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Losing Control
The truth is that whatever control we think we have over our lives is merely illusory.

An invitation from the National Post: Have you found religion? Or lost it? If so, the National Post Comment section wants to hear your story. In our series, "Faith: Lost and Found," we are publishing the tales of readers whose life-experiences have imbued them with a belief in a higher power—or taken that faith away. If you would like to contribute to "Faith: Lost and Found," please send your submission to Entries in this series should not constitute advocacy for any faith or sect, and should be between 500 and 1,000 words. In today's instalment, Bruce Dean writes about finding God after a motorcycle accident that almost killed him.

I was raised in an atheistic Chinese family. My parents continue to be atheists, my father militantly so. I came to believe that faith in anything other-worldly was the refuge of the weak. I learned to associate atheism with strength, independence and education. I was particularly contemptuous of Christianity, which I viewed as a "whiteman's religion," and the most hypocritical of all faiths.

Through my faith, I've attained a vitality and joie de vivre I never experienced during my time as an atheist.

In high school, however, I met Christians who prayed for me and showed me with their deeds what a true Christian was. They taught me that, contrary to secular stereotype, not all observant Christians are fanatics or hypocrites. I began to occasionally join my Christian friends at youth meetings on Friday nights—mostly for fun, but also to learn.

Finally, one of life's body blows landed—not on me directly, but on my father. The strongest man I knew was stricken by a heart attack. As I watched him lie helpless on the hospital gurney, all my youthful bluster went out the window. I was confronted with the truth that the control over our lives we think we have is merely illusory. I uttered my first sincere prayer for deliverance, and was blind-sided by what followed.

This prayer summoned an instant sense of peace—joy, even—despite the storm. It was a feeling that could not have come from within: Never had my tightly controlled temperament permitted any similar epiphany or surge of euphoria. For the first time, I began to entertain the possibility of God's existence, a gateway to the acceptance of the Christian faith.

Still, I needed to know that what I had believed was the Truth, not just wishful thinking. I set out to find out as much about my new faith as possible. The more I learned, the more I came to be convinced. Since then, God has touched my life, more often than not by way of quiet whispers, but sometimes in more obvious ways. Through my faith, I've attained a vitality and joie de vivre I never experienced during my time as an atheist.

Now nearing my mid-20s, I am convinced that Blaise Pascal had it right when he remarked on the "God-shaped vacuum" that exists within all of us. Yet I also understand from personal experience why atheists can be so adamant in their refusal to believe: The idea that you are not in control is frightening and humbling.

Faced with this realization, there are two responses: One is to ignore it, and go on pretending there is no God and nothing beyond the physical realm. The second response is more difficult. It requires an admission that everything we believed before was wrong. Having stood on both sides of the line, I know how difficult the choice can be.

My advice to others who profess themselves atheists: Befriend believers. You will find there is more to religious faith than myths and superstition.

Above all, do not fear the unknown. It takes strength to hold firm to one's faith—whether that faith is theistic or atheistic. It takes even more strength to humbly acknowledge one's errors, and chart a new course to the truth.

Johan Lee lives in Richmond Hill, Ontario

Originally published in the National Post, March 1, 2007.




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