Safety and Storms

“I was disappointed to learn it was a Christian event.”

By Paul C. Johnson with Katie Croft   |  26 February 2013
My Story: Paul Johnson
photo by Guy Gerrard

Paul, center, talks with his wife, Sue and a friend they met through a dinner outreach in Poland.

I was raised in a loving but non-religious home. My mother was raised going to church. But, my father’s father didn’t attend. Therefore, my father didn’t attend and our family slept in on Sunday mornings.

We thought our neighbors who went to church were wasting their time. Religion was for losers.

When I went to college, I took a Western religion course to round out my humanities studies. The professor confirmed my mistrust of the Bible. He taught us that the Bible was good literature, like Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, but it was outdated and irrelevant to today’s world.

In my mid 20’s, the family business was doing well and I was making far more income as a partner than I had expected. Sue, my wife, and I were happily married. We met all the world’s standards of success but I wasn’t satisfied. There was emptiness in my life and I had no clue how to fill it.

Two years into our marriage we accepted an invitation to an elegant business banquet. When we arrived, I was disappointed to learn it was a Christian event. I decided to stay and see what it was all about only because the meeting was populated with top leaders from my community. That night I heard the gospel message for the first time in my life. The “safe” setting of a business event hosted by my professional peers was disarming.

That night, a Boston entrepreneur spoke about his story of faith. To my surprise, I was interested in the topic for the first time in my life. Checking a box on a comment card, I indicated that I wanted to learn more about a relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ. That step alone would have been inconceivable just 3 hours earlier!

My wife, Sue, had a different reaction. The man’s message and the prayer to receive Christ that night reminded her of a youth retreat she attended 8 years earlier. Sue had committed her life to Christ at that retreat but had never grown in her faith. At the dinner, she immediately resolved to follow Christ and began reading her Bible the very next day.

A week later, I received a phone call from a man who had been at the dinner. He invited me to meet with him and another man who had been at that dinner to discuss what we thought about the message we had heard that evening. The aim of this follow-up appointment was to challenge us to take the next step in our spiritual journey in life. Once again, to my surprise, I agreed to take that step.

Soon after, we began participating in a Bible discussion group. I was shocked to find that this ancient book was not a bunch of outdated fables but that it was relevant to my current situation.

God added a little drama to our story and finally got my full attention a short time later, through a storm in the middle of the night.

Sue and I were alone on a small sailboat in Long Island Sound. A harsh storm came on that night. At 1:30 am I realized my grip on life wasn’t nearly as strong as I thought. I was helpless and I couldn’t do a thing to save myself. I needed a Savior.

Hours later, safe and dry in the living room of the couple with whom we were studying the Bible, I accepted God’s provision of forgiveness and salvation through His Son Jesus Christ.

The truth is, I was a selfish, prideful man whose illusion of being in control of my life had been washed away in that storm. The message that Jesus’ love provided full payment for my sin – past, present and future – coupled with the genuine caring I had encountered from these Christians, led me to yield control of my life over to Christ.

The emptiness that used to plague me has been replaced by a wonderful new purpose. We now live our lives of gratitude to God by sharing Christ’s love with working professionals in the United States and in Eastern Europe.