by Christopher John Morley
I apologise in advance for the length of this testimony. If you want to get straight to the good bits (the part where I cry like a baby in front of five hundred people, hand my life over to Christ, see two miracles in two minutes, etc.) then go straight to the sub heading “The moment of truth” and just read from there. I don’t mind at all.
For the rest of you, I want to say that I have deliberately been as thorough as I can, because I know that my story will resonate with many of you out there. Don’t misunderstand me; my testimony is for me and me alone, so reading what has happened to me will not convince you of anything other than what you already believe. Nor should it.
But if you do see something in here that compels you to rethink your own journey, then I consider it a blessing from God that I was able to play a small part in you discovering for yourself just how amazing God is and, more importantly, just how amazing He thinks you are.
Similarly, I have avoided referencing bible verses throughout this testimony (with a couple of exceptions, which you will see the relevance of when you get there). There is power in God’s word, I know that for a fact, but no one is going to go and pick up a Bible just because I said they should. I’m far more interested in connecting with people in a realistic, every-day-life kind of way. Those of you that know the Bible will see where my story lines up with scripture. Those of you who don’t need not worry about it yet.
My prayer at this point is that by reading what I have taken the time to write, you will be blessed with a new fervor for discovering the truth for yourself, a hunger to really feel and know the nature of this entity that created everything that exists, and a passion for Jesus that will truly set you free of any and all chains that bind you.
If you’ll stay with me until the end, you’ll see just how a hard core atheist with a cold, dead heart becomes a born again follower of Jesus Christ who is completely smitten with and on fire for the Lord God almighty. So let’s go right back to the start.
I grew up in a standard issue, secular household. My mother had what I understood to be a passing belief in God but my Dad was definitely an atheist. When I was about eight-years old, after attending Sunday School here and there for a couple of years, I decided one day that all this ‘God stuff’ was most likely made up and not really worth my time and effort. I asked my parents quite innocently if I could “stop going to Sunday school” and they agreed to let me. So that was that! I put the whole thing behind me and got my Sunday mornings back!
Unfortunately for me, God kept popping up in conversations, at school, and just out in the world in general. As I grew, I realised that even though I had worked out the truth about ‘life, the universe and everything’, there seemed to be many people out there who actually believed all that ‘religion stuff’ and lived their lives as though God were real. As I came to the conclusion that most people were too ignorant to know the truth, I was both baffled and saddened at the predicament the human race appeared to be in.
By the time I was sixteen, I was thoroughly convinced that God was entirely fictitious, that anyone who thought otherwise was in need of enlightenment, and that I was the person to do it. I started identifying myself as an atheist but in reality, I was more of an antagonist. I freely dispensed my opinion on the matter whenever and wherever I liked, regardless of its effect on other people. I was pushing the boundaries of arrogance as far as possible and losing the respect of people as I went, but I didn’t really care about people so it didn’t matter to me.
I continued into adult life quite sure that I knew everything. I was nice to people, don’t get me wrong, but it was surface level only. Inside I chastised them and belittled them in my thoughts in a vain attempt to feel better about myself and I never let anyone see the real me. I was a loner, and I was alone … and that was fine.
I didn’t openly seek out people of belief to attack, but when I happened upon them I instantly pitied them for their quaint folly and set about attempting to straighten them out. I would make every effort to drag them into the 20th Century with my tools of logic and reason. If I happened to make them doubt themselves or question their faith, I would pat myself on the back for the good deed I had done. If it didn’t work, then I would simply tell myself that they had far too much religious baggage and that I wasn’t qualified to undo that kind of mess. I mentally put them in the ‘too hard’ basket and moved on.
Everything was about to change however when, one random day at a seminar in Melbourne, the God of the universe introduced himself to me and shattered my carefully constructed worldview.
“Draw near to God…”
I was thirty-three, married and living in Bendigo, and we had just had our first child. Parenthood had come very naturally to me, but was definitely taking a toll on our marriage. As husband and wife, we were struggling to keep it all together. Too proud to let family and friends know where I was failing, I did what all good loners do – I hid everything and put up a perfect façade of control and togetherness.
