The Jesus Freak and The Atheist – An Easter Story

I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. —1 Corinthians 15:3-4 NLT

I wasn’t the most popular kid in school. I loved talking, raised my hand a good deal in class, and read a ton of books. Gym was my least favorite activity, and the fact that I was often chosen last for a team indicates my athletic skill. Despite all this, I was in love with Jesus. I talked about Him … a lot. A few friends helped me start an after-school Bible study at our high school. That required a trip to the school board to override our principal’s objection to holding it on school grounds. We paid $1.00 a month to pacify her, cover the cost of electricity, and make it “okay” for the school board to approve. As it was known in those days, I was a “Jesus Freak.”

Ray wasn’t the most popular kid, either. He was, however, way better at sports than me. He also spent a lot of time reading, answering all the questions in class, and playing chess. Ray did not love Jesus. He was a self-declared atheist. We did not travel in the same circles at all.

One day, Ray’s friend recruited him to help with the school theater production of The Diary of Anne Frank. The backstage people needed one more person on the lights. Ray’s job was to keep the spotlight on Anne Frank. And that turned out to be me. This is how our friendship began. It grew when he dated a friend of mine and was drawn into our little circle. He even attended our Bible study, although he was totally skeptical.

Ray was aggravating. He loved calling me “freak” because of my Jesus-loving, nonstop talking on that subject. He loved asking me hard questions about evolution and who Adam and Eve’s son, Cain, married. He drove me crazy with those questions, but he made me think about my faith in harder ways. I was used to the coziness of church, where everyone basically bought into Christianity, and questions were not often raised. He had me going to my pastor, doing my own research, and learning how to defend my faith in Christ. He also got me kicked out of the school library a time or two because I’d raise my voice in frustration at his annoying analytical ways.

One night, Ray opened the Bible that someone had given him. In the background information, he read about the 12 disciples of Jesus and their deaths. Judas hung himself and was replaced by another. John was exiled to the Isle of Patmos. The rest all died excruciatingly painful deaths for their faith in Jesus. And Ray did some thinking. These men knew Jesus. They followed Him everywhere. They reported seeing Him walking around alive after He was crucified, talking and eating and such. They believed so totally that He had come to life again, they were willing to die rather than say it wasn’t true. What was in it for them? Unless it was true? Unless they were convinced that they, too, would not die and stay dead but would live eternally as Jesus had promised? Unless Jesus really was God in human skin and victorious over death?Ray knelt. Ray prayed. Ray became a follower of Jesus Christ. (I was a little annoyed that none of my “brilliant” arguments had convinced him!) Oh, but I was thrilled. Over 2,000 years after the death of those first disciples, their testimony that they had seen Jesus rise again from the grave and ascend into Heaven, assuring them that they’d be with Him—that testimony converted my Ray, who is now my husband of 43 years.

The veracity of Jesus’ resurrection is at the very heart of Christianity. Christians can and do disagree about the proper meaning of communion. We have varying traditions for baptism and worship and liturgies. But at the heart of our faith is the unshakable belief that God put on flesh and walked among us. That He chose to die and receive upon Himself the punishment for sin we all deserve. That He walked out of that grave and secured victory and eternal life for all who put their faith in Him and receive the gift that His death and resurrection achieved.

As we celebrate the holy day of Easter this year, let’s remember what an incredible gift He gave us. This is truly the gospel, the “good news.” Actually, it’s the best news ever.

Father God, thank You for those long-ago followers of Jesus who laid aside all that could have tied them to this earth: money, success, and life itself. How grateful I am that their story turned my beloved atheist into a firm believer in Christ. This Jesus “freak” is so grateful for You, Lord, and for the gift of a believing husband. I celebrate You, Jesus, and I bow before You in awe. Amen.

You are loved,




Sweet Selah Ministries

To inspire a movement away from the belief that “busy is better”
and toward the truth of God’s Word that stillness and knowing
Him matter most—and will be reflected in more effective work and service

To offer biblical resources and retreats that help women pause (Selah)
and love God more deeply as they know Him more intimately (Sweet)

If you’ve been blessed, keep the blessing going!
Click over to our Donation page … and thanks.





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10 Comments. Leave new

  • Donna Perkins
    April 3, 2023 11:00 am

    I love this!!!!

    • Sharon Gamble
      April 3, 2023 11:10 am

      I’m pretty happy with how it all worked out, myself. And very glad that Ray to let me share his story.

  • John MacLeod
    April 3, 2023 12:35 pm

    So encouraging to hear this story. Ray is a man I admire incredibly much. I hold his example of godly character is such esteem he always intimidated me as a “younger Christian.” It’s hard for me to imagine he wasn’t BORN that way. But if even Ray was a skeptic and was convicted and captured by the power of the Gospel and, by that power living within him, to become such a rock of godly male leadership, there is hope for all of us. God bless you both.

    • Sharon Gamble
      April 3, 2023 12:38 pm

      SO glad this was an encouragement, John. Yes, Ray started out an atheist. So thankful for the man he is, today.

  • Margaret Fowler
    April 3, 2023 6:17 pm

    Thank you, what more can I say. The gift of a believer who is my daughter’s husband. God is so GOOD. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

  • Jennifer Herlihy
    April 3, 2023 6:32 pm

    I love this story.
    When I married David I was a new Christian
    and he was a non-practicing catholic.
    It took 11 frustrating years but God opened his
    mind and heart and he finally understood what being
    born again meant. In fact I felt the Holy Spirit
    moving in him right next to me
    the morning Pastor Roy Reynolds gave an alter
    call. Married 42 years this August.

    • Sharon Gamble
      April 4, 2023 12:30 am

      I love your story, Jen! SO thankful we both have husbands who have chosen to follow Christ.

  • Wonderful testimony! Thank you for sharing
    Hope that those I am praying for will someday chose to follow
    Jesus as Lord of their lives.
    Continuing to pray for hearts to be softened
    And for this ministry

    • Sharon Gamble
      April 4, 2023 12:31 am

      Oh Pam. Thanks for praying for this ministry. And yes, let’s always pray and never give up for those we love who still don’t know Him!! God is able to reach them, this I know.


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