From Paganism to Christ: Kristalyn
This is a testimony of my own personal journey from being a devout religious Pagan to a follower of Jesus Christ. A Pagan friend of mine asked me recently what my intentions were in writing this. For many of us within the Christian world, sharing our testimonies is a kind of worship of the Lord. As we hear one another’s stories, it increases our faith, and we spontaneously find ourselves praising God for the supernatural and wondrous means through which He reveals Himself and draws people into His love and mercy. And it is so encouraging and joy-inspiring to hear of people all around the world having the same experience of becoming a new creature in Christ, born again by the Holy Spirit, filled with the peace and love of God.
Also, I remembered my own experience as a Pagan seeing one of my beloveds turn to Jesus Christ and being so perplexed as to why. He didn’t explain it to me, and I was too shy, too proud, too conflicted, or too I-don’t-know-what to ask about it. It was very traumatic for me, and perhaps I didn’t want him to think I was encouraging him or giving it any credence. However, if he had published his testimony, I would have relished the opportunity to read it on my own time and terms, trying to garner understanding without concern of getting into a confrontation.
In addition to the gladness that I knew it would bring to my sisters and brothers in Christ and the understanding it might bolster for my Pagan beloveds, I wanted to inpire those who do not yet know Jesus Christ but who, through my story, may be moved to get to know Him. When I myself was seeking the truth about Jesus, among other endeavors, I strove to amass any evidence to confirm or repudiate the reality of His claims. One of those means was by reviewing people’s testimonies. Hearing these stories was a compelling witness to the reality of Jesus Christ’s being the way, the truth, and the life, as He claimed to be, and to His being alive today, the risen Saviour. I wanted to add my missive to this legacy of true tales proclaiming the miracle of the good news of Jesus Christ, for the benefit of other seekers.
Lastly, when I was in my own process of researching Jesus to decide if He was for real, I craved to hear from people who had come to Him from a similar background and worldview. I would’ve loved to have conversed with them, but they were not readily found. So I wanted to put myself out there as a resource for others in my shoes, as someone whose journey they may consider and whom they could actually contact with questions.
In the spirit of all of these things, I begin my tale.
I grew up in a challenging family situation that intensified as I entered my teen years. My sadness grew into a penetrating loneliness and depression that culminated in a few suicide attempts and a desperate desire for escape, acceptance, and power over my life. To provide that escape, I first engrossed myself in fantasy books, comics, and games like Dungeons and Dragons, which also gave me valuable peer acceptance.
At last I thought I had truly found an answer when some of my peers introduced me to the occult. I was seduced by the promise of power and began walking down that path. The books and games became rich fodder for my growing fascination with all aspects of the occult world. I was innately drawn to this world, filled with power, beauty, magic, and wonder, as it seemed to me to be. Before long, I was studying the Tarot, books on necromancy, various forms of meditation, spellcrafting, and more.
By the age of 19, I identified as a witch and embraced the religion of Wicca. I wholeheartedly immersed myself in “the craft” for the next 20 years, to the point of teaching it professionally around the United States. I lauded the benefits of the religion and felt I had found who I truly was.
However, I was plagued with emotional issues from childhood trauma that permeated and seriously damaged my personal relationships. In particular, my sense of self-worth was bound up in my relationships and especially my sexual expression, and I developed a subsequent obsession with sex and sexuality in general. The tradition of Wicca into which I had delved was a particularly ecstatic one, in which freedom of sexual expression was often a form of sacrament. The degree to which I was able to unabashedly explore this aspect of myself within my spiritual tradition seemed theoretically to be a great boon, especially since my worth was rooted in that expression. But it did not mitigate the dramas I continued to create in my everyday life as my pain consumed me from the inside-out.
This particular Wiccan tradition was also heavily influenced by Buddhism, Hinduism, Sufism, and psychology; it was the “Universalist” denomination of Wicca, if you will. Thus, it was natural for me to integrate philosophy and practices of various Eastern spiritualities in search of healing this issue, hoping for enlightenment and even believing I’d found it a few times.
