Story of Recovery: Jim Etchison

If you were to ask me what the single-most defining moment in my life is, it would be that moment in 1984 when I was 22. I was a troubled Christian lad from California, on trip to Tokyo.

Japan, you see, had not turned out to be what I thought it should be. Not only was the entire culture a heaping serving of secularism on a plate, the culture also was clean, relatively crime-free, extremely non-violent (especially noteworthy, given how crowded Tokyo was). The Japanese seemed notably at ease with their place in the universe. This was not the picture of godlessness that I had been taught. Where was the anxiety? Where was Satan?s influence? There seemed to be less of it here than in America?an ostensibly Christian nation. Looking over the city, one distinct truth rose with the steam from beneath the streets: These people do not need Jesus.

I visited Shibuya train station and ran across a statue of a dog I?d never heard of before, Hachiko. Hachiko?s story is quite heart-warming. He came every day with his master to the Shibuya train station and waited at the platform all day until his master returned from work. One day his master died while at work, and Hachiko waited for the rest of his life for his master to return, never leaving the station. Each day at the correct time he would sit and look at everyone getting off the train to see if his master was among them. Hachiko was remembered by the memorial where I stood.

The story gripped my heart. I was like Hachiko. I realized that I was patterning my entire life around an event?the return of Jesus?that was never going to happen. Once I allowed myself to be open to the painful truth, it crashed down upon me like a sledgehammer. There was no happy eternal ending for me. This life is all there is, and I was wasting it by waiting for a master who would never return.

Right there in the Shibuya train station I renounced my faith.

The anxiety I experienced immediately afterward?even while still in Japan?was almost unbearable. Because of this, I spent ten regrettable years recoiling from my decision, and continuing my attempts to make sense of my faith. Ultimately, faith lost the war, and reason won out.

It has taken a long time to recover from the trauma of my de-conversion, but it has been well worth it. Today I am filled with the same amount of wonder and amazement at the universe. I continue learning each day, and have a profound sense of how lucky I am to be alive.