Philip Kaplan is a 38 year old non practicing attorney living in Towson, Maryland. He accepted Christ in 2016 and feels called upon to speak about his conversion from a nonbeliever to a Christian. In the following series of blog posts, he will reflect on both his personal life and the philosophical issues pertaining to faith.
When I turned 32, my life must have looked pretty good from the outside. I was employed as an attorney whose job it was to represent parents in custody cases initiated by Child Protective Services. It was an important, if difficult, job, and I did it well. I had been at it for four years. I was known as a reasonable but tough advocate, one who would gladly work out agreements with the other side but who would not hesitate to fight a matter in court if I believed this was the only way to protect my clients’ interests. I had successfully litigated numerous trials and contested hearings, so any opposing lawyers knew that when I spoke of a courtroom battle, I meant exactly that.
Apart from my work, I would volunteer as one of the scorers in local high school mock trial competitions, as well as one of the appellate moot court judges in law school practice exercises. I enjoyed these activities immensely.
My social life in general had drastically improved from when I was a teenager. I now had very good friends.
I also had a girlfriend of over six years, and to everyone else, we appeared to have the perfect relationship. However, at the end of the day, we just weren’t compatible. Eventually, we both concluded that we had taken our relationship as far as it would go.
After we broke up, I began dating. Or rather, trying to date. I used internet sites. It was difficult. Intensely difficult. I would periodically get actual, in person dates, but it felt like I was constantly being rejected. The whole process was demoralizing. I tried meeting women in other contexts. That was similarly frustrating.
My loneliness grew.
I had no answers. As an atheist, I had backed myself into a corner. For my entire adult life, I had adopted the harsh view that we’re living in a world devoid of higher meaning or benevolent rule. I had nothing in which to place my faith other than myself, in my ability to seek out and obtain the tangible rewards of this life through my own efforts. And I thought I had done so. It was supposed to be ok because I was one of the strong ones. I was a winner. Yet despite all the ways I had been outwardly successful, I had failed in the one area of life that I cared about more than anything else: having a loving, passionate romantic relationship.
By the time I was 34, I could no longer pretend that I was merely unhappy. In fact, I began experiencing all-too-familiar feelings of hopelessness that I remembered from my teen years. I slowly realized, much to my horror, that I was becoming depressed again.
My work suffered. I felt like I could no longer handle a full-time job. At first, I tried shortening my hours using my accumulated paid sick leave. I got documentation from my therapist that it was medically necessary.
But my depression worsened. About four months shy of my 36th birthday, I quit my job. I had gotten so depressed that I simply couldn’t continue at it.
When I turned 37, I had been unemployed for well over a year. I was still single and lonely. I couldn’t believe how messed up my life had become. I was back to having no motivation, like when I was 15.
I began to do some serious thinking about the life that I had led. A life of professional ambition, achievement, and jumping through hoops. A life focused on attaining status, recognition, and respect from the outside world. A life without faith. Where there is no God. Where one’s position in this world is all that matters.
A life that led me right back into the clutches of severe depression.
Why did I value these things so much? What good had it done me?
I began questioning some of my long-held beliefs and attitudes. Here I was, forced to confront that my own efforts had failed. I was stuck in a miserable situation and saw no way to change it. I was absolutely desperate.
My best friend, a born again Christian, began talking to me gently about faith. She would say, “All Jesus wants is for people to accept His love. That’s it. Accept His free gift of salvation. There’s nothing else He requires of you.”
As much as I was used to my atheism, I had to admit that Christian doctrine, if true, sounded so wonderful. Jesus wasn’t judging my merits. He didn’t care about my standardized test scores or academic/professional accomplishments. He didn’t want me to “earn” anything, only to accept something I could not possibly earn.
I began to realize that if God didn’t exist, if Christian doctrine were not true, then it was truly hopeless because I had spent my entire adult life searching for answers in this world, and I had found nothing. I was out of ideas. My pride in my own ways was being revealed as less and less justified.
Did I dare to abandon my longstanding atheism and be open to Christian faith? Did I dare to do something so unexpected, so “out of character” for me as to accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Personal Savior?
I looked at my future in the event that there is no God, and I saw a big void. Did I come this far for there to be a void? Did I really, in my heart of hearts, believe that there is nothing beyond this world?
This is when God pulled me toward Him.
I was 37 when I accepted Christ and became saved.
Note: The author welcomes any comments or questions about his faith and journey. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org