The first part of my life was marked by multiple barriers that placed me in a minority status.

From my family and the church, I inherited the conviction of the existence of God, along with belief in the Bible, creation, salvation, prayer, and the afterlife. But, especially after starting school, I became aware that these convictions were radically opposed to the materialistic and evolutionary postulates elevated to the status of state policy, philosophy of education, and mandatory way of thinking for educated people.

A minority among minorities

I was among the few who openly rejected the very foundations upon which Romanian society was supposed to be built. I didn’t even need to open my mouth to highlight the radical opposition to the dominant system. Skipping school weekly and not showing up for work from Friday evening to Saturday evening were as loud as a dissenting speech amplified by a nationwide megaphone.

Outside the official framework, clearly dominated by materialist atheism, there were still plenty of people whose lives showed that they had not completely detached from Christian thought and manifestation of faith. The defining events of life—birth, marriage, death—were still accompanied by strong religious traditions. Traditional church holidays still loomed large in the calendar, even if in attenuated forms. Especially at Easter, the churches were full, despite the clumsy attempts by authorities to create a secular counter-tradition.

But I was also in the minority even in relation to this still-active religious minority. I couldn’t associate myself with any of its religious forms, irritating them in turn with my observance of Saturday as God’s Sabbath. The awareness of differences in beliefs and experiences compared to the majority church was manifested through isolation and even doctrinal confrontation. Not only religious ideas, but also many aspects of lifestyle inevitably produced differentiation and separation. One example: alcohol, indispensable for facilitating social interactions and even present at religious holidays, was something untouchable for me. Those who lived in the same circumstances can remember other beliefs and practices that unmistakably distinguished us even from the closest practising Christians. This continuous exercise of differentiation, the awareness of constraint through the minority status accompanied by embracing it as a valorizing factor, did not cease even within our own church.

But how did all these beliefs and differentiations reflect on the way I perceived my relationship with God? I think I may have resembled Elijah, the impetuous prophet, who invested so much in defending his faith and confronting the unbelievers that he reduced the dimensions of the universe over which God reigns to just one person, himself, declaring: “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty…; I am the only one left” (1 Kings 19:10). The self-imposed responsibility of being the sole true representative of God overwhelmed him and led him to desire death: “‘I have had enough, Lord,’ he said. ‘Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors’” (verse 4). From the thought that God disowns atheists, majority and minority Christians because they don’t deserve His favour, it didn’t take long for me to start asking terrifying questions about myself. I distinctly remember one Saturday afternoon, otherwise festive, when I was playing in the church orchestra. I felt as lost as those spending their time in the tavern. Measuring my faith against others’, I began to doubt my own spiritual journey.

Lessons about my brothers received from the Father

I wish I had known then that this God, because of whom I behaved like a thorn in the conscience of those who identified as atheists, either by conviction or circumstance, also spoke to them, did them good, gave them fruitful times, and filled their hearts with joy (see Acts 14:17). And I wish I had known that He elicited, at least from some of them, a response I had no idea about.

Imagine a compliant child overhearing his father scolding his rebellious brother. This child might believe that he, too, has earned the right to criticise his brother, to look down on him, or to deem him lost. However, the child’s perceptions begin to shift when, at other times, he hears his father appreciating his brother for his qualities or asking him to help. This change in perspective persists even when, on other occasions, the father returns to reprimands. Thus, the child understands that the father is not merely an amplified extension of his own prejudices or immature reactions and cannot be reduced to simple stereotypes. It’s essential to discover God in various circumstances, interacting with different people from diverse backgrounds, ages, cultures, or religions. “Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God,” Paul says (Romans 11:22).

Our differences are not insignificant, as they can reflect a correct or mistaken understanding of God. The biblical Sabbath provides a profound image of God: a Creator who, with love, brought us to life, even knowing that one day we would betray and crucify His Son. And despite our betrayal, He invites us each week, through the Sabbath, to return to Him, to rediscover our relationship with Him, and to accept His invitation to eternal friendship.

No other day chosen by humans for worship says what the Sabbath says. However, people are at different stages in understanding this truth.

Some see God exactly like this their whole lives, but only at the end do they understand that the Sabbath was the designated day to convey this message about Him. Others observe the Sabbath all their lives, and only at the end do they realise the significance for which it was instituted.

Therefore, rather than engaging in a war of attrition to prove which day is most suitable for worship, I would prefer to let the Bible speak and ask the Sunday-worshipping Christian: What has God shown you about Himself and worshipping Him, and how can I use these revelations to enrich my Sabbath-keeping Christian life? What aspects of my behaviour are not in line with the example of Christ? Would you be willing to pray for me, so that I may more faithfully reflect the image of God?

What I wish I had known in my 20s:

  1.     God speaks to those who don’t live according to my religious beliefs and can fill their hearts with joy.
  2.     My perception of others and those with different beliefs isn’t always accurate, and I shouldn’t rely solely on my judgments.
  3.     It’s essential to discover God’s relationship with people of different backgrounds, ages, cultures, and religions.
  4.     While our differences can indeed reflect our correct or incorrect understanding of God, it’s important to realise that each of us is at a different stage of understanding God.
  5.     Rather than unconstructively insisting on our differences, it would be worth seeking what each person can teach me about their relationship with God.
  6.     Prayer and spiritual discernment are fundamental to seeing how God works in people’s hearts, even in the most unexpected situations.
  7.     Spiritual curiosity and openness can reveal God’s presence in places and people I never would have expected.  


I wish I had known how to rely more on prayer, to cultivate that spiritual discernment that helps me see how God works in people, even in those who seem the least promising. There’s an old tale in Genesis about a servant sent on a difficult mission to find a wife for his master’s son. This man prays fervently for help, and just before he finishes his prayer, God answers him in an amazing way. The first person who appears behaves exactly as he had requested in prayer. The servant “watched her closely to learn whether or not the Lord had made his journey successful” (Genesis 24:21).

Holy curiosity, a joyful disposition of the soul to discover, in unexpected places, in people who don’t fit the standard, that my God is their God too, the God of every creature.

I’ll conclude with these words from C.S. Lewis: “The world does not consist of 100 percent Christians and 100 percent non-Christians. […] There are other people who are slowly becoming Christians though they do not yet call themselves so. There are people who do not accept the full Christian doctrine about Christ but who are so strongly attracted by Him that they are His in a much deeper sense than they themselves understand. There are people in other religions who are being led by God’s secret influence to concentrate on those parts of their religion which are in agreement with Christianity, and who thus belong to Christ without knowing it.”[1]

And both they and I are passionately loved by God, who is thus preparing the society of the future: “They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads” (Revelation 22:4).

Adrian Bocăneanu is 67 years old. He is a retired pastor exploring new manifestations of faith. In his 20s he was studying to be a preacher and had a vivid sense of uniqueness. Since then, he has become more receptive to the divine presence.

[1]“C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity. A Revised and Enlarged edition with a new introduction, of the 3 books, The Case for Christianity, Christian Behavior, and Beyond Christianity, MacMillan, 1960, p. 257.”

“C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity. A Revised and Enlarged edition with a new introduction, of the 3 books, The Case for Christianity, Christian Behavior, and Beyond Christianity, MacMillan, 1960, p. 257.”