The Conversion of Marcus
I was raised in the Midwestern United States within a traditional family, the oldest of four children. It was by no means a glorious life, but I was well taken care of in the basic human needs department. My mother was a devout Catholic, and so all four of us were raised as Catholics. All the spiritual education I received was through a priest reading the Word, even in our classrooms at the Catholic school, and then tying it into some form of control, usually through guilt. Very early on, I had questions, but respect for my family drove me to continue to follow that path.
My questions were:
- If Christ died for my sins, why do I have to do penance?
- If I can pray to God myself, why do I need to confess my sins to a priest?
- If my sins are forgiven and cleansed by Jesus, what is purgatory for?
These were not questions a child should be asking, and they would always tell me to pray since the answers they gave were not sufficient for me. When the day came that we were all preparing for our confirmation, we were told we needed to choose a patron saint. (Now that I know what I know, I wish I had read the Bible for myself and would have been able to choose a live human being, since the Bible says we are all Saints who believe) I chose Thomas, because I was doubting all of it. The answers were not coming from the priests, nuns, and teachers, and it seemed God wasn’t answering either. Of course I was in doubt! I went through with it, anyway, and officially became Catholic.
Not even a year later, my brother got into trouble at the school. I was now in public high school, but still going to church, even singing in the choir. Understand, my brother probably had something akin to ADHD, but back then those things weren’t diagnosed. I don’t even think they were known. At any rate, he got in a lot of trouble, but this time he was being expelled. The priest in charge told my mother that there was nothing more that could be done for my brother. She asked what about doing everything that could be done for his soul, wasn’t that the priest’s job? The priest reiterated nothing more could be done, My mother promptly pulled the other two siblings out of the Catholic school, too, and all of us were now public school students. We even stopped going to church. When my mother made that decision, I did, too. I stopped going. That was in 1985.
From there, I ventured out into the world with absolutely no spiritual guidance whatsoever. I would spend the next 26 years doing whatever I wanted without a care in the world. As those years went by, what I wanted became more and more self centered and selfish. I fell deeper and deeper into the vices of the world. Nobody else was going to look out for number one but me, and so I put up walls of sarcasm and degrading humor. As they went by, I tried things, many things. Most need not be named, but I know I am not alone in any of them. Needless to say, they were bad things like drugs, alcohol abuse, womanizing, and other things. In that time, God was always there. Looking back, it’s interesting to see His divine hand having protected me, mostly from myself. During that time, He sent Christian after Christian, and one after another, I sent them packing, some in tears. I was not nice to them. I felt they were ignorant and even stupid for following a religion. But then, in 2011, that changed.
I still thought Christians were ignorant, but circumstances in my life had gotten to be the worst they had ever been. I was at a very low point that nothing would bring me out of. Nothing gave me the satisfaction it once had, and I seriously considered my options of suicide. I still didn’t want to hear from God, especially because, though I believed in God, I thought He must hate me for all that I was experiencing in my horrible life, and for the things that I had done. And so, He sent two sisters to speak to me about Him. Of all of the Christians I had ever met, these two were special.
Let me tell you, they had power. It wasn’t sexual, and it wasn’t degrading. It was the power of God, and I felt it. I felt His Presence for the very first time, and I felt fear. It wasn’t fear of them. They were harmless, and I knew it. It was fear of Who I knew they represented. I wanted nothing to do with them, not because I didn’t want them to talk to me, I did. They were attractive girls. I just didn’t want to hear from God through them, because I knew He was going to reach me. I was so deep in sin that I wanted to run and hide from Him, as though I could. But, they were gentle as doves, and wise beyond what you saw in their beauty. They knew Him. They first asked me what I believed. I told them the worldview of all roads lead to Heaven, and that I couldn’t understand how Mother Theresa or Ghandi was going to hell, since both gave their lives for the betterment of mankind, but because one didn’t choose the right religion they would experience hellfire? They then proceeded to explain to me why, and they showed me in the Word. They invited me to church to hear their pastor preach the Word of God, and for the first time in so many long years, I agreed to go.
Worship almost sent me running for the doors. I was raised with an organ and a choir, so to hear guitars, drums, and bass was more like a rock concert to me, and not representative of the God I thought I understood. It was the preaching of the Word that kept me. I was enthralled from day one. The scripture was read line by line, and explained as we went along following the pastor’s lead. An hour went by so quickly that night and I didn’t want it to end. I wanted to hear more, and so I went back. This went on for a couple of months, until Wednesday night, June 1, 2011.
It had already become a habit to stand just within the sanctuary and speak amongst the friends I had there at the church. We would discuss sometimes what was taught that sermon, or what we wanted to do that weekend, or later that week, or whatever we fancied, but this night, I wasn’t paying them any attention at all. I was standing with them, but I was watching the pastor as he received prayer requests from various members of the Body. I could not look away and I knew deep within me that I needed to go and talk with him. When the line got to one person left, I walked over and stood to talk to him. I told him that I had listened to his testimony online and that I was raised Catholic same as he was, and had been coming for a couple of months, and believed what he was teaching to be right, and how I felt so privileged to hear him, but I didn’t know what to do about my life. He plain and simply said that it sounded like I needed to make a decision to either choose Jesus and let Him begin to guide my life or continue to go my own way and not know what to do. That was it for me. I gave my heart to Jesus right then and there. We both went to our knees, and the pastor led me a simple sinner’s prayer of confession and acceptance of Christ as my Savior, and then he excitedly welcomed me into the family of God with a giant hug and a smile!
That is how I came to Christ, in a rather large nutshell. God bless.