In addition, I pursued a number of other healing and therapeutic modalites, both as a receiver and as a practitioner, which married well with one of my professional hats of being a Shiatsu bodyworker. Some of those modalities included: psychotherapy, art therapy, Cranio-sacral Therapy, Barbara Brennan-style hands-on healing, integrative breathwork, Landmark Forum seminars and related classes, Theosophy classes, personal coaching, bodywork and acupuncture, Auricular therapy, chiropractic care, homeopathy, aromatherapy, flower essences, Reiki, chakra healings, Tantra, Qi Gong, Holosync meditation, Jon Kabat-Zinn style meditation, mindfulness meditation, multiple styles of Yoga, running and bodybuilding, Pathwork, The Journey, The Work by Byron Katie, the Power of Now, Transformational Kinesiology training, shadow work, counselor led self-study, multiple types of ritual, aspecting, and more. I would gain a temporary feeling of peace and then return to my former conundrum. I rationalized it was a “spiral,” and hoped I was getting closer to my Essence or Authentic Self with each trip around.
I also tried transforming myself through the performing arts, to the point of even legally changing my name to my stage name. While people saw me as a dynamic performer, I masked the weaknesses and insecurities I felt on the inside. Even when I did share those insecurities, I shared them as “art,” giving myself lots of opportunities for receiving the approval I craved and needed to bolster myself. I wrote songs indicating a wisdom that was rooted in lofty ideals that never manifested. All in all, I tried to project an image of being intrepid, sexually free and expressive, and full of deep and ancient wisdom, all hiding the lack of confidence that was part of my very motivation.
Over time, my husband and I recognized a growing dissatisfaction in Wicca. We noticed that some rituals felt really potent, as though an authentic spiritual experience were taking place, whereas others felt prescribed and empty. We chafed at the emotional immaturity and egos of some of the leaders, including us. We saw people abandoning long-term committed relationships for evolutionary purposes, we heard people preaching platitudes that seemed impossible to fulfill, and we felt torn between irreconcilable values. But most of all, we were disillusioned by our continued lack of overcoming our own emotional-spiritual roadblocks.
In 2009, looking for something more, I gave Wicca the backseat in order to pursue a more culturally-founded path. I had already been enchanted by all things Irish and had started studying the language in 2007. I had been in love with with Celtic music since my teenage years, singing the ballads and delighting in the dance tunes on my fiddle. And my ancestors were Irish (among other ethnicities). So it felt quite natural to deepen this passion by focusing on the pre-Christian, polytheistic religion and deities of the Irish people, or at least what I could learn of them. I added Irish dance to my studies, and my passion quickly intensified to an obsession. I started an organization through which I offered public ceremonies created to reflect ancient Gaelic polytheism as authentically as possible.
Throughout my entire journey through Paganism and Eastern mysticism, with all the variations, I abhorred all things connected with Christianity and tried to never step foot in a Christian chapel. I had seen false Christians in the church as a child, and their hypocrisy disgusted me. Also, I blamed Christianity for the loss of what I would’ve called “ancient Pagan wisdom” that I presumed had been available to my ancestors but was lost to me. Lastly, I was angry at the Christian ideals of righteousness and belief in hell as a place of punishment for sin. I wanted to do what I wanted to do, and I rejected any idea of negative eternal consequences. But then, in 2013, all of this changed radically.
Though I did ceremony throughout each and every day and felt generally happy, I experienced periodic and chronic emptiness and longing within. My sexual obsession and other core emotional issues were getting better only infinitesimally, if at all. I wasn’t enjoying my new spiritual community either. Though I agreed with them philosophically, many of the interpersonal aspects of our relationships and communication were troubling to me. It seemed like everyone was always wanting something from one another, was terminally self-centered, and the truth was, I was no better. I found myself yearning for something more, something that I was seeing displayed in Christian communities I was witnessing. I could see that they had something I didn’t, but I didn’t know yet that that something was a Someone.
