This is a true story of my life changing experiences on the night of June 14, 2002 when I went from an Atheist to a dedicated believer in the very person I thought never existed. It happened during a time in my life when God was non-existent to me because of my atheistic views; He was nothing more than a theory in the imagination of weak-minded people.
Prior to the events on that night life held little meaning to me because of the many things that I was forced to endure as a child… the kind of things that a child should never have to go through. It was a very difficult childhood to say the least and my sensitive nature along with the confusion of why these things were happening didn’t help one bit. As a result of all of this I simply gave up on an idea of a purpose filled life and a loving God who was sitting on a throne looking out after all of us. My question was, where is this God and why doesn’t He care enough “about me” to step in and save me from the living Hell I was going through… and how could He allow an innocent child to go through these things and not do anything about it? None of it made any sense to me and as a result I sought freedom from it all and began a journey that would take me halfway around the world; searching my own meaning, my own happiness and my own purpose.
What I didn’t know at the time was that, in all my years of travelling, almost 23+ to be exact, I would embark upon a journey that would be spent digging a hole so deep that eventually I would hit rock bottom, at which point I would have no other direction to look but up.
During the end of my wandering aimlessly throughout the world my past began catching up with me in a major way, and I soon found myself unable to bear the painful memories of my childhood. As a result of this I looked to drugs and alcohol to further my escape and for over ten years they became my God.
As time went on I found myself in a serious state of depression and loneliness while my addictions grew to an even greater influence. Not to mention, the exhausting memories of my past that were rapidly reaching a boiling point; they controlled every moment of my waking life… even my dreams were intoxicated and filled with adverse sexual perversions. I was a total wreck and eventually lost myself completely and any opportunity of escape.
I didn’t realize it at the time but I was also swimming in a sea of depression that was more than a blip on the radar of abnormality; it was a chronic possession that overshadowed me day and night and on top of that, it was fueled by serious abandonment issues and feelings of worthlessness and eventually reached a point where any problem I encountered quickly escalated to nuclear size proportions.
As the years past, I became increasingly dependent upon those things that were tearing my life apart, they had become the norm as I drifted from one place to the next, eventually landing me in South Beach Miami where I met a girl named Emma.
Emma was able to touch me in a way that no one else was ever able to do and seemed to overlook all my flaws and my inconsistencies; needless to say I quickly fell in love with her. Although I knew her stay was to be limited here in the states I allowed myself to fall head over heels for her just the same. In our time together it seemed as if the darkness had lifted away from my life and I could finally breathe, however, those feelings were short lived; it was just a matter of time before she would have to move on.
It felt like I couldn’t handle another person walking out of my life especially someone I had come to love so much, but there was nothing I could do about her leaving; I had already convinced her to stay longer than she had planned and the time soon came. It was that night before her departure that I took it upon myself to overdose on a bottle of extra strength pain pills.
After the attempt, I was rushed to the hospital and spent three days in intensive care and another three days in the psych ward before signing myself out against the hospital’s recommendations. When they questioned why I did it I told them that I had just simply made a big mistake and was intoxicated and didn’t really want to die. However, deep down inside I didn’t believe a word of what I was saying for the simple fact that I was just tired and didn’t want to continue keeping on any longer. Needless to say, I didn’t die but that episode sparked an acceleration of my self-destruction and as time progressed so did my depression, loneliness and substance abuse. Eventually, I ended up in Phoenix Arizona; it was the one last stop before my life would be changed forever.
Soon after moving to Phoenix, I ended up in a Hotel where I lived for about a year and it was there where my addictions gained an even stronger hold on my life. And I eventually found myself not wanting to live once again. My day to day routine become too heavy of a struggle to carry; I literally felt bogged down in misery with no strength left to carry on. It was that night, while sitting in that hotel room when the reality of whom I had become came crashing down on top of me. But little did I know that after that night my life would never be the same.
