Many years ago I attended some lectures at a NSW university in my Salvo uniform. There were also some Roman Catholic sisters dressed in their habits. The lecturer was an aggressive atheist and in every lecture he made some very harsh criticisms about God and the Christian church so I decided to make an appointment to see him.
When I entered his study I could see that he was set for an argument.
I knew that engaging in arguments is seldom productive, so I said to him that he must have been deeply hurt by something that happened in his relationship with religious people.
He admitted that, but added that so much of the antagonism in the world had its origin in religion. I agreed with him and further disarmed him by saying that if I looked at the intellectual and historical external approach to God over time, I probably would be an atheist like him.
It’s hard to believe that God could let the world get into such a mess of hatred and cause so much antagonism between people.
I made no attempt to tell him that God’s love for his children gave them the freedom to accept or reject him, as that could have caused him to shut down. He asked me how I could accept God and why I believed in him. This was my moment.
I said I believe in God because I have experienced a personal relationship with him. He thought for a while and then suggested that this ‘so-called’ experience was probably my need of some psychological answer to my needs of the moment.
I expected that, but I assured him that I was in need of nothing and explained that an infinite God is far too big for us with our finite minds to understand, but if we make ourselves available to him, he will come to us. He wanted me to outline for him what this ‘so-called’ experience of God did for me.
‘Many years ago late one night, for no reason the room suddenly filled with a strange light and a sense of belonging to someone much more expansive than anything in this world. I was no longer a speck of dust way out there in the cosmos.
‘I felt such a deep sense of peace so that I was afraid of nothing—not even death. And now decades later that experience has never left me. In fact it has become stronger in me the older I get.’
I looked into his face and it seemed to me that his eyes were more moist than normal.
It was time for his next lecture, so he showed me to the door, gripped my hand firmly and quietly said, ‘Perhaps one day I might find him?’
I said, ‘No. Just keep the door open and he will find you.’