I Am Forever Changed

Submitted by John Roper

My family was not the kind that openly talked about religion. We went to church on Sunday, but not much was said after that. It was expected that you believed in God, so no discussion was necessary. When I was about seven years old we moved from Portsmouth, Virginia, to Richmond, Virginia, and with the connections to our church gone, we were free to find a new church association. I began going to Sunday school at a little Episcopal church with my best friend. Eventually all the family, my parents and brother, went there.

This was the first place I remember hearing about Jesus. I was sitting around one of those very low children’s tables with little chairs. The teacher was reading to us out of a book similar to Fun with Dick and Jane, but it was about Jesus. I felt a surge in my little heart unlike anything I had ever experienced. I couldn’t explain it and it frightened me. I seemed to have a small understanding about God, but who was this Jesus person, and why did I feel so funny learning about him?

I continued going to the Episcopal church, was confirmed, and served in church services. But the story of Jesus’ life as presented in The Bible, and the doctrines taught about him in church, just didn’t seem right. I could never reconcile the death of Jesus as an act to save us from our sins. It just wasn’t logical.

As I grew older, I moved away from organized religion. Science fiction became my source of universe philosophy. Heinlein, Asimov, Bradbury, Smith, Herbert, and Clarke all expanded my perception of reality and allowed me to consider existence beyond the boundaries of this planet. College and my first marriage came along. I was still in a fog about Jesus, but at the same time God was still there. My wife and I looked into Eastern religions and astrology – the ’60s kind of things – but nothing lit my fire like science fiction. Life on this planet seemed to be changing rapidly and there was excitement about the future – I just didn’t know what that future was.

In 1970 we were living in the little town of Keego Harbor, Michigan. In September of that year I flew to San Francisco for a job interview. When I returned, my wife and a stranger named George Sammis picked me up at the airport. George was the friend of a neighbor in the apartment complex where we lived, and he was nice enough to drive my wife down to the airport. On the way home, George told me about a new book he had just gotten from his mother. The words he used to describe it were, “… and it is supposed to be written by people from outer space!” Whoa! The magic words: “outer space.” I was hooked.

That evening George came over and opened the box containing a brand-new copy of The Urantia Book, and we began reading, the first time for us all. We started with the first Adam and Eve paper, and by the time we finished it I knew that this book was the book with the answers. The next morning George returned home to Clear Lake, Iowa. The book went with him. No bookstores in our area carried The Urantia Book and we couldn’t find it in the library. I had no desire to read any of the four or five unread science fiction books sitting on my shelf. Then January came and George surprised us with a return visit and our very own copy of The Urantia Book. What an incredible gift!

My marriage was floundering and I thought a change of venue would help, so off to Colorado we went. The book came along, but other events in my life were taking precedence: The birth of a son, anti-war demonstrations at Colorado University in Boulder, difficulty keeping a job and rocky roads with my wife all led eventually to divorce and a return home to Michigan. My wife kept our original copy of The Urantia Book and I got my own. I read it nightly, keeping it on my night table, where coincidentally, Jane, my true love, first saw it.

Of all the times I have read the book, the most special was with Jane and our three children on our great 1976 odyssey to Alaska where we read it through together for the first time. Driving up the Alaskan Highway, listening to Beethoven, watching the unbelievable scenery and reading The Urantia Book – what an awesome way to finally find out about the matchless nature of our Creator Son/brother Michael! I am forever changed.

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