| || |
Prologue Along this long journey we call life, I have gone through many religious ideastrying to find the truth, and trying to find sanity in my life. I never thoughtthat this would lead me to being Christian. I used to hate Christians with apassion, based on my previous experiences with both the religion and the peoplewho followed it. It's hard to imagine coming to embrace something that you areso much against. I guess that's why I had better start from the beginning...
November 28th, 1979 I am Jonathan Michael Skeels, born in Lutheran Hospital, Eau Claire, Wisconsin. I was born to two devoutChristian Scientists.
For those who are unfamiliar with Christian Science, it is a simple religion,based around one idea. The idea is that people have the power to heal themselvesthrough belief, and that Jesus came to teach us this ability. It shares much incommon with Hinduistic beliefs, wherein our belief of something makes it what itis. In this case, the belief is used to alter medical condition, by believingthat medical problems neither exist nor have power over the person. Many in thereligion have claimed to have healings, but while I was being raised as aChristian Scientist, I would come to find that it never once brought any healingfor any of my problems.
I had a pretty happy childhood... I went to church, was doing well inschool... and had friends. Life was pretty easy back then. There were manyinstances where my mother tried to heal me through Christian Science. Itdidn’t work, but she always thought it did. Even to this day my mother willswear up and down about all the healings I had, but I know better, and my memorysuggests the contrary.
Even then I felt different, as I do now. Although, it was not that I thoughtI was special, but I never seemed to fit in and always felt alone. Happinessseemed to continue in spite of that, and even despite of my family's growingrealization that there were more than just us inhabiting our household. Nearlyevery night something strange would happen, seeing lights, objects, people,beings, or hearing things or even feeling things that should just not exist.This terrified me, and there was no good explanation as to what was happening.What were these beings that seemed to haunt us, provoke us, and terrorize us?There was no escape from them. It continued until August of 1991, when we movedto Oregon. My mother would continue to see things she called lights, or“aliens” for years, but it seemed to center around her, and the terror forme had passed.
August, 1991: Things take a turn for the worse My life started to roll downhill once we moved to Oregon. My happiness left...and I started to feel isolated and separated from everything. School got harderto deal with, and I was not able to make any friends. At one point, I believe Ibroke down. I would spend days at school mumbling and talking to myself in thehalls. Everything that happened just made me feel like everyone was against me.
pLife continued on... unhappily. We moved around in the area a couple times. Iwas finally able to make friends. This had both positive and negative effects onme. School life grew worse, until I finally dropped out. There was so muchstress that I would end up being sick nearly half of the school year. Myfriendships also started to take a turn for the worse. We started experimenting.We all started smoking, doing drugs, and getting involved in illegal activities.Around the same time I stopped attending church. It hadn't done anything for me.I still believed it had the potential to heal, and I would remember itoccasionally and try to get healings... but it never worked.
Amidst all this chaos, my depression and anxiety began to get the better ofme. At one point I even thought that I was a trans-sexual (one who thinks theywere born the wrong sex and have an operation to correct it), but I would laterdiscover these feelings to be an escape from the real issue at hand.
Over the course of the next couple years, I noticed several events thatseemed to be of a supernatural origin. All of these events directed my life, andshaped the decisions I made and led me down a path. I had no idea why theseevents were happening... and I assumed God was working. But on what? I didn'tknow. The first of these events was a trip my brother made to Portland (Oregon).During the course of the trip, my brother lost control of the vehicle andmanaged to get it stuck. Fortunately, someone came along and helped them out.Only a minute later after getting out, the vehicle again lost control and landedin the ditch, despite very careful and slow driving... almost as if somethinghad forced it off the road. This time, the rollover switch was triggered, andthe vehicle would no longer run. This event would set up a cascading chain ofevents which would ultimately result in my moving to Wisconsin in 1998. It wouldbe long to describe how each event lead to the next, so I will not get intothat. There was a long succession of events that all transpired because of thissingle incident.
