My journey with God began when I was born prematurely and kept in an incubator at hospital for over a month. My mother, despite not believing in God, made a promise that if I survived she would teach me about Him, which is how I came to read bedtime stories from a children’s Bible.
At some point, I decided the Bible wasn’t for me and the bedtime stories stopped. In secondary school I even mocked the one kid in class who actually believed what was written in it, but besides serving as the butt of an occasional joke, Ethan’s strange beliefs didn’t concern me until one day during our French class’ much anticipated trip to France.
It was the best school trip I’d been on: a couple days in Paris followed by a weeklong stay at a camp with French classes interspersed with recreational activities and sightseeing, not to mention most of my best friends were also there. It was at the end of one such prolific day as we sat on bunks in the boys’ dorm whittling away the final hours of the evening that Ethan spoke up and addressed the room, “I was wondering… would any of you like to try reading the Bible with me?”
Much to my retrospective surprise, around half the boys in the room, myself included, took up this offer. We sat around the bunk, listening to several worship songs Ethan chose, then opened the Bible to read from the gospels of Jesus telling the parable of the sower and healing a man with a demon. Without any irony we discussed our thoughts on the passages, on religion, and on God. We closed with a time of prayer where we tried to picture God as a person in the room listening to us speak to Him. As people began peeling off to their own bunks, I sat at the foot of Ethan’s bunk and listened to him share about ways God had worked in his past and changed the way he understood life.
In this moment, like countless others at church in the coming years, it felt as though time stood still. Here was the freedom of being carried off into another world, just like in the best bedtime stories. But unlike the worlds of other books, this one was not confined to that finite space carved out by the human imagination between the front and back cover.
The bookends of this story transcend life itself, revealing vistas beyond the shadowlands of death and uncovering meaning beyond the bounds of human experience, understanding and reason.
The gift of meaning which God brings to life is one I cherish deeply. Our choices matter and have moral weight, they are good or evil, furthering the righteous purposes of God or straying from them. Not only that, but God has made this meaning graspable and personal. The intimate God listening to our prayers like a person in the room is not someone we imagine or conjure. From the beginning He has made Himself known and striven to invite us into His glorious purposes for a perfect world. The epitome of this invitation is Jesus Christ, God becoming human to personally bear the judgment for our sins which force a divide between us and Him, so that we can be joined together.
Just as He invited me on that day in France, so He is inviting you to step into His world and find freedom with Him on the pages of His incredible story. Awaiting you are the open arms of Jesus who before you even knew Him paid the ultimate price for your eternal happiness.