I Felt a Void

Submitted by Robert Burns

Raised in a Catholic family, the oldest of six children and the first-born grandchild on both sides, I learned about responsibility and duty at a young age. I went to Catholic schools, served as an altar boy, and faithfully attended church. I believed in God and prayed the Lord’s Prayer and Hail Marys as I had been taught. I studied catechism and wondered about things like Abrahams willingness to kill his son for God (and even more, God’s desire to test Abraham that way); the great flood and the ark; people turning to salt due to God’s anger; plus many other things about God’s nature and the universe. Oddly, I never questioned Jesus’ dying for our sins or God’s reason for requiring him to do so.

In Catholic high school I became an advocate of science. Here were explanations and descriptions of how things worked. Biology, chemistry, and astronomy provoked my curiosity and a growing desire for answers. I began questioning, asking things that could not or would not be answered by the priests, brothers, and nuns, and in return I received only platitudes.

By age 17, I had stopped praying and going to church, and I questioned the concept of religious belief. I saw the horrors of life. People were starving and being massacred needlessly. God – if he did exist – seemed to allow this, was uncaring and unfeeling. I increasingly could not believe in such a God. I had lost the magic of belief. I was no longer in Disneyland. No more Santa, no more Easter bunny, no more tooth fairy, no more guardian angels, no more God.

Various tragedies befell my family, and at 19 I left home. I promptly fell in love with an almost-18-year-old Jewish girl, Cindy Hirsh, and moved in with her. A year later we were married. Cindy introduced me to a new world, one of Jews, atheists, hippies, leftist politics (my family was heavily into the John Birch Society), and futurists. There was no more Catholic dogma, just other forms of dogma. I was stimulated by so many avenues of thought but still felt a void.

I discussed various ideas with people, including my brother-in-law, Gary Mathews. I admired this long-haired, bearded ex-Marine for his good sense and his thoughts unifying politics, religion, philosophy, and science. He had been through hell in Vietnam, losing his best friend and seeing and participating in unspeakable horror, yet he still believed in a God who was infinitely good, just and fair.

He still believed in God! We debated and discussed his belief in God over many a night and he told me things I had never heard before. He described the universe, a variety of beings, the purpose of man, the vision of God. I kept coming back with more questions, wanting more answers, until one day he said, “I think you are ready for a book I have. I will lend it to you, but I want it back!” He gave me The Urantia Book.

I purchased my own copy within the week. I was hesitant at first. My old fear of the devil resurfaced. If God was real, then maybe the devil was also, and this could be the devil’s work. I read various papers and was always enthralled, but also always leery. It wasn’t until reading the story about Adam and Eve that I became filled with emotion, and I again began to talk with my Eternal Father. I spoke to him not with the formal prayers I had learned as a youth, but instead just shared my thoughts with him. As I prayed, I reflected on what Adam and Eve had gone through for us; that even though they had failed, they had shown such devotion to each other and to him, our heavenly Father. It was then, with tears running down my face in a comforted joy, that I believed in the book, in God, and in my destiny.

I tried locating other readers by calling information, and that’s how I was eventually steered to Julia Fenderson. I talked to Julia on the phone for about an hour that first time. She asked me many questions and seemed genuinely interested in my thoughts. Just before ending our talk, she referred me to a lively study group in nearby Anaheim, hosted by devoted readers Marlene and Pierre Chicoine. She said that Pierre and I shared an interest in science and predicted that the two of us would become best of friends.

Hanging up, I thought Julia was a very nice, strange lady. She had never met me, yet she could state with certainty that Pierre and I would become best friends. And sure enough, when I got together with the Chicoines we became best friends instantly, just as Julia had foretold. When later I met Julia at the Chicoines’ I fell in love with her also. She spoke to me about the importance of study groups and “the need for thousands of study groups” every time I saw her.

The Urantia Book brought me back to the Father, to loving Jesus with the utmost faith, to understanding mankind, to gaining a perspective on evil, and to comprehending my origin, appreciating my status, and longing for my destiny.

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