The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed. Moses said, “I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up.” - Exodus 3:2-3 NASB
Annie Sullivan was hired by the Keller family to teach young Helen manners. Helen, who was blind and deaf from birth, had become a spoiled, out-of-control tyrant. After weeks of physical confrontations, Helen would finally sit still and behave. But Annie wanted more. She wanted to connect with her. Helen knew nothing about speech, words or learning. She lived in a world of dark loneliness without sound. Annie would place Helen’s hand on a plate or a fork, and spell it out with signing. To Helen, it was just a game. Finally, one day Annie was pumping water from the well onto Helen’s hand and spelled out the work in sign language. Helen paused for a long moment. Annie spelled it again. Helen’s countenance changed. She got it. She now associated the signing with things, the beginning of communicating, the way out of her dark, silent, lonely world. It was her Aha moment.
I have had many Aha moments. All of us have. Sometimes my Aha moment is happy and euphoric. Sometimes it is painful and traumatic. But always it is life changing.
There are Aha moments in the Bible. Imagine how Adam felt at first seeing Eve. (Gen. 2:23) Or Naaman, the Syrian leper, who was healed by Elisha. (2 Kings 5:14) These were very happy Aha moments. But not all are joyous. Paul had an Aha moment on the road to Damascus. He was blinded and confused for three days. He must have been miserable. Yet the experience would change his life.
I grew up as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught that they are the only ones to be saved. I was amazed that I was so fortunate to be part of such an exclusive minority. When I was 17, I remember going to the Kingdom Hall (their church) and watching a film presentation about the Witness missionaries around the world. I entered the building as a typical, carefree 17 year old. I left with a purpose, knowing I wanted to be a missionary. It was an unmistakable calling, so powerful and specific, that it still resonates with me today. It was an Aha moment.
I literally spent the next seven years taking the necessary steps to get into Jehovah’s Witness missionary school, including working as a local missionary and on the headquarters staff in New York for four years. Then I went through missionary school and was assigned to Chile. To say that my life revolved around the Witnesses and their teachings would be an understatement. For me it was a career and a calling.
In Chile, I married a Danish missionary. Two of our three daughters were born there. I loved being a missionary. After five years in Chile and some unfortunate circumstances, we moved back to the Seattle area. I got a job, and for the first time in years, I was in close contact with non-Witnesses. Gradually, things changed, and I began to question what I had accepted for years. This was a troubling period for me.
One day, driving home from work between Seattle and Tacoma, I suddenly pulled off onto the shoulder of the freeway, and stopped the truck. I remember saying to myself, “I don’t believe this anymore!” This was another Aha moment. But this was not happy or joyful. This was painful and traumatic. If it is not true now, then what about the past 25 years? I now questioned everything I’d been taught. Not just the specific Witness teachings, but the Bible itself. I was going through a spiritual crisis. This really hurts. I will lose everything: my wife, my kids, my family, my friends. They were all Witnesses. I would be shunned. Why is this happening to me?
I wrestled with burying my doubts and concerns. I thought about continuing to play along. My life would be unchanged. I could keep my family and friends. I could keep my prestige. I would not be shunned. I could avoid all the pain and anger by keeping the same course. I could move forward as though nothing had happened. I could live a lie in peace and comfort.
However, a wise friend shared his thoughts. He said, “You, of course, can continue to live in the comfort and security of the illusion. That would probably be the easiest thing to do.” He paused. “But I think I would choose the truth.” Jesus said in John 8:32, “know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” What He didn’t say is that it will probably beat you to a pulp in the process. And, yes, I was beaten to a pulp emotionally and spiritually for many years. My Aha moment. But, for better or worse, it has made me the man I am today. And I wouldn’t change a thing.