Tuesday, December 11, 2012

My Story and Journey to Faith

Note from the Author: This narrative, or Testimony, has been completely re-written from its original published form. This was one of the first things I ever wrote on my Blog and as an inexperienced blogger I was so eager to share my story, that I included some unnecessary details and wrote it in such a way that some of the parties mentioned took some considerable offence when they read it years later. That was never my intention and I deeply regret the insensitive way I presented certain facts. I have endeavoured to re-write this taking out certain details that were not necessary to the narrative. That being said there are certain facts that are necessary to share, are obviously public knowledge, but may still make uncomfortable reading for some involved. It is never comfortable for us to read about the impact our past decisions and choices have had on others. I reiterate that in sharing my story the intention is, that those who have faced similar experiences may find hope and be encouraged, not to point a finger. This is what, in my experience, has happened when I have shared what is written below and when it has been heard by those of similar experience. 


So Why/How did I come to a point of calling myself a Christian?

I guess the easiest way to answer that question is to give some background to me. Sorry this is quite long but stick with it!

Early Years

I grew up in a non church going family, apart from the annual trips to my local C of E church at Christmas and Easter. I guess I always believed in God as a child. I had been told He existed and knew some of the story of Jesus through school nativity and RE lessons etc... My early pre-teen childhood was a pretty standard Middle Class upbringing. I was educated in the private school system with very little negative aspects to my school or home life. Up to the age of twelve I would decribe my childhood as a 'normal' (whatever that is), for the most part happyish experience. 

Then one Friday evening my Dad took me for a drive and told me he was moving out to live with another woman. This was obviously initially a huge and very devastating shock to me and he moved out that evening. As time went by however, I got used to him not being around and for several months I would visit him every Saturday.

Teenage Years - The Dive into Depression

Eventually I left my primary school and started at an all boys public school at age 13. This meant being at school on Saturday so I stopped seeing my dad so regularly.  The main contact being our weekly phone calls.

During my first year at public school the bullying started. This started with mainly name calling and general nastiness. Constant and unrelenting verbal digs which started to get very wearing over time and made my life utterly miserable. This from my year group as well as people from school years above. The second year this eased a little but this was just the calm before the storm. During my 'O' level year the bullying intensified with three people largely responsible and one in particular. He took it upon himself to make my life hell. In class, in the dayroom, every where. Costantly being told 'I was ugly', 'no one would ever love me', 'I'd never get anywhere' and such like. Being pushed and shoved, stalked almost and wherever I went it was relentless.

Eventually I used to just pack my bag full of books for the whole mornings class and then run back at lunchtime, missing lunch, to get in to the dayroom and out before everyone came back. My study books were defaced repeatedly and no one did anything to stop it. I felt utterly alone, isolated and helpless as none of the teachers seemed to care or notice. Only one person stood by me during this time and didn't get involved in it all. My thanks always to you Mr P.

One incident sticks in my mind so clearly. I was in the 5th form dayroom and trying to ignore the comments when the main antagonist picked up a chair and started poking me with it in the back. I stood with my back to him for a while gritting my teeth getting more and more angry. Suddenly I turned round and ripped the chair from him and raised it with every intention of slamming it through his skull. Something in that split second stopped me and I put it down and walked out. I knew if I had let go of the rage I would have killed him. The anger was so strong within I would not have stopped beating him with it. I must never let it out!

Thankfully I am not sure I paticularly internalised the negative things being spoken over me, in believing the lies, but intead it just fuelled the intense anger within me. Instead of feeling the hurt and pain of parental Divorce and non stop bullying Anger served to protect me from those deep rooted feelings. I would escape into a fantasy world where I was the hero and severe justice would be metered out at these people. To age me I was into Rambo, Dirty Harry and Miami Vice to name a few. 

As I am sure it is obvious that old adage 'Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me' is total and utter nonsense. At least physical bullying is obvious, scars on the outside so to speak and can be dealt with. The scars left by verbal abuse are all internal and no one can see them.

I survived my 5th form year and got average 'O' level results.

Over this period my relationship with my Dad and his partner deteriorated over a particular incident to the point of me refusing to speak to him. My very angry, deeply hurt and very proud adolescent self seized an opportunity to hit back. To my Dad's credit he did persist in ringing when I persisted in refusing to talk to him.