June 14th, 2002 – Phoenix, Arizona
I was in the hotel, drinking and smoking, I guess I started around 4 pm immediately after returning from work, when I turned on the television and noticed it was left on a religious channel. This was odd because I had never watched that kind of stuff before; religion was nonexistent in my world, it was nothing more than another form of brainwashing to control people’s lives and their hard earned money and I wanted no part of it.
I didn’t really put too much emphasis on why the television was left on that station; I just assumed the housekeeper had been watching it while cleaning and I wasn’t interested in watching TV anyway so I simply went back to what I was doing.
Soon my attention fell back onto the voice of a television evangelist named Joyce Meyer, whom I didn’t have a clue of who she was at the time, she was talking about the events that were happening in the world and then went on to mention the 9/11 attacks all of which were related to end times prophecies. As I was listened to her go on about Bible stuff I began to get angry for some reason, I felt it was all nonsense so I just got up and turned the it off and then sat back down to my cocktail of good times.
Some more time had passed and I suddenly caught myself daydreaming about what this preacher had been talking about and even briefly considered the possibility of truth behind it. However, it didn’t take me long before I shook off the notion while laughing at myself for even thinking of such foolishness.
I then found myself thinking about my own life and the way it had turned out and the more I thought about it the more saddened I became. It all seemed so unfairly divergent to anyone else’s life I had ever known and I was really beginning to feel like some sort of bad apple, undeserving of a better life. I found myself asking the question, “Why is it that my life is the way it is and what did I do wrong that I am not able to change it?” I felt like no matter how hard I had ever tried I just couldn’t make any positive progress.
I reached a point that night when I began accepting the fate of who I was; admitting to myself that I was just another of outcast of society; a complete failure, and presumed this to be the reason why my biological parents gave me up for adoption.
I thought of how hard it was growing up feeling unloved by the very people who took me in. I went on to think about all the trouble I got myself into as a child and that no one cared enough to examine the reasons why; but I knew why. I knew there were many reasons behind it, but why didn’t anyone care enough to want to help me? I thought more of the loneliness I had no choice but to live with, the sadness I was suffering my whole life and of all the weight behind it all I carried on my shoulders for so many years and of course how tired I was of carrying it.
I thought of my mixed ethnicity and the not fitting in because of it and the labels the world gave people like me; names like “half breed, mutt, zebra, half baked, etc,” and of how much I hated being called these names. I didn’t feel like I was part of anything in the world but that I was a meaningless mistake; separated from anything that had any true value, like swine feeding on slop, treading through the waist of life.
I went on to think about how hard it was growing up in a town that hated mixed ethnicity and interracial relationships, and they hated me because I was a product of one. I thought of how unfair it was that I had no control over the way I was born or the life that I had been given… I then buried my head in my hands and asked the question why? “Why did I have to be so different, why is it that no one loved me?”
The feelings of despair were almost overwhelming while I sat there in that chair feeling sorry for myself. I started to truly believe that night that no one cared how I had lived or what I was going through. How could it be though? How could the world be so insensitive to the pain inside of me? How could they not honestly care when I was hurting so much… I just wanted to crawl up under a rock and hide.
In addition to all I was going through that night sitting at the table, I realized for the first time my addictions. I had become addicted to crack cocaine and alcohol, if that was not enough; I realized that I was tightly wrapped up in a sea of severe depression.
These were all major strongholds on my life and I hated myself for allowing them to overtake me. But in all of my thinking, I also realized that this was rock bottom and was exactly where I belonged; where I was created to be, and that my entire life and its troubles was an example of someone else’s mistakes that I was left to suffer for the rest of my pathetic life.
I then hid my face into my hands again and as I felt the unfairness of it all; that I didn’t have a chance from the beginning… I couldn’t understand the reason why, I mean, I was innocent in all of it. I didn’t ask for any of this…what had “I” done to deserve this? I just kept asking myself these same questions.
