soul.
- Yahshua is the original Hebrew name of the Savior, called Jesus in most English translations of the Bible. Read more about His Name.