Fortunately for me, my wife was not similarly afflicted and openly spoke to close friends about just how hard we were doing it. Our hairdresser at the time suggested that we try a communication course that she had done in Melbourne. I looked into it and thought there was something to it, so I booked myself in and went down for a weekend of ‘enlightenment’.
I completed the course and had some really great breakthroughs within myself. In fact, I was so impressed at the time with the material they were teaching that I went back at a later date and volunteered to assist one weekend so that others could come and do the course. It was on that weekend that God decided to call me out.
During a tea break, I was standing in the foyer with one of the course administrators. His name was Fred, a short, stocky islander with big round features and a great accent. Fred was a really nice bloke who knew how to listen, and he was doing exactly that as I spilled some nonsense to him about what was going on in my life. Fred patiently listened me whine about this and that, and then when I had finished he looked at me and said: “Maybe that’s God?”
I remember being puzzled at his words, thinking that he had not been listening to me at all, and so I immediately set about repeating the whole thing to him. After I finished, he looked at me again and said: “Maybe that’s God!”
Agitated now, I started telling him the whole thing again, rewording as I went in the hope of getting him to see things my way. Fred listened patiently until I was finished telling him the same story for the third time and then looked straight into my eyes, leaned forward and again said: “Maybe that’s God!”
I cannot rationally explain exactly what happened in the next instant, but I’ll do my very best to describe the series of events that followed.
Firstly, I really ‘got’ what he was saying. It turns out, in the context of the conversation, that Fred was miles ahead of me and was identifying the only logical conclusion of my own thought process for me. As soon as I had mentally caught up with him, I realised that he was trying to help me along by offering an explanation for what I had been struggling to understand.
At that point I hit a wall, because in my world there was no God and so everything had to be explained without referencing God in any way. But instead of doing what I had done for decades, this time I decided to try a different approach. Instead of trying to find a way around God (which I had become quite good at) I tried to step into Fred’s shoes and see what it was he was trying to show me.
I remember thinking to myself: Fred clearly cares enough about me to help. If I can see things from HIS side, maybe I can use whatever tool it is he’s trying to hand me. All I have to do is put my Atheism aside for a moment and…
Well, I didn’t even get to finish that thought because the instant I said that to myself, the whole room was filled with an immense presence that almost took my breath away. I didn’t see anything with my eyes, but that just made it worse because I could feel the weight of something pressing in on me from all sides.
It wasn’t painful and I wasn’t scared, but I was definitely in awe of whatever it was because it was immense in size. The feeling was very much like standing on the edge of a precipice, looking over the edge, and then realizing the hugeness of the drop. You get a sense of exactly how small you are by comparison. Whatever was pressing in on me was not in any way malevolent; I knew that it did not want to hurt me, but it was equally apparent that I was tiny and powerless by comparison.
I struggled to process what I was experiencing because, in my current worldview God, the Devil, aliens and ghosts simply did not exist. Everything that could ever happen to a person could be explained rationally and logically without the need to invent mysterious entities.
The notable pressure shift in the room caused me to look around and attempt to identify its source. Had someone just turned on the air conditioner? Had the doors at either end of the room just been closed at the same time, causing some kind of pressure wave or something? No. Nothing like that was visible.
It was at this point that I noticed a woman standing across the room. She was talking on her mobile phone and wasn’t part of our conversation. She was also clearly unaffected by whatever it was that I was currently feeling.
I then glanced at an open window and through it saw the tops of some trees in the distance. The fact that a window was open and the treetops were still (so, no breeze) shattered my pressure-change theory, so I simply stood there unable to explain what was happening to me.
I don’t know if Fred was feeling anything like what I felt, but I must have had a very strange look on my face because he said, “You get it now, don’t you!” This was more of a statement than a question, and I realised that whatever this thing was, he already knew about it.
