I had only just turned 20 when I became a born again Christian. My first born child was only a few months old and I was in big trouble. I couldn’t sleep because either my son would wake me or a nightmare would. My temper was getting out of control and I was afraid that, one day, I would hurt my son.
My mother had sent me to Sunday school where I learned about God and Jesus and I had prayed before but I didn’t really believe in God. There was just no convincing evidence for his existence in my mind.
One of my main pleasures in life has always been reading and, in those days, I liked science fiction, horror and stories of the supernatural. One day I bought a book that seemed to be on the supernatural but, to my surprise, it was a book about being born again. The author said Jesus died for my sins — all of them — even the ones I have not yet committed. He knew I would be incapable of perfection even after being saved so the price was paid in advance.
The idea of going to heaven didn’t impress me much because heaven sounded pretty boring to me but the knowledge I would not be expected to be perfect if I became a child of God removed one of my reasons for not becoming a Christian.
I knew I needed help from someone because I was exhausted from lack of sleep and out of control. I was even having nightmares about having nightmares and my hatred for men was spilling over onto my baby son.
I prayed the prayer the author included at the end of the book with a few alterations of my own. Before saying the prayer I told God straight up that I didn’t really believe in him or Jesus but I wanted to believe and I was willing to be convinced. I said:
“If you are real, if you do exist, if Jesus did die for my sins I am willing to accept the sacrifice and hand my life over to you but I can’t lie to you and say I believe when I don’t.”
I told God if he wanted me to genuinely believe he would have to make that happen himself. Then I prayed the prayer of repentance and acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice.
Nothing happened. There was no vision or sound of angels singing hallelujahs so I went on to the next book.
Some time later I woke from yet another nightmare. I was exhausted and in tears of fear and frustration. I demanded to know when God was going to help me but there was only the sound of my own panicky breathing.
Since I was too frightened to try and go back to sleep while it was still dark I picked up another book. I would read until daylight then try to sleep again. As I opened the book a gentle thought popped into my mind from nowhere.
“Don’t read THAT book”, it said.
I didn’t know what to make of the instruction. Was it some thought from my own subconscious or was God really talking to me? I had nothing to lose so I opened my mind to the idea it might be God and I answered the thought with another — “Why not?”
I got a reply.
“You said you want to believe in me, you said you want my help, you have given me permission to come into your life and change it. I will do my part but you must do yours. You must try to listen to me and obey me. I don’t want you to read that book. I have my reasons, you don’t need to know them, you need to obey.”
I shrugged. Fair enough. It was a simple request and one I could obey so I put the book down and picked up another one. I got another instruction.
“Don’t read that one either.”
I went through my pile of unread books until I found one I was allowed to read and I read it. Next day I went back to the second hand book store and bought another pile of reading material paying careful attention to the instructions of the gentle voice in my mind.
Some weeks later I had read everything in the house except the books I had been told not to read. I picked one of them up and listened for the instruction not to read it. Nothing came so I began to read. It wasn’t a thick book so I finished it then lay down to sleep.
I woke from another nightmare and began to cry. The voice came into my mind again and it asked me when I last had a nightmare. I realised the last time I had a nightmare was around the time I got the instruction not to read the book I had just read.
The voice spoke again.
“You are not strong enough to read things like that. Not yet. You must be careful what things you feed your mind because, if you put garbage into your mind, you will get garbage coming out of it. The nightmares are garbage your mind is producing in reaction to the garbage you are feeding it.”
I put the rest of those books away and my nightmares stopped.
The first thing God did when I handed my life over to him was help me get the sleep I needed to cope with my baby and my life.
My very first lesson from God. was this:
Put garbage in and you will get garbage out so be careful what you feed your mind.