Here’s the story of my journey to faith. I was one of five children — the only boy. I guess you could say that I was brought up in a religious family insomuch as it was a norm to walk to church three times each Sunday!
But that was as far as religion went in our family at that time, as far as I can remember. My father struggled with alcohol dependency, which resulted in his early death at the age of 44, when I was 13-years-old.
It was at this time that I first started to form my own personal assessment of ‘religion’. As a family of five young children and a widowed mother, we lived on a widow’s benefit and child benefit (not that I was aware of these income streams at the time).
All I know is that it was a struggle for us as a family in a council house, with no father bringing home the bacon, or anything else!
In the immediate aftermath of my father’s death, I vividly remember going to church and thinking of all the hypocrisy, as I saw it. It appeared to me that all the women were there in their fine hats and coats, only to look at what all the other women were wearing, and with no real interest in the message being preached.
But I do remember that the offering was put into little envelopes with a number on. This number was linked to a particular family name in order that the church could keep track of who gave what, in order to publish the amounts in an annual book.
How insensitive, I thought! Feeding people’s pride and embarrassing the poor. It was this that gave me the sense of hypocrisy. With this injustice in my head, I turned away from church and condemned ‘religion’ to the dustbin of my mind.
I then became a rebellious teenager — probably a ‘hoodie’ in today’s language. I would be out till all hours of the night and drinking to excess, with no interest in anything religious.
Then, when I was married and we had our own children, I started to realise that I seemed to know right from wrong, and that this was something I had learnt in church.
This caused me to ask myself the question, where will my children learn right from wrong? Not right and wrong on the horizontal level (though that was important), which could be taught by us as parents, but the right and wrong of good and evil and the Ten Commandments; about God and everything else.
The answer was simple — take them to church. And so it was that we went to church with our three children. This was made easy by the parents of our children’s friends, who invited us to a children’s activity evening at the church.
I then started attending church every Sunday (with my wife) and we both realised that we kept on needing to go back to hear more each week. This was the beginning of an awakening in our hearts and minds of the love of God towards mankind in general and to us in particular.
It was also an awakening of our need of a Saviour. God spoke to us through the preaching, until the point where we both separately and yet at the same time sought forgiveness from God in quiet prayer. Life has never been the same since!
As a born-again Christian, I have seen how the world only makes sense when we understand the big picture: that God really exists; he created the earth and humankind; and that we are all naturally sinful, and there is no hope for us or anyone else without the love of God and the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, who died for our sins. He is the only way to be cleansed and made right with God.
I may now look like a nice respectable person attending church every Sunday, but in reality I am no better than anyone else. I am not perfect, but I trust in the perfection of Christ and not in anything I can do to earn God’s favour myself.