I couldn’t acknowledge it as ‘God’ per se, (I had far too many questions before I was prepared to do that) but what I did do was dump my atheism in a heartbeat. I resolved myself to discovering the truth about this, no matter where the search led me or how long it took.
The experience changed me so much that I felt compelled to send an email out shortly afterwards. Now that I have clearly identified Jesus Christ not only as my Lord and Savior, but as author and creator of the entire universe – I have no problem sharing the contents of that email with you.
After choosing the eight scariest people I could think of to say this to, those whose opinion I valued the most and who therefore had the greatest potential to hurt me if they rejected me in any way, I identified what had changed in my life. I opened the letter by saying:
Looking back on this email, written in 2009, the thing that stands out to me is that I identified the fact that I have a relationship with God, and that He has no other motive than love. These two facts are very important, because not only are they the cornerstone of what separates the Christian faith from all other worldviews, but they were also the co-ordinates by which I steered my journey towards God. In a world of constant trickery and deceit, all I had to begin with was the truth of the experience I had in Melbourne. It was a journey that would take me five years to complete.
Life went on. My wife and I had two more children, and in between building a career as a musician, learning to be Dad to three truly beautiful children, buying houses, starting businesses and all that life has to offer, I searched the world of ideas for some sort of truth about God. Before that day in Melbourne, I had placed all of the various religious views together in a box marked ‘rubbish’ and I now had to go back, sort through that box, and attempt to find something that I thought was right.
I dismissed most religions quickly using the two co-ordinates I identified earlier. The fact that God is love coupled with the fact that I had identified a relationship with Him, meant that Christianity suddenly stood apart as being different to the rest. So by 2012 I was looking at Jesus Christ and the claims that he made during his time on earth.
God was very gracious to me during this process. He knew that I would not relinquish control until every last question was answered. Instead of forcing himself upon me, he started to lead Christians into my life that surrounded me with love and encouraged me on my way, reminding me that it was my journey to take and that I shouldn’t let other people interfere with my search. I remember being a little confused that none of them actually tried to convert me to Christianity – even though it was painfully obvious that they themselves were completely sold on it and lived their lives accordingly.
The moment of truth
It was the Sunday before Easter 2012, and my wife and I had decided to go to the local Baptist church to attend the Palm Sunday morning service. The preacher, Dave, was finishing up a series about being either a ‘fan’ or a ‘follower’ of Jesus Christ. It was a good sermon and at the end of it, he suggested that we all take a moment to reflect internally about where each of us was with Christ while the band came back to play their last song.
Taking his advice, I stood up with everyone else and closed my eyes to think about everything I had learnt over the course of the last five years. By this time I was indeed a ‘fan’ of Jesus Christ. Historians almost exclusively agree that he not only walked the earth as a real man, but that his miraculous works and teachings - as recorded in the Bible and other places – form the basis of the greatest work on morality the world has ever seen.
Once you research for yourself who Jesus really was, what he really did, and see the impact his life had on the world, it is very easy to become a fan of the man. But a follower of Jesus Christ? A ‘Christian’? Ugh! The very thought of calling myself a ‘Christian’ galled me because of what I thought it would say about me. Christians were, in my opinion, lame!
That was the point at which I realised just how much that word, the word ‘lame’, had been circling around in my head for the previous few weeks. I now know that it was a spiritual attack directed at my pride. Satan knows my weaknesses – he’s had spies (that is, demons) watching me every single moment since I was born – and he knows exactly what to say to me to get me to back down. God’s word says he only has power over me if I choose to let him, and that was exactly what was happening here.
Christ was the truth I’d been searching for. I was absolutely certain of that. After five years of scrutiny I’d ticked all the boxes, dotted all the I’s and crossed all the T’s. But true to form Satan was using that little word to hold me back. Sin isn’t having negative thoughts – it’s letting the negative thoughts you do have guide your actions. And so far, every time Satan had whispered into my mind, “Don’t do it! Don’t become a Christian - Christians are lame. You’ll be lame if you do it…” I had listened and let that thought guide my behavior.
