Growing up in a very Jewish cultural environment it never really felt to me that God was a big part of anything. It was much more social. It was that you go to synagogue because you’re Jewish but I don’t ever remember God being at the forefront of anything other than simply going through the liturgy, the memorized portion of the prayers. That was just once again, part of having a Jewish identity.
I was a very committed athlete. I started wrestling in seventh grade. And every year I got more and more focused on the sport. I would go to sleep at night and I’d envisioned myself with my hand raised being the state champ. I got to the place where I felt there was nobody that I could not beat. I felt like I was in control. It was a great time in life. But things changed. Just like that.
When I looked into the future as a senior in high school, now that wrestling was over, I realized that the world was so much bigger than I was, certainly so much bigger than the people that competed in my weight class in wrestling. I felt afraid. I lost my identity. I lost my purpose. I just got more and more lost and more and more confused. I spent as much time as possible just sleeping to escape the emotional turmoil that I was in. I asked myself, “What can I do to give myself that feeling back that I had when I was wrestling?” It was such a dark time for me that I had a difficult time remembering any of the good things that were happening to me in life.
And I go to sleep one night. It was 1978. In the middle the night I was awoken from my sleep. Suddenly, in color, Jesus appeared on the cross. A ray of red light from straight through the sky beam down on his head. God had just shown me that Jesus was the way to him. The vision lasted no more than two seconds but I was aware when it happened and I was so excited because somehow I knew that something supernatural had just happened to me.
I got up the next morning. I started talking about it telling everybody about it. I started devouring the Word of God. I was very naive as to what I was about to face when I started telling my Jewish family and friends about this experience. We drove to a hotel. There was a short, distinguished-looking man in a three-piece suit and then he had two guys next to him. Both of them over six feet tall, probably at least 200 pounds. The short distinguished-looking man looks at me says, “Kirt, you’ve been living for 20 years like a normal person. I’m going to snap you out of this thing.” And I said, “I’m not programmed. I just believe that Jesus is the Messiah.” And he said, “You’ve got nothing to worry about.” I stood up and I asked, “Well, can I leave?” And one of his big bodyguards said, “Sit down!”
We went back to my home, but one of the bodyguards was with me. He slept in my bedroom that night so that I couldn’t escape. The next morning he and I drove to one of their rehabilitation houses in California. It wasn’t too long after that I walked into my home and I saw that there are some suitcases standing right at the door. My dad pointed out the window to the street to the parking lot area. He said, “You see that police car out there? We’ve probated you to the psychiatric ward of Mount Sinai Hospital in Cleveland Ohio.”
I was locked up in the psychiatric ward for two months. It was one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had in my life. Every day I would wake up and there was no place to go. You couldn’t get out. You were locked in this ward it’s a terrible, terrible experience. After two months I was released.
So as a Jewish person, I have been through a lot because of my faith in Jesus. But for me, when I saw the ray of red light in that vision come down on Jesus’ head, I knew it was coming from God. I’m so solid in my faith in Jesus #1 because of the supernatural experiences I’ve had. Secondly, because I see how the whole Bible is a unified whole and how it all fits together.
Going through experiences like the ones that I just described, it never shook my faith. I know that I know. Sure there’s been times that it’s like I felt “Oh God where are you? I don’t feel you.” There have been times that I got discouraged but I’ve never wavered in my faith. See when I built my life on wrestling my life was built from the outside in. My life was dependent on something disconnected from myself. When wrestling ended I fell apart. Now I’m building my life on something that’s from the inside out. Jesus said he had come to give life and to give it more abundantly. That he is the way, the truth, and the life. I’ve been on this track now for 40 years and I can’t wait to meet him face to face.
God has a reward for everyone that will choose to follow him.