Did God create us, and if he did, who, what, or where was God? Were we the result of an evolutionary process, some sort of coincidental end to a random development with no justification other than it just happened? Was there any meaning to life, any purpose? “I don’t know, and I don’t see how anyone else can know with certainty,” was my response to those questions. As far as I was concerned, if there was an ultimate truth it was beyond our comprehension, and I was not jumping on any philosophical bandwagons unless I knew it to be the truth as sure as my heart knew to beat or my lungs knew to draw another breath.
“I don’t know,” was my answer to the meaning of life. Scientists, Evolutionists, Alien Theorists, Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Zoroastrians, New Agers, Transcendentalists; they all sounded the same to me. Different answers, different theories, but all guesses based on abstract deductions of empirical evidence, antiquated scriptures of mysterious origin, or deep seeded reasoning emanating from belly buttons and other equally innocuous sources. None of them really knew, and the only honest answer was; “I don’t know.”
Then things changed. On December 20th, 1996, at the age of thirty-eight, I was sitting in The Love Crowd Christian Light Church on Eutaw Street in Baltimore. I was listening to Bishop Randolph Corporal tell me I needed to, “get with Jesus,” whatever that meant. I was in his church because I was promoting a fund raising business, and even though churches of any sort, Christian or otherwise, held no particular significance for me, I thought they might be interested in raising funds. God or no God, everybody could use some extra funds. Bishop Corporal agreed to trying the fund raiser, but he said he knew God had a reason for me being there, and though he would work the fund raiser the best he could, he felt it was more important for me to, “seek Jesus,” and, “get with Jesus,” whatever that meant.
Three other churches in the Reservoir Hill neighborhood agreed to try the fundraiser, and I thought it made good business sense to attend one or two services in each of the churches, just to help promote the business. It was in The Love Crowd Christian Light Church that I began to see things differently. The only way I can explain what happened is to simply say, as I sat there in the service, listening to people thank God for this and that, thanking God for taking care of them and watching over their lives, something happened inside of me. It was a feeling, a stirring, an internal expression I had not ever felt. I did not know what it was, why it was happening, or where it came from, but it was strong, and I knew I couldn’t ignore it. I knew intuitively there was something to what these people were saying. There was something to it, and I needed to find out what that something was; I needed to know more.
I decided to search for this “something” at a church named New Exodus Fellowship in Cockeysville. A year or so before my wife had talked me into attending a couple of services at New Exodus, and at the time my reaction had been, “so what?” To the pastor’s credit, he had spent a few Monday evenings at my apartment, talking with me for hours about the great meaning of life and responding to the questions I put forth, but even his efforts, at that point, failed to sway me from my, “nobody knows for sure,” stand. So, I had a connection with New Exodus, and for the pragmatic reasons of it being close to my apartment in Lutherville and the fact that they held Sunday School during service and not before, I decided to start attending service at New Exodus. The Sunday School thing was a primary issue. I remembered as a child attending Sunday School and then having to attend service, or kill time until service was over, and how interminably long those Sundays were, and I thought it best for my own two young daughters to attend where they would not be subjected to such sufferings.
In March of 1997 I began attending New Exodus regularly, still skeptical, but a little more open-minded because of my experience at The Love Crowd. I listened, began to pray, as best I could figure how to pray, and tried to put the “Father, Son, Holy Spirit,” diatribe to the test. Things started happening, little things, but things I could not ignore; coincidences, inevitabilities, unexplainable circumstances. There was enough questionable circumstantial evidence to support their claim that God did exist and He loves and cares, that in June of 1997 I decided to find out once and for all if Jesus was for real. I was going to give it my best shot, do everything they said; pray, read the Bible, search, and seek. If nothing happened definitively, as I still expected, then Jesus was out, once and for all, and by “definitively”, I meant that I knew Jesus was the truth as sure as my heart knows to beat and my lungs know to draw another breath.
By August of 1997 I desperately wanted to know that Jesus was for real. My heart ached to be able to say, “yes, I believe.” Even though I had intellectually reached the point of being able to say, “I believe,” it didn’t satisfy the parameters I had established at the outset. I didn’t know it as sure as my heart knows to beat, or my lungs know to draw another breath. I believed it, but I was not a part of it, or it was not a part of me. Then, on August 17, 1997, it happened.
I was sitting in church, listening to the rest of the congregation sing and worship. I was tired and my shoulders were sore from a hard Saturday night’s work at the seafood market. It was hot. I did not stand with the rest of the congregation, but instead remained in my seat, my eyes closed, just listening. I felt hands massaging my shoulders. The pain and stiffness vanished. I felt a cool breeze waft through my hair, cooling and relaxing me. I felt a pleasant comfort come over me.
I saw an image through my mind’s eye, like a dream, only not a dream because I was fully conscious and aware. I saw clouds, big white billowing clouds, moving swiftly. The clouds seemed to change shape and texture, becoming long folds of satiny white cloth. I thought, “What’s going on, what is this?” It was as if I were sitting in a theater, watching a movie screen. The folds of cloth began to descend, and then, right before me, staring me right in the face, was a translucent, radiant face of adoration and love.
“An angel,” I thought. “I’m looking at an angel.” I was completely unaware of the church, the congregation, the singing, anything else. It was me and this face, this loving face that wore an expression you might associate with beholding the beauty of a sleeping baby. I felt hands caress my face, holding my face in a cradle of compassion. This vision, this angel, was looking at me as though it were admiring something uniquely special. It seemed to understand something that was beyond my comprehension. I sensed that it was overjoyed to have the opportunity to behold one of God’s creations first hand.
I thought, “What about my children?” The angel drew back an arm, and underneath that arm I saw my children, illuminated in a golden light. I thought, “What about my wife?” The angel drew back the other arm and I saw my wife, illuminated in a golden light. Then the angel caressed my face once more, as if to say, “That’s not important, what’s important is that you understand.” And then it was over.
I didn’t say anything to anyone. I wasn’t sure what to think. I knew it had happened. I knew I had not suddenly gone crazy and hallucinated. Everything was normal. The congregation was still standing and singing. I kept it to myself. When I returned home that afternoon, I picked up my Bible. I read one word and immediately shut it. The word I had read was, “we.” That’s all, just, “we.” But instead of just being an irrelevant word in an antiquated scripture written thousands of years ago, it was speaking to me, directly. It wasn’t, “we,” meaning a bunch of other people. It was, “we,” meaning them and me. The Word had come alive.
Since that day I have been a believer in Jesus Christ. I believe not because I decided through my own rational choice, but because it is a part of me. I know the truth of Jesus Christ as sure as my heart knows to beat, and my lungs know to draw another breath. My vision, my encounter with the angel, was the answer to my prayer. It put the love of God and the truth of Jesus Christ in my heart.
On December 25, 2000, my wife, at the age of thirty-nine, died of a sudden brain aneurysm. Though grieved by the sudden loss, I knew the reality of God’s promise and the reassurance I had received from the angel. I know my wife lives, thanks to Jesus Christ, and I know I will be with her again in a far more wonderful place. And I wonder, as difficult as the loss is, even knowing with absolutely certainty that she is in God’s care, how do people handle such losses who have no such reassurance. If you don’t know Jesus Christ, if His presence has not been established in your heart, then start to change that today. He is there, seek Him and you will find Him. His love is so strong, so deep, so powerful, it will overcome any, any, apprehensions, doubts, fears, hurts, or wounds you may harbor.
Thanks to Curtis Rook of Witnessjesus.org–an excellent Christian testimony site–for allowing his story to be published here.