Of course I didn’t have this revelation until days later, so here I was standing in a church of five hundred people, eyes closed and thinking about all the things I had learnt over the last few years.
I saw a vision of myself standing in an expanse of pure white with a brick wall in front of me. It went on infinitely to the left and right of me and was too high to climb over. There was no way around, over or through this wall. No sooner did I have the image in my mind than I understood its meaning. This wall represented the end of my intellectual journey. I had learnt all that I could learn, and any further study into the truth of Christ, as a man, was futile. I could go no further with this because, as I said, I had dotted every I and crossed every T.
What remained was to look at Christ as the Messiah. Then I realised what I had to do. The only thing I had not tried yet was an actual ‘leap of faith’ that all the Christians in my world had been talking about. For ages now I had listened to people speak of relationship with God being a “heart thing not a head thing” and in that moment I understood what they were talking about.
That day in Melbourne had been a heart thing. I had not understood at all what I had experienced physically, but inside I ‘knew that I knew that I knew’ that it was God. My ‘heart’ (or soul) simply knew a truth that my head could not process.
As I stood in front of the mental brick wall, I decided that I was going to go for it. I had nothing left to lose and – if the claims of Christianity were true – then I had everything to gain. I loosely told myself that if it turned out to be a dead end I could just go back to searching, but I didn’t really believe what I was saying. Everything inside me knew that this was the defining moment of my lifetime journey to discover ‘truth’. Without saying anything out loud, I mentally spoke to God and said the following words:
“Ok God. I’ve hit the wall. I can’t keep doing this forever, I’m sick of fighting. I give up! I’m handing myself over to you and I’m just gonna trust that you’ll catch me on the other side.”
In my mind, I stepped through the brick wall as though it wasn’t there and waited to see what happened…
Two miracles in two minutes
We all know what love is. We have all felt that mix of joy and anguish when you love someone so deeply that it almost hurts you physically. From the early days at school, having crushes on the little girls in my class, to falling in love with the girl that was to become my wife, I have enjoyed the feeling of love many, many times throughout my life.
Being a father of three, I have a special blessing that not everyone get to experience. Becoming a parent opened up an ability to love inside me that I had never experienced or even imagined before. No sooner had I seen the first of my children enter the world than I was overcome with a new type of love that seemed to have no end. Instantly I knew that I would willingly sacrifice my own life for this little girl without a second thought, that I would move heaven and earth to make her happy, and that I would share everything I owned and everything I was inside - without reservation.
That kind of love, a ‘father’s love’ is a force unto itself and is the most pure and blindingly powerful emotion I have ever experienced. I have been truly blessed that I have experienced this emotion anew with each child that has entered our family. Not only that, but rather than have to shuffle the love inside me to accommodate another son or daughter each time – my heart has instead opened up and added another ‘space’ for love. I think this is something only parents can understand, since I had absolutely no concept of what my heart was capable of until I became a father.
As soon as I mentally took a step ‘through the wall’, I was overcome by this same feeling of deep, burning love that I recognized immediately. It was the love of a father for his child - but with a twist. This time, instead of feeling that love inside myself for the child that had just been born, I felt it pouring out onto me from above. I was the child, and my Father in Heaven, the Almighty God himself, was pouring out the love that He felt for me - and He was not holding back.
This was the first miracle, and I could do nothing but stand there and receive it. I’m convinced now as I read the Bible that what I felt was but a taste of the true depth of love that God actually feels for me, but in that moment I believe He gave me as much as I could handle – and it was more than enough to break me.
I turned to my right, where my wife was standing beside me, buried my head into her shoulder and wept. And wept. And wept. Jessica had come to The Lord a few months beforehand, so when I suddenly had all of this happen she knew what was going on and was right there for me.
She grabbed my hand, and led me down the front where the church elders were singing and waiting for people who needed prayer. She led me straight to Pastor Dave, and when he saw my face he also knew what had happened. I stood between my wife and Pastor Dave as he prayed and gave thanks to God for what I was experiencing, that strange moment that we refer to as being ‘born again’.
