From Zen to Jesus: My Story of Doubt and Faith

I really thought I had it all together. The year was 1973, and I was 17. I was popular, had a good-looking girlfriend and money—I was making more than $2,000 a month selling drugs (that went a long way back then!). The hippie movement was alive and well, and I was part of it. Parties and hedonism were my passions. One high would lead to another. For a while, it was a blast. Yet something was missing.

I tried to quiet myself, but there was something gnawing at me on the inside. I didn’t recognize the stirring as God trying to reach my heart, but I had a hunch it had something to do with religion. Christianity was not a possibility. I dismissed it out of hand because it was the faith of my parents and a mainstay in the so-called establishment. This was not long after pop philosopher Abby Hoffman had advised all youth to never trust anyone over 30. I was the epitome of this maxim, and I refused to conform to society’s norms.

Despite my present rebellion, I had grown up in a Christian home in Rockville, Maryland, a town outside of Washington, D.C. Out of obligation, I attended the Baptist church where my dad pastored in my younger years. My father was the first Korean Southern Baptist pastor in North America; he was a highly respected minister and a truly great man of God. However, things weren’t perfect in my family, and there were major hurdles standing between me and faith.

One of these hurdles was a sense of rejection that I felt from my father. As a Korean immigrant, my dad placed a high value on education in our home. My sister was an excellent student, while I, on the other hand, was a slow learner and struggled in my classes. When I brought home mediocre report cards, my father’s violent temper would flare up, and he would punish me for not trying harder. The rejection that overcame my heart led to my looking for acceptance elsewhere.

To make matters worse, by the time I was 12 years old, our church had split twice. Then it split again when I was around 16. As a teenager I witnessed division taking place in the Body of Christ, and it only added to the disillusion I was already feeling toward Christianity.

I ended up finding a sense of acceptance among my friends at school. I was always popular, and I was always a leader (as far as I can remember). I guess God had given me those leadership qualities from birth. However, I soon led my friends into lawlessness and rebellion.

By the time I was 15 years old, I had taken every single kind of drug—from heroin to cocaine to LSD. Two years later, I was an addict, taking drugs every single day, and a drug pusher. I also dropped out of high school as a junior, which brought great shame to my father. Drugs, sex, and rock-and-roll had become my lifestyle.

When it came to religion, I turned to Zen Buddhism. Although I didn’t study the Eastern religion in depth and only recall attending two meetings, I was given my mantra and chanted incessantly for nine months. Of course, I continued to party and sell drugs, too. As I played out this internal tug-of-war to fill the vacuum within me, doubt was ever present. Questions remain unanswered—in fact, they loomed larger than ever.

One day, my friends invited me to another party, where we drank beer, smoked pot, and blasted rock-and-roll music. After about an hour, I grew tired of the party and went into an adjacent bedroom. I sat down cross-legged and started to chant my Zen mantra. In the midst of my ritual, I realized that I had gotten absolutely nothing out of nine months of chanting. I was so disgusted that I stopped chanting the mantra on the spot.

“God!” I cried aloud in my anguish and frustration. “I don’t even know if You exist. But if You do exist and what my parents told me is true, that Jesus died for my sins and that—if there is a heaven and a hell—You are the way to heaven, I want to know the truth. I don’t want to go to hell. I want to go to heaven! After all, if You’re God and You’re all powerful, can’t You reveal Yourself to me?”

As soon as I said those words, the presence of God came on me. Something like scales fell from the eyes of my heart (see Acts 9:18), and I was stunned to realize that Jesus Christ was the answer I had been seeking all of my life. I felt God’s love so strongly that I started to weep. What amazed me was that I knew I was a rebel and a very selfish person, yet He still revealed Himself to me. Even though I didn’t fully understand everything about God, let alone exactly what had just transpired, in my heart I promised, If this is the kind of God You are, then I’m in. I will follow You no matter what.

That day the Holy Spirit started a work in my heart. I could not stop weeping for three days as waves of God’s love crashed over me again and again. Two weeks later, I was completely delivered from drugs in a dramatic encounter (which I write more about in my book How to Pray for Healing). I have never been the same! To this day, I continue to be undone by the Lord’s perfect love and seek to share His love with as many people as I can. I have committed my life to this call because there is no greater knowledge that can be shared than the knowledge of His love.

About the Author

Pastor Ché Ahn is pastor of Harvest Rock Christian Church in Pasadena, CA. He leads Harvest International Ministry and is part of the “New Apostolic Reformation” movement. In 2000, Pastor Ahn was a leader in the evangelical youth movement, The Call. Pastor Ahn has authored several books that include, Fire Evangelism: Reaching the Lost through Love And Power (2006), Spirit-Led Evangelism:Reaching the Lost through Love And Power (2008), When Heaven Comes Down: Experiencing God’s Glory in Your Life (2009), among many others. Pastor Ahn and his wife Sue have been married for over 40 years and they have four adult children and several grandchildren.

Pastor Ché Ahn (Founder of Harvest International Ministry and Pastor at Harvest Rock Church, Pasadena, CA)

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