As I studied my religion of choice more deeply, what I learned was that the traditional peoples did not simply pray to their gods; they gave offerings, to barter for the things that they wanted, and in hopes of gaining the favor of various deities. They understood that the gods were not inherently loving beings, and in fact often had mutually exclusive agendas, even within a culture. In keeping with a more indigenous perspective, and a feeling deep in my spirit, I was convinced that there was an ultimate Being responsible for the beginning of life. So Who created this marvelously harmonious universe? And where did I get this idea that this Creator was about love and cared for my well-being? I longed for a connection like that, with a deity who genuinely cared for me, based on personal love and intimate communion, who didn’t want anything from me besides relationship.
Though I was studying and emulating the ancient, pre-Christian religion of Ireland, I had to contend with a nagging question: why had the Irish peoples willingly converted to Christianity? The same had been true of the Tsalagi Nation, the Cherokee peoples within my ancestral lineage whom I had revered and studied. I began to wonder if they too had the longing for that personal relationship and whether somehow that had been satisfied with this character Jesus Christ. I knew of some people who claimed and truly seemed to have such a relationship. I began to envy them.
My religion had no conclusive answer for these questions that plagued my soul, and I grew weary of ignoring them, especially when the ecstasy wore off and the pain of life loomed large.
Nor did I feel confident in what any of my studies proclaimed about the hereafter. Some days I believed in reincarnation or transmigration; other days I clung to a belief in Summerland or Tír na nÓg, hoping I’d be immediately translated there upon death. Periodically, I was aware of feeling insecure about the afterlife. But I had heretofore always been too unwilling to challenge my carefully constructed worldview and the benefits thereof, in addition to the pride I had in my spiritual path, to even consider any alternatives. I didn’t want to lose my freedom to make up my own code of ethics, the respect of my community, some of my income, and more, but now concerns of my eternity were becoming ever more insistent. As a friend of mine said, “Eternity is a long time.”
As I simultaneously researched one “guru” after another in fields of various Eastern spiritualities, I found them all to be guilty of vast human flaws. There was significant dirt to be found on most of my heros. I spoke to no-one about this. Disillusionment was setting in, but I didn’t want to burden any of my fellow seekers with it, even my husband.
Most disheartening of all was my periodic return to the painful emotional patterns that had troubled me as long as I could remember. And I saw the same lack of victory in my husband, a dedicated spiritual practitioner who meditated for hours each day.
In the spring of 2013, my husband took a job playing the organ at a local church, simply because we needed the money. I went with him to the services “to protect him.” I feared being bored during the sermons and wanted to bring some entertainment. I figured a Bible was the only thing appropriate and realized that I’d always wanted to read it for myself anyway.
When my grandfather died suddenly in 2008, I had asked for his Bible as my inheritance. He was a deeply spiritual man who loved the Lord Jesus Christ dearly. I kept it on my altar for honoring my ancestors. The first Sunday we went to my husband’s new job, I brought it along and began reading.
I began right in the beginning, but just a couple books in, I started getting very confused. What was going on? Why this, why that?
One Sunday as I sat in the pew before church began, a scripture popped into my mind, a passage from a song I’d heard thirty years before:
Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God. ~ Psalm 20:7
Well, that’s a quote straight from the Psalms in the Bible. And no sooner had it popped into my mind, but the pastor got up to the pulpit and quoted that verse to start the service. Chills. I knew God was speaking to me. Whoever God was.
That day I burned with a need to know the truth about where I came from, where I was headed, and the spiritual world in general. I got online and began exploring. I discovered Ravi Zacharias and listened to him ~ a lot. I would be disagreeing vociferously, then suddenly nodding along for a moment. In one of his videos that particularly engaged me, he was talking about the book of John, particularly chapter 14, and I just knew in my spirit that that was where I needed to go.
I turned in my Bible and began reading. When I got to verse 6,
Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. ~ John 14:6
both fear and hope shuddered thru my veins. What if Jesus IS what He says He is? And what if I’ve been wrong ~ and on a wrong path ~ all along?
Next, I began studying the lives of Christians I’d admired. I observed many who seemed to have something I was lacking. In my research, I happened upon a song of Jessica Willis’s that painted a picture of the day when the songwriter would come into the literal presence of the Creator God, having embraced Him in life, and the beauty and awe of that moment. In my spirit, I knew I did not want to miss that moment for any reason. Here is the song:
I realized that my fear was not of going to hell, but of missing heaven. Of missing truth. Of missing what life was really all about. Of missing my Maker and the bliss of communing together, that which I had longed for for so long and sought with everything in me. What if I lived my entire life and missed the whole point?
