Pastor Paweł Chojecki, New Covenant Church in Lublin, Poland
Translation: Paweł Machała
God does exist, listens to our prayers and draws us to Himself!
‘God is really wonderful and He genuinely cares about us. This very thought came to my mind when I sat down to write about how God had led me to Himself.
I’m a happy husband and a happy father of three. I’m using the word “happy” twice on purpose, as this is how I can describe my life at the moment. I am truly happy now and, though it’s difficult to express or prove it, I do know it is so. But things were different in the past.
I grew up in a so-called broken family – my parents broke up when I was 6 years old. My younger brother stayed with Mum and I stayed with Dad. I decided to go with him on my own. I loved my Dad and admired him. He was everything to me. He was a Marxist and I learned from him how to be actively hostile towards religion and believe in an ideal world in which people would be brothers. Children are inclined towards idealism but reality was slowly stripping me of it.
Although Mum didn’t live with us, he made me get prepared for First Communion and finally take it. I remember the whole event as rather unpleasant: a mixture of fear, unawareness, artificial rules and appearances. I didn’t go to church willingly for years since then. As I said, I was anti-religious after my father and in the third form of the primary school I began to make my peers aware of the facts that God didn’t exist and the world came to happen in the process of evolution. They didn’t have any arguments but they still stuck to their beliefs. That made me even more confirmed in my conviction that to believe in God is to act against reason. My classmates were not taught tolerance at home so I was quickly labelled as “that who doesn’t go to church.” There were more factors that contributed to my isolation among my peers – I was a good student and I was overweight. I was lonely and that was a horrible feeling that I was to experience in my life more than once. The person who had been everything to me, my Father, changed his interests and got married the second time. It was like a betrayal to me. He still seemed to be on my side but we were growing apart more and more. I didn’t see any hope for a better future and I desperately needed a close friend.
God didn’t let me be all alone in those difficult times. There was my Grandmother, an elderly retired pre-war teacher. Having a very strong character and possessing high moral standards, she was both well-read and wise. Like her husband, son, and grandson, she was anticlerical, she distrusted the Church and despised hypocrisy. She was not an atheist, though. She instilled in me a conviction that if there is a God, He doesn’t care about appearances but a human heart. She helped me see that all that artificial, church-related religiousness was nothing but a pose and pretending and that religious people’s lives were totally different from their beliefs. But she was over sixty and I was a little over 10.
I finished the primary school and another nightmare began. I was accepted into a high school in a city located 50km from my hometown. I was in an elite, science-oriented class. I was ridded of all illusions. To start with, I had to face the sad truth about my exceptional talents. The first grade was taught in a way that was supposed to put off the unsuitable ones. University teachers conducted classes as if we were university students and made fun of the terror they inspired in us. But God sent help to me once more. I was living in a boarding school with a friend who really helped me with math. I treated him as a true friend and I idealistically thought the relationship to be a long-lasting one. He didn’t think that way, though. I realized that I was unable to build a relationship that I longed for even with an ideal candidate that my roommate was. Everything looked dull: no true friendship or successes in school. My last chance was to find a girlfriend. One night, after I had got turned down again I called to God and said, “God, if you really exist, let me find a truly close friend – a girl.” My prayer came true after half a year and I couldn’t believe my eyes. We got so close to each other that the rest of the world ceased to exist to us. We had been in the same class from the beginning of the high school and I had always considered her the prettiest and the most intelligent girl in the class. Knowing who I was I hadn’t even thought that we could ever be together. But God is amazing and He always gives us more than we ask for or even understand.
She had grown up in a religious home and I had got convinced that God existed and listened to us. It was quite natural then that we started to go to church together. Christmas was coming and everyone was going to confession. I was determined not to do it but after long talks, I decided to go to confession, too. My girlfriend told me how to begin and end a confession and so I did it. I was deeply moved (no wonder, considering my ten-year break) and thought I was finally OK with God. I was sure we had already made friends with Him and it would stay so forever. But then the intense emotions ended and my life didn’t change at all. I was still my own boss and I was involved in the relationship with my girlfriend more and more. God receded into the background. It was the beginning of 1981 and we would only go to church to listen to politically-involved sermons, the rest of the religious ceremonies were only meaningless rituals to me.
