My Epiphany

by Van Warren

I was 16 years old. My family was moving from Little Rock, in the center of Arkansas, to Columbia, in the center of Missouri.

First a little backstory:
I was not your average kid. I had read enough by the sixth grade that my peers called me "rocket scientist". My parents were scientific, my mother was a medical technologist, my dad was a computer analyst. My mother believed that God was, "the miracle that everything was the way it was". My dad was somewhere between athiest and agnostic, more a subscriber to Bertrand Russell than any diety in particular. I sang in a church choir, but didn't take communnion because I wasn't a member.

My early teens were turbulent. At 15 I ran away to florida to see what it was like. This adventure lasted a week or so. It was very cold in Florida that year. I got to pick oranges with migrant workers. That lasted a day.

I had a friend, Jim Leggett who was rich. We swam on the swim team together. He had guitars and amps and records. I had classical music. At 13 he gave me a broken copy of the record "Smash Hits" by Jimi Hendrix. That album changed my concept of what music could be.

One day I was talking to Jim on the phone, we had not spoken for awhile. He told me he had been to a church camp in New York. He told me he had found Jesus. I was not poisoned to this idea, but listened. I asked him, "If there is a God and Jesus, then why do planes crash and what about all the people in [] China?" He explained to me that God was, "working on that". We hung up the phone and I reflected on this change in Jim's life.

We moved one more time in Little Rock. After school I used to go over to a friend's house. We would smoke pot, listen to the Moody blues, talk about UFO's, spiritualism and the occult. There was one guy, Mark Lynn who would talk about the "white light of Christ". I liked him. He laid out the Tarot for me before we moved to Columbia and said I would have, "a spiritual awakening". I doubted this. I was the last person to get a spiritual anything.

About this time I had a dream where I saw the house we would move to in Columbia, MO. Its street curbs were flat, in the plane of the road. In Little Rock they stepped up. I thought flat curbs were an improvement. The dream matched reality. I found that interesting, since I never saw any of it before we moved.

In late November 1972 it came time to pack up and leave. We packed furniture and boxes into a rental van for three days. Since I was 16 and the most in-shape from swimming and cross-country, I did most of the work. I didn't mind.

It turned cold and we drove in the cold and arrived late in the evening. I was completely spent from packing and the drive. When we got to the new house, there was no heat, no hot water, but there was electricity. I still had the ticket stub from a rock concert in my pocket.

I put a portable TV on the piano bench and turned it on. Billy Graham was on TV and he was talking about, "The power of light vs. the power of darkness". I found this intriguing and so, wrapped up in a blanket on the black reclining chair, I listened.

Eventually the program ended and it was time to go to bed. As I had walked in the bedroom to go to sleep, I felt I was not alone in the dark room, but dismissed this. I laid out three off-white vinyl sofa cushions to use as a mattress on the floor and laid down with a blanket over me.

As I lay on those sofa cushions here is what happened:

First of all I began to have a vivid memory of what I had been wearing that day... work gloves, work boots, jeans and a flannel shirt. I felt as though I was wearing them again, as one does when one has been wearing a hat all day, and then after taking it off, still feels like one is wearing it.

I was on my back, flat, with my eyes closed, but I was not asleep. I began to feel strange and I saw some writing on a wall in my mind. It was not like writing I was familiar with. I would say now that it flowed like Arabic, smooth and cursive. Then there was a stark and sudden change.I felt as though I was seeing the unrolling of a scroll,  a transcript, a record of some kind, like one would see on the wall of an elevator shaft as one fell down it. On this wall there was lots of writing, and although I couldn't read it, I felt it wasn't good. The sense was that it represented all the bad things I had done in my life.

After this I began to have a deep awareness that there was someone inside of me, a person distinct from my physical body. This was novel since I thought people were just the physical body, just molecules. The closest description would perhaps be Gollum from the Hobbit or something like that, only it was abstract in a way, like I was made of burnt sticks or something. It was a septic sight for sure. I remember focusing on this and thinking, "This is who I am, this is terrible". It was very vivid, but difficult to describe. Somewhere about this time I called out the name "Jesus". I had never used this name in this way before. Up to this point in my life I always used this as a term of profanity. But now I was calling on this name in sincerity . At the moment I called out this name, my inner being was instantly transformed, as though I had been inflated with light, like porcelain. The nature and character of this presence was dynamic and unforgettable. But then I started to see the old representation of myself coming back, and I called out a second time, "Jesus" more earnestly. The new representation took hold, more strongly. This happened a third time. By the third time, I was crying out the name, in tears. My "inside person" had been totally transformed, so vividly, that it seemed to extend beyond the boundaries of my body. There was a definite shape to it all, which was also quite memorable and recognizable, though difficult to describe. There was a lot of light, a presence over me, and a sense of the future where I saw hills and something like a river.

Slowly I became aware again of my surroundings again. I remember a distinct feeling of peace I had never had before. Up to this point in my life I had a constant gnawing in my conscience and this would usually peak as I was drifting off to sleep. But this gnawing was completely gone and this envelope of light, this presence that surrounded me slowly seemed to come to rest so that it matched the dimensions of my physical body.

I remember feeling the experience was ending and being sad that it was over. The last thing was this tiny speck of light in front of my eyes as if to say I would see it again someday.