Sometimes, people really are touched by an angel. Here’s my husband Bob’s story…
For the first forty years of my life I was an atheist, influenced by my childhood. My two sisters and I were what’s sometimes called “red diaper babies”—that is, our parents were Communist-leaning leftists. Even when the Cold War was at its height and American patriotism ran high, my parents believed the Soviet Union could do no wrong. To Mom and Dad, capitalism was what was wrong with our country.
Although we lived a middle class lifestyle, our “church” was devoted to the coming of the Revolution, which would make all people equal in service to the State, which in turn would provide benevolently for all. An elemental tenet of this church was that those who believed in God were superstitious and ignorant, and those God-believers, in essence, were enemies of the people. Phrases like bourgeoisie, reactionary, and crypto-fascist were common in our household.
So how did I, a red diaper baby, come to be a Christian? It was certainly not because of my own efforts. It took an encounter with evil.
Over a matter of years, I watched as my former wife succumbed to a toxic mix of alcoholism and bi-polar disorder. Affected in bizarre and harmful ways, she changed from a caring and affectionate woman to a stranger possessed by forces beyond her control. Even her voice at times would change from her normal tone to a deep, almost baritone note. Eventually, as her personality collapsed, so did our marriage.
From this experience I came to realize that evil is a presence. With that realization came the logical conclusion that if there is an “evil,” by what measure do we define it? What makes evil, evil?
Evil is evil only if we have something “good” to compare it to. What then, I began to wonder, was the good? I resolved to find out. Though I’d been raised atheist, my upbringing had been within a Jewish cultural context since my father’s family was Jewish. So I was far more familiar with synagogues (but only from attending Bar Mitvahs!) than I was with churches. After considerable reflection, I decided to look up a rabbi.
I went to bed that night determined to start my rabbi quest the next day. And then a funny thing happened—I met an angel. Not one of the cute little winged cherubs that flutter around the edges of greeting cards. This one meant business.
In a dream—though it’s probably best called a vision—I was visiting a friend in a kind of hospital. I hadn’t seen him but once or twice since high school, and that was decades ago. Although the building seemed like some sort of institution, there were no signs in my friend of sickness. He seemed perfectly well and happy. Too, there was a quietness to the place that I found disturbing. Today I recognize it as serenity. And yet I was frightened, afraid that “they” would hold me there against my will. I ran down corridors, down stairs, as “they” came after me—the usual nightmare scenario. Finally, I reached the doorway to the great, grassy lawn.
And it was there that I was caught by a strong creature, whose features I could not make out. He held me down. In his right hand he held a large hypodermic. His words were these: “You don’t understand. You need this!” And then the needle entered my arm.
I don’t recall waking immediately from the dream/nightmare/vision, but when morning arrived, I woke up with a singular thought that I could not shake: “Jesus Christ is Lord.”
What? Jesus Christ is Lord? How could that be? Jesus was just one of those superstitious myths, someone who never really existed, a figment of the religious establishment. And yet, the thought not only failed to disappear as I awoke more clearly, but it began to seep into my consciousness as a reality.
Because of my recent divorce, I had purchased a small home that had been a parsonage of a church in the neighborhood. Some days later, with the message of Christ’s reality now fixed in my heart, I sought out the pastor of that church for conversations. Many conversations.
I bought a Bible and began to read. Not a whole lot made sense to me until I opened the book one day to Jeremiah 31, and began reading at verse 31: “The day is coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.”
And I read further: “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.” That, I knew, was exactly what God had done for me. He had quite literally injected me with his truth, and with his own hand he had written his words on my mind and heart. I knew I was a Christian.
Not everything about my life and actions changed immediately, but over time, the intellectual acceptance of God’s truths became a transforming reality. As I began to read the Bible from cover to cover, I slowly became a different person, one who began to see life’s purposes and other people in a whole new way—a far better way. I joined a church, and in a Bible study group I met Ann. We have now been married for 26 years.
So after having been an atheist, a cynic and a red diaper baby, here I am—a child of God, thanks to his grace and mercy. And an angel armed with a really big hypodermic needle.
Ann Tatlock and Bob Blank