Beyond religion

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My upbringing was nothing remarkable. I was just like any other boy in the neighborhood. I was raised in the Catholic faith in a small town in Eastern Quebec. My parents attended mass each Sunday. As a young boy, questions of faith, salvation, eternal life and the issues of God were not relevant to me.

We had catechism classes in school where we were reminded of the need to prepare the next generation of priests. I considered priesthood for a short time because they always seemed to have so much money! I grew up receiving the sacraments: First Communion, Confession, and Confirmation where the bishop supposedly gave you the Holy Spirit. I never gave any thought to what receiving the Holy Spirit would mean.

One of the boys always left the classroom during catechism. Before my confirmation, when I was at his house, his father asked me what I thought of it. I told him it was just receiving the Holy Spirit. He said, I didn’t need to go to confirmation to receive the Holy Spirit.

In 1982, the Charter of Rights and Freedom was enacted, so the contents of the catechism started to change. Slowly, the curriculum contained more social studies and less religion. Soon we were discussing acceptable behaviour instead of talking about God.

As I grew up, we went to church less frequently, and I questioned the validity of our religion. I lost interest in the church altogether. I knew about Hell and Heaven, but where I was going never concerned me. I joined a reservist infantry regiment in the military. In the summer of 1990, I was sent to CFB Farnham to be trained as a field medic. I learned about anatomy, body functions, and the various systems in our body, along with how to administer medical care. It was my anatomy class that made me really aware of God. It wasn’t the complexity of our brain, or how the organs work together that amazed me. It was a tiny little bone, no bigger than a nickel that prevents the hyperextension of our arm at the elbow. I realized through it, that God was in control. It was impossible that we were the products of millions of random mutations.

Later that year, when I was visiting my former college, the guard on duty introduced me to a girl named Anita Batchelor. Because it was dark, he asked me to walk with her to meet her friends. I was happy to do that, and when we parted I asked if I could meet her again. She said I could.

Anita always seemed happy. She shared her faith with me, and told me that the Lord Jesus Christ had died for our sins. We need to put our faith in Him to be forgiven and be ready for Heaven. Well, that was something different! One Sunday morning she invited me to go to a church service, so I went. It was nothing like what I was accustomed to, but I enjoyed the preaching. Later the minister talked to me about the things of God. Still I wasn’t getting it, or didn’t want to get it. I wasn’t changing religions! If one hadn’t done anything for me, why would another? It took many more months of talks to get it through my thick skull that it wasn’t religion that was important, but rather a relationship with Christ, the Son of God. I started reading a Bible I bought at a secondhand bookstore. Our family had never had one.

I was living in a suite with a friend who was reading dark, spiritual books and listening to dark, metal music. I had read some of his books and I came under strong spiritual attacks. The more I tried to read my Bible, the stronger the attacks came at night. Nightmares of evil witches would haunt my sleep. Anita and her family were praying for me. I wanted to be freed from this influence.

One day in February 1991, I prayed and asked the Lord Jesus to forgive my sins and save me from the evil I was under. Immediately I felt a great liberation and peace. Even though I didn’t fully realize the impact of what I had done, I knew that the Holy Spirit had come into my heart and that I was free. I told Anita that I had accepted the Lord Jesus into my life. She was very happy for me! The Holy Spirit freed me from the desire to smoke cigarettes and drink beer – two bad habits I had picked up in the military – and I could sleep at night.

My troubles weren’t over yet. When I expressed my intentions to be baptized, my mother accused me of denying my original baptism by which she thought I was made a child of God. I explained that when I received the Lord Jesus as my Saviour, I became a child of God. The Bible says “As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God” (John 1:12). I was being baptized because I was a child of God.

Anita and I were married on May 16, 1992. Since then God has blessed us with three beautiful children and has kept me safe. I am now secure in the thought that whatever happens, I am God’s and He looks after me. Some day, I will be in His presence forever.

Frederic Forrest

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