Born in 1953 in a small Wisconsin town called Sheboygan, Bill had a very low self-image as a child. He was raised in a nominally Christian family that attended church, but Bill turned his back on religion. He described himself as a loner who did not fit in well. He often felt empty and unhappy.
Bill recalls telling his dad, "The only thing I am good at is not being good at anything."
A radical journey
To cope with his lack of popularity, Bill submerged himself in books. He read everything from Das Kapital by Karl Marx to The Politics of Ecstasy by Timothy Leary. His search for truth also led him to explore eastern religions, cosmic consciousness and the New Age movement. "It was all part of a quest I was on – a journey to find truth and ultimate reality," Bill says.
At the same time Madison, the capital of Wisconsin, was a hotbed of student revolt. Bill often hitch-hiked there to be part of the action. Drifting quickly into the New Left movement, Bill began stirring up rebellion at the Sheboygan high school. He led demonstrations, edited a local underground paper and sold drugs to fellow students – sometimes getting arrested. He supported the Free Speech Movement, socialists, Marxists and various radical feminist and homosexual liberation groups.
A haze of drugs
"When I read that you could find God while on LSD, as Timothy Leary insisted, I started getting into drugs big time," Bill admits. "Drugs and rock and roll went together, so I attended as many rock concerts as I could get to, almost always stoned out of my mind."
But the more drugs Bill took, the more he lost his original vision of finding God and truth. He simply wanted to get high.
When Bill – decked out in long hair and beard – walked to his high school graduation ceremony in June 1971, a fellow student said to him, "You are looking more and more like Jesus Christ every day." Little did he know how prophetic that remark was!
But it was a depressive, desperate period of Bill's life. "Psychedelic drugs like LSD did not really help much," he confessed. "They simply amplified a million times over whatever state or condition you were already in."
Saved from suicide
One night, crushed with overwhelming despair and depression, Bill grabbed the kitchen knife in the hope of ending it all.
"As I was in the very midst of this insanity, suddenly something happened. There was another person in the room. As clear as day I knew there was someone in the room. And for some reason I knew exactly who it was – it was Jesus," Bill said.
"He was not there very long, and I don't recall anything being said by Him. But I put the knife down and thoughts of suicide flew away. He saved my life."
Soon, Jesus was to save Bill's spiritual life as well.
Christian commune cult
Two months later, in August 1971, Bill had an unexpected conversation with Cheryl, a fellow hippy. She had just returned from a Christian commune in the mountains of New Mexico.
"Cheryl was telling everyone about Jesus and her new life in Christ. She was certainly excited and radiant," Bill said. "She seemed to be a new person, and wanted everyone to discover what she had. Music to my desperate ears and empty soul."
Bill decided to follow Cheryl back to New Mexico to discover what she had found. Unfortunately, he found himself in a cult led by a Charles Manson-like figure.
Escape to Tacoma
After some months – and many adventures, which included escaping the FBI, Bill broke away from the cult and arrived in Tacoma in Washington state, still seeking truth. A truck driver gave him a copy of Hal Lindsey's The Late, Great Planet Earth. This book on biblical prophecy led Bill to make sure he was right with God.
"I prayed a prayer of commitment to Christ. I told Him that I did not know if I was a Christian or not. If not, I wanted to get saved then and there," Bill said.
Two elderly Christian ladies were another godsend. They ran weekly home Bible studies, which Bill attended. "I learnt about God's word and they patiently tried to answer all sorts of gnarly questions. It was a real time of grounding and growth for me," Bill said.
One night the group studied 1 Peter 2, which talks about suffering for doing what's right. Bill was convicted about his drug use.
"After around four years of regular drug abuse, I have never had so much as a puff of a joint in 40 years. Such is the powerful liberating power of God."
The prodigal returns
In June 1972, Bill received a tear-stained letter from his dad, ecstatic to hear about Bill's true conversion and longing to see him again. His dad said: "I am so happy that you are becoming such a wonderful young man ... you are like the prodigal son come back."
So after nearly a year in New Mexico and Tacoma, Bill finally returned home. A Christian girl later lent him some books by C. S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer, and the rest is history.
Today Bill Muehlenberg uses his sharp intellect to explore key issues of our day on his CultureWatch blog at . There you can find the full version of his amazing story.•
Reprinted from VoxPrint by permission of FamilyVoice Australia.