There was one other significant event that happened before I left to move toWisconsin. One quiet night I was waiting at a stoplight, the light just turnedgreen. I was ready to go, when I noticed that the fluorescent lights on thebuilding next to me started going crazy. The lights were flashing andoscillating more than any lights I have seen in my entire life. This caught myattention for just a second and when I turned my attention back to the roadahead, a semi-truck was running through his red light going at an approximate65-70 MPH. At that moment I realized that had I gone immediately when the lightchanged, the semi would have hit me on the drivers side. This probably wouldhave killed me. It was clearly some intervention, but I never understood why Iwas saved from death or severe trauma.
July, 1998 Wow, back to Wisconsin. After taking a trip back 2 weeks earlier, having beenthe first time since I had been back since we left in 1991, I decided that itwas so great that I had to move back. My only happiness in my entire life seemedto be when I as a child... living in Wisconsin. It seemed to be just as great asI remembered it. That didn't last for long. After getting settled in, happinessfrom being back quickly turned into isolation, and more depression. I no longerfit in with the people here and felt like an outcast amongst them. Myrelationships with my Sister and my friend (who moved back with me and shared anapartment,) were taxed, as we raged and took our frustrations out on oneanother. My depression and anxiety got worse when I found out that the nightterrors had resumed. Soon the trauma of hearing objects move and bang atnight... and seeing things that shouldn't exist... were once again back in mylife. We tried to cast them out. A friend advised casting them out in the nameof Michael. It didn’t work. We were unable to do anything about them, andthose events lead me to listening to the Art Bell show.
After a year of being there and having gone through three jobs, I turned topraying to God for help finding another job. I prayed that he would find me ajob that I would like, and be happy with, and that I could work at for awhileand not be bothered by my same depression and anxiety feelings that resulted inmy not being able to work at jobs for very long. The very next day my parentscalled. They offered to loan me money to come back to Oregon, and their home, ifI wanted to work with my Dad at Deschutes County (in Oregon). I couldn't believethis direct answer to my prayer. I wasn't sure why God didn't let me find workin Wisconsin. I just assumed he knew best, and went on my way. After leaving, Irealized how awful of a person I was. How I had hurt my relationship with mySister and friend to the point I believed I wouldn’t miss them when I left. Iwas wrong. I cried nearly the whole day I left, and almost the whole trip backto Oregon. It was painful, but that experience made me realize how easy it is tobecome cruel and uncaring. My life back in Oregon seemed to return to a normalroutine. No more night terrors again, and that was almost peace enough for me. Ifound out that I really liked my new job, although it was seasonal. I metsomeone there who I felt a strange bond with, but I really wasn't sure why. Hername was Mary, she was older than me (35 at the time, a difference of 16years)... but I still felt a friendship which I couldn't explain.
My love of Art Bell had grown... but also took its toll on me. I reallythought the world was going to blow up or something terrible was going to changelife as we know it. This really drained me. Every day I would think about howlittle time there was left, and it gave me no passion about the future. Ifinally decided at that point, to turn to God again. I made a plea. I asked Godfor the truth, the truth about life. I asked him to show me what would make mylife sane and not useless. Shortly after that plea, my parents gave me a book.It was Betty Eadie's Embraced by the Light. After reading this book... Ireally thought it was the truth that I had prayed for. It made me feel like Iwas glowing. I felt so happy, and finally relieved that the future didn'tmatter. I thanked God for having delivered this to me. That was the only timeI've ever received a direct answer... because I heard a reply in my head thatwas definitely not one of my thoughts. It said "Thy will be done on Earthas it is in Heaven". This was the icing on the cake. At that time it reallyhad me convinced God had directly answered my prayer (in reality this"voice" wasn't God at all...). It helped calm my "end of theworld" fear by describing the after life in such detail. Also knowing thatwhatever I was doing was what I was supposed to be learning in this life. Thebook never did piece everything together, however. I still didn't understand howGod was working or why all the events in my life happened the way they did. Eventhough I thought for sure this was the end-all of religion in her book... itwould quickly pass like everything else before it.
