My freshman year of college I became deeply troubled by questions: “Why do I exist?” “What is true?” One night I stayed up late, talking philosophy with a friend. My distress was reaching critical mass. I spent the rest of the night and the whole next day awake, wrestling with my lack of answers. I didn’t eat. Around dinnertime, I decided I had to eat even though I wasn’t hungry. But about halfway to the dining hall, I knew I wasn’t going to eat. Overwhelmed, I sat down on the steps of a small amphitheater and started to cry.
Moments later, a little girl approached, walking a bike. She couldn’t have been older than five or six. A thought went through my head: God could speak to me through her. “That’s pretty unlikely,” I argued back. But I stayed open.
She said, “I’ll talk to you if you want me to.”
I shrugged and said, “Sure.”
“I’ve seen you here before,” she continued. “About eight days a week.”
That was curious since I’d never seen her before. I kept listening.
In my search for truth, I found myself attracted to Buddhism. I was raised Catholic and dismissed it as a family superstition. But as the little girl talked, everything pointed to Christianity being true.
For instance, she said she learned about the compass in school. She pointed north, south, east, and west. She explained she had been hiding behind a bush before approaching me. The bush concealed her except on one side. Pointing east, she said, “People think they can see me from over there, but they can’t. They can only see me from over there,” and she pointed west. This piqued my interest because I thought of Buddhism as an eastern religion and Christianity as a western religion.
Another comment concerned a bungee cord wrapped around the handlebars of the girl’s bike. The cord was wrapped such that the hooks crossed and clasped underneath the handlebars and couldn’t be seen. Making a revolving motion with her fingers, she explained, “On the outside, it looks like this. But underneath, it’s actually this,” and she arranged her fingers in a cross. The message of the bungee cord was this: the cycling of opposites represented by the yin-yang (a symbol in Buddhism) was only an appearance; reality was the cross of Christ.
We talked (or rather she talked) awhile longer. By the end, I had received a message. I admitted I had never thought about the gospel. I had argued against it, ridiculed it, and avoided it, but I had never just thought about it. So I did, in my own terms: OK, God is infinite, and He became finite…gave up infinity, all He is and has…and died…That was all it took. Less than 30 seconds. I was so floored I spoke aloud: “God, if that’s who you are, I believe in that. I don’t know about church or Christianity or anything else, but I believe in You.”
John says, “What you have heard from the beginning must remain in you. If what you have heard from the beginning remains in you, then you will remain in the Son and in the Father” (1 John 2:24). I often return to what I learned the night I met Jesus: God loves us more than Himself. That is all we need to know. We may grow into that, but we never grow out of it.
Powerful though it was, the experience I had of God’s love faded. I wasn’t ready to follow Jesus yet. The next four years, there was little evidence of Christ in me. I investigated Taoism and tried Buddhism after all. My personal life continued in its immoral, self-centered course. I jokingly call those four years “the time I hit bottom and started digging.” That’s exactly how I felt by the end of that season.
Still, the Lord hadn’t changed. He had begun a good work in me; He continued to work below ground, so to speak (Php. 1:6). Gradually, I concluded that Eastern religions couldn’t provide me with truth. That’s not to say they are completely devoid of wisdom. But I decided the worldview they offer is inadequate.
One day, I thought to myself, I’m miserable. And I’m miserable because I believe in God—not just in God, but in Jesus—and I’m not following Him. I started reading the Bible and praying. Up to that point, I had rarely experienced God’s personal presence. One night, that changed. God manifested Himself in a direct, experiential way. What follows is something I wrote about that encounter. I wrote it in the third person because it felt a little like that.
He didn’t know how he’d gotten there, yet there he was: in a hallway, a corridor. A moment before, he was sitting in his apartment. Musing, he looked up at the moonlight on the wall. In that instant, he felt surrounded by a cloud, an electric mist that danced on the cusp of visible light. The air felt close and charged. Then he was there, standing in the hallway. It did not come from anywhere. It did not lead anywhere. At least, it didn’t seem to. It was pitch black. He only knew it was a hall because he could touch both walls at once, without fully extending his arms. And maybe it only seemed dark because of the brilliant light streaming from the doorway in the middle of the hall.
It was a doorway like any other in a hallway, like one that would lead to your bedroom or a closet. He stood in the doorway, considering. Through the door he could see, and there seemed no end to the seeing. There was a hill directly in front of him. His eyes followed its left slope down to a thick grove of trees. Beyond the trees he sensed rivers and rapids and falls, snow covered peaks, lazy countrysides, and a sigh of peace kissing the foundations of the landscape. Between the door and the hill was a grassy meadow. In fact, the meadow was all around the door. If one looked at the door from the hill it was only a flat black rectangle that led nowhere. There was no hall behind the door, no building or structure of any kind. It was as if the door was drawn in midair, painted with emptiness, or erased. Except for the figure peering round its jamb, it would have been empty and small indeed, swallowed in the endless beauty.
His eyes took it in slowly. Each millimeter had to be chewed, mulled over, and digested before another could be seen. It was like eating gold. The light of that place was so palpable it flowed. The whole land—rocks, trees, flowers, plains—lay safely in its molten embrace, not encased or trapped, but one. Individual things stood almost in relief because the light gave them substance. He stood there a long while, eating this light-flesh. Yes, that is what it was like: the light and landscape were one, the body and blood, he supposed, of the voice he now heard within and without. In fact, it wasn’t like hearing at all. Rather, everything, as one, became the shivering vocal cord of that whisper which said, “I am Eternal, and this is the key.” He stood there. All he needed to do was walk through the door.
I did “walk through the door” as it were, and started reorienting my life around Jesus. Around that time, I moved to another state. I decided to befriend Christians, attend church, and submit everything in my life to God. Faith, like anything, is a work in progress. To paraphrase, Paul, I haven’t arrived, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ took hold of me (Php. 3:12).
Teague McKamey lives with his wife and two children in Washington state. Teague’s day job is in social services, by which he supports his prime interests: loving Jesus, writing, and making music.