The Event That Changed My Life
The crossing is the true account of the most important event in my life. It was the event that as American pragmatist William James refers to as “the soul crossing a critical juncture to reach higher safety.” This happened to me on May 1, 1974. I haven’t been the same since. It reverberates to this day in the early 21st Century, by setting into motion the vital interior transformation that my life so desperately needed.
Encountering Tom and John
It was the last day of April in 1974 and I had not seen my good friend and drummer Tom for a few months. Being a musician by trade, after our shows Tom and I had spent many a night in bull sessions that usually ended up talking about important matters pertaining to our mutual search for truth. I drove by his place, picked him up and he said, “good to see you Eric (that’s my real name), I’m glad you stopped by, I have something real important to tell you,” as he lit a cigarette and pushed back his long blond hair.
We got in the car and small talked as we drove and he said “let’s see if we can find John.” Now mind you, St. Louis is a big city, so we just cruised around, still small talking and about a half hour later, much to our surprise, suddenly there was John hitchhiking with a book in his hand. What an odd coincidence, I thought. He got in the car and said to me, “Great to see you Eric. I have something real important to tell you.” Hmmm, I thought. That’s the exact same statement twice in a row. So we drove back to John’s small apartment in the south part of the city, with all three of us talking and sort of catching up on where we had been lately.
We got to John’s and the book he was carrying turned out to be the Bible. He opened it up and read out loud the parables in Matthew 13. Having a Catholic background, the only thing I remembered from Catholic grade school was the parables, seeing that I had never even cracked open the Bible myself.
However, this time hearing them again, especially the parable of the wheat and the tares, something stung me in the deepest part of my being. My knee-jerk reaction was polite but swift and I said, “I have to go, John.” As Tom and I walked out to my car, on the sidewalk Tom turned to me and said, “You know what John was reading to us tonight is the truth.” This shocked me. Here is my old friend Tom, the most cynical person I have ever known in my entire life, saying that this simple parable was “the” truth. C’mon! It made no sense. How could this be “the” truth?
I had practiced meditation, yoga, read all the intellectual texts on world religions and knew how complex it all was and knew that there were many ways or avenues to God, and here is the cynic of cynics telling me categorically that this was “the” truth. We got in my car and Tom went on, “This was the real important thing I wanted to tell you tonight.” As we drove from south city all the way to West County he told me that when he was hitchhiking to Georgia last month he had some sort of revelation/vision of Jesus Christ.
This is the Truth
“What?? Jesus Christ???” I thought. At this point my curiosity was getting the best of me. I remembered a few years back in Tulsa when Tom, Mike and I would go out of our way to try and stop the Jesus freaks in the mall there from spreading their simpleton lies.
I saw it as a lie because there were many paths to God and they kept on insisting there was only one, namely Jesus Christ. I viewed this as being narrow-minded, destructive, and naïve and something that needed to be challenged. Of course, I viewed Christ as another Avatar, or great master, an enlightened being, but only one of many. To even hint otherwise was to ipso facto rule out all other enlightened beings like Buddha, Krishna, etc., etc. This was unthinkable.
We stopped off at our usual Dunkin’ Donuts and over coffee Tom said to me, “Eric, you have been searching for God for years and trying everything to reach God but all in vain.” I bristled. “All in vain?” I thought. He continued. There is nothing you can do that has not already been done for you on the cross. It’s like a light switch, it just goes on. When it is turned on then you will see. Right then and there I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that I was hearing the truth, the absolute truth. It was like a bell went off inside me.
Pinned to the Car
I went to drop Tom off and before he got out of my car he just said, “Think about it. Really think about it.” Suddenly an invisible power came flooding into the car and pinned me to the seat and up against the door on the driver’s side. I literally could not move. Then he said it again, “Think about it.” This time, though, his voice was calm, like before. It was like there was a great voice thundering at me, saying “THINK ABOUT IT!”
Darkness at Midnight
Tom got out of the car, and as soon as I could move again I drove back to my place. I felt so strange, so guilty. I felt like a rat in grease trying to claw out of a huge pan. I tried to sleep. No chance. Around midnight it came— a darkness like no other. It was Christ hanging dead on the cross. I saw him suspended before me. The horror was indescribable. One thing is certain— it transcended physical suffering. I saw him dead in his spirit engulfed in darkness. All capacity for rational thought had escaped me. Then, the voice came. “Eric, my Son was crucified for you personally, what are you going to do about it?”
Having been raised a Catholic and having studied the Buddhist concept of the Buddhistava, one who suffers for another, of course I knew all this stuff intellectually, but here I was being confronted with it in a vision and in the spoken word. I had never denied in a general abstract sense that Christ had died for the sins of the world. But as I said, he was one of only many beings that did that. The sacrificial death motif was apparent to me in my studies of the East and in various indigenous tribes.