I kept listening to Art Bell. Through that and Eadie’s book, I became opento some ideas I had previously ruled out as nonexistent. I started believingthat there were real things like angels, demons, and Satan, among other ideas.Strange how everything I had been opened up to were Christian beliefs. Still,those ideas never changed my life, nor gave me any different way of approachinglife. Like all other things, it would fade also.
My friendship with Mary, whom I worked with, didn’t really blossom thefirst year while I worked at the County (Deschutes County). I did learn abouther divorce though, and she had finally married her new husband, Mike, whom sheseemed to meet by chance on an Internet chat room. He was from Canada, and itwas quite an interesting tale of Internet love. This, however, didn't seem tobear any relevance at that time. Being that the job was seasonal, we finallyparted ways near the end of the year. I wondered if she thought that much aboutme as I did her. I regretted never becoming closer friends... for I thought thatwas probably the last time I'd ever see her.
My tenure ended at the county, and I found myself at home and not working.The months passed and my anxiety got so bad that I was unable to get out and doanything. I used the time to listen to more Art Bell, and embrace new ideasabout life I had never thought about before. Still nothing ever managed tobecome life changing, or prove itself beyond someone's own account. I pursued itnonetheless. After several months of not working, I finally was forced to getback to work. It was painful, and harsh, but I finally did it. I went to work atK-mart. I had a few run ins again with some unknown entities that seemed tolinger there. After a few months, summer rolled around again, and my father toldme that I was once again able to rejoin the seasonal crew at the County. Ileaped on it... and quickly found myself back in their employ. To my surprise, Ifound that my old friend Mary decided to come back to work for them that yearalso. That was quite a surprise... and probably our both working there for 2consecutive seasons was planned. This year... we became closer friends. I foundmyself invited to her house on a few occasions. At some point, I started talkingwith her about my beliefs on life, and this is when I discovered that she wasChristian. It upset me to great extent... that she liked to prey on my beliefsand say she believed a lot of the things I had experienced were just demons...or that the Earth was ruled by Satan. How ludicrous! I couldn't even standtalking about it! Yet some of her ideas were things I had never heard fromChristians before. Somehow I kept talking with her about it, despite that mostof the time I usually felt flustered and upset by her deranged beliefs. At onepoint, I came very close to telling her I didn't want to hear about her beliefsany more, but then, it was always I who had started the conversations about thesubjects. That wouldn't have been proper of me. So, I just avoided talking aboutthat stuff after that. The season ended again, and we would once again partways. Only this time, I had her ICQ number (an internet chatting program) andher email address. This would allow us to keep in contact after we were nolonger working together.
Unemployed again, my social anxiety and depression once again grew worse, andseemed to go on a rampage. I didn't work for a couple months, but then held abrief stint at a company for a little more than a month. My overbearing problemswith anxiety and depression made me feel apart from everyone else... it grew sobad that many times I would find myself talking with Mary over ICQ, whiningabout all my problems. I'm not sure how she ever put up with it. From time totime, she offered me a solution. She offered me religion, something I had turnedon so long ago. I didn't want it. I told her no. Things just kept getting worseand I kept talking with her about it. She told me everybody had a hole in his orher life, a God shaped hole. An emptiness that only God could fill, and thateveryone tried to fill it with something. She invited me to a Bible Study, whichI accepted out of respect. I was planning on telling her to can it after thefirst study. I thought the Bible had good stuff in it, but I didn't think thatChristians held the proper view and I didn't want her to try and convince me howto look at it. Somehow, despite what I had planned to do, I kept going. I amstill not sure why I never did tell her I didn't want to do it after the firsttime. I kept going to their Bible Study... for a few months... but things stillweren't making sense. I still found myself clinging to my old beliefs... andsomewhat frustrated that the Bible painted a different picture. I just wasn'tsure how some things fit in at all, especially Christian Science. I was beingtold that the only way to reach God was through Christianity, by believing thatJesus died for my sins, so that I could go to heaven. Just by believing this, Icould go to heaven, but this was the only way to reach God. I stillwasn't sure.
