As promised – Justin is answering some questions to let us dig deeper into his real life faith story.
You can get the episode by subscribing to Rose’s podcast on iTunes, or listen in on the interview here:
Your story is pretty extreme. How did you take criticism or doubt from those who didn’t believe you?
I could totally understand where people who were skeptical were coming from, and if I were in their shoes I likely wouldn’t have believed it either. But you know, even in the moment, the skepticism didn’t bother me. My experience was so real and personal, that it didn’t really matter to me whether or not people believed if my experience was genuine.
Your relationship with your family sounded very difficult while all this was happening – has it changed since then?
Before my experience, my family relationships were distant at best. I didn’t have much interest in sharing very much of anything besides small talk. Even then, sometimes I was too high for that. I caused a lot of hurt and I had a lot of hurt. Since then, it’s been a journey back. Today, I have a relationship with my family that is deeper than I’ve ever had before. I still work on that, and it gets richer every year.
What do you mean you were “bargaining with God” over drugs? What did that look like?
It seems so silly and petty now, but it lasted about a day and a half. In that time, the communication was deeper than words – almost like God took me to a new level of awareness for short time. I call it the afterglow, it was a place closer to him. He made it clear I could not be with him and continue to rely on the things I had been. He wanted to see me fulfilled in him alone. I needed to turn from all of my vices.
I would try argue my case for just smoking pot. Then smoking less often. Each time the answer seemed to be a clear, wordless “no”. He knew what was best for me, but leaving one of my only coping mechanisms behind me forever was intimidating to say the least. As I said, in the end, the choice was simple, but that didn’t make it easy.
After you left the hospital, what happened?
I asked christians around me what I should do next. Some friends of mine told me the next step after becoming a christian was to be baptized, which I did 2 weeks following my release from hospital.
At first I couldn’t believe some people went to church every weekend, but that’s just what I started doing. I was hungry to explore and unpack the insight I had received. I’ve never looked back since that day.
You kept saying that God was so pure you thought it would destroy you – why would something “good” destroy you?
This is probably one of the more difficult things to explain. I am not perfect. Even in my most innocent, childlike moments I am not perfect. I lie, I get jealous, I’m selfish. I think everyone would agree they can be like this at times. God’s love is perfect. So perfect and pure that it makes our strongest definition of love seem thin and substance-less.
My imperfection cannot exist with God’s perfection. The two are inherently opposite and cannot exist in the same space. It’s like saying “Why can something not be both hot and cold at the same time?” Eventually one will overcome the other.
As I was drawn closer to God, I began to feel the joy of his pure love, it overcame me. It is the perfect and original example of the love that we experience glimpses of in this world. It is otherworldly, pure, good and powerful. It is the most wonderful thing in space and time. It is all consuming. And if we come in direct contact with it, we are consumed.
At it’s core this is the conflict between the natural and the divine. We are a shadow of what is to come. God’s love is “real” in a way we cannot even begin to define. It is too pure for our minds and bodies, which are by nature flawed and impure. When I felt like I was going to die – it was not at the hands of a wrathful God, but at being faced with a love so pure I was not equipped to experience it.
Christian doctrine will tell you this goes back to the Garden of Eden, the fall of man. I won’t know for sure what that looked like until I meet God again, but what I can tell you is this. God is pure, and we are not. It is because of this that we need Jesus. Through the sacrifice of his innocent, divine and holy life he makes us pure. Without this we cannot stand with God. There is a great mystery in this that I cannot say I fully understand, but I did experience it’s truth.
If the person reading this right now only takes away one thing from your story – what do you want that to be?
God not only loves you. He is love. He desires freedom for you. Freedom from the things you don’t even know are holding you back from fulfilment. He wants you to know him, not for his sake, but for yours. Even if you can’t hear him, he is calling to you. Love is calling – seek him.