Someone mentioned to me recently that the greatest evangelical tool we have is the testimony of our changed lives. I decidedly disagree. Sure, my life has changed since I became a Christian, but that is not my testimony. I am still a sinner. If my testimony depended on my changed life for its power, then perhaps the testimony of a devout Buddhist would be more compelling. No doubt there are atheists, committed to self-betterment in every way, who have a much more compelling testimony of an outwardly changed life than I do. But that is not my testimony. My testimony is of the power of God and His relentless pursuit of those He loves. It is about His awesome and divine nature and about His unique ability to overcome the world. It is about how He saved me.
I could probably describe myself as having been agnostic growing up. I was highly skeptical of organized religion—if for no other reason than that, objectively, an awful lot of people have to be very wrong about some pretty serious beliefs—but also knew better than to put much faith in absolute atheism. My path to Christ is a little rocky, but involves several distinct steps which I will share with you. The first was when I was 21. I had just returned to the U.S. to go to college after having grown up in England during the last years of the height of the drum & bass scene. I had a month to kill before classes started and my dad, who thought he was Christian then (that’s another story), was running a Christian kids summer camp and had no one to do recreation and sports for them. I volunteered.
I was absolutely not Christian at this point but knew the kids looked up to me and did not want to set a bad example by skipping chapel, so I went. One morning the speaker broke us up into groups of 9-10 people and instructed us to close our eyes and listen for God. At this point I was more inclined to believe in telepathy than in God, so I decided to see if I could make someone else think they heard God. There was a girl in my group who seemed to have an aura of low self-esteem or something, so I directed my thoughts to her and thought: “You are beautiful.” After several minutes of intense concentration trying to project the message, I gave up. I could not feel any connection and knew that it was not working. For some odd reason, I was inclined to pray. I thought, “Okay God, I can’t do this, this isn’t working. If you’re there, you tell her. If she can hear you, you tell her she’s beautiful. If not, this speaker guy, he seems to think he can hear you, have him tell her. I don’t care how you do it, just let her know she’s beautiful.” After about ten minutes or so, the speaker asked us to go around the group and share what we had heard. If I remember correctly, most of the group said they had not heard anything; which, incidentally, was also what I said on my turn. When it was the speaker’s turn, he looked up at the sky and then looked directly at the girl I had been focusing on and said, “You are beautiful.” He said that’s all he heard. He had just heard, “You are beautiful,” and somehow knew it was meant for that girl. I didn’t tell anyone what had happened, but I knew. I knew what had happened, and I knew what it meant, but I wasn’t ready to deal with it yet so I stored the incident away in a secret memory bank for later and forgot about it.
The next step was a year or two later and, aside from the critical mind He gave me, may involve a little less of God’s direct involvement. I was sitting in a biology class at a secular college learning all about the argument for the theory of evolution. As I studied the best scientific evidence available, I realized that what they were saying had happened—this neo-Darwinian, cross-species, macro-evolution that they were teaching—was not only improbable, but based on their own scientific evidence, was impossible. This realization did not immediately point me to God, but the experience left me with a fairly acute awareness that at some point something very supernatural in nature had to have happened for me to be alive.
The next big step in my journey to Christ involved a single, large Psilocybe Cubensis, a.k.a. “magic mushroom.” I had eaten a bag of them at a party and the experience had been distinctly spiritual, but the party going on around me had been too distracting for me to get anything worthwhile out of it. I did manage, however, to get another bag before I left the party. About a month later I had an opportunity to do them. I drank only juice the day before and ate nothing that day in preparation. I took a mushroom out of the bag and ate it. The one I had grabbed was a deep bluish color on the outside and brown and woody on the inside. Somehow I knew it would be enough and put the rest of the bag away. The first several hours were fairly uneventful. I was by myself and was basically just sitting there staring at a wall–I was depriving myself of extraneous sensory stimulation because I was determined to learn more from the experience this time. I won’t waste a lot of time trying to explain the details of my psychedelic journey, but it ended with me calling out to God and Him coming and saving me in reality from the peril that was in my mind. I had a genuine experience with what I now know was the Holy Spirit, but later I forgot most of the details of the journey, including calling out to God, and although I knew the experience was real, I thought it was the mushrooms that had somehow allowed me to tap into the eternal. Again, the experience did not lead me directly to God, but now I not only knew objectively that there was a supernatural realm, I had also experienced it subjectively.
I was 28 when God really showed Himself to me. I had moved back to England after having some trouble assimilating back into U.S. culture. I came home from work one day and was reflecting on the joint that I was smoking—I smoked a lot of marijuana back then; it was always more effective and made me feel much less unhealthy and “drugged” than the doctor prescribed anti-depressants—when I realized that marijuana had been created for us. There was no reason for it to have evolved into what it was other than what it did for us; it did nothing for itself that was any better than the more primitive form of plant-life that it supposedly evolved from. I thought about how we have receptors all over our bodies designed to receive cannabinoids, about how it will actively seek out and kill cancer cells while leaving the surrounding cells healthy, how different compounds from different strains can treat so many different diseases without risk of serious adverse effects, and about how the seeds contain the perfect balance of essential fatty-acids for the human body. As I thought about what an amazing plant marijuana was, and considered how it was generally understood and viewed by men, it was like a light-bulb went off in my head. I think my biggest hindrance to believing in God was looking at the world and thinking that if He existed, He must be evil. All of a sudden I understood: God wasn’t evil! It was man! It was man who demonized good things and glorified evil things. It was man who was responsible for all of the systemic evil that pervades virtually every culture on the planet. The natural systems that God has set up are amazing; they are good and the God who made them must also be good.