I remembered the times when I tried to make changes in my life but it was like something was holding me back that I couldn’t break free from. Every time I put one foot forward, it simply pulled me two steps back. And if there was a God, He knows that I’ve I tried. I’ve tried many times but was just beating against an unrelenting wind. And it was right then and there when I realized that I just could not carry on any longer; Iy was time I ended my life. I raised my head toward the ceiling with tears in my eyes and cried out “God if you are real then you can help me.”
I then stood up and began pacing back and forth in the room when my attention fell upon the Holy Bible that sitting in that room, on the nightstand, collecting dust for as long as I had been there and until then, I hadn’t considered reading it.
Strangely enough, on at least on one occasion I threw that Bible into the trashcan only to come back later in the evening to find the housekeeper had taken it out and placed it back on the stand. I also remember wanting to get rid of it on several occasions but for some reason I either forgot or just became preoccupied. The only time I ever gave any real thought to touching it was when I ran out of rolling papers for my marijuana.
So, I sat on the edge of the bed staring at it when the desire to pick it up became stronger and stronger. It was an unusual feeling because as I said before, I’ve never gave any consideration to reading it. None the less, I finally gave into the urge and picked it up. I randomly opened it to somewhere after the middle and began to read.
Reading it was a task because I was too high to understand or remember anything written in it. The few sentences I did manage to understand escaped me as quickly as it came and after stumbling through a couple of paragraphs, I finally said to myself, “This is a waste of time,” I can’t remember one single word from the next but the urge to continue kept me trying.
Suddenly, one part of a page jumped out at me with clarity; it talked about all kinds of sin and the consequences of them… everything about my lifestyle it seemed to be mentioned on that page and it even went on to explain how detrimental they were to my life. Then one particular sin really caught my attention, as if screaming out at me, it was sexual immorality, it all pierced my heart definably as I continued reading.
Everything mentioned played a major role in my existence, a controlling role and I felt as if God was talking directly to me and admonishing me for the way I was living the life, and I increased in sorrow and shame. It all was becoming uncomfortably clear that the way I was living my life was wrong, the clarity of it all was undeniable and very profound. It was as though my mind had opened to its core of understanding and I couldn’t refute any of it.
I can’t put it into better words when I try to explain exactly how I felt at that very moment but it was a powerful realization of how offensively wrong my life had become. It truly was the most uncomfortable feeling I had ever experienced in my life as I was realizing just how tainted I was in the eyes of God. I then immediately opened up from the bottom of my heart and began to cry.
I had never cried before the way I did that night; it was as if the floodgates to my heart had exploded and the waters gushed through my eyes as if rushing back into the sea. I then became weak in the knees, in fact all over my body, weak to the point that I had to lie back on the bed for relief. As I lay there, I tried stopping the tears but the more I tried the more they persisted; it was as if there was a reason why I needed this release…maybe it was the beginning a long needed cleansing process, but I can’t be for sure. Eventually I stopped trying to stop them and just let them flow; I must have cried for an hour.
Suddenly, the even stranger happened; I started having flashbacks of my past. They were vivid portraits of things I had done throughout my whole life, some of which I had forgotten all about. These flashbacks went back all the way to my childhood, they were of things I had done to myself and to other people, and they were all bad. Not one image was good. My whole life was flashing before my eyes, it was one memory after another; they just kept coming and coming. First the vision and then the memory followed. At first, I was amazed by what was happening to me and I even uttered the word “cool.” But it didn’t take long before the unmistakable realization behind them slapped me right in the face.
It was then for the first time when I realized that God was real and I then became emotionally overwhelmed, to say the least. It wasn’t only because of what I was seeing and remembering but also that I had no control over them. I couldn’t make them stop, it was like the tears; the more I tried to stop them the more they kept coming…and they were happening so fast.
There was a split second between these flashbacks, they were almost random, but the memory of each one corresponded with each flashback…it was so strange.