Ironically, here I was a seeker of truth, almost 20 years old, and the truth comes to me in such an offensive manner. Needless to say the “one truth, many paths” New Age mythos was totally shattered in my mind at this point. The word that really thundered at me was PERSONALLY. It was like everything else was in small letters and personally was in caps. There it was, “Eric, my Son was crucified for you PERSONALLY. What are you going to do about it?” There was no escape. It was decision time. It was accept or reject. Think me a fool, but for three hours suspended over the precipice of my eternal destiny I resisted. I resisted because I was wise in my own eyes, self-deified, living under the oppressive yoke of the dictatorship of pride.
Me a sinner? Banish such an impossible thought. Besides, I didn’t believe in sin anyway. But like it or not, the battle was on and it wouldn’t let up. I flashed back in my mind over the years with my debates with those Jesus freaks. I had experienced being stung a little bit when they quoted Bible verses. But now I was trapped. I was stripped bare before the living God.
At about 3 a.m. on May first, my resistance ceased and under my breath I simply said “yes… I accept you.” Immediately the darkness lifted. I felt something like a sword pierce my spirit and I was enveloped in pure love. Then I was taken into a golden light that overpowered me with love that was total bliss. My soul had crossed over the critical juncture. It had come to a higher safety. I had been converted. I then fell into a deep sleep.
Initial First Reactions
Being the most reluctant convert in the city of St. Louis, I distinctly remember in detail the first day after my conversion. First off, everything was profoundly peaceful, something like one would imagine arctic peace. Second, I realized that while claiming to be so open-minded and seeking after God all those years, I was really running from God. I was self-righteous and fought for years against the hound of heaven.
My ideas of spirituality were merely self-initiated, yet not revealed from heaven. My so-called truth-seeking was nothing but pride-filled escapist self-deception. But now the battle was over. Immediately my using the Lord’s name in vain was gone. And when people used the Lord’s name in vain around me it was like fingernails scratching on a blackboard. “Strange,” I thought. And then, as I went on to work that morning, these thoughts flooded my head:
- Those naïve Jesus freaks were really right after all.
- Why didn’t I see this before?
- Why hadn’t my few Christian friends sat me down and confronted me about Christ?
- When I tell people that Christ really is the answer they will be so happy I told them. They, too, will cross over into conversion.
Well, boy, oh boy, was I surprised on number four! I began with each one of my friends individually. I told them what had just happened to me. I thought since they were fellow seekers, too, that automatically they would make the crossing. To my surprise, each one of them rejected what I had to say. I couldn’t believe it, until I thought rationally about it, and thought I would not have believed it either until it happened to me. Exacerbated and incredulous, I kept saying “But you don’t understand, this really is the truth.” Their response was the usual relativistic standard line, “There are many ways, many paths, blah, blah, blah.” I did not have the knowledge of debate that I have learned over the subsequent years to show the contrast between Jesus Christ and everyone else, only the comparisons.
All These Years Later
After all these years, thousands of discussions and debates, and my own personal growth with God, I have learned a few things in regards to the nature of salvation and the human race. First off, the comparisons between Christ and other paradigmatic figures through world history that have shifted whole societies like tectonic plates are valid. There is no doubt about that. My initial pre-conversion instincts and studies were accurate in that respect. That’s just basic Metaphysics 101. Elementary, my dear Watson.
However, the contrast between Jesus Christ and every other so-called enlightened being is enormous. A good analogy to comparative religion is one of epistemology, the study of knowledge. And that is this: the ancient Greeks asked “why” but Galileo asked “how.” So how do we humans escape the things that entrap us? How do we become spiritually free? Krishna talks about dark inertia. The Hindus refer to Maya as illusion. Buddha says we must break out of the cycle of desire that causes suffering. The “how to” accomplish this has nothing to do with us, but rather it is by the power of God in Christ’s death and resurrection imparted to us.
In some mystical way, when he died we all died with him. When he rose, we all rose with him. To miss God crucified in vulnerability is to miss God. This leaves us stuck with projecting a sky God warrior made in our own image, as our post-modern religious world so violently exhibits.
New Agers talk about having the “faith of” Jesus to move mountains, but one cannot have that level of faith without first having faith in Jesus that gives one the power to move those same mountains. It’s all a matter of a power differential philosophically in the Lacanian sense. In a word, only Jesus Christ has the power, precisely because of his divine sacrifice and astounding resurrection. This is the decisive, qualitative difference.
I am fully aware that this message is an offense and totally absurd. I was offended and resisted, but one must first be offended by the foolish message of the cross and pass through the offense in order to be reborn. And the irony of the Gospel is that it’s the world’s best-known secret that happens to really be true after all. I think back on that night when I saw him dead in his spirit to reconcile me back to God by grace. The only thing I can think of is that it is a trade-off. Rejecting the trade-off leaves the existent individual with no Plan B. Accept it and one crosses over into the warm hands of God.
Having given this candid testimony, there remains only one question the reader must answer in his or her own heart, and that is this: “My Son was crucified for you personally. What are you going to do about it?”