In my youth, I spent every afternoon studying Hebrew. As I grew older, I worshiped every morning and evening in the synagogue.
Then one cold, clear, midwinter night, my life was shattered. My father had a heart attack, and when I ran to the one place where I thought I would find comfort and hope, the synagogue, I found the doors locked. As I banged on them, I looked into the star-filled sky, cursed God, and turned away from him.
I went so far as to renounce my covenant name, Elkanah, meaning "God-possessed." I took for myself, instead, the name Kanah, a Hebrew version of Cain, "possessed." From that moment on, I was possessed with getting ahead. After graduating at the top of my class in graduate school, I got a top post-doctoral fellowship and internship in clinical psychology and became an adjunct faculty member of a medical school.
I came to see that the area I thought provided the answer to life, psychoanalysis, was really just nonsense. But I decided that I would use it to become rich. I could sit in a chair, listen to patients, nod my head, and charge $75 an hour for doing it.
My wife, Nancy, and I celebrated my success by taking a trip to Europe. It was then that a series of strange things began to happen. For example, one night my wife suddenly sat up in bed saying, "We can't get out of Athens!" And the next day, when we went to pick up our tickets, we were told that they would get us into Athens but not out! Something supernatural had happened, and Nancy was terrified. So I looked for cheap tickets to anywhere else.
We ended up in a little town in Holland. Night was falling, and we couldn't find a place to stay. Then Nancy did something she hadn't done since she was a childshe prayed: "God, if you are there, find us a place to stay." Suddenly, out of the darkness of an alley walked a man of average height, very pale, with long blond hair and blue eyes. I asked him where we could stay, and he gave us directions to where we were "supposed" to stay.
Even though it seemed bizarre, we followed his directions and came to a student cooperative. During the ten days we were there, we saw all the people who had told us there was no place to stay, but not the person who gave us directions. No one had ever heard of him or seen anyone who fitted his description.
When we were leaving, one of the young men handed me an address where he said we would find some really beautiful people.
When we arrived at the address, we were greeted as though they were expecting us. We were invited to go in, where we sat on the floor and listened to a lecture on theoretical physics and its relationship to Jesus Christ. I was a man with no sense of the holy. I believed myself to be a chance accumulation of molecules in a meaningless world, but I stayed at this place, called L'Abri, listening, talking, arguing, and mocking until one day someone asked me, "May I read you something from the Bible?"
"Go ahead," I said.
He started to read: "Behold, My servant will prosper, he will be high and lifted up, and greatly exalted.... Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?... He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief...."
Images of Renaissance paintings leapt to my mind and I thought, "Do they know what they are doing, reading this stuff to a Jew?"
When he finished reading the chapter, he asked, "What do you think?" I was keen to give him the benefit of my insights and I responded: "Anyone who was at the cross could have written that stuff. What does that prove?"
He handed me the Bible, and in that second my life was changed. As I read the name Isaiah at the top of the page, I felt as though someone had taken a sword and cut me to pieces. And when the man who read it told me it was written 700 years before Jesus was born, I felt dead. I thought, Why does it have to be Him?
In that instant, my first encounter with Jesus, I knew that if he wrote history about himself in my Bible, and if he was truly God, then I had to submit everything to him for the rest of my life. In that instant of confrontation, I knew that God demanded everything.
Later, we heard from our friends at L'Abri that of all the people they'd ever dealt with, the person who gave us their address had been the most hostile to what they had to say. He was the son of a Reformed pastor and was involved in the occult. They marvelled with us at the grace of God using this guy to send us to them for no reason at all, humanly speaking. We wrote to him and eventually he and his girlfriend committed their lives to Christ.
I went back to my psychotherapy practice and was fired for leading a particularly difficult patient to Christ. Through a number of circumstances, I began to realize that my calling was to preach Jesus Christ.
These years have been excruciating in some ways. There has been daily breaking and humbling by God because we are vessels that need to be broken. God says, "I have put this treasure in clay vessels that the exceeding greatness of the dynamite, the power, might be of God, not of yourselves."
Dr. Ganz is the pastor of the Ottawa Reformed Presbyterian Church (RPCNA) and the president of the Ottawa Theological Hall. Condensed from the CWI Herald. Reprinted from New Horizons, July 1996.