The flashbacks were in very sharp and clear detail. They weren’t just images of a particular event or thing, but were filled with specifics. It was just like when you take a snap shot of a particular something and after examining it you notice everything within its frame. For example: A House then the trees, bushes, power lines, birds, sky, clouds, etc. All the images were in great detail and were as real as you are sitting there reading this now.
As the flashbacks continued my heart began to beat rapidly and then my breath was taken away with each heavy heart beat, I felt as if I was dying. It was right then when I realized, in the deepest part of me, that this was an act of God. He suddenly became very real, more real than any tangible thing in this world. I then felt at that moment that I truly was tasting death; on the edge of death, and all those flashbacks were His judgments against me. It suddenly became clear that they were the reasons why, if I did died at that moment, I would spend eternity in Hell.
Upon this realization, A dreadful and inexpressible feeling of fear overwhelmed me as my heart, my mind and my entire body entrenched with anxiety. It was like nothing I had ever felt before in my life. No words can express the level of fear I was going through right then, it was an unnatural level of fear. All I can say is, it came from somewhere far more empty than any place here on earth that you could ever be imagined… A place that can only be described as Hell… the same Hell the Bible describes. And what I was feeling right then, was the source of that place.
Moments later, I fell to my knees beside the bed and began to cry out in sorrow… all I could say was, “I am sorry, I am sorry, I am sorry. As I was there on my knees the flashbacks did not relent… they just continued reminding me of the terrible things I had done in my past. But then suddenly the urge fell upon me once again to pick up the Bible and continue reading.
After I picked myself up and sat back on the bed I reached and took the bible into my hands trembling and began reading onto the next page. It no longer talked about sin and the condemnation of sin but talked about the love of Jesus Christ and a way out of what my life had become. It went on to talk about how it is through Christ that I would be set free, and how His sacrifice was for well-being of us all, and as I continued to read, hope began to enter into my heart.
I must stop now and explain something that is very important. I grew in a small town back in the Midwest, in a Church that taught that all “white people” were devils. This was very confusing to me as a child because I am of a mixed race, white/black. I could never understand how half of me could go to heaven and the other half go to hell because of this, I quickly lost interest in the Church, God and the Bible; it just didn’t make any sense to me.
My point is: no one ever taught me the correct ways of God or what the Holy Bible was really saying. No one ever taught me how to pray for forgiveness or that I should ask Christ into my heart so that I could be forgiven. I didn’t even know what it meant to accept Christ into my heart. But it was that night when I suddenly knew exactly what I should pray. It was as if God had planted this knowledge directly into my heart.
I then went back to my knees beside the bed and closed my eyes and in my heart God spoke to me. It wasn’t an audible voice per say but more like a knowing, like I had always known exactly what was needed for my life to change. It came from deep within my spirit; a spiritual voice that spoke and gave me an understanding saying” if you believe in your heart that Christ is the son of God, that He died for your sins and rose again and that if you accept him as your Lord and savior, you will be given a brand new life with a brand new start.” It was at that moment when I confessed Christ into my life by saying exactly what was in my heart.
After I prayed those words I immediately felt a warm sensation enter into my body like waves and of warm energy filling every part of me. It was like gentle surges of electricity filling every sense in me, from the top of my head to the tips of my toes and every hair on my body stood on end.
When this happened, I noticed that all the anxiety that came rushing into me earlier was suddenly being taken away and replaced with an inexpressible feeling of joy and love and even the tears and my flashbacks abruptly began to slow down and finally stopped all together.
It was truly the most amazing thing I have ever experienced in my life. I was being changed from the inside out and I could feel it happening, I could feel it all the way to my core and I knew it was God. I knew He had just entered, not only my life, my very being and that He was there to stay… and furthermore, I knew my life would never be the same again.
