My Coming to the Faith
By: Anthony Zaccariotto
Before I start writing this blog I would like to ask the reader to continue reading with an open mind and an open heart, so they themselves can come to know a truth that drew me in so deep that it was virtually impossible to move away from. To begin I would need to tell you all a little about myself and my journey, I will try to keep this as brief as possible before I get to my main points.
My name is Anthony Zaccariotto, I am now 26 years old and have come to a conviction that has deeply altered the course of my life and has completely changed the way I view the world. This journey began about two years ago when I was going through the deepest soul searching of my life. I come from an amazing family, a warm, kind, caring and loving mother whom I couldn’t imagine a life without, and a very wise father who always supported me and guided me, got me into the work force, regular holidays every year while growing up and nothing but love and support along with my family and friends. Something was wrong with me though, something that was not easy to explain.
There came a time in my life where I realised that no matter what worldly pleasure I had or anything that I had accomplished or accumulated, there was this void within me that could never seem to be filled. My heart was yearning for something that nothing in this world was able to satisfy. C.S Lewis once said, “Innate deep desires do not exist unless they correspond to something that can satisfy them, if there is hunger then there is food, if there is curiosity then there is knowledge, if there is sexual desire then there is sex, so if I find within myself a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy then the most probable explanation was that I was made for another world”. No matter who I talked to in my life, I could never get an answer that would help me. Not from my family, friends or even my girlfriend at the time. This began my search for meaning and truth.
I started my search in literature, self-help books, philosophy, biographies etc. They were very interesting and did help quite a bit but they were still not filling the gap I had. A lot of them talked of success, ambition, contentment, gratitude, staying positive etc. but they were not answering my questions. I can understand when people want to set goals, achieve success or want a better life for themselves and their families; but I didn’t really know what to do with all that. I already knew that wealth and success wasn’t enough. I have met many rich, wealthy and successful people and to my amazement it almost seemed like they were the ones who were struggling the most inside. By the way I hope I don’t sound arrogant when I write this I am just opening up on how I felt.
Very shortly after my search I ran into a young man who I hadn’t seen since I was 14 years old. I saw him at a cafe one day right next to the office where I work. We were good friends when we were in high school and would hang out quite a bit. However, this boy was probably the most wild, crazy, disruptive, troubled student in the school. Cursing at teachers, vandalising, detentions and suspensions, it wasn’t long after commencing year 8 that he was told to leave the school. He gives me full permission to tell this story by the way, so I am not going behind his back here!! We both still joke about it with each other.
Anyway, I saw him at this cafe and our faces just light up, I came down and sat with him and had a big conversation with him. But I noticed something was very different about him. He was the exact opposite of what I remembered. I understand people mature in life as the years go by, but this was something way out of the ordinary. He told me about his story after he left high school how he got into a bit of trouble, how went through a bit of pain, how he needed help and eventually found his faith in Christ.
Now this really intrigued me as it was not like anything I had ever encountered before.
Not long after this, I began to open up my story to him and how I was going through a tough time in my life trying to find answers, looking for meaning and purpose and trying to find what the universe wanted from me.
He said to me with great confidence and a cheeky little smile that what I needed was a saviour and that he had one for me. He made me laugh, and anyone who knows him knows how hilarious this man can be. I dismissed everything he said because it just sounded silly and religion was a topic I was not a fan of and was not interested in. After this run into each other we exchanged numbers and continued to meet up. It turns out he works only a few doors down from my office. I kept opening up to him on how I felt and how I was tired of the life I was living. Even though to many people out there they would say it is the ideal life and I was the luckiest boy out there. I didn’t feel that way. I was very empty inside.
He continued on how he understands what I am going through, how I needed to pray, how I needed to have faith in God… but it still seemed silly to me. One day down the track he was even kind enough to buy me a Bible and other books about the Church.
The whole thing still seemed ridiculous to me but I told him I’d at least give it a shot; after all he was kind enough to get me those books, so I might as well have read them. I started with Genesis and straight away I knew I was not interested, especially with what the world had programmed into my brain about ‘reality’, ‘evolution’, ‘science burying God’ and the whole lot. So, I put it down and dismissed the whole thing. By the way I need to add in another quote here from C.S Lewis “a young man who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be too careful of his reading”. I would like to point out another quote before I continue from Edmund Spencer ‘there is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all argument, and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance. That principle is condemnation before investigation.’ Later on, he persuaded me to give it another chance and to pick up the New Testament and begin to read the words of Christ, and as I read the gospels I was absolutely captivated by the person of Jesus of Nazareth. There was a wisdom about this man’s teaching that I never ever encountered before and there was an authenticity about his life that was simply undeniable.
After this experience, he told me to come along with him to church and just give it a try. It was the night we had Gary Raymond preaching, along with some of the fathers in the church. Probably some of the greatest sermons I ever heard and they touched me in a very profound way. Soon afterwards I did some more research on the church, its history, other religions, Christianity and of course science. I was hungry for answers and the truth. I eventually found it. I guess the saying is true; when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.
I could go on and on here but I am trying to summarise as briefly as I can.
I had a meeting shortly after with Father Mark and we had a very nice long talk. He was even kind enough to welcome me into the Coptic Church which was a real honour. And not to mention the fact that it had some of the most wonderful, kind and loving people there I had ever met, among many other wonderful attributes. I saw that this wasn’t just a church that wanted to move with the world, but that this was a church that wanted to move the world. People will often ask me whether I am Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant or whatever but I need to make one thing very clear to all readers out there; Christians are not members of various cults, we are all followers of Christ and listen to what the scriptures tell us. I am currently a member of the Coptic Orthodox church and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. All in all, we are brothers and sisters. So please do not ask yourselves which is the right one, let God guide your hearts, not men.
