by Dan Kivett
Growing up, I never had any real connection with God. The image I had of God was one of vengeance and hellfire, not of love and compassion. I did attend church as a child, but attendance was mandatory for me, not voluntary. Eventually I just refused to attend anymore, and did not set foot in a church for over a decade. As a teenager, I began to deal with the frustrations of growing up by turning to alcohol and drugs, and at about age fifteen I had developed a serious problem.
When I was eighteen, I began to attend twelve-step meetings and stayed clean and sober for over a decade. At first, these meetings seemed to be the answer, and I started seeking a relationship with God in earnest for the first time in my life. However, the negative experiences I had with religion while growing up tainted my view of God, and of Christ, in particular. It seemed to me that while God was real, Christ was not, and it was difficult for me to see much of value in Christianity, instead I saw mostly greed, hypocrisy, and other negative elements. In fact, I was so opposed to what I thought I saw, that I made it a mission of mine to help others see what I perceived to be the truth. I took every opportunity I could find to preach against Christ and religion in general, believing that I was not just “doing the right thing”, but that I was truly doing God’s will by trying to prevent others from following what I believed to be a lie.
This attitude continued for years, long after I had stopped attending the twelve-step meetings, growing worse and worse as time went by. I took great pride in rebelling against Christianity and it was a central part of my identity. Imagine my surprise when that suddenly changed. One day I watched a documentary entitled “The Case For Christ”, which uses historical documentation and rational thought to present a clear and thoughtful argument for the existence and divinity of Jesus Christ. I started watching the documentary with the intention of mocking it, and by the end of the film I had started to face the fact that Christ was real. I didn’t really know what this would mean for me, other than that things were going to be different from then on.
The only problem was that things didn’t really change that much. I did a minimal amount of research on Christ and attempted to have a more open mind, but I did not put forth any real effort. In essence, my attitude was basically the same as it was before, and it was getting worse all the time. My life started to spiral downward due to bouts with insomnia and narcolepsy, and after being sober for ten years, I started drinking again. I quit my job of over nine years, and was put on medical leave from another job, leaving me without much to do but drink and hate. Life rapidly seemed more and more meaningless, and my attempts to get back to work were unsuccessful, so I simply stopped trying.
My problems came to a head when a combination of pneumonia and alcohol poisoning left me immobilized. Life had never seemed so empty, and I was tired of battling with drinking, depression, hatred, and the ever-looming belief that God simply did not care about me. So one night I prayed that God would just let me die. It was an honest prayer and I truly hoped that he would answer it. I was just tired, worn out from all the years of bitter hatred against religion and society and myself.
Eventually, I started to recover physically and resumed drinking. My attitude was still the same, and after a night of heavy drinking I admitted to a friend of mine exactly what my mindset was. I was honest about my desire to die, and he reacted swiftly and violently. In a misguided attempt to help me, he reasoned that he could “beat it out of me”, and what occurred next is something that I don’t entirely remember. It has left scars on my body that I hope never go away, because I don’t want to forget how hopeless my life became. Unfortunately, it didn’t work, and I was as miserable as ever.
With the looming threat of eviction, as well as all of my other unpaid bills, it became apparent to me that I would soon have no place to live and no way to pay for food. While talking with a friend of mine, the idea was brought up that I might go to rehab. Neither of us really thought that it was a good idea, and she suggested that maybe a New Life Program would be a better fit. After it was explained to me what that was, I reasoned that I truly didn’t have anything left to lose, as I had already done an excellent job of freely giving it all up. I was not too keen on the idea of residing at a place where I knew that Christian ideas and theology would be pushed upon me, and decided before I ever arrived that my stay would be a short one. I figured that I would take a bit of time to rest, and then figure out what to do next.
Getting “saved” was never part of the plan. Fortunately, sometimes God overrides our plans because he has something much better in mind. I believe that part of his plan was to let me get so physically and mentally broken down that I finally started to listen to Him. Bit by bit, day by day, Jesus started to sneak into my heart until I finally surrendered and welcomed him in. Now I am living the life that God had in store for me all along, and I am grateful to be doing it. My misconceptions about Christianity have been cleared up, and now I can embrace Christ and allow him to lead me to do His work. I attend daily classes as required by the New Life Program, and have started to truly understand what it means to be a Christian. I attend church weekly and attend a Bible study, in addition to my own personal study of the Bible. Most importantly, I pray, and ask God to make me into the person He wants me to be.
The life I live now still seems strange to me on occasion, most likely due to the fact that it is so different from any life I have ever known. After a lifetime of battling against Christianity, I am now a proud member of it. In the past, I allowed bad examples and bad theology to become excuses I could use to justify my way of life. Today, by the grace of God, I no longer do that. I seek answers in the Bible, and I find answers in the Bible. By the grace of God, I am finally living the life that I have always wanted.