My encounter with the Lord Jesus happened way back in 1976, when I was a troubled, confused and unhappy young man who was grappling with a huge problem with alcohol. I was a voracious reader and I was heavily into intellectual stuff. I thought I knew all the answers to the problems of the world and I used to take great pleasure in arguing that God did not exist. It was in this situation I met Sister Marie Antonita, an AC nun. She must have been in her late 20's at that time. She really challenged me, not with her words, but with her life, the way she lived and the way she dealt with things. It was through her that I came to meet the Lord and I was converted into the heart of God.
I was married in 1980 and in 1984, we gave up our jobs and started serving the Lord, full time. Subsequently, I was pushed into the top leadership of the charismatic renewal at a young age. I studied theology for four years and passed my exams very well. However, in my heart, without my ever realizing it, I had begun to take pride in my own abilities. I used to think that being right at the top at such a young age was a great achievement on my part and little by little I began to drift away.
Sometimes I used to wake up at around 2 AM and a voice in my heart used to question What are you doing? Is this right? Is this what your life is all about? I used to tell myself Look at how many people are coming to your meetings. Look at the work you are doing, what a success it is. Then my conscience used to quietly get back into silence. It went on like this for many years. I thought people were responding to me. What I didn’t realize was that they were responding to the thoughts, the organization, and ideas, rather than from an inner experience of Jesus.
In the year 1996 I went into a crisis. I clashed with the leadership of the Renewal and in that clash I started giving utterly human responses, engaging in typical tit-for tat actions. My wife challenged me and questioned me What has happened to you? Can you remember the way you served previously – you used to serve simply for the delight of serving the Lord. Now that you have lost leadership and people don’t agree with you, you are unable to handle it.
My detractors claimed that I had shot into prominence only because the Renewal gave me a position. I felt slighted and reacted by saying You don’t know my family background, you don’t know who my relations are. I wanted to prove myself and decided to go into business. I thought that I would use my connections and talents to make it in the business world and show my detractors what I was really capable of. We invested millions of rupees in the business. However, the business ran into heavy weather. It seemed that every step we took was blocked and frustrated by the Lord himself. By the year 2000 we were staring bankruptcy in the face.
It was at this time that Bro. Gomez, a member of our community, invited me to join him for a retreat in India. I proudly thought What can they teach me? Just to avoid him I said I don’t have money. He then went and bought three tickets for me, my wife and one of our sons, and said, Now let’s go. That is how I arrived at the Divine Retreat Center at Potta.
I participated in the retreat with a very critical mind set. I asked, What are these people doing? Who are they? What kind of theology is this? On the second day, there was this preacher who claimed to have been a Christian for only three years. I was affronted. I though to myself What can a three year old Christian teach me, a preacher for over 20 years? He then asked those who had committed murder to stand up. In that large hall, two or three people stood up. It suddenly hit me that there must be some extraordinary power at work for people to be ready to even admit to murder. Then the choir sang a hymn:
O let the Son of God enfold you
With His Spirit and His love
Let Him fill your heart and satisfy your soul
O let Him have the things that hold you
And His Spirit like a dove
Will descend upon your life and make you whole
Jesus, O Jesus
Come and fill Your lambs
Jesus, O Jesus
Come and fill Your lambs
Even though the singing was not very good, the words were anointed and hit me hard. God spoke to me directly and told me Surrender your life to me. Then I said Lord I have already surrendered my life to you, what more do you want me to surrender? I am serving you every weekend, every evening. Again I heard the voice, Surrender. I asked again What more do I surrender? The Lord spoke to me and said Lalith, you are actually afraid of me. It suddenly hit me that this was exactly the truth, I was afraid of God indeed. I was serving him, but I served him on my terms, not on his. It was I who decided where to go and how to serve. I was afraid that God will take away my business. I was afraid that he would take away whatever I was holding on to for security. The voice was very clear in my head, and it said I love you anyway. Even if you don’t surrender to me tonight, I will continue to love you. However, your life will be a fruitless life. You will go around in circles busying yourself doing little, little things, and you will live and die a small person, without a purpose or meaning. But if you surrender to me, I will take you and accomplish in you all what I have planned to do.
That night I surrendered to the Lord once again, 24 years after I originally surrendered my life to Him. In that surrender I said Lord here is my life, here is my heart, here are my children, my family, my wife, our home, our future, I give it into your hands. I then felt a strong urge to cry, but I held back because grown men don’t cry. My youngest son was sitting next to me, and I didn’t want him to see me cry. I thought if he sees me crying that he will think something is radically wrong. When I held back the tears, my whole stomach and chest started to hurt. Again the voice said, Cry, cry for the wasted years you lived and served without really submitting to my plan. That night I cried and I was anointed in the power of the Holy Spirit.
A lot of water has flown under the bridge since then.The Lord met all our needs, more than I could have ever imagined. He started giving us back the original experience we had and led me to meet Fr. Priyantha. He then began to use us to serve, to preach, to sing and to pray with people. As we ministered, God started changing the hearts of people. Beautifully, he began anointing, transforming, and changing things and the participation at our meetings began to be counted in the thousands. Little by little he restored every broken relationship and misunderstanding, and today we stand together. Yes, he raised me up to be more than I could ever be.