is where I was sitting on April 18, 1977, the day my life changed.
RELIGION was an unpleasant
topic in my family when I was growing up. My mother regarded all
religionists as either hypocrites or fanatics, so when my father joined
the Jehovah’s Witnesses and began preaching door to door, there was
trouble. A truce was called, and from then on my dad rarely mentioned
his beliefs. When the taboo topic did crop up once in a while, it would
lead to shouting and bitterness.
What I heard about religion and God from my friends
sounded like a fantasy. How could anyone worship a phantom God who kept
himself hidden? Certainly not I! I automatically dismissed such concepts
as the blood of Christ washing away my sins and Jesus dying for me on
the cross; I could not fathom anybody falling for such ideas or
worshipping a God who was always angry and who showed less tolerance for
humanity than an ordinary civilized person would. I reasoned that the
Creator should at least be wiser and more mature than his creatures.
And why, if he wanted us to know about him, would he
give us only one book that was written thousands of years ago and that I
couldn’t decipher? And why would he make it a sin to add anything to it?
Why wouldn’t he give it to us straight? If human beings were capable of
making themselves understood, then why did God—who created the human
beings—insist on talking in riddles?
Religion, I decided, was not for me. I didn’t even try
searching along those lines. I had rarely attended church, barely
skimmed the Bible, knew nothing about God and Jesus, and made fun of
people who prayed and turned to God for help. The idea of a God
upholding the universe appealed to me, but unless someone who really
knew the truth could explain it to me properly, I had nothing to pin my
hopes on and would have to remain agnostic.
Like everyone else, I sought happiness. I would set my
sights on something, acquire it, then find myself holding a big, empty
balloon. I spent a great deal of time shopping, mainly for clothes. I
tried to get ahead at work. I changed the color of my hair often. I
thought that if I got married I’d be happy. Once married, I realized I
needed a divorce to be happy. I had a string of relationships. I moved
from country to country. I became more and more frustrated. I was doing
everything within my power to be happy and nothing worked. At night I
lay awake wondering where it would all lead. Would I simply die one day,
and would that be the end of me? Miserable as I was, I still wanted to
I enjoyed reading and had managed to fill my head with
earthly knowledge that represented a giant pile of jigsaw puzzle pieces
that didn’t fit together. The more I learned, the more confused I
became. I had many questions but no answers.
My brother Michael Praamsma had begun his search a
couple of years earlier and in the process had found the Urantia Book.
“You would love this book!” he insisted. But when I saw that it talked
about God and Jesus I refused to look at it. The last thing I needed was
to be converted to some wacky religion.
When yet another relationship ended, I was forced to
temporarily move in with Michael. Several times I went along to visit
his friends in Topanga Canyon, David and Barbara, who had given him the
book. They all radiated a certain peace whereas I usually felt extremely
agitated; the contrast was noticeable, even to me.
One evening the book lay open on Michael’s dining room
table to “Dawn Races of Early Man.” Years earlier I had helped my
parents put together an educational filmstrip that dealt with this
topic, and in our research we found that the available human knowledge
was largely conjecture. But the way this was written, the authoritative
tone in which the subject matter was presented, impressed me and I
couldn’t stop reading. They—whoever they were—were stating facts and
clearing things up for me.
When I reached “The Survival of Andon and Fonta” light
bulbs exploded in my head. This book is telling me the truth! We will
not die! There’s a big universe out there that is fully under control,
and there is a God after all! All the knowledge I had accumulated over
the years clicked together, the pieces of the giant jigsaw puzzle
forming a coherent picture of the universe that resembled a detailed
tapestry. The astounding thing was that I recognized the picture as
something familiar, something that deep down I had known all along but
couldn’t see because it was blocked. Now the veil was lifted. I saw
angels going from one planet to another carrying beings around in their
arms; everything was connected with ladders and invisible wires, and I
was a part of it! This life was not the end at all-it was the beginning!
Although I still had two thousand pages to go, I knew
that this book would give me it to me straight. That was the happiest
day of my life, April 18, 1977. “You shall know the truth, and the truth
shall make you free.” I wept tears of joy and relief.
On that day I turned my life around 180 degrees. All
my attitudes and values were changed in one fell swoop. I read the book
for three months straight, barely coming up for air. I learned where I
came from, where I was going, and why I was here. What I had believed to
be important was meaningless, and that’s why happiness had eluded me. I
discovered that there is no happiness apart from God. The stress and
tension dropped away, the furrows in my brow relaxed, and I still hadn’t
read a word about Jesus-that came much later. In fact, I resisted
reading about him until I had exhausted all the other papers. But when I
finally did, I was ready to accept him and his teachings wholeheartedly.
Since that day I have had peace of mind-the peace which passes all
Split - A Blessing in Disguise