Something amazing happened to me on the 1st of October at around 3:20am. I drove home from work in deep thought. I thought about my relationship with God. I thought a lot about my relationship with Jesus Christ. I thought back to my teenage years and remembered what I considered to be the era of the Jesus Freaks. I remembered throughout my life being approached by many different Christians from numerous denominations asking me if I had been Saved. It ALWAYS baffled me. I couldn’t comprehend what it really meant. I just didn’t have the internal context to truly understand what they meant. To be honest, I’m not even sure if they understood what they were asking me. Having said that, I’m sure in their own way they understood what they were asking. Because on occasion when I asked what they meant, they often answered with ‘Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your savior?’ I thought about it and I nodded and answered, ‘Yes’. But it just didn’t make sense to me. I didn’t understand how it could be that simple and for me… one who has a tendency to possibly overthink by breaking things down into a million pieces, analyze and decide for myself if it made sense or not… just simply accepting the Lord Jesus Christ as my savior wasn’t enough to make me feel ‘Saved’. It just didn’t click for me. It seemed too shallow. It lacked depth and meaning for me. I felt I needed a more profound, spiritual awakening… a miraculous enlightenment… to make it all fall into place in my mind, in my heart and deep in my soul. It left me empty. I wanted more.
More about how I ended up the way I became: I remember back in 1998 I studied a book about tremendous spiritual women throughout history. I still have this book, which I believe is still in storage in a box at my brother’s home. The story was about a nun who had been accosted by someone challenging the nun’s love for Jesus Christ. I think the person asking belonged to a denomination outside of the nun’s Catholic faith and possibly held a low opinion of Catholic teachings. The nun’s answer captivated my attention: “I love the Lord Jesus so much that I would rather spend an eternity in Hell than to know that by accepting the Lord’s sacrifice, I individually contributed to his suffering through the sinful choices I have made during my life.”
That statement blew me away. It floored me. I nodded, clenched my jaw and made a decision. I decided that I loved the Lord Jesus that much, too. I couldn’t think of anything more noble, loving and merciful than to refuse to accept the Lord’s suffering of the Atonement and His subsequent death on the Cross. I didn’t want to feel I had caused Him any more pain than He had already suffered.
I held onto that attachment for 23 years.
And yet… I still felt unfulfilled. I still didn’t feel ‘Saved’. I struggled with an abject emptiness inside. I meditated. I fasted. I prayed. I studied the Bible in its many translations, the Koran, the Hindu holy books, Buddhism and world religions ad infinitum. And I returned to the Bible… again.
And the years passed without filling that emptiness.
God works in mysterious ways. And God knows your heart. God knows what you really want and also knows what you need. God knew I needed and wanted something I could grasp. Something that would especially make sense to me.
I explored various concepts and philosophies with greater and deeper intent. During this past year or so, I became fixated on the concept of the giving and receiving of gifts. In general. Birthday gifts, Christmas gifts and the simple giving of a gift to someone just because you wanted to give. I examined the process. The offering of a gift and the subsequent receiving of a gift. I have seen people so reluctant to accept a gift from someone that they reached the point of literally refusing to accept the gift. When this happened, I witnessed joy disappear. The giver of the gift could not experience the joy of giving nor could the potential receiver of the gift experience the joy of receiving. When the reverse occurs, both the giver of the gift and the receiver simultaneously experience joy. It becomes an infinite, eternal experience of reciprocation. It is beautiful.
The focus on this concept held deep meaning for me. Seeing and understanding the joy shared by the giver and receiver became a moment of enlightened awareness for me.
It led me to think more deeply about the Gift that God offers us.
It was impressed upon my mind that God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ designed a miraculous plan, inspired by the pure love of God in Heaven before we were all born. Before our spirits entered into physical bodies on Earth. A plan of salvation – a covenant between the Father and the Son – took place which would grant us saving Grace. The Father agreed. The Son agreed. And it was done. The Lord Jesus Christ would atone and suffer for all of the sins of humanity. A Sacred and Holy Gift which they offer to all of us.
I thought more about this. I remembered how I didn’t want to feel I had contributed to the suffering of Jesus. It brought great pain to my mind, heart and soul. And then it dawned like the sun rising in the morning… the holy agreement to save all of us had been made between the Father and the Son. Whether I accepted it or not would not alter the Gift. It wouldn’t alter or diminish any of the suffering – the atoning – the torture, torment, ridicule, harassment, and abuse in every form and fashion that Jesus went through – all the way to the Cross. Whether I accepted the Gift wouldn’t alter the nails being driven through His hands and feet. Or the spear that pierced His side. It wouldn’t alter that the Lord Jesus Christ died on that Cross.
Which led me to the next stage: I remembered the beauty of the simple giving and receiving of a gift. I remembered the Gift that God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ offered to all of us. To me. And I came to the realization that should I refuse to accept this wonderful, precious Gift… that I would, in effect, contribute to the diminishment of joy that would be experienced by God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. I understood the sadness they would experience simply by me saying “No. I won’t accept your Gift.” I didn’t want to take joy away from them. I didn’t want to make them sad. Because I love them with all of my heart and all of my soul. I want to fill them with joy in any and every way that I am able. I wanted them, to be pleased and happy with my choices.
That phenomenal awareness shook me to the core. While I drove home on that Friday the 1st of October at 3:20 in the morning, I laughed out loud. Uncontrollably laughed. More than once. And in that moment of awareness I changed. My life changed.
Finally, at 64 years old, the answer came to me. It clicked. I got it. I understood what it meant to be saved. I understood the Gift. And I thanked God for His mercy. That in this amazing, convoluted spiritual journey called my life, all things transpired into a simple moment of enlightened understanding.
This is my witness to you. It’s the way it happened for me. I know you have had and do have spiritual experiences that you know – without a shadow of a doubt – come from God. This relationship I have is with God and His Son Jesus Christ. I’m relieved and appreciate that every moment in my life, somehow, led to this awakening. Some blatant. Some subtle. I came to an understanding of God’s Gift of Salvation. I feel each of you have contributed in some way to this moment arriving in my life. We are all connected. We all live together on this planet Earth. God is all around us. And flowing through us. The more you focus your attention on God… the more you will see.
I saw a lot more. I realized and understood another Gift from God which has become the finishing touch in my life: my One True and Sacred Love – my glorious wife – Jacqueline Raye Gloria Dover. She is a godsend. She is my miracle. She inspires me, encourages me, loves me and lifts me up. She pulled me from the darkness and caused me to realize that I am not alone. God sent her to me and brought me to her. Together we are one. And we follow the Lord.
Remember the Gift.