Then during that late summer of 87 I started to develop severe acne on my back and face. I am not talking about teenage spots I am talking very severe chronic acne. With swollen back and face and weeping sores. I would wake up stuck to my pillow. Sitting on chairs was painful when I sat back etc... Fortunately 2 of the main 3 people who bullied me left and the other person grew up a little as there were girls in our 6th form at the time. However that fact of girls made me feel all the worse and I walked everywhere looking down, avoiding the gaze of anyone. I felt ugly and hated the fact children stared and made comments to their parents out loud when I was out in public. After seeing a skin specialist I was put on 6 tablets a day of a drug called Roaccutane, to deal with the acne. They made me tired and dried my skin out. They did eventually bring down the swelling and dried up the condition after 6 months of taking them. Leaving my skin red for a long time and scarred for life!

Also, over the summer of 87, a friend who I had known since I was 2 came back from Ireland and along with the aforementioned Mr P. and another good friend we got into playing music. Saturday nights were jam sessions, drinking and occasional dabbles in other things. I got drunk to numb the pain and not think about things for a while. There was no question that I was depressed. My good friend Mr B has said since that I was horrible to be with over that period, as anyone who has known a person in depression will know. But I thank God to this day they stuck by me and accepted me anyway! Thanks guys!

When God comes Calling!
During some of the aforementioned rough times I had started having the occasional chat to the sister of my 3rd friend Mr M (are you keeping up? ). She had become a Christian at university and she showed me immense kindness. I just felt she cared a lot.

So by this time this leads us into the New Year of 88/89. My three friends and I were invited to a New Years eve party of some people who were friends of the person who led my mate's sister to God. I didn't know what to expect at this party. It was full of Christians who were very friendly etc and I spotted a person I knew from school. Someone who had always been friendly to me and not got involved with the bullying! Whilst there I also noticed a particular girl a few times. I didn't speak to her but chatted to a few folks who were nice and seemed to just care, so different to the type of people I was used to seeing at school. I found out a lot of them went to a Christian youth group called Crusaders and some of them to a church just up the road from my house.

A couple of weeks later I plucked up the courage to visit this church one Sunday evening and walked in on a Baptismal service. Several members of the youth group were getting baptised. I had never heard young people talking about God or Jesus or about being able to have a relationship with Him. It was a bit freaky I have to say, especially as this was full immersion baptism and not something I had ever witnessed. I didn't like it when the pastor said during his sermon that people need Jesus rather than leaning on other things. One of which being music which was a big factor in my life. I didn't really understand what he meant but it annoyed me enough to tell him at the end. At the end I also noticed the girl I had seen at the party. I, out of character for me, went and chatted to her. She was the same age as me and doing A levels like me. As we left I for some reason noticed what car she was driving and that was that. Though having got her name at the time I looked it up in the phone book as you do (No I am not a mad stalker! ).

The week after, my Granddad died and after the funeral I was out riding around on my motorbike as I used to do and found myself in the general area of this girl's road, suddenly I recognised the car the girl had been driving parked outside a house. I know again this sounds horribly like I was stalking her but out of the blue I went and knocked on the door. She was there and invited me in for a cup of tea. I started telling her about my life and woes and she listened intently and when I left she gave me a book to read called Run Baby Run by Nicky Cruz. I started reading it and it affected me deeply. It is about a young gang leader in the Bronx who is eventually led to Christ. His journey touched me deeply. His feelings of anger, loneliness and isolation even around people spoke to me. During the part of the book where he becomes a Christian and breaks down weeping I did the same, which freaked me out at the time as I didn't know why. I went to the church that Sunday and talked to the Pastor and the girl again. I was being told about a God who loved me unconditionally, who totally accepted me, died on a cross for my sins and who I could have a real living relationship with. He was standing at the door knocking, I only had to let him in.

So on 1st February 1989 I gave my life to Christ sitting in the office of the Pastor of the church.

I remember walking home afterwards. I felt light, like a weight had been lifted from me, cliched I know but true. I knew a love in my heart never before experienced. The unconditional love of the God of the Universe. He loved little old me! He was my Dad, my Lord and friend. I was no longer depressed like I was. I had hope for the first time in my life!