A little later I stood up and felt as if I were floating above the floor, like my feet were not touching at all. In fact, I looked down just to make sure my feet were still on the floor lol. After I looked down and saw I was still standing on solid ground I realized that All the heaviness; all the weight I had been carrying around with me my whole life had suddenly disappeared. It vanished in an instance. I felt a hundred pounds lighter. I felt as if the world had just been lifted from my shoulders, I felt completely different; a changed man, a new person, like I had been born again.
I also realized that my mind had been cleared from the drugs and booze I had taken before these events began to happen. There were literally no signs that I had done any drugs or alcohol at all that night. Upon realizing this, I began to cry all over again but these were tears of thankfulness because I had just experience another miracle from God. With that, I also realized that not only has everything about me just become brand new in my life but that I had just become a child of the Most High living God; a child of the creator of everything! How awesome is that!
As I am crying out and thanking him for what he had just done for me; releasing me from everything that had kept me in bondage for so many years of my life, It hit me in the most significance, not only was the weight gone but I also knew that my addictions had been taken away too. The chains that kept me bound for so many years had been broken away and I knew it without a shadow of doubt and indeed it has.
God wasn’t done yet:
Some more time went by as lay on the bed; recapping everything that had just happened to me and after about an hour or so I began to question whether what I had just experienced was actually an encounter with God or was just an over active imagination. So, I asked out loud, “God what just happen to me… was this Christ or was it something else?” Immediately after asking that question I was given one last vision… when I closed my eyes a vision of Christ was in front of me, closely in front of me with the exact same clarity as all of those flashbacks; He was standing there with a smile on his face. And from that point on I knew everything that happened to me was truly a God given experience.
This is what my vision of Christ looked like:
He had shoulder length hair, not long hair like the commonly painted portraits of him painting, and it seemed to be somewhat kinky and dark in color. He had a dark brown complexion and his skin looked like He had been out working in the sun for most of his life. He had very average looking manly features in his face and it is more rounded than the paintings we generally see of him. He actually looks nothing like the painting we see of him.
He was rugged looking but also a man of authority and He was in his early thirties. He also had a very gentle and loving expression on his face and his head was gently tilted to the side as He smiled directly at me. I could only see him from the top of his shoulders up but I could tell that He was wearing a white robe cut wide around the neck. He looked right at me with piercing eyes.
I knew then that everything I had experienced was real and that it was indeed Christ, our savior, who came into my life.
It was an amazing night; God miraculously changed my life in a blink of an eye. I realize now that He took me to the brink of death, let me feel what hell is like, and showed me all the reasons why I deserved to go there. He then brought me back and offered me a reason for living, a reason for change and a second chance with him through Jesus Christ.
I find it hard to express to you how much this all means to me. But I was an atheist, at best an agnostic, even up to that very hour it all began. I even cursed the idea of a God and hated anything to do with him. I was a thief and a liar and filled with thoughts of lust and deprivation. I overflowed with anger, hate, depression, and hopelessness and was even suicidal but God loved me just the way I was and waited for the right moment to take it all away from me. In doing so, He allowed me to dig a hole so deep that I would hit rock bottom. But I realize now that that would have been the only way I would have looked up.
He never forced himself on me, but waited patiently while conditioning my heart to receive him, and for that I am deeply in love with him. It took me going to hell and back in more ways than many but you may not have to go that far. You can ask him right now to come into your life. He will remove from you whatever it is that is trying to destroy you. He may or may not come to you with bells and whistles like He did to me but rest assured that if you ask He will come and your life will begin to changed.
You may feel like your life is just perfect right now, that everything is falling into place just the way it should but think about this… if you accept Christ into your life it will be so much more profitable and so much more meaningful. More than you can ever imagine.
It is written in Romans 10:9… “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Shawn D. Long
“For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)
I later understood exactly what that sensation was that I felt . . . it was the Holy Spirit of God. It is his promise fulfilled through Christ when He said:
“But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.”
“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.”
Please go to: http://www.facebook.com/shawnlong823 to view My Testimony: An Atheist to a Believer Ch. #2