by Lambert T. Dolphin
As a boy growing up in a small town in Idaho during the depression
years I gave up Sunday school at an early age---believing it was
only for old folks, for the weak, and for those still living in
the past. Science, I thought, would one day answer all my questions
about the meaning of life. My father made the outstandingly good
income of $100 a month as local high school coach and chemistry/physics
teacher so I took every opportunity to visit the labs at school
with him. I was shy and unsure of myself and kept a low social
profile at school. I studied hard to please my teachers and did
well enough that I was voted "most likely to succeed"
in high school.
My parents separated when I was 12 and my mother, sister and I moved to San Diego---during the early years of World War II. Two years later my mother died of kidney disease (she was only 39). This sad event only intensified my desire to get to the meaning of life---if there was one. Socially I was shy and introverted but I made it somehow through San Diego State College and then two years at Stanford towards a PhD in Physics. Only then did disillusionment with science-as-the-road-to-truth set it. The universe was marvelously intricate, orderly, and structured, but evidently a cold, impersonal and existentially meaningless place.
A challenging summer job led me to take time off from graduate school---but that sabbatical lasted for the next 30 years! Soon I immersed myself in my work, and a California-style hedonistic search for truth through pleasure and hedonism. Alcohol loosened my social inhibitions and soon I thought life was supposed to be "eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die."
My first interesting roommate was a delightfully good-humored Freudian Jewish psychiatrist from Boston who assured me that everyone was neurotic and that final answers were to be found through the conquest of Inner---not Outer---Space. So, for the next two and a half years I continued My Search three days a week in classical psychoanalysis where I came to see that not everything in man can be explained in terms of chemistry, electricity and physics. My dreams could be interpreted, many of my adult behavior patterns were variations on a few themes from the nursery. What is love? What is the conscience? What is "free will" I wondered? What happens when you die? Why is everyone else around me apparently content to live "in houses made out of ticky tacky that all look just the same?"
Reading Sigmund Freud troubled me when I came to his awkward explanations as to why God (especially the Jewish God) did not exist. I wondered how Freud could be so sure? Had he looked everywhere? After all, God might be hiding. I preferred what I thought was the more sensible position of skeptical agnostic. So, I turned to Carl Jung and devoured all his books. Religious experience, he said, was often valuable to his patients. My Search now became a religious quest. I pursued Eastern religion with the help of ex-Episcopalian Alan Watts: Confucianism, Hinduism and Zen. I found a good astrologer and had a horoscope drawn up and took LSD, as Watts had done---all to see if I could experience a transforming religious experience. All to no avail.
But, by the age of 30 I had reached existential despair. Life is meaningless, there is no purpose for man's existence. Suicide seemed a good way out---except that I was a coward and 'what if there were a hell and I got out there and couldn't come back'? Besides, my grandmother back in Idaho had been praying for me since the day I was born. What did she have that I had missed out on somehow? The best years of my life were over and gone I had looked everywhere, there was no place else to search.
In 1962 my then-roommate's parents invited me one day to church where for the first time in my life I heard what the Bible had to say about reality. All my attention immediately shifted to That Book No One Reads Anymore. I started at the end---in the Book of the Revelation. This new phase of My Search went on intensively for several months until I decided to see the pastor---so that I could ask him all my hard questions, and once and for all find the loopholes and inconsistencies I was sure made Christianity a man-made religion like all the other religions in the world.
The pastor refused to give me his own opinion on things, but answered every question by pointing me to various passages in the Bible. I was especially moved by such statements as "The natural man does not understand the things of the spirit...they are foolishness to him," and "Unless a man humbles himself and comes like a child he will in no way enter into the kingdom of God." Evidently, "there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus who gave Himself as a ransom for all."
I realized I had never prayed in my whole life. What if you called out to God for help and He helped you? If He were more intelligent than I was (that thought had just dawned on me), then mere outward profession of faith wouldn't do. The pastor said that anytime I decided I would like to become a Christian, he would be glad to be a witness. It was then I realized that God must be a living Person and that He was apparently ready to meet me if I would but give Him my permission. I decided that then and there was as good a time as ever. My first prayer went something like this, "OK God, if you are there, I think I may need to be forgiven. And, you can have the rest of my life. Please help me."
I waited no more than a millisecond until I felt flooded and overwhelmed with love---God's love. There in that office, and now in my heart, was the same Jesus I had read about in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Grandmother had been right and the Bible was no ordinary book. It seemed as if all the lights had been turned on in what had been a very dark house.
To this very day, (43 years later) that experience of my Christian conversion stands out in my memory like night and day---"If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation, old things have passed away, behold all things have become new."
There is much more tell, but I'll save that for later. My Christian walk has had some rough and rocky spots along the way. For instance, I walked away from Jesus Christ for seven years back in the early '70's and only came back as a repentant Prodigal Son after God brought out His heavy artillery and severe discipline to remind me of His ownership of my life, my covenant with Him---and of His loyal-love and unlimited mercy and grace. God has now more than made up for the "wasted years." He has opened up to my consciousness glimpses into vistas of time and eternity so that I now look forward with eager anticipation to sharing the universe with Jesus Christ the Lord and his with His dear chosen peoples---forever. I hope you'll join me on my journey if you haven't already.
Half a century later: See my recent newsletters and articles under development in 2018-2019.
May I help you in your own search for purpose and meaning in life?
Lambert Dolphin, August 2001, Updated 01/23/06. February 16, 2019.