These concerns initiated a period of feverish exploration. I was self-employed at the time, so I was able to minimize my work in order to research most every waking hour for a period of time. My husband was disturbed, to say the least. I studied the Bible, testimonies of people who’d died and gone to heaven and/or hell before reviving, testimonies of people coming to believe in Jesus Christ from numerous backgrounds, apologetics, and anything I could get my hands on that would give me clarity.
As I investigated people’s personal journeys to Jesus Christ, I was deeply moved. I could see the evidence of Christ’s presence and power in those who believed on Him and in the witness of their living, whereas I was reckoning with the reality that my spiritual path was lacking. Clearly, something real and supernatural had happened to them, a Power was at work that was greater than the inner, personal power, and even the supernatural, occult power, that I’d been cultivating over the years. I could see that the relationship that Jesus offered as described in the Bible and as demonstrated in these lives was one which I craved and which I’d unsuccessfully tried to mimic with my own chosen gods and “Essential Self” over the years. As I came to recognize this inferior replica for what it was, I realized I was tired of seeking and failing. I began to more seriously doubt what I thought I knew, and this doubt of my own foundations opened up space in me to consider the possibility of the truth of Jesus Christ and His claims that had heretofore been utterly shut.
One question I pursued an answer to was: did Jesus really die on a cross and rise bodily from the dead after three days? As long as I could remember, I had chalked this up to mythology. Mostly because I just didn’t want to deal with the ramifications of it being actual history. I had liked my self-focused lifestyle well enough for most of the 23 years of my adult life, and I didn’t even want to consider that this story might be based on reality. However, I was finally disillusioned enough with the results of my past spiritual pursuits and hungry enough for truth that I was ready to seriously consider it ~ not just the assertions of naysayers, to which I’d already given ear ~ and let the chips fall where they may. If the story of Jesus in the Bible wasn’t in fact mythology but was a true story of God’s love for us, I needed to know it.
That time of inquiry was emotionally grueling. Day after day, I faced the looming possibility that I’d been headed in the wrong direction ~ away from God ~ and the thought grieved me sorely. Night after night, my husband and I processed what I was doing. When I told him I might need to become a Christian, he was acquiescent, picturing a more Universalist view of Christianity; but when I told him I might need to turn my back on Paganism, he was quite perturbed. Besides the fact that he didn’t believe Christianity held any more truth than any other faith, he knew I’d dedicated my life to my religion. He didn’t want to see me make a grave mistake, throwing away years of a carefully cultivated worldview and lifestyle that permeated every aspect of my living, even my career, as well as thousands of dollars that I’d devoted to my studies. I totally understood and respected his position, but there was something more important at stake here: the truth. Thus, I continued my search.
As I wrote to a dear friend, a fellow Pagan and spiritual seeker,
I have something shocking to share. I am having a really intense experience, and I am scared about how it is going to affect my life and my friendships. My experience is that God, i.e. the Creator, is speaking to me directly in my heart thru the Holy Spirit, as Jesus… I don’t know where this is going to go, but this is what’s been happening. I think it all started … a couple months ago … but it was mostly sporadic events at that time. They were definitely getting my attention, but more peripherally. In the last few days, this experience has heated up considerably to become somewhat all-consuming, like a blazing fire or unstoppable train, or at least that feels like what is coming. I have been reading the Bible, meditating, searching, and feeling that I am being contacted by something real, true, and unavoidable for me … [and it is] evoking [such] curious and restless sensations inside me … I am really shaken …
I [feel like] Christ is pervading me with a Holy fire and snatching me for his own.
This period of furious examination led me to believe in the authenticity of Jesus’ life and teachings; His death on the cross as an offering for humanity’s sins, so that we could enter into communion with a holy God; and His resurrection as a defeat of the power of death, so that all who believe could live with Him forever. The wondering just grew inside me until it became a spiritual knowing, supported by all the evidence that I had discovered.
