I was a committed atheist and then this incredible thing happened to me

My atheist father raised me on fanciful parables where the moral of the story concluded that God did not and could not exist. His strong belief in human ability and the power of positive thinking laced my childhood with quips like “What one conceives and then believes can be achieved.” No pie in the sky in the sweet by-and-by awaited us. Instead, if I wanted help, I needed look no further than the end of my own arm.         

By my college days, my arms were weighed down by the baggage of my parent’s divorce, an absentee father, and a stoically distant step-father. Like many college coeds, I tried to cope with one-night stands, binge drinking, and recreational drugs. But at night when the lights were out, I was left wondering, Is there something more to life? Unlike Wonder Woman, I possessed no ability to rescue others, least of all myself from these destructive behaviors.

During my sophomore year, my dad—now a doctor, law student, and author—had a born-again experience after reading a red letter edition of the Bible to determine whether Jesus professed positive things. His newfound faith threatened me. Outwardly, I wildly mocked him. Inwardly, his reversal of worldviews launched me on a quest to discover the meaning of life.

I took a class on non-Western religions like Buddhism, Taoism, and Hinduism. I interviewed classmates about their belief systems while we stood around a keg smoking joints. Family members tried to draw me back into their godless fold with words devoid of logic or comfort.

Something I read in chapter 3, “Does God Really Speak to Us,?” chafed against my scientific belief in evolution. Billy Graham proposed that God is a Creator who speaks through nature, whether in a crying infant or the song of a bird. “Yeah, right,” I blurted out.

One day, I passed a bookstore where Billy Graham’s new book “How to Be Born Again” beckoned to me like a neon light. I tucked the volume into my beach bag, grabbed a six-pack, and drove to the sand-duned shores of Lake Michigan to party with friends. While they hit the waves, I spread out a blanket to soak up the sun.

Something I read in chapter 3, “Does God Really Speak to Us,?” chafed against my scientific belief in evolution. Billy proposed that God is a Creator who speaks through nature, whether in a crying infant or the song of a bird. “Yeah, right,” I blurted out. I arrogantly put God to a challenge and inadvertently offered my first prayer: “God, if You rule over nature, if You’re sovereign even over the instincts of a bird, then make that bird chirping in the distance fly into the tree next to my blanket.” Fluttering toward me, the small grey swallow lit upon the branch above my head. Closing the book superstitiously, I thought, Maybe God does exist and created me for a purpose.

Billy recommended you read the Bible because it contains the very words of God. Reading it introduced me to God’s great love and His ability to provide each of us an abundant life full of significance. I devoured the pages of the Bible as though all my life I’d only eaten vanilla ice cream and someone had introduced me to 31 flavors. I couldn’t get enough.

I was transformed from tending bar on the weekends to marrying a pastor who tells people every Sunday about the living water that satisfies our deep thirst for more. Who would believe that a bird and a Bible would one day lead us to becoming friends with Billy Graham and his family? We’ve enjoyed a meal in their home, traveled with them on vacation, and were privileged to participate in the baptism of Billy’s grandson William Franklin Graham IV.

I wonder how God is waiting to speak to you. You never know the audacious plans He has in store for you. Are you listening?