My Conversion from a Humanist to a Believer
Tribulation to Revelation: A Testimonial
William James Marohnic
Robert Frost, in his renowned poem, “The Road Not Taken,” pronounces:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
As a young man, I encountered two roads such as Frost describes, and the less traveled road I elected to embark upon, ultimately led me away from darkness and into light, thus making all the difference in my life’s quest.
For a long time I was like the man who could not see the forest for the trees. The road I chose to travel did not hold sudden revelations, providing definite reassurance that I was in fact headed in the right direction. Rather, I seemed to encounter many detours, seemingly making wrong turns and repeated missteps. Often my course of direction resembled the flow of a wild river, encouraging a path of least resistance. Many times I believed I had lost my way, feeling confused; alone, and often unaware of the right direction or even if I had a purpose. However, no matter how lost I would feel, there always endured deep within me a sense of comfort, the seeming glow of a light never abandoning me, which illuminated the way.
When I came upon the two roads in my life’s journey, I was young, and naïve, but in my mind ready to take on the world. My goals were basic; making money and acquiring possessions. I had married at the age of nineteen and in addition to a wife; I had the responsibility of a baby boy a year later. I had only a tenth grade education and was totally unprepared for what was now my reality. Somewhere I had heard it said, “Make your life count for something greater than yourself.” This resonated with me.
So I chose my road, and began a six year journey of pursuing an educational track which culminated in 1975 with a Master’s Degree in Social Work, with honors from the University of Kentucky. It was during these years as I obtained the educational preparation for my elected life’s work, that I started to reconnect with my diminished faith. Spiritual conviction was a very reserved countenance to me, which I began to rely on regularly, but in a very private setting. The dependence I had developed on my growing faith paralleled the realization of my scholastic goals. Of this I am certain. In addition, I was blessed by the birth of a daughter.
Shortly following graduation, I began working at a Kentucky Community Mental Health Center as a therapist/administrator. The clients I served were the nursing home elderly, an at risk client population most vulnerable to abuse and neglect. After only a few months on the job, I began to realize that this client age group was a captive population with minimum service delivery expectation which for the most part, resulted in little more than human warehousing. The problems these aging individuals faced were compounded by the economic constraints imposed by the mental health programs, which were diluting the quality of treatment delivery. In short, for all practicable purposes, treatment resembled little more than day care services, fraught with overall program exploitation and financial fraud. My book, Cast a Stone Upon the Waters, chronicles these issues.
It became evident that during my graduate school years, the Social Work curriculum ill prepared students to deal with the real world of the establishment, indifference and raw human suffering. No doubt most idealistic young mavens often begin their careers well-intentioned, but gradually some will succumb to bureaucratic demands and give into professional compromise. The practice of robust client advocacy and effectual management of government resources can sometimes run counter to agency internal policies and practices, placing a conscientious worker at pronounced risk.
Additionally, Social Work schools often fall short in preparing their students in the area of risk management. Unfortunately, when client advocacy does result in reform actions, usually it claims a price be paid by the well-meaning advocate. Sometimes it requires not only great resolution, but sharp administrative skills to succeed in instigating reform.
In my personal experience, taking a risk for a higher purpose did not originate from attributes of excessive courage or intelligence. My rudimentary instinct was to trust God, and place my faith in Him by yielding to His will; essentially sanctioning God to work in my life. I can affirm that it was God who provided me with the strength to confront, head-on, the challenges encountered in my lengthy experience with client advocacy. St. Paul offers us this promise, “I can do all things through Jesus, who strengthens me.” I relied on this assurance daily, sometimes even minute to minute.
To have a right relationship with God it is necessary to believe, in the sense of intellectual acceptance of the proposition that God is, and that God has revealed Himself in Christ and to this acceptance, God accepts you. Faith is something God creates in a person; a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal.5:22). I believe this to be absolutely true; another amazing gift from God to anyone willing to receive it.
I still marvel how God’s handiwork has proved to touch so many lives as a result of an isolated act of conscience, (defined by Webster as a gathering of scruples), initiated in 1980 by me and two other mental health workers, which set a chain of events in motion which ultimately reached fruition at the highest levels of the U. S. Congress and Federal Judiciary. Freedom of speech protections were further enhanced, both in legislative reforms relating to federally funded Mental Health Services, and Federal judiciary enhancements to the right of free speech.
I am convinced, that only as a result of God’s Divine intervention, could this single act of conviction reach such a grand scale. In essence, the exercise of free speech resulting from an act of conscience, captures the heart of free speech intent; one of the purest and most noble of our Constitutional safeguards. These most sacred forms of human liberty, so eloquently defined by the Founding Fathers’ are “inalienable rights endowed by the Creator” which will forever link American Constitutional rights to the Divine.
For the proceeding ten years I continued down life’s pathway, yearning to draw closer to that sometimes elusive distant glow, which had shown me the way during my earlier tribulations. I felt blessed and spiritually strengthened through witnessing God’s will in action, touching not only my life, but so many others. As my faith relationship with God grew, I felt a new peace and joy within. To me, this was a new dimension of religious experience, unlike anything I had encountered before.
As a young boy, I was introduced to God through attendance at Catholic school. Obedience and conformity to Catholic doctrine, with the ever present threat of eternal damnation, was drilled in the curriculum for all the young and impressionable students, seemingly without mercy. Little did I know, at this tender age, that I was beginning what would become a lifelong fellowship with God.
However, as I grew older I became eager to escape the strict discipline of the Catholic school, for the secular public school system. As I grew into young adulthood, secular living had eroded my faith. It was during my college years and as a fledging social worker providing mental health services to the infirmed elderly, that my earlier formal Catholic educational foundation which included regular church attendance and duties as a alter boy, resurfaced and became a moral compass for me. The enduring message of God’s love and mercy entrusted to me as a school boy, reverberated with me far beyond the dogma and ritualism which I had disallowed as an adult.