After indulging in these studies around the clock and tempering a very irritated husband, I finally found myself down on my knees and, like a child, very simply and humbly expressing the trust in Jesus Christ that had blossomed in my heart. I wept tears of joy as the living Presence of God filled my spirit like a bubbling wellspring, and I recognized the One whom I’d been seeking.
In that moment, I became what the Bible calls “born again.” It says that when a person believes in their heart on Jesus Christ, the word of God ~ which is incorruptible seed ~ conceives with the person’s spirit, and that conception births a “new creature.” The person is then born again, also referred to as born of God or born of the [Holy] Spirit. As the Bible describes:
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17
And this was definitely my experience. I was a new creature with a new life!
The results of this new birth were unmistakable. The first thing was an indescribable feeling of peace, joy, and security. On a practical note, my obsession with sex and sexuality disappeared immediately (and permanently). My worth was now rooted in my Creator, in who I was to Him, rather than in anything I was trying to achieve or make of myself in the world. I got healed of a 23-year phobia of the dark, chronic anxiety, and all kinds of bitterness issues with people. I became much kinder and more patient towards my husband. I felt a profound love for everyone around me, including people I’d formerly despised. I sought out how I could bless them, with no need for anything in return.
I felt the visceral presence of a Friend now abiding within me. Feelings of loneliness were vanquished. I felt a profound sense of relief as I relaxed into the care of this Friend and realized He was my true Source. No longer did I have to depend upon myself and my own strength or resources. I was NOT my own Source … The Source of all life was!
As I wrote to my friend just after:
I have been in a very peaceful, high, worshipful, ecstatic place since I woke up the morning after writing you last, going deeper and deeper into this journey and experience: writing, reading, praying, meditating, listening, singing, and so forth. I am really touched and taken with this relationship I am developing with Christ right now and am trying to sort out how it impacts my whole life while also simply rejoicing in the embodied experience of it.
At the moment, I am feeling the need to step away from all other spiritual paths …
I realized that I’d been worshiping the creation, rather than the Creator. And beautiful and wondrous as it is, it does not deserve worship; the Mastermind of it all is the One who deserves that. I realized that I’d been doing things my way instead of God’s way. And that His way is infinitely superior.
I also realized that the offerings I made to my gods meant nothing to the true Creator. The things of the Earth already belonged to Him ~ He created them after all! I had nothing to offer Him. Rather, it was He who wanted to give to me ~ and He that is why He offered Himself on that cross 2000 years ago. He wanted nothing from me, except for my heart, my trust, my allegiance. In return, He would give me more than I could ever dream of or ask for.
I was saddened to think of my former selfishness, of which I’d been unaware. I began to ask forgiveness of many in my life for various sinful attitudes I’d held and behaviors I’d practiced. And I excused myself from professional Pagan teaching positions that I’d been hired into, taking quite a loss of money.
My husband was profoundly affected. He was not ready to accept this as truth right away, but he could not deny the change for the better. After a few weeks, Christ captured his heart too. Touched by the changes the Lord made in me and following suit with his own search for truth, he came to believe in Jesus Christ as well, and our marriage went from good to astounding: became the marriage I’d always dreamed of. The kindness, love, warmth, depth, trust, security, connectedness, commitment, and passion between us are out of this world. All the therapeutic techniques we’d utilized and former spiritual paths we’d followed are completely irrelevant and unnecessary in this new covenant that includes our Creator. He guides us, and every day is a thrilling adventure together in Him.
Sharing our new faith with our friends has been a mixed experience. Many were confused, some upset; some reactions we don’t even know ~ certain friends just disappeared without a word. At the same time, many who stuck around have all commented on the joy they recognize in us. And several of my friends have noticed the positive changes in my focus, as I was so insufferably self-centered and reactionary without Christ in my life. One particularly anti-Christian friend told me, “Everything about you has changed. You even look different!” as she wept bittersweet tears with me. Some friendships were even resurrected and saved by God’s humbling of me, as I had written people off who didn’t meet my expectations. I was finally able to genuinely apologize and ask for their forgiveness. In addition, we have gained countless new friends, due to the overflow of love in our hearts and lack of need to “get” things, physically or emotionally, from others.