Anyway, I finally came to the end of my rope and cried out to God all the anger and bitterness that had been building up inside me. As I did so I felt this tremendous infusion of joy. I was flooded with this spiritual torrent that just completely pervaded my entire soul and I was in the most incredible state I had ever been. Words would be insufficient to describe the feelings I was going through but it was just incredible.
This next part I am about to write is for all the questions you readers are going to be asking me when you meet me:
This is going to be hard for people to grasp but I really need you to focus in on what I am about to say to you.
Every one of us has a worldview, whether we realise it or not. I like to think of this as ‘mental glasses’… the reason we act and behave the way we do is because of the way we view the world through these glasses. It is our preconceived ideas that are going to determine our observations in life and what you believe determines how you behave. I have read books from evolutionists, creationists, philosophers and many other people who are all looking at the same world, yet are jumping to completely different conclusions based on these mental glasses. I have books in my library from PhD scientists that believe the world is less than 10,000 years old and books from Bible-Believing-Christians that believe that the world began from a big bang billions of years ago. I have books from evolutionists who believe their grandpa was a monkey and from atheists who say that God is a delusion.
This all depends on a person’s starting point, and I cannot stress this enough. Someone like myself who has recently come to the faith, can temporarily take off these Christian glasses and see the world through a non-believer’s eyes, and understand why they live their lives the way they do and why they hold the positions that they do. And that’s fine, I just needed to get this message across before I continue. By the way it was also situations like this that kept leading me to ask the big question: What is truth?
People will often have a difficult time getting their heads around the way I live my life and why I do the things I do. They don’t seem to understand that I follow a Christian belief system and my starting point comes from the teachings of Christianity. Christianity is not what many people think it is. Once a person digs deep and searches the depths of this great mystery, it alters their lives in ways unimaginable. You only need to read up on the history of the early church and the lives of its followers to realise how profound this way of life can really be.
Now many people will say to me “what makes you think you have the right religion?” This is a common question among people. I have read many other Holy books and have even gone to the trouble of reading books from some of the world’s most renowned atheists due to people denying my openness of mind. I would strongly suggest that everyone reading this go on their own journey to ask themselves these very same questions, your life is certainly worth that.
We are all going to die someday and we are all going to be dead for a very long time! I don’t care how long you live you are going to be dead a lot longer than that. William Shakespeare died over 400 years ago and he is still dead! You better be real positive you are right on this one. All we get is this little bitty dash between two dates and then we will be gone. I strongly urge you to seek these things out and come to your own conclusions. When people make the statement ‘what does it really matter if God exists or not?’ to me it just means they really haven’t thought this through deeply. I don’t want people to get too comfortable in their lives that they don’t search these things out, please do it now, you do not know what tomorrow will bring or when your last day is.
Every person on the earth is created with a desire for communion and companionship. No human being will ever be able to understand themselves outside of God, for this is the only reason we are here. Human beings outside this relationship will often try to escape in worldly pleasures whether it is sex, drugs, alcohol or money in order to fill the gap formed in their hearts specifically for God, but consequently they never achieve peace or contentment. Just as animals are made to please and serve a higher being, so are we as humans made to please and serve a higher being, namely God. The greatest search for philosophy of all time has been the search for unity and diversity and only in the Christian faith, only does love precede life whereas in every other faith life precedes love.
We as humans find within ourselves a sense of justice, innate knowledge of right and wrong, mercy, compassion, love, jealousy and many other emotions that are not visible but we know they exist. This would be expected if we were created in the image of a spiritual being. Nothing in the physical world is actually good or bad. We as human beings have been granted the gift of free will, which has allowed us to use these items for good or for evil. God is free; and so, as human persons made in His image, we also are free. God could have very easily created machines but it wouldn’t mean anything, He wants us to be freely and voluntarily united to Him in love and commitment. Unfortunately, we have chosen to use our freedom the wrong way and as a result have created the world we see today. You may ask why God would create us with free will? Because free will, although it allows for evil to be possible, is the only thing that allows possible and true love worth having.
God wants to create a world of free creatures who can become responsible moral agents and mature human beings. This will require a world that operates according to certain natural laws where the fire that warms you can also burn you, the water that sustains you can drown you and it would require the ability of these creatures to do morally evil acts. By creating that sort of arena, it allows the possibility of natural suffering and moral evil to occur. However, God permits these with the overall goal in mind of bringing people freely into a knowledge of Himself and to eternal salvation. The goal of human life is not happiness in this life, we are not God’s pets, His goal is not to create a nice terrarium here for his human pets, rather it is to bring persons into communion with Himself forever freely, and in order to do that it is not at all implausible that a world suffused with natural and moral evil would be the correlative of that.
I am going to leave you all with this. Everything I ever did, every book I ever read or experience I ever had on this journey kept pointing me to Christ. From what has happened to me in my life in this past year since I have come to the faith, I couldn’t even begin to describe in words alone. I would encourage all of you out there to please do what I did, pick up the New Testament and begin to read the gospels and ask yourself, could this really be true? Could there really be a God who loves me? Could Jesus of Nazareth really be the revelation of God to mankind, and begin to explore His claims for yourself. If you really did this and come to it with an open mind and an open heart, I believe that this can change your life in the same way that it changed mine. I have travelled the world, I have searched high and low, and I have found nothing that satisfies my mind, my heart and the deepest longing of my soul like Jesus does. If you are sincerely seeking God I promise he will make his existence evident for you.
I am going to leave you with one last quote from JP Moreland ‘God maintains a delicate balance between keeping his existence sufficiently evident so people will know He’s there and yet hiding His presence enough so that people who want to choose to ignore Him can do it. This way, their choice of destiny is really free.’
God bless you all and I pray that you all will go on your own search for truth in your lives.