A Forty Year Journey – Part 4 (Final)

Regarding the question of whether it is reasonable to believe in Jesus, I found the tools of the historian and the lawyer more helpful than those of the scientist and the philosopher. Historians have argued very reasonably that the New Testament as we read it today was indeed written by the early followers of Jesus, soon after His death. In it, those followers claim they saw Jesus alive after He had died, and make other claims about Him which are equivalent to the proposition that He is God. Analysis of the historical evidence using the techniques of trial lawyers, which is how we normally test the truth of claims about human events, leaves me with the conclusion Jesus must indeed be God. In particular, most of Jesus’ earliest followers died for their claims, which they would never have done if they had known those claims to be false. The possibility they were somehow deceived or deluded does not fit the evidence either.

Since then, I have continued to have many ups and downs in life. I haven’t found it easy to introduce Christianity to other people. Conflicts in our home intensified for a long time. Work has not always been easy. I found many problems in the church. However, I have grown a lot through all these experiences. I am still employed by Nortel Networks, the parent company of Bell-Northern Research. We have prospered financially, and I have learned a lot about telecommunications. Over the years my wife and I have learned a lot about each other, about marriage, and about the Christian faith. Our daughters are now both happily married, and share our faith. We have two beautiful grandchildren, and are hoping to retire together in 2002. Finally, I am hoping this account of my life will help many people understand what Christianity is really all about. I could relate many other incidents, but allow me to close with some brief comments on the key questions I encountered during my journey, and what has happened to me regarding career interests.

The thought I had when I first asked Jesus into my life – that I would remain basically unchanged through the 1970s – proved true. In that thought, there was nothing after the 1970s, indicating I would then change, and indeed a fundamental turning point occurred in my life when I went to my daughter’s church toward the end of 1979. I also believe God directed my Christian friend in university to say, “Jim, maybe this isn’t for you.” At the time, what I wanted to hear was, “This isn’t for you.” But, the key word turned out to be “maybe”.

I do not believe the theory of evolution is correct. I find it incompatible with the Bible, and discoveries about the incredibly complex structure of living tissues imply that the evolution of life as we know it is so improbable as to be impossible, even over billions of years. This view is gaining ground among scientists, if not the general public as yet. I personally believe the Earth will eventually be shown to be quite young, but resolution of this question awaits further developments.

I found it impossible to make the world safe for children. Instead, I found the key is to give them the tools to ensure they are eternally safe, no matter what happens to them in this world. That is not to say, though, that improvements are impossible in the here and now. However, I do believe the Bible indicates the whole world will eventually come under the control of an evil leader, although just when or how remains to be seen. I look forward to the advent after that of the better world I originally sought on my own, when Jesus Christ returns to remove the evil leader and rule the Earth.

In my experience, depression is an illness with physical, mental, and spiritual components. I found out how to control it physically through medication, and mentally by avoiding anger and self pity through the power of prayer. However one day, I felt its symptoms simply “switch off” in my head, and at that point I was healed spiritually.

Finally, my atheist room-mate was on the wrong track when he asked me if I wanted to spend the rest of my life locked into a set of beliefs I couldn’t change. Christianity is not a set of beliefs, but a relationship with a Person. As humans, we do need some sort of belief system concerning that relationship, but such beliefs vary from person to person and change over time. I myself spent a number of years trying to perfect my belief system after I came to know Jesus, only to find it broke down concerning my relationships with other people. I’m placing less emphasis on it now, illustrating the truth of what the minister said when I went to my daughter’s church in 1979 – “Whenever I’ve got my God in a box, He always gets out of it and shows me He’s bigger than that!”

Within Bell-Northern Research and Nortel Networks, my work has dealt with the operations, administration, and maintenance of telecommunications networks. For my first 12 years, I worked as a planner, in three different departments. Eventually I found I’d gone as far as I could in planning, and moved to software system testing. That turned out to be quite an unexpected challenge and a humbling experience – I thought it would be easy, but found I lacked some key skills that have been hard for me to develop. I have now been there for over six years, and have become the team leader. Last year I was offered a position in quality and release management that I really wanted to accept, but for various reasons felt I shouldn’t. It was a tremendous struggle for me, but after much prayer I decided to turn it down. A couple of months later, the position was eliminated in a round of layoffs.

At the end of last year I was given additional responsibilities as the team leader. It seemed correct to accept, but shortly afterward I felt swamped by the new demands on me and very discouraged with the direction my career had taken. Really, I felt a great lack of personal satisfaction. True, there had been many satisfying moments, but overall it certainly didn’t add up to what I had hoped for, and I faced retirement in just over three years wondering what if anything I had really accomplished in life. Also, my service with the Full Gospel Business Men had come to an end with similar results.

Then I heard a sermon on television by J.C. Watts, a very successful former quarterback with the Ottawa Roughriders in the Canadian Football League who is now a United States Congressman. He told how devastated he felt coming to the unknown country of Canada after an illustrious university football career in his native Oklahoma, and how he almost left training camp to go home. However, through prayer, God impressed upon him that he should stay, and his sermon was on the unexpected results that come from doing what God calls you to do. I decided I would persevere in my new job.

The year since then has turned out to be one of the best I have ever experienced on the job. In large measure, that is due to a new perspective that came to me early in the year. I had always sought my career satisfaction in a professional sense. Even when I thought of going into management, which was only occasionally, I always evaluated it in a professional sense, and found it unsatisfying. But this year, I have seen my new responsibilities as participating in a business – the particular business of supplying the product our group is responsible for delivering. From this perspective, my job draws in one way or another on all the different things I have ever done in the past. This has given me the satisfaction I needed in order to begin to prepare for retirement.

This year marks 40 years since I first addressed the question of “the God business” in university. One question I had never been able to resolve is, why did things happen to me the way they did? This year I found the answer in the Bible: “And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no.” (Deuteronomy 8:2, King James Version) I realized I had been a very proud person. In many ways, I still am. My emphasis on having a profession was but one example. But, I’m working on it. Or rather, God is.

I now feel strongly that these 40 years have been but a preparation. This year we have established some new youth group initiatives in Maxville. They came after the new developments in my job. This led me to understand that no matter how satisfying my job became, it could never take the place of some form of active Christian service. I also realized I had misjudged the results of my earlier service, and now I have a new perspective that is less focussed on specific results. Recently I went to a conference on new findings within the Christian church, involving the systematic use of prayer to heal people by setting them free from the effects of past evil in their lives. I believe these events all relate to what God has for me to do in the Maxville area, over the next few years and continuing after I retire.