When I was around four, my father had a sailboat that he had started building while in Japan. Now, it was in dry dock in Berkeley in order to finish equipping the yacht. As he worked he let us play on the craft. It had no rails yet, so one time as my older brother, Bob, and I were chasing each other, I slipped off the side. It was 10-12 feet off the ground, and I remember grasping at the wooden framework holding the boat up, as I fell, but in vain. My father heard me screaming and visualized me falling into the muddy opaque water of the bay. As he ran, he grasped onto the faint hope of diving desperately into the water, hoping to find me before I drowned. To his intense relief, he watched me bounce on the dock, but land back on the narrow strip of safety. He ran, grasped me before I could roll into the water, and held me safe. We were forbidden to climb back on the boat until it was finished.
While I was attending college, I felt a similar desperation. I looked at the answers to life that I was given as I grew up. Money, career, life in the suburbs seemed the message of my parents. Sex, parties, love, and alcohol or drugs appeared to be the answer my compatriots in the hippie generation propounded. I examined these answers carefully. For each of them, I asked one devastating question, “What will it matter ten years after I die.” Whether one has a bucket list and finishes it or focuses on maintaining a circle of friends, the same question leaves one feeling that that doesn’t give life meaning either. I began to grow desperate as money, power, and fame were also knocked off my list.
I said to myself, “I know that religions are fakery, but I am grasping at straws, so I’ll look into them. I tried the Hare Krishna movement. What I saw was a bunch of people, each trying to chant their way to some nirvana for themselves. It appeared to take so long that one needed to believe in many rebirths to have enough time to gain this unity with the Godhead. This required a second unprovable belief, that of rebirth, on top of another, the Godhead. To spend my whole life trying for this, and having no proof that it was working, even after 60 years seemed ridiculous. I looked at Zen Buddhism, but it was even worse. “There is this thing out there, which might be God or just a force. No matter what we do, we can’t attain knowledge of it.” Again, I could spend my whole life pursuing this religious method and never even get confirmation.
Other western religions, such as Islam, Judaism, and Christianity seemed to promote a religion of works. If I did enough good deeds, it would outweigh my bad ones, and I would go to heaven. The only differences seemed to be which deeds were the good ones and what percent was enough. What was worse was that they didn’t want you to think. Each one said, “this is the way, questioning the way is evil, so just do it. At least the eastern religions allowed that there were many different ways to attain the godhead, and you could choose your own. With the two strikes, not ever knowing if you had done enough good deeds and not allowed to think, I rejected them also. My last straws seemed just dust. I felt like I had missed the last possible board on my fall from the boat and I was doomed. Grasping at the last faintest straw had failed. I was going to sink and disappear into the muddy water.
Then I bounced. I was wandering the streets looking for the unusual. I met some men who seemed to be preaching the usual Christianity, but said enough to intrigue me into reading a little New Testament that had stuck with me through years of wandering. As I pondered this tome until the wee hours of the morning, one thing seemed to stand out. It said, “If you try to hold on to your life, you will lose it.” That resonated as so true. All these methods of giving meaning to my life, even the religions, were me trying to hold or grasp onto my life, and I was losing it. Then it said, “but if you give up your life for my sake, you will gain ….” I was fuzzy of doubting what I would gain, but said to myself, “This is simple and promises me that I’ll gain life. This is testable. I will try this out for a year and see if it works.” This has to have been the world’s worst salvation prayer. Fortunately, God doesn’t care if we use the “Magic” formula or not. He just looks for people who turn, turn away from some fruitless way, and turn toward Him and His way. When He sees what He is looking for, He puts His Spirit in the person and starts the changing process.
Just like when I had fallen from the boat, I had failed to save myself and grasp any boards on the way down, but my Father grasped me and held me safe in His arms and began to teach me His way. Within the week, I began to notice changes in my life. Changes that God said in the Bible were proofs that He had put His Spirit in me. I also read that many would say, Lord, Lord, did we not do X,Y, and Z in your name? But He will say, ‘get away from me, I never knew you.’ Examining yourself to see that the Spirit is in you is the only proof. As a scientist, this is what I needed, something solid reliable and testable quickly. One doesn’t need to spend ones whole life hoping that the way one chose is right, without proof. After 45 years, I can say the evidence started appearing right away, and keeps getting greater. I don’t need to grasp at anything, I can rest in His arms, at perfect peace.