For ten years I had gone from one church to another with a restlessness I could not overcome and with an unsatisfied longing for something which I could neither explain nor define. I did not go to church because I believed in a personal God, but I did believe in prayer, and I believed that prayers were answered regardless of what was prayed to, be it an unknown force that ruled the universe or the little Egyptian talisman I carried in my purse. Needless to say, my prayers were not supplications of a humble heart, but, rather, defiant utterings born of desperation. The sense of my ineptness in prayer led me to the New Thought cultists, who would pray daily for anyone at the rate of a dollar a week.
Regardless of my motive I decided to find a church in which I could be reasonably happy, and attend regularly. I had at different times gone to many Protestant churches, so I was persuaded by friends to attend a Catholic church. For about a year I w.ent to a cathedral that was considered to be one of the largest and most beautiful of the churches in our city. I listened to the berobed priests sing their masses, usually in Latin, which I could not understand. I found the choir voices beautifully trained but lacking in the spiritual appeal I had realized as a child in the singing of simple Protestant hymns.
The interior of the church was impressive, with its marble pillars, elaborate altar trappings, stained-glass windows, and life-sized statues of saints before which people knelt at intervals. But the service failed to satisfy my soul hunger, and my loneliness was unrelieved by all this splendor. When the priest came forward to speak, instead of hearing a beautiful, inspiring sermon, we would hear a harangue against Protestants, and I would leave the church, filled with rage and bitterness. I decided that attendance here was a waste of time, and did not return.
A notice was left one 'day in my mailbox, inviting me to visit the Presbyterian church, "the friendliest church in the city." But during the several months I was present at its services, no one ever asked my name or who I was. I found that two factions in the church were warring, and one day, when the minister was about to open his sermon, a woman got to her feet and carried on with an outburst which disrupted the whole meeting. I did not return.
I next turned my attention to a Christian Science church, and while the simplicity of the building was restful and its lack of ornamentation refreshing,. something was missing. I was urged to go to a Methodist church—a little ivy-covered structure, poorly attended. Its appeal for me lay in its simple friendliness and the absence of ritual. This did not last long, however, for one Sunday the minister appeared in a long black robe, such as intern priests. wear. I recalled the words of one of our early Pilgrim governors, "I . . . have nought that savors of papalism," and left, not to return.
Occasionally I went to the local Episcopal church, because it had been my mother's place of worship and because friends had told me of the beautiful sermons preached by a minister upon whom lights were focused in such a way that he "looked just like Christ." I found little that resembled Christ in the service, for it was like that of the Catholic Church in that there was too much ritual and haste. When the Lord's prayer was repeated, the congregation raced through it so fast that the words were unintelligible.
Friends told me that I would never be satisfied, because I did not know what I wanted, and they were partly right. I now turned to the Baptist church. The sermons were modern, and I found them inspiring. One of the deaconesses talked with me and said I should belong to a church, for when one joins a religious body, it becomes his, and after that no other church can mean so much to him. But I found excuses—I was afraid of water and did not want to be immersed. Then I was told that immersion was not necessary. There was nothing said about forsaking my sins and starting life anew, nothing about accepting Christ as my personal Saviour, nothing about worshiping God and keeping the commandments. All that seemed necessary to salvation was simply to join the church.
About this time I was having trouble at my work, my family life had become intolerable, and I found myself on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I had been referred toa neurologist by my doctor, who had found no cause for my many symptoms. Mentally tormented and spiritually bankrupt, disappointed and frustrated at every venture, I faced suicide as the only alternative. This I told the specialist. He then asked me whether I had considered what suicide would mean to my eternal life. Did I believe in God, and was I acquainted with what the Bible has to say on the subject? I told him that I was not sure there is a God, that I did not believe the Bible, and that I did not think he did either.
I was not prepared for his answer when he said very earnestly that he believed in God and was certain there is a hereafter. As he talked I caught a glimpse of something I had never encountered before—a faith that was alive and certain. Coming at a time when I needed it most, it gave me impetus to carry on when everything else seemed hopeless. I remembered the answers my father, who was an atheist, had for those who talked religion to him. But somehow they seemed unimportant in the face of such a belief, and when he told me that what I needed was to find God for myself, and urged, me to think about it, I decided to talk to my Baptist minister about religion. When I did I found little help, for he said we should not take the Bible literally, and we should take for granted that there is a God, and not question it, because that only adds to one's confusion. But I wanted more from him than that, and again I felt the wave of hopelessness sweep over me. I knew there was little help for me there.
I decided to go back and talk to the doctor. He was the only person I knew who had a religion that would apply to everyday living, and if there was a heavenly Father' I wanted proof. He referred me to the Bible. He said you either believed everything in the Bible, or you could not be certain of any of it. Therein was contained all the proof I needed of God and of the hereafter. My training as a nurse to have confidence in a doctor helped me now to believe what he said. But more than that, when he spoke I knew there were no doubts in his mind, and I, too, wanted such a faith. Being very busy, he referred me to the elder of his church, which turned out to be Seventh-day Adventist. He in turn sent a Bible instructor to study with me, and invited me to attend the services of the church; this, of course, I wanted to do.
There was a spirit of reverence in this church. There was no gossiping or laughing such as I had observed in other places, and when prayer was offered I was surprised to see the congregation kneel. I found that I wanted to kneel with the others, and in doing so felt the joy that comes with humility.
Here I found a people who believe in keeping all of the Ten Commandments instead of only those that are convenient. I found the members friendly and without pretense. They appeared to be very well but simply dressed, and in contrast to their simplicity my rings and dress ornamentation made me feel like an overdressed shop girl. I found also that they tried to live up to the new commandment of Christ which is found in John 13 :35: "By this shall all men know you are My disciples, if ye have love one to another." But more than this, I had a conviction that at last I was in the true remnant church. I had found God, and now I, too, had a faith that I could live by, and a belief in a hereafter to live and work toward. With all this what happiness became mine ! The worries and heartaches of yesterday are today of no importance, and I am rejoicing in my newfound happiness and Christian hope.
* This interesting experience of a nurse who came to an Adventist physician as a patient was obtained through the courtesy of Dr. L. A. Senseman, of Saylesvine, Rhode Island.