I am born in the Netherlands, or better known as Holland. I have had a nice childhood, and very good parents. Me, my brother and sister however did never get baptised. I never really discussed it in detail with my parents, but I figured that the reason is that my mother, and her side of the family, are not really religious. My dad’s father died when my dad was very young, but was a very religious man, as I can see that in the balanced and Christian way we are raised. He however was part of a Dutch reformed protestant branch and had some difficulties with some of the members of that church. My dad’s mother converted to Catholicism at a later age because of the support she got from the catholic community in the town where we are living. I until very recent however, did not know all this, as I didn’t have any interest in religion.
Apart from maybe having gone to Sunday school when I was younger, I haven’t had any religious education, neither on primary school or on secondary school. The only story I knew from the bible was the story about John the baptism, and that was because in earlier years my granddad used to read the bible after dinner, and I could remember the story from being with them for dinner one time. To sum up my Christian belief, I thought it was old fashion, outdated and irrelevant. We were thought on school that evolution describes exactly how we came to being, and the hidden message was that God is non-sense, and that science had already proven this thousands times over. Moreover, the teaching of the churches, and especially the Catholic Church were far to old fashion. I even laughed at the pope, especially when he became older! Imagine that, I have to explain that when I meet eventually him in heaven!
Anyway, I finished my secondary school and started to study mechanical engineering. All was going well, and I was looking forward to finish my degree and earn some money. Coming 2002 I only had to do a four month practical placement before my graduation, and I was planning on doing it close to home. It turned out however that year that it was hard to find a suitable assignment, but I was lucky and got a place with Philips. The only drawback was that I had to go to Mexico, to a production plant they were building there. I thought it would be a good experience, so agreed. The last minute however, the assignment was canceled, and I found myself without a place. Thankfully, one of the teachers, who had contacts with Ireland, heart of it, and because he thought I wanted to go abroad he arranged for me to go to Galway, even though an assignment had to be found when I arrived.
The four months of my placement went very well, and I made a good impression. When the end came, I got offered a master in research which included a scholarship. I decided that it might be a good opportunity, and I made a few German friends here who were to stay another year so I figured it would be a good thing to do. It meant that I had a gap of about four months in which I had nothing to do, but a teacher said that he could pull a string in a nearby multinational company and see if they would have some work for me during the summer. It turned out that they didn’t really, but they employed me anyway on account of the recommendation I got. The four months went by, and because I had not much to do, I agreed with the company to write a proposal for a scholarship doing research for them instead of the original project, and this worked out very well.
This however is where my path as it were was running alongside the mountain… I met a colleague there who is a devout Catholic, and he challenged me on my beliefs regards God. Being an engineer, stubborn and eager for a discussion, I took up the challenge and we went into lengthy discussions about science, history, accuracy of the bible, evolution, the start of life, and the teachings of the Catholic Church. I was most of the time blown away, and had to do a lot of background reading. My beliefs about science, evolution and mainly every topic related to our existence were turned upside down. Everything I believed to be fact seemed not to be so factual at all, and if anything, at least 50 years outdated. I was overwhelmed with the information we have about microbiology, and the complexity of the simplest living cell. Complexities that cannot spontaneous assemble itself in a nice warm puddle of mud, or at least not without the guiding hand of a very intelligent being. I won’t go into the details of it, as I would probably boar about 90% of you to sleep, but there are some very easy to read books available explaining all the basic concepts.
One major point of discussion was as well the bible, and in specific the New Testament, and its historical accuracy, its composition and source. I always saw it as a book of fairytales, but after knowing more about it, and doing a bit of reading about the bibliographical tests as are standard for historical documents I had to accept is as history and that it was inspired by God, if he existed.
I did now accept the possibility that there is a God, and not only a God watching over us, but more important a living God who loves us and wants to be involved with us and want to know us. My colleague bought me a Dutch bible, and said that if God exists, is alive and really cares, it would only be fair that he would show me that he existed, or let me find him, if I had a genuine openness.
I started reading a few paragraphs, or maybe a chapter of the New Testament every night before I went to bed and said a short prayer to find God. I also tried to pop into the church on my way back from work for a few minutes.
The Lord promises himself that we can find him in Matthew chapter 7, verse 7: “Ask, and it will be given to you; search and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. Everyone who asks received, everyone who knocks will have the door opened”. This ties in nicely with the theme of the retreat. The whole quote from Jeremiah 29-13 is “When you search me you will find me; when you search me wholeheartedly for me, I shall let you find me”. It hit me when I looked the passage up in preparation of the talk. A lot of people might be looking half hearted after God. They kind of want to follow him if it is not too much hassle, but are not ready to give their whole heart to him. When I started to look for God I did start looking wholehearted. I decided that if God’s really exists and really loves me, then it is worth to be open to it, and spend some time trying to find him. And he let me find him, within a very short time!
This is a short extract of my story, of how I started to climb the mountain to find the glory of God on the top. Hopefully most of you already experienced this, or are ok with it, but I wanted to share this in case some of you didn’t. The climbing of the mountain, as reflected on, is the accepting God in our lives, to be open to his love and forgiveness, and to genuine search for him.