Who am I? You won’t see my face on TV, won’t read my name in the papers. There was no media interest on the day of my birth, nor is there likely to be on the day of my death.
And yet there is now something about me that defies explanation, something at work within that is not of this earth, a power so extraordinary that it can only be described as supernatural!
I think my mother noticed it first. She would enter my bedroom after I had left it and a strange and hitherto unknown sight would greet her eyes — a made bed! And who had dried up all the dishes in the kitchen? Surely not her eldest son! Was that possible?
‘Unimpressive’, you say, but that is because you cannot see what’s going on under the surface. It’s like my brain had been completely rewired! Whereas before my thought processes would have been completely selfish — ‘Do I want to do it?’ ‘Can I get away with’ it? — now I can no longer cheat or lie without my conscience giving me a good kicking! I’m not at the centre of my universe anymore; God is.
So where did this notion of God come from? Well, I’ve always believed in God. My dad was the pastor of a church, and I had to sit through his sermons every Sunday, from when I was expected to sleep through them up to the age where this is generally frowned upon. But believing in God as a young boy made about as much difference to life as believing in girls — they both existed, but there didn’t seem much point to them!
I can’t say when what I heard preached from the Bible first had a real impact on me, but I know that I went through a stage of being really worried about dying. Although most people seem to deal with the awful reality of death by ignoring it, this is not a strategy that works well in other areas of life: exams, work deadlines, mortgage repayments, etc.
And, unsurprisingly, God’s book never says that ‘eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die’ is a good way to live. Rather, it urges all to make their peace with God, through Jesus, while they still have time.
Why did I, as a child, need to make peace with God? I was born with the attitude that I was more important than anyone else; if I wanted anything, I should take it; if my brother wouldn’t give me it, I should take it by force. Everything that is wrong with the world can be traced back to this attitude.
The Bible tells me that I must be sorry for the way I’ve behaved and turn to live for Jesus. I was sorry and I didn’t want God to send me to hell. I was scared stupid of going to a place of unending darkness, torment and regret, in which there was no love, no hope and no escape.
For a long while, I worried that God hadn’t heard my prayers. Eventually I told my parents that I had become a Christian. This upped the stakes, because now they would expect better behaviour from me. Then I was asked, by Colin, the youth leader, to tell others in the group how I had become a Christian.
I chickened out! I did get baptised, to show publicly that I had committed to follow Christ (my future wife got baptised on the same day, but I wouldn’t sit next to her — she is a girl after all!), but I still had doubts that I was a real Christian.
Some years later, I had another opportunity to stand up in front of a youth group and tell how I’d been saved. This time I took it, desperate not to let Jesus down again. From then on, my relationship with God has gradually progressed from one of merely fearing his judgement to a point where I really want to follow Christ.
There was a time when I thought I’d enjoy life now and make my peace with God later. What a fool I was!
But now picture a man whose life is looked after by God, no matter how often he messes up: that is what I now have as a Christian! Yes, the plan may not be that I become a famous author, able to play football into my 80s and enjoy 70 years of blissful married life surrounded by loving friends, children and grandchildren. But, as a child of God, I know that his Spirit is moulding me to be the best I can be, and the Lord’s plans always come off.
Even as I wrote this, my mother was dying of brain cancer, and she is now with the Lord. But even this sadness can’t take away my joy. She has peace with God through Jesus Christ and is with him for ever.
I know that I will see her again and that, when I do, we will be in a world where there are no tears, no goodbyes, and everything is as it was meant to be. What a future!