I realized that it would not make any sense for there to be something that had simply observed us and created gifts for us; whoever created the gifts must also have created us. I became aware that there was an all-powerful, conscious being that had intentionally created things and at the same time, I pulled that prayer about the girl at camp from my secret memory bank and realized that this all-powerful, creator-being also heard our thoughts and was sympathetic enough to act supernaturally on our behalf. I started talking to it. I thanked it for all the comforts I had in life; that I hadn’t been born into starvation or hard labor in a third-world country. Mostly, if I am honest, I thanked it for being kind enough to create marijuana for us. I could feel a presence in the room with me and I said, “I know you’re there. I know you’re there and I love you so much.” In the instant that I said, “I love you,” to the presence in the room, it was like something entered my body and hugged every cell individually as if to say, “I love you too.” Simultaneously, I was filled with knowledge; I had this great sense of the eternal that I recognized from my experience with the mushrooms. I knew it was God. I had no idea which God, but I knew it was the God, and I gave myself over to it without reserve.
This eternal presence that was now a part of me was awakening my awareness of the true reality about as fast as I could handle it. The next day, I became aware that my little brother, Steven, was in heaven—I had a little brother who died of S.I.D.S. when I was 5—he was alive and he was fine and happy and had a new body. I couldn’t really say how I knew this, but I knew it. My first thought was that I had to tell my mom that he was okay. I went to her house for dinner that night and tried to explain to her about Steven. When I told her about how I knew about Steven, and the experience I was having with God, she went upstairs and brought down a book. She held it out to me with tears on her face and said she felt like I was supposed to have it. It was a Ryrie Study Bible that my aunt had given to her at my brother’s funeral. Normally, I might not have accepted it. I had read the Bible cover to cover several times and never found much worthwhile in it. But, here I was, having this intense experience with God that I knew I needed some help with, and my mom was standing in front of me with a book that was supposedly about God, so I took it.
I figured if there was any truth in the book, the most authoritative part would be the part where Jesus spoke directly, so I turned to the Gospels. When I opened the Bible, the first verse my eyes landed on was in the Beatitudes, which spoke to me on a deep and profound level. I continued reading. I read through all four Gospels that night, with each passage being enlightened to me in a way it never had before. When I got into John, and Jesus started talking in depth about the Holy Spirit, I knew it was all true. I had studied all the other religions and none of them spoke of the Spirit in such an authoritative way that was also being confirmed to me by the Spirit itself that was now within me. Nobody except God Himself could have written those words. I broke down in tears as I pondered how strange it was that I had just become a born-again Christian.
My life did start to change after that. It changed so drastically that my family actually staged an intervention for me because they thought I had suffered some sort of mental breakdown. I spent a day or two weeping and laughing uncontrollably in a weird revolving door of emotion as God showed me all my sin, the weight of it and how absolutely disgusting it was, while simultaneously lifting it from me completely. God showed me the spiritual state of people. He showed me that there are a few others who know the light, though not many. He showed me how lost and empty most people are. He showed me that some people are totally filled with darkness and are bent on destroying the light, but He also showed me that they fear the light. He showed me the Truth; He showed me the value of it and He showed me how hard it was for people to see it. I have made it my mission to help those who want truth to know it, but that is not my testimony.
The next Christmas, I visited my younger brother in Seattle and shared my experience with him. He confided in me that the previous Christmas, about 5 months before I got saved, he had been very depressed. He said he had asked what had gone wrong in his life and what he needed to do to fix it. “Asked who?” I asked him. “You mean like God or whatever?” I was a little confused because he was not a Christian. He nodded. He said he felt very alone and started thinking about our family. He said he thought about me and realized that I had been alone for a very long time—we were living in different countries at the time and had no communication with each other. He said he prayed that God, this God who he didn’t even know, would show Himself to me. He said he prayed that God would let me know that Steven was alright. He said he prayed that I would tell my mom that he was alright and that through that, my mom would also come back into a relationship with God. Five months later, his prayer was answered in spectacular fashion and my brother is now a Christian.
My hypothesis of my brother’s story is that his original prayer of, “What has gone wrong in my life and what do I need to do to change it?” was his own, and everything that followed was God’s way of telling him that what had gone wrong was that he didn’t know God, and that what he needed to do to fix it was to know God. But, he wasn’t ready for God yet, so God had my brother pray for me—because I was ready—so that He could use my salvation to help bring about my brother’s, which was God’s answer to my brother’s original prayer for himself.
My life has definitely changed, but that is not my testimony. Anyone’s life can change. My testimony is my witness to all of the intricate and supernatural work that a Holy and Divine God has done to bring about that change.
Kenneth holds an MA in Transformational Leadership from Barclay College.
He is the spouse of Calvin Seminary student, Christianne Zeiger.