I know Dave well. He is a truly lovely man with a gentleness and honesty about him that serves God admirably. I know the prayer he prayed for me would have been heartfelt, honest and very nice – but honestly, I didn’t hear a word he said because that was when the second miracle took place.
As I stood there facing the stage, the worship team was playing their final song for the morning. I was within five meters of all of them and yet the sound I actually heard was distinctly different from what I should have heard. Instead, it was a muffled and distant sound – as though hearing them from the next room. It was there, but the volume was down, and it was completely overshadowed by the other sound I was hearing: a choir of hundreds of voices.
It sounded truly majestic. They weren’t singing words that I could make out, just long, sustained notes with intricate harmonies throughout, in time with the music. I had no idea why I was hearing this or what it represented, but with the emotional force of the moment I decided to just go with it and not worry.
I wasn’t to figure out what I had actually heard until months later, sitting in bed one night reading through the Gospel of Luke. I stumbled upon the following verse, at a part in the story where Jesus is explaining the love God has for us. Using the example of a shepherd leaving ninety-nine sheep in the field to go and search for the one that wandered off, he illustrates God’s powerful love for each and every human. He mentions that the shepherd rejoices upon finding that sheep, and then ends by saying:
“I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” (Luke 15:9)
As I read those words, my mind flashed back to that morning in church and I suddenly had the revelation that what I had heard was rejoicing in heaven. This was the second miracle: a choir of angels singing praise to God for my choice to let go and step into a life with Him.
People have scoffed at me for saying that I heard angels singing, but I really don’t mind because I trust my ears. I am a career musician, and my ears are my livelihood. My last hearing check was about a year before this day and showed that my hearing was still almost entirely intact – despite years of abuse as a teenager. As is the case with most musicians, I can listen to a piece of music and list off the instruments that are playing. We musical types develop a keen ear for dissecting what we hear in order to learn individual parts. This is especially true for those of us that play multiple instruments proficiently. In fact, many are the times I have whined to friends about not being able to turn this skill off and simply enjoy music as it is without dissecting it. After decades learning and playing music, it has become entirely automatic.
In that moment, I know a choir of angels sang just for me and God allowed me the distinct privilege of hearing what was taking place in the heavenly realms. And He did this right after pouring His love all over me in such a tangible way as to almost be physical. I pray that you would all experience such blessings as you journey towards and alongside God. There truly is nothing like His presence in your life.
A new creation
Being ‘born again’ really is the most apt way to describe what has happened to me. As I write this account, it has been eighteen months since I gave my life to Him. Now, I am the same – but I am different. Most of the change is internal, but as the Bible says; the fruits of God’s work in my life are there for all to see. Inner peace, assuredness of my identity, confidence in God’s love and sovereignty, love for all people of all nations – these are the things that define who I am now. He has not redesigned my personality. He does not need to because He does not make mistakes. But my motivations and responses to the world are changing every day as I learn to be led by Him and Him alone.
It’s strange that, for so many years the thing I hated most about Christianity was the idea of someone other than me being the boss of my life. I was quite sure that I knew what was best for me, and quite happy to continue being my own ‘god’ until I died. Yet the reality of life with God is that He knows me far better than I know myself and He only has my best interests at heart. He truly is good, in the absolute moral sense of the word.
If you have read this far, I thank you for your time and sincerely hope that this testimony has in some way encouraged you to move even closer to God – no matter where you’re at right now. To my fellow believers, I know this testimony will remind you of the powerful things our Father has done in your own life, and I thank Him for your journey and for who He is making you day by day.
For those who do not believe, whether you are seeking answers or are entirely skeptical of my story, I can say only this: “Let God be true and every human being a liar.” (Romans 3:4) Do not let me or anyone else tell you who God is. Seek Him and Him alone and he will reveal Himself to you. But challenge yourself to adhere to the following rules:
1. Go wherever the journey takes you (much harder to do than it sounds).
2. Follow that journey to completion.
You can never want God more than He wants you, so go hard after Him and watch as He becomes more and more real in your world.
God bless you all.
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