Michael Pyefinch: From Hopelessness to Hope
I grew up in a family that didn’t talk about God and was loved deeply by those around me. I wasn’t always a Christian, and I most certainly didn’t always live my life in hope. Being an atheist growing up left me without any purpose in live, they all seemed far too short-lived and therefore pointless, so for a huge part of my life I lived for the next big moment. The next high, the next party, the next time I could feel good about myself. My life consisted of living on a high and pretending the lows didn’t exist; either running away from them or ignoring them entirely. Each day was a day lived in pride and arrogance, in thinking that I could manipulate people into getting what I wanted and leaving them by the wayside. I was a horrible person, hiding my scared core behind a cocky façade, and never willing to address it. I had no goals aside from a good time, and no moral compass to speak of. I knew I had to help people but never knew how to, and never put them above myself. I studied hard at school, sure, but it was because I wanted to go to America and live in a frat house and party hard and have fun stories to tell. It’s funny that, in giving me what I wanted, God gave me what I never knew I craved.
When I went Stateside I lived in Alabama, deep south, known for red necks, Nascar, and for being the heart of the bible belt. Every household had a Bible and knew Jesus, and that was true for the fraternity God put me in. Sure, they were party-hard people, but a lot of them had a fierce love for the Lord and used any opportunity they could get to tell me about Jesus. Prior to this my only knowledge of Jesus was this story made up by desperate mothers to make their kids sleep at night, but finding out that there’s more historical evidence for Jesus than there is for Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar put it into a whole new light. What if there was a hope bigger than a bottle of vodka? My roommate, a philosophy, religion, and science major, and I would stay up late into the night and just debate what meaning and purpose there was in the world. Other, now dear friends, and I, would sit atop rooftops and just talk about Jesus and faith and what it all meant. And a part of me craved that. It yearned for there to be something bigger. Some hope for, not even me, but people who were half decent at least. Could it be true?
All of this cumulated into a dark and stormy night (if you’ll excuse the dramatisation) where I was out on a walk dealing with mental health and I came to an empty chapel on campus (that’ll show you how Christian the school was) and I went in to find refuge from the rain. I sat at the back of the dark hall and, well, I started praying for the first time. For a sign, for some peace, for some kind of answer to all of these questions I had. My mind was whirling, and then I came to a decision– that this was all stupid. It was a nice story but it was a story nonetheless. It didn’t happen, and nobody was listening. There was no hope and drinking and maybe a stable job was the only hope anyone could ever find. And then I was struck by what I now know as the Holy Spirit, but what at the time was just a moment of peace. Pure peace and joy and comfort, as if held by a Father, and then tears.
I ran from the chapel after that – I’d never responded like that to anything ever and I was not about to break down now. I denied it. It happened again and I denied it again. Until I realised that it was the Spirit coming upon me, that not only was there hope for good people, but there’s hope for all of us. So, months after, whilst pondering it over Spring Break, I gave my life to Jesus. I got baptised a month later. I accepted the hope that came from Him, and life opened up. Instead of parties being my joy, I found pure happiness in creation, in the everything that God does for us because of His love for us. It felt like a wall was smashed down in my heart and on the other side was love, now pouring into me. And I’m changed. Hopeful. Nobody deserves to be saved, we all suck and have sins and problems and issues. But that’s not the point. That’s not grace. Grace gives hope to the hopeless. It gives joy to those who have never felt it and spit in its face. It keeps offering itself to everyone and anyone no matter who they are and what they’ve done. What Jesus has done on the cross wasn’t just a dude who kind of had good moral teachers getting killed for being too edgy, it was the God of the universe, coming down into this messy world and making friendships. Bringing people closer to Him, and therefore closer to God. Then even those He didn’t yet know – the mes and yous – He got on that cross and died for us. Because, well, because He loves us.