We matriculated at a university in Cracow and went on a hike in Yugoslavia. Everything was going well and we really saw the future in bright colours. There, in the beautiful scenery of the Adriatic Sea, we faced the possibility of breaking up with each other for the first time. We did want to be together but we weren’t strong enough not to be selfish and not to hurt each other. It was a clear signal, but the fast pace of life had got us so involved that we rarely devoted a deeper thought to it. University, travelling, the passion for mountains, interesting people, exhibitions, films – all our lives revolved around were such things. We started to make money, we set up a shop and money became a key factor, at least for me. Our relationship got so weak that we hardly talked about it. We were still together but not living that way. We got married in the meantime, cherishing hopes that it would liven up our relationship. It did help but only for a while.
Everything stayed as it had been before. We had everything that life could offer, but there was a question that kept lingering on in my head: was that the meaning and the only aim of my life? That didn’t make any sense. I became gloomy and obnoxious. “What is the sense of my life? What matters in it?” After I had met my girlfriend I started reading the New Testament and then the whole Bible. I looked for advice and wisdom in it but I couldn’t help to notice something crucial, namely that Jesus appeared to be the central character of all the Bible. He filled me with admiration, he was the epitome of all ideals.
While I was wrestling with the question of the sense of my life, a thought came to me. “To be like Jesus, that’s something really worth the trouble and I am capable of reaching such an aim.” I started to read the Bible paying special attention to what was moral and what was not. Jesus did something good for people and I wanted the same. I decided to create a community for “real Christians” and we set up a charity. I even managed to find some interested people but they soon backed out. I got upset but I had to admit that I had really wanted to show off before the people, to impress them by pretending to be “a saint.” I realized that I didn’t care much about their lot although I was supposed to help them. Facing such a reality was extremely unpleasant to me. I felt trapped. I discovered that even when I wanted to do good things, there was my egoism in it. Was a different life not possible then? But God had prepared an answer yet again. We went to a meeting where a man talked about Jesus and why He had died. He said that the evil inside us is called a sin, egoism in my case, and that the evil stops us from leading a life that would please God. I heard that I couldn’t get rid of the evil myself and that Jesus had had to die for me. I didn’t quite understand all that, but I did catch that Jesus, being alive, is the solution and that he has the power to change me from within. The preacher called us to invite Jesus to our lives. We both wanted that, my wife and me (I still thank God for that). We said a simple prayer and we invited Jesus to our hearts so that he could change them, clean them from sin and give us new lives. I didn’t feel anything in particular when I returned to my student hostel. My enthusiasm faded and some doubts appeared. But God sent us a more experienced believer who asked me “Where is the Jesus you invited now?” “What do you mean – where?”, I answered. “Where did you invite him to?”, she asked, and I understood that there was iron logic behind it. Jesus had promised to live in me and I invited Him so He started to live in me, just as he had promised. Praise be to Him!
It’s been seventeen years since that happened but I still remember everything as vividly as if it happened yesterday. Time is not important for me anymore: I met the One, for whom and by whom I was created (Col. 1.16). In the spiritual sense I have already reached the goal – I have been seated in the heavenly places (Eph. 2.6). I know that thanks to Jesus it is such a perfect position that I neither can nor need to improve it. This is a great relief. Jesus is with me, He’ll never leave me, so what harm might happen to me?
Here, on Earth, the most beautiful thing that Jesus healed was our marriage. When I think about our relationship and how close to breaking up we were, it seems quite unreal. “Today” is so amazing that “then” has been long forgotten. My wife is my closest person on Earth and my best friend. I can’t describe how much I love her and I know it’s not only a changing feeling but a decision that is taken in everyday life. Only Jesus is able to make us love each other so much. He really cares about us. We can be so close to each other thanks to Him. We used to live separately, slowly drifting apart, but He helped us stay together, we’re ONE in Him. That couldn’t have been done with human efforts only.
Although the experiences in my youth were far from pleasant, I am grateful to God for them. I see how helpful they are now. As a Jesus’ disciple I have to face rejection or aversion from some people. This is nothing new to me, I used to go through such things many times before, though for different reasons. Jesus’ yoke is something truly easy and His burden is light.
When I look back at my childlike ideal to build a ‘better’ world in which people could live as brothers and sisters, I have to admit that I still have a similar goal. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God (John 1, 22) Seeking brotherhood between people is a utopia but brotherhood among Christians is a fact – we have the same Father. I know that only those who have received Jesus as their Saviour and Lord can become children of God – and that’s why I want as many people as possible to hear and to receive the call to accept Jesus’ salvation. This aim is really worth dying for as Jesus alone came to “seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19, 10). “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written:
How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:14-15).
Pastor Pawel Chojecki