Growing up, I didn’t fully understand what it meant to have a relationship with Jesus. I heard the gospel, was around it and knew it, but didn’t get it.
By the time I went to Albany State University in 1973, I had a good dose of Christianity but still didn’t understand what it all meant.
I drifted off in whatever direction I choose.
I knew of Christian groups on campus, but avoided them and got involved with the party scene because it was cool and more accepted.
There were lots of weekend parties and the drinking age in New York back then was 18 years old. My weekend began on Thursdays.
As a student, I was dead broke, working nights, going to school during the day. My family had no money. I was working really hard and I was really tired.
When I finished college, I was accepted into graduate school at New York University. I withdrew the $7.53 I had in my bank account and went home to live with my parents, working a few jobs that summer to make whatever money I could.
I got my PhD in cellular molecular biology at NYU’s school of medicine. I also met my wife in graduate school and we married in 1979.
We had our first child in 1980. All of a sudden I was in my mid-twenties and had a kid. I was cruising along, in a good graduate program and work was going well. By 1982, we had two kids.
But something was missing. I was pretty sure a relationship with God was what was missing. I knew I didn’t know who He was. I knew that’s what the void was, but wasn’t motivated to do anything about it.
From my earliest years as a 5-year-old, I knew God loved me, my mom told me that. But I kept Him at arm’s distance because I wanted to keep getting the blessings without having to commit to anything.
I didn’t want to have to give Him anything. I knew He loved me but I didn’t understand the gospel or what any of that meant.
About that time, my oldest son at age 4 began asking me questions about God. I would give him answers, but it was clear to me that I was just making it up.
I wasn’t speaking out of any authority and that bugged me. In 1984 we moved to Philly to do a Post Doc at Fox Chase Cancer Center.
Two blocks away there was a Methodist Church and since I had gone to one as a child, I thought it a good idea to get reconnected with the church. There was a big void and knew that’s what it was.
I began going to that church in 1985… at the same time I tried to find my Bible and I couldn’t find it. So for Christmas, I asked for a Bible – my mother got it for me.
I read it cover to cover but didn’t get it. I was amazed and impressed by the history and real people, but I didn’t understand what it was all about.
Then I started attending a Sunday School class and these people believed the Word of God and studied it. They also had a Bible study and I began going to that, too.
I’m a scientist, I think logically. I have to have my ducks in a row to believe something. There has to be logical flow.
The guy who was running the class was John, a physicist/scientist (he didn’t have Ph. D. yet, but did subsequently). He knew the Bible.
He knew Scriptures. We would get in arguments and his held water. So I finally started listening and stopped arguing.
We began studying Romans, and suddenly around chapter 5, I got it. It was like a light bulb went on.
I got it. I can’t say precisely when or how it happened, but studying the book of Romans, I suddenly understood the gospel and what it was all about.
I knew this was the most important decision in my life. I had made the decision that Christ was my Savior and there was no turning back.
During all this, I was working really hard in the lab and I was frustrated, but then things came out really well. It came out beautifully.
It occurred to me that I couldn’t control it, and it was humbling. I’m a pretty hard-working, smart guy, that’s what it takes, right? When things weren’t going well and even when they were, I realized I wasn’t in control, but the Lord was.
And HE had blessed me by giving me these things in life.
Dr. Michael Atchison lives in Glenside, PA with his wife of 32 years, Dr. Lakshmi. He is a Biochemist at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine. Both of his adult sons, Alan and Steven, work at UPenn. Lakshmi is a professor of biology at Chestnut Hill College. In their spare time, they enjoy dinners together at home and out at favorite restaurants, camping, nature trail hiking and occasionally watching movies together. They have also published science textbooks together under the publisher, McGraw Hill.
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