June, 2001 One night... I finally decided to ask why Christian Science shouldn't bebelieved. Mike (Mary's husband), is an expert about many different religions. Hetold me all about Christian Science. For the first time, I had realizedChristian Science was just a set of ideas created by a person. Finally, I wasable to admit it had never worked. This incident finally helped me let go of myprevious beliefs and start concentrating on what the Bible was saying. Aftermany visits I would find a lot of evidence that proves how the Bible is true,and not just a little bit, but overwhelming evidence! I would also learn a lotabout other religions that disprove their divinity.
Through this, I finally wasable to see why Christianity is the true and only way to God. It was onlybecause of all this scientific proof that I was able to realize the Bible wastrue, and turn my back on hating Christianity. Two weeks later, I was baptizedin front of my entire family. I have come to accept the Bible as truth and alsothat Jesus died in my place to pay for my sins, that I would be saved and go toHeaven.
For the first time, the Bible answered my questions and made sense ofall the events that had happened in my life. It has also changed my life indrastic ways.
I am not saying that everything is perfect now, but becomingChristian has provided a sustenance that is not found anywhere else. I havestarted overcoming problems and have realized something is truly different. Mylife is much more meaningful then it ever has been. Although, overcoming yourproblems with Jesus is not something that happens overnight, but a step by stepprocess. The more and more you lean on God, and the more you grow, the more yourealize that you are able to tackle situations you never had to strength toovercome before.
The Bible and it’s promises are not something that passeswith time, and fades like everything else I had believed. This is another prooffor me that it is real. At this point, I know that if I stopped believing theBible, I would have to be fighting it every day to dissuade myself frombelieving it, and would become a very angry person. I went through that just forone week. Once a believer, everything changes. You either deny it, livingagainst it every day, or you embrace it every day. I am glad that God caredenough see me through, and provided a way for me to become a believer. I amChristian! And I am extremely happy that God and my friends provided the way.
Epilogue A few last things for you before I go. While you can cast out demons, you can'tcast them out by saying Michael's name. You can cast out demons, that is, *IF*you're a believer just by saying, "In the name of Jesus Christ, I commandyou to leave!" I had no idea at the time, but it wouldn't have done me anygood anyways. If you read in the Bible, Acts 19:13-16,you'll know that therewere people who tried to cast out demons in the name of “Jesus whom Paulpreached.” The demons said, "yeah we know Jesus, and we know Paul, butwho are you?" Then the demons attacked them, and the non-believers wentaway screaming, naked, and bleeding! Word to the wise: don't cast out demonsunless you know what you're doing.
Becoming a Christian finally showed me how God had been working in my life.It also showed me that since God is outside of time, he can actually beanswering your prayers before you even knew you were to going to pray!! It isamazing to look back and see that he was actually directing my life to becominga believer, even though I wouldn't pray for finding the truth for years. I alsorealize that him saving me from death in an accident with the semi, gave me timeto become a believer and go to Heaven, when I most definitely would have gone toHell. This is something that is almost hard to put into words. How great it wasfor God to be that loving to do something like that for me! I'm not significantat all... it’s unimaginable. He could have just done nothing. This only booststhe love for God and makes you realize just how much he loves us. I also realizehow God was orchestrating everything. I strongly believe if it had not been forboth Mary and Mike... I would not have become a Christian. They both helpedimmensely. It seems if it was just one or the other then I would not have becomeChristian. The fact that God put them both in my life (and that Mike moved toOregon) is amazing. I am not saying that God did this just for me, but the factthat he did do it at all and it helped me become Christian is what is amazing.God's plans are very intricate... and mostly it wasn't even about me. I can seethat the events triggered many things to happen... one of which was God's answerto my prayer.
I hope you've enjoyed my testimony, or made it to the end without fallingasleep. I hope you've either felt good about yourself being Christian, or beengiven inspiration to look into God's word. Amen.