It's all about contrast.
In the mind of a 17 year-old boy, going into military service during the Vietnam era, notions of the way the world is gets smashed to bits and pieces, and reality in the form of losing control takes the place of careless and undisciplined living. Shaved head, vaccinated for all manner of disease, and regimented activities 24/7, along with all traces of your past shocked out of your system, you keep moving forward wondering what terrifying things will be happening next. Loneliness, fear and anger overwhelm your quiet moments and if not for the many others you are with going through the same things it would crush your soul and spirit. To a degree, that happens regardless.
It was during that crisis of my life that I opened the small, Gideon's New Testament bible that every new soldier was issued in the “welcoming” package of toiletries and health affects. During times of war in the past, the U.S. Military issued such things. I doubt they do any longer, though maybe.
I was raised in a devout Roman Catholic home, which never made any impact on me. In fact, I mocked and scorned the religion of my parents, as did my associates. It was all foolishness and restrictions meant to cause me unhappiness and keep me from having fun. That was my only exposure to sectarian Christianity as a youth, and I wanted nothing to do with it.
It was mid-way through boot camp that I picked up that Gideon's Bible and began to read the Gospels. I was dumbfounded. I was engrossed in the book and it's subject, Jesus. I re-read them several times and was so struck by what I read, that I pledged allegiance to this Man at that time of my life. No one would ever be my hero again. No one could compare to Him and the virtues He displayed. He was real and I was certain of it.
That was 46 years ago. I have never lost that feeling of connection to Him in all that time. His suffering and crucifixion has always been a touchstone, seeing it in my mind and feeling it in my emotions. As real as anything I have witnessed in my lifetime. It is only lately that I have come to appreciate all that the Cross of Christ truly means to me and for the world.
I would like to say that my Catholic upbringing did nothing to help me in discovering Christ, in order to justify my bias against it. But that would not be entirely true. Exposure to those ancient traditions and beliefs prepared the path God took me on to reveal Himself to me. Certain shadows of Him remain in the Catholic ritualism that are obvious; the icons, the Sacraments, and such things. The spiritual reality may not be there, but the signs of His appearing and teachings are still prevalent after so long a time, and they point to the One who is the Savior of all.
A little here, a little there, one piece at a time, God moves in our lives to bring us into a fuller realization of Himself and His Son, and that with lessons and chastenings. While the Roman Church is a sect, a hairesis, it still serves its purpose as a contrast between truth and falsehood, and those who are called out and elect will find their place in the body which is Christ's, in spite of the obstacles.
Thank you, 5sense, for sharing your story with us. I'm glad that you found that connection to Christ through the Gideon Bible. I wonder how many others have had the same experience? Sometimes I have thought that the Gideons waste the Bibles when they leave them everywhere (sometimes they get thrown away) but I suppose that if even one person out of a thousand comes to know Christ through their distributions, then it is worth it.