In my Pagan spiritual practices, my experience was largely one of profoundly ecstatic, euphoric experiences, followed by the let-down of “coming back to earth” as it were, followed by overwhelm with the normal struggles of everyday life ~ the “muggle world,” as many called it ~ including its anxieties, resentments, conflicts, fears, and despairs. With Jesus Christ, all is different. I find myself living in gratitude and excitement for all that He has created and all that He has done, is doing, and is going to do. My thoughts are ever upon Him, as He is literally living inside me through the Holy Spirit, and I am constantly basking in the comfort and peace of His presence.
In my Eastern spiritual practices, my experience was largely one of attaining a sense of emptiness and oneness with all, a profound “presence.” But, just as in my Pagan experience, these states were soon followed by the aforementioned overwhelm with its attendant concerns and emotions. With Jesus, His peace and security pervades everything, is a secure foundation in which despair is extinguished, and in which fear of the future and death, bitterness towards others, and self-absorption have no place. There is no need to “overcome desire” (a primary tenet of Buddhism), as the temptations of the flesh and the world no longer have power over me. Neither do I covet a state of emptiness, as the fullness of the eternal God pulses through me. True spiritual oneness with others is impossible without our reconciliation to the Creator of the universe and is something only He can manifest. As the Bible says, I have indeed received “the fullness of Him that filleth all in all.”
My experience of the natural world is indescribable now, as it is not an end in itself, but rather an expression of my Maker, who is Goodness personified, that draws me ever closer to Him as I marvel in His artistry.
You see, Christianity is not a feeling, a state of being, an experience, or a set of precepts; it’s an eternal relationship with a Person as real as your mate, your best friend, your parent: a Person who is also God. Not a Person who embodies God or who has attained Godhood; a Person who is, was, and always will be God; a Person who has no beginning, but who, rather, is The Beginner of everything else. Not an abstract, amorphous, call-Him-any-name-and-at-any-number deity; rather, a very personal, intimate, specific Individual, who has revealed Himself very particularly and directly in a timeless Book that we can read and handle, His love story to us. This God is named Jesus Christ, and He promises in that enduring love story:
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. ~ Matthew 11:29
Throughout my whole journey as a spiritual seeker, I would have described myself as doing my best to touch, taste, understand, and know the One Truth behind all truths, the Reality behind all forms and expressions and divisions, as well as my own Essential Self. Today, I feel confident that I know that Truth, and in a personal, intimate way. His name is Jesus Christ. There is no more searching. I am whole, complete, fulfilled ~ everything, in Him ~ yet with so much more joy and adventure to come.
In addition to those that initially brought me to the point of faith, I have also discovered many other reasons to believe in the express claims of Jesus Christ, so that I am ever more confident of my choice and my eternal destiny.
So that is my story. Today, as I edit this, the 1st of June 2017, exactly 4 years after believing, life is even better, if possible. My core emotional issue never did come back (to the relief of my husband!). And many other anxieties and phobias have disappeared too. Not so much to be scared of, when the Holy Spirit dwells within and I know I have eternity to enjoy! My marriage continues to deepen beyond what even seems possible, along with my faith in Christ. I have seen this same deepening in my beloved husband, and it fills me with gratitude.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story. If you have questions about any of this, please feel free to contact me. Also, if you are a personal friend or acquaintance of mine who is confused, upset, or hurt about anything I have said, I invite you to share your concerns with me. And if you are a seeker, I encourage you to seek the truth of Jesus Christ, perhaps starting in the book of John in the Bible. He is already pursuing you.
Some books that I recommend are:
Death of a Guru ~ Rabi Maharaj
More Than a Carpenter ~ Josh D. and Sean McDowell
The Case for Easter ~ Lee Strobel
A Lawyer’s Case for God ~ Jim Jacob, Esq.
Jesus Among Other Gods ~ Ravi Zacharias
Why Jesus? Rediscovering His Truth in an Age of Mass Marketed Spirituality ~ Ravi Zacharias
God bless you, and may your heart lunge towards His goodness and mercy today, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.