In the early 80s – 1980 or 81 – a chap visited my house to sell insurance.
During our meeting he told me the Good News that is the gospel. He simply dropped it into the conversation quite naturally at a point that seemed perfectly appropriate.
Of course, I’d heard the story before – how Jesus was the son of God and was crucified for my sins, and so on. I’d heard it dozens of times before and it had been as meaningful to me as a fairytale.
This time, however, my interest was aroused. This time things began to make … sense.
He invited me to the local church he and his wife attended. He said there’d be other couples and families and was sure I’d enjoy it. I did go – the following Sunday. And I did enjoy it. Church meetings were nothing short of a joy; I made many new friends, some of who had been close neighbours, and enjoyed their fellowship.
This was a whole new experience for me. I’d always considered that being a Christian would be a dreary life of self-denial and puritanical misery. It was nothing of the sort and, despite this being a very difficult period of my life, it was a time I continue to look back on fondly.
During that time I learned more of the story of Jesus and what His sacrifice on the cross meant for me.
At that time, while at home listening to gospel music, the lyrics of one particular song ‘spoke’ to me. It seemed as though the words I heard in song had been written for me personally, and I experienced such a lightness of spirit that I’ll never be able to describe.
You know when you have one these optical illusion images, a picture hidden within a picture? You ‘can’t see the wood for the trees’ and need to squint, gaze and stare until your eyes water. Eventually the elusive image springs out at you. That’s how this was.
There were no beams of light streaming from heaven – no voice resonating through parting clouds. It just seemed right, somehow.
It felt like a vital puzzle piece that had rattled around inside me all my life had finally ‘clicked’ into place.
Becoming a Christian didn’t place me on a road paved with gold, edged by sweet smelling roses. Far from it. The path I’d chosen was narrow and rocky. Eventually, I did hit a rock. I fell, and stumbled away from the church that had become my home, and those people who had been my family.
I was like a fragment of coal that had fallen from the fire onto the hearth. Other coals in the grate continued to glow, but my flame had died. God was with me but I was ignoring him.
My name had been written on His hand since before time, and He loved me as a Father should, yet I ignored Him for forty years.
In that time, the world changed irreversibly. In 2001 we had nine-eleven and war followed war; terrorist attacks, one after another, after another. Increasingly, populations became divided, communities ever-fearful, lives shattered and families broken.
By 2014 the uncontrolled epilepsy I’d suffered since 1966 had deteriorated to the point where I could no longer do my job. Daily seizures had long been making things intolerable, then they became impossible. I lost my job and could work no more.
Eventually, weighed down by burdens I could no longer carry alone, and in a world I no longer recognised, I realised that I needed reassurance, guidance and the protection I mentioned earlier. God’s protection and covering. I needed hope. I needed answers. I needed to return to my Heavenly Father.
By this point it was the summer of 2019. I rejoined the church, rekindled the flame of my faith – and the rest, as they say, is history. For I know I’m watching history being made on a scale I’ve never witnessed in my lifetime.
Despite the madness of our unfolding world, the chaos and instability, I now possess a sense of safety – an anchor to steady me as the storm rages all around. I have an assurance that only comes from knowing and having a relationship with God.
Skeptical readers who have had the stamina to read this far may ask why my God ever allowed me to suffer from epilepsy; why he allowed me to endure almost daily seizures that caused me so much pain and end my career, leading me eventually to where I am now. My answer to that is I don’t know – yet. What I do know is God is in control – and he has my back.
I know there has been a sound reason for all those things that have led me to this point in my life. This absolute and unshakable certainty gives me confidence, as well as a ‘hope’ for the future.
To use a military analogy, I consider myself to be a foot soldier in the army of God. Just as a front-line soldier may not be privy to the plans of his general, all I know is what small duty I must perform toward achieving an inevitable victory. I don’t need to see the plan, only my part in it.
What’s more, if you are reading this, it is perhaps because you were meant to.