As I began working with the nursing home elderly, I felt as though I was swept into a human abyss filled with suffering and despair. My earlier text book training and classroom instruction proved to fall short of providing the aid I needed now to influence change in the lives of these neglected individuals. Compassion and commitment for the plight of these elderly captives caused me to turn to God; trusting Him to lead the way. His will alone would be my course, which in the end brought triumph and justice over the adversity I had encountered, but for me the personal experience of witnessing God’s hand directly impacting my life, was my utmost reward.
As that chapter of my life closed, at age forty-five I was ready to continue down my chosen road into uncharted new territory, again asking God to lead the way. I embraced farm life; which at the time was to be simply a brief respite, but ultimately became an occupation and I then became the proprietor of a Bed and Breakfast business.
The small farm I purchased has a cave; and that dark cavern within the earth would prove to be the light which would bring me closer to God than had any form of organized religion. The Lakota Indians live by the principle, “When a man moves away from nature his heart becomes hard.” I found this to be true in my life; as the more communions I had with nature, the softer my heart became and the closer I felt to God the Creator.
In my book, Dream Catcher: Saving a Kentucky Time Capsule, the wondrous natural beauty of the cave properties are described in detail; a pristine creation by God’s hand which is intoxicating to the eye and heart. The colossal cave formations dwarf man’s presence. Wide passages from the cave mouth are enclosed by seventy foot high ceilings, artfully decorated with huge smooth circular domes accented by magnificent suspending draping rock formations. The indwelling presence of thunderous waterfalls, when illuminated by artificial light, sparkle with an appearance of diamonds cascading downward, ultimately plummeting into deep shadowed pools is a vision which is absolutely breathtaking.
Beyond the natural raw beauty of the cave, recently revealed ancient ceremonial and spiritual Indian artwork adds to the cave’s mystique. The mud glyphs were discovered in a long gallery like room well over a mile into the cave and have been radio carbon tested to be over fifteen hundred years old. Documented evidence has been established, indicating at least forty generations of Native Americans used this cave as a sacred worship site, connecting man to the Devine Creator. The high priests of the tribes were laid to rest within the cave in a designated burial mound.
Sadly, modern man has left his own legacy of vandalism, looting, and destruction. As the cave owner, I became distressed over the desecration of grounds held as sacred for hundreds of years. I took measures to halt the trespassing by setting up security alarms and surveillance, but this met with limited success.
I had become acquainted with a number of cave groups that shared my interest in providing the needed protections to save this cave from eventual ruin. Many of these caving enthusiasts appreciated the geological and archaeological merits held within the cave. I too, recognized the importance of these aspects, but the driving force for me was spiritual; this had been a house of worship for ancient tribal societies, a place they sensed the presence of God. I had developed a personal bond with the cave and the adjacent wooded surroundings; I sensed a divine energy there, a feeling similar to what I had felt as a young boy when I was alone in church, like being in the company of God.
The importance of protecting this property was overwhelming. I had been one man with really no resources to save this cave. My prayers to God for guidance in being a good steward over such a significant ancient archive were answered as His will was worked through the effort of many individuals and groups which resulted in the cave site being secured, and ultimately placed in State protective status for all perpetuity.
A gathering of over twenty-five Federal, State, and local organizations joined forces to save this cave. The marshaling of these various factions, who had the considerable resources necessary for such an undertaking, is a true testament and hallmark of God’s handiwork. Today the cave has been cleansed of modern man’s footprint, and is slowly evolving back to its pristine condition through nature’s progression of natural restoration. The cave’s passages now rest undisturbed; as it has been reclaimed by its Creator, and will forever retain its legacy as a tribute of man’s quest for fellowship with God.
I travel my chosen road at a decisively slower pace these days, taking time to reflect back on life’s journey. I enjoy a degree of peace, satisfaction, and a sense of completion. I am guilty of many missteps and stumbles along the way. I have acknowledged failures, and have been a disappointment to others in my life; for which I am truly remorseful. However, the most significant moment I have known, occurred when I was twenty-one years old and asked God to take charge of my life; to provide me with purpose and direction. Placing my trust in Him, my life began changing immediately.
As an immature young man, I had no mindfulness that choosing a life road which included faith in God would yield such enduring rewards. Today I marvel with delight; having feelings of deep reverence and even unworthiness, as I realize God has indeed worked His will in my life.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, the 19th century author, philosopher, and minister, wrote in his essay, Self-Reliance, “Trust thyself. Every heart beats to that iron string. Accept the place the Divine Providence has found for you……There are Divine voices we hear in solitude, but they grow faint and inaudible as we enter the world.” Emerson wisely alerts us, “To detect and watch for that gleam of light which flashes across the mind from within.”
We all have a journey we must make. Somewhere along that road we have the option to ask God to join us, or elect to go unaccompanied. God creates each person in His own image, subsequently we are given the capacity of free-will; how we decide to proceed becomes our decision alone. God is always there for me on my journey, and opened opportunities for His will to be worked through me in the field of Social Work and stewardship of one of His magnificent creation formations. I praise God for guiding and lighting my pathway.
William J. Marohnic is the author of; both are available at Amazon.com:
Cast a Stone Upon the Waters: A Whistleblower’s Personal Story of Deliverance Reaching the Halls of Congress and Highest Courts in the Land.
Dream Catcher: How We Saved a Kentucky Time Capsule.
Mr. Marohnic’s journey with God resulted in the writing of the two aforementioned books, and he is inspired to publish his personal testimony by the words of Jesus, found in Matthew 10:32, “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven.”