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When I was twelve, a man came to our school to talk about Jesus and give us each a copy of the New Testament to take home. I was bored by the speech and unimpressed with the gift. I remember holding the Bible and thinking, “This is like homework in a subject I’m never going to be tested on.” After school, I walked home with a friend and somehow, we got into a contest of which of us thought it was more stupid. As we each tried to one-up the other and distance ourselves from this weird Christian thing, somehow it escalated to the point where we ended up burning our Bibles.

For the next 25 years, that’s how I lived my life – separate from God.

I burned myself out working jobs I hated, racked up debt buying things I thought were making me happy, suffered from crippling anxiety, and either ignored or picked fights with everyone around me. I filled my leisure time with horror movies and goth music, and developed an unhealthy interest in the occult. Without realizing it, I had dedicated my life to materialism and darkness, and it was making me miserable.

One day, after I’d seen a movie with my best friend, he started talking to me about God. He told me he believed we’re not the product of random chance and chaos, but unique and special spiritual beings living in a purposefully created world. For three hours we stood in the parking lot discussing it – and I was enthralled.

It was then I understood that literally everything I believed was wrong, and it turned my world upside down. I got to a place where I knew God existed, but I had no idea who God was, or what he expected of me.

But there was something I did know a lot about: the occult. All those years of research I’d done came rushing back all at once, overwhelming me with a terrifying thought. “If God is real, then Satan is also real.” And from what I could see, Satan was winning. Seeing the world as nothing more than a pit of evil and corruption hidden behind a thin veneer of normalcy, I fell into a six-month depression. I became obsessed with learning even more about the occult, and every new discovery pushed me deeper into a cycle of despair I couldn’t escape, until God brought other Christians into my life to help me. They taught me a little bit about Jesus, and encouraged me to pray.

I felt stupid praying for the first time. It was a long, directionless ramble that amounted to me asking, “God, are you there?” I will never forget this moment as my first encounter with the Holy Spirit. Not only did God answer me, but His answer was an amazing outpouring of love and positivity. For the first time in my life I experienced real hope.

After several months of church shopping, I came to FAC where I attended Alpha, and the experience was profound. I absolutely felt the Holy Spirit’s presence at the weekend spiritual retreat.

Soon after, it was time to get baptized. As I lined up waiting for my turn to go on stage I broke down into a full blown panic attack. By the time Pastor Cory arrived, I was doubled over and hyperventilating. When he asked me, “What’s wrong?” the only words I could get out were, “Stage fright!” But that wasn’t what I was really afraid of. The problem wasn’t getting up on stage in front of a thousand strangers. The problem was getting up on stage in front of God.

How could he possibly accept me? I’d spent a lifetime treating the occult as a hobby, darkness as a lifestyle choice, and idolizing the almighty dollar. Worst of all, I’d burned His Holy Scriptures. I felt extremely unworthy of being there, and all I wanted to do was run away.

But at the same time, I also knew God wanted me to get baptized. I wasn’t there by accident; I was there because the Holy Spirit had guided me to be there. And so, I prayed for the strength to get through the next 5 minutes.

In an instant, all my anxiety faded away.  When I got up on the stage and into the baptism tank with Pastor Cory, my heart was overflowing with love, joy, and excitement.  When Cory plunged me under the water and brought me back up, I felt this amazing sense of accomplishment, like I’d just succeeded at the most important and meaningful thing in my life.

Afterwards, I realized what day it was – October 13th – a highly important date in occult circles. Getting baptized on that specific day was God giving me a crystal clear message that I am forever separated from the darkness. As a sign of my gratitude and repentance, I gathered up my occult library, drove to a campsite in Fish Creek Park, built a fire, and burned every book.

The moral of the story is: The person I was no longer matters. With Jesus, I have been born anew, and the new me is full of hope.

After sharing my story at Alpha, the Holy Spirit spoke to me several times over the next few days, revealing to me my purpose in life. I am supposed to use the knowledge I gained to teach other Christians to understand the Occult – how to see through the lies, why not to be afraid of it, and how to break any unhealthy dark attachments they may have developed in their own lives. How exactly I’m going to go about doing this, I’m not yet sure, but I’m trusting the Holy Spirit will guide me to cross paths with those who need help.

Written by James D.

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