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God’s gentleness

December 2013 | by Paul Ayers

I became a Christian at the age of 20, when I was a student at Falmouth College of Arts in Cornwall. I grew up in south Buckinghamshire, living with my mum and stepfather from the age of eight after my parents divorced and remarried.

I’m not from a religious background at all. The only time I went to church was at Easter and Christmas services, as part of a CofE primary school. I was taken along to Catholic services occasionally by my stepfather, when his two children came for the weekend.

So, I was never a naturally religious person. God changed my life in its deepest sense, because he brought me into personal relationship with himself.

At secondary school I can’t remember hearing the gospel at any time. By the time I was 17 and doing A-levels, I had developed problems with anxiety. I was inward-looking, selfish, moody and depressed.

Anxiety

I was avoiding school and had a bad experience taking a hallucinogenic drug with school friends. This made my anxiety and introversion worse. Then I had a major motorcycle accident on way home from school, in which I could easily have been killed, although it was just my leg that was run over by a van.

My anxiety and depression continued into higher education. I moved away from home to study a degree in Fine Art in Falmouth. Although it was exciting, it was also a nerve-racking time.

I was soon seeing the student welfare officer regularly about my anxiety. He was supportive and caring, but, looking back, humanistic therapies, though a welcome outlet to discuss my problems, couldn’t deal with the root of my problems — sin, self and alienation from God.

The Lord soon led me to several people on the same course who were Christians. These friends were genuine and caring, which I really needed in a strange town and unfamiliar territory. They were part of the Christian Union that had recently been re-started at college by one of them — Steve.

Steve converted from Roman Catholicism when he was 19 (he is now a Christian pastor). Quite often, when discussing various things, he’d end up bringing God’s perspective into it, which was unusual and even annoying and embarrassing.

He seemed a bit of a religious oddball. I realised that talking about God in everyday situations, not just church on Sunday, made me feel uncomfortable and I wished he wouldn’t do it. He talked about sin — my sin!

Yet, despite this tension, I was attracted to finding out more. Through our friendship, he told me about the gospel and invited me to CU meetings and church services. I was fairly interested in listening to all this with an open mind, but was comfortable with my position of sitting on the fence.

Decision

But God worked within me over about a year, convincing me that the gospel was true and that I had to make a decision about what I was going to do with Jesus Christ in my life.

Over the Christmas holidays in 1992 back home with my parents, after reading a Christian book about being changed on the inside, I phoned Steve and told him I sincerely wanted to know God for myself.

He said it was the best Christmas present he could hope for (he told me later that he had been giving up hope on me ever changing!).

My decision to be a Christian was a bit scary and surprising, but also natural and rational. I was excited, yet at peace. God had been drawing me towards himself, gently.

I was still confused about the role of Jesus Christ — why did I have to put my faith in him? It took me a while to understand that Jesus died for my sins, so that I could be forgiven, made right with God and be fit for heaven, rather than be judged in hell.

It’s difficult for us sometimes to see for ourselves the changes that God makes in our lives, but my Dad and his wife said that becoming a Christian had changed me for the better.

I was still an anxious person, too self-obsessed and selfish, but now had someone to look to outside myself, someone to serve and learn from. Becoming a Christian doesn’t mean conforming to a stereotype — I’m unique in God’s sight.

Rest

Jesus is recorded as saying, in Matthew 11:28-30, ‘Come to me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light’.

I was baptised after graduating in 1994 and became involved in the youth work of my church. My mum worried that I would never meet someone in a small church down there in Falmouth, but I met my future wife, Catherine, in that church, as we both served God in youth work. I have now been married for 14 years and have two lovely boys. Truly God is good to his people.

 

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Evangelistic