Associate Research Scientist
Complex Carbohydrate Research Center
Dr. Heiss’ Spiritual Journey – I grew up in a nominally Christian home in Germany; my mother, who had been very devout in her youth, as well as my father, seemed uninterested in religious things. We used to go to church occasionally, and I went through several religious rituals, but they did not have any spiritual meaning to me. Though I was taught about the life of Jesus, I never understood what Jesus’ purpose was, and I didn’t comprehend why He had to be killed.
As a young teenager, I was painfully shy and introverted and spent much time thinking about life’s big questions. As a result, I started doubting the existence of God and got interested in various philosophies, including Darwinism. In my youthful pride, I thought that I now understood the origin of the idea of God in people’s minds: it was just wishful thinking on the part of human beings afraid of dying and longing for purpose in life. These poor people didn’t seem to realize that the idea of God was just an accidental outgrowth of the evolving human mind and society. The sole purpose I saw in life was to seek pleasure, although my shyness severely limited this quest.
At some point, I considered the question of God settled in my mind and did not think about it much anymore. Then, at age 32, I met Becky, who would become my wife. There was an immediate, mutual attraction, and as you might imagine I was quite excited, but I soon found out that she was, of all things, a Christian. And she was not like many of those I had met before who go to church on Sunday and then return to normal during the week. No, it seemed that her whole life revolved around her faith, and that was her favorite thing to talk about. On previous occasions when someone would try to talk to me about religion, I would quickly excuse myself and find something else to do, but with her I was kept from doing so, because I really liked her and wanted to spend time with her. To my disappointment, she told me that she could not get seriously involved with anyone who was not a Christian. Now you might say, “He just became a Christian so he could still go out with her.” But that’s not what happened. What really happened was that the things she told me about her faith and my desire to stay with her caused me to take the one step that ultimately led me to belief in God. What was that step? It was that for the first time in my adult life, I actually considered the possibility that there really was a God. Up until then the question of God had been purely academic, but now it was an issue of prime importance!
Becky often referred to the Bible in our conversations, and so, to find out more, I picked up a copy of the Bible that happened to be at my house, and when I randomly opened it, I read this:
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will thwart.”
Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.
For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,
But we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,
But to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
(1 Cor. 1:18-25, RSV)
I could almost hear the building of my cherished ideas and opinions collapsing when I read those words. How foolish I had been all these years! Who was I to be able to say, “There is no God?” Relying on my own “wisdom” and that of other people, I had not realized how limited human knowledge is.
After this eye-opening experience I became very eager to learn as much as I could about God, as He is revealed in the Bible. I learned that I was guilty of breaking God’s law in many ways. I had lied, stolen, hated (which God equates with murder), lusted (which is adultery in Godís eyes), and dishonored my parents. Worst of all, I had put myself above God who created me! I found out that these transgressions separated me from God and that I would be punished justly for each one of them in a place of unimaginable torment called hell. But then I learned the best part: God does not want anyone to perish in hell, and for that reason He came to earth in the form of a man, Jesus Christ, to undergo in my place the punishment that I deserved. He allowed Himself to be tried, brutally beaten, and crucified, suffering the punishment of all mankind. Then He was buried, and three days later He rose from the dead.
I discovered that God required only one thing of me in order to be forgiven, and that was faith: I had to sincerely believe that He died for my offenses, was buried, and rose again, and I had to receive His forgiveness,depending on Christ alone for my being accepted by God.
During this time, I also experienced God’s love for me in a very real way. Think about it: all those years I did not believe Him, I ridiculed Him and His people (the Christians), and I rejected all His attempts to draw me to Himself. How would you feel if someone did that to you? Would you continue to do them good, help them, protect them, provide for them, and guide them? Yet that is exactly what God did. He preserved my life on several occasions; He provided for me and gently led me, causing me to study a field that would allow me to come to the United States. Then He sent Becky across my way, who was exactly the right person through whom He could reach me. Using the words of the Bible and this demonstration of His love for me, God changed my heart, so that I believed Him and received His forgiveness.
Since then, my life has been transformed from a pointless existence to an adventure full of purpose and meaning. I have found that the deeper I dig into the Bible, the more I find its claims and principles to be rock solid, quite contrary to the old idea that in order to have faith one has to throw out all reason.
The one thing that always was “my problem” was my shyness, because it limited my freedom much like a physical disability. Before I came to faith in Christ, I would try all kinds of ways to overcome this shyness, but I never made any real progress. But now I am free from it, not because I found a way to cope with it or to compensate for it, but because of the power of Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior, who delivered me from it.