I wish I could say that everything was all fine after that but that is not the reality of being a Christian. I started to have to deal with issues of forgiveness and restoration associated with family and schooling. Not a quick and easy thing to do I have to say. The desire to hold on to our hurts is very strong but God has been gracious to me over the years in dealing with my heart and my attitude to people. It is a lifelong journey this Christianity. Learning about my identity as an adopted son of the Living God, releasing pain and anger over time, being healed. The consequences of my teenage years are still impacting my life even now as it all takes time but God is gracious and merciful in His dealings with His children. Thank you Lord for rescuing me from the slimy pit. (Psalm 40)!

And that folks is the story of God coming calling! Of God stepping into my life and saving a very lost soul. I have now been a Christian some 23 years. It is not always easy and sometimes it can be very hard. However my life has been forever changed. I know I can always fall back on the knowledge that God loves me unconditionally with a Love so incredible that I can never fully grasp it. That is where my security, significance and self worth come from. God is the most beautiful satisfying Treasure in the Universe and source of all pure Joy. In the most blessed times and the most terrible sorrowful times God is always the most glorious being in the Universe to me. Worthy of my love and worship whatever happens in my life.

Even if you cannot relate to anything I have shared please consider that you need your sins forgiven and that is only possible through a living personal relationship with the one true Lord Jesus Christ, who paid an unimaginable price to make a way for you to know God. God is knocking at the door of your life and I plead with you to open it (Revelation 3:20)

ps: No I never went out with the girl!

Monday, October 08, 2012

Out in the Desert but not Alone!

Well I thought I would dust off the cobwebs of this here blog and write something since it is a ridiculous amount of time since I last posted anything.

Just thought I would share briefly where I am at. Yes I know you probably don’t care but it is simply for the reason of sharing two songs that I find so helpful when I am spiritually as dry as a bone baking in the desert sun. Which I am right now! We all go through dry times at various points in our spiritual walk and I am certainly no exception. In fact for me it is more a rule than an exception. Sometimes I am there out of my own doing because I am lazy and sinful and often chose the easy worldly options to feel better than the Road Less travelled of spiritual discipline in prayer and meditation on the Bible. Sometimes life kicks you there unexpectedly and before long you are walking round in circles in the sand. Currently both of those are probably true. I got kicked here at the beginning of the year and have stayed there because of the aforementioned.

So what keeps me going in these parched and weary lands that I walk far too often. Firstly the grace of God. Simply if God did not keep me I would have walked away years ago. He sustains me somewhere deep down and stops me from walking away. Where else would I go? (John 6:66-69)

However I have two songs that I find bring me light in the darkness of the soul. First is the aptly titled ‘Desert Song’ by Hillsong. It is an honest statement of declaring praise to God in the midst of hunger and thirst and in spite of it. It reminds me not to rely on my feelings and to rest on the truth of who God is. Take my eyes of circumstances and lift them to the one who sustains all things.

Second song is ‘In Christ Alone’ by Stuart Townend. There is not a greater recent song that declares such deep biblical truth as this does. From beginning to end it encapsulates the Gospel of Jesus Christ so succinctly. For that reason alone it brings water to my soul and reminds me of the profound truth that I am saved by Grace Alone, through Faith Alone in Christ Alone! That is the rock upon which I stand knowing nothing I do can change that truth. How I feel does not change that truth. I cannot earn salvation so I need to flippin well stop acting like I can.

Anyway from one traveller to another I commend these songs to you. The Versions in the You Tube videos are by Natalie Grant simply because I like these versions best! Read the Words and listen to the songs and bathe in the eternal truths of scripture!

Desert Song

This is my prayer in the desert
When all that’s within me feels dry
This is my prayer in my hunger and need
My God is the God who provides
This is my prayer in the fire
In weakness or trial or pain
There is a faith proved of more worth than gold
So refine me Lord through the flame

CHORUS:

I will bring praise, I will bring praise
No weapon formed against me shall remain
I will rejoice, I will declare
God is my victory and He is here
This is my prayer in the battle
When triumph is still on its way
I am a conqueror and co-heir with Christ
So firm on His promise I’ll stand

CHORUS

BRIDGE: All of my life in every season
You are still God
I have a reason to sing
I have a reason to worship

CHORUS

This is my prayer in the harvest
When favour and providence flow
I know I’m filled to be emptied again
The seed I’ve received I will sow

 

In Christ Alone

In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
this Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
when fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone! who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones he came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied -
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave he rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine -
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand.