Overwhelmed by joy
Bill Ramsden is 58, happily married to Ann. He spent much of his time on the road with his business, where he made a life-changing discovery a few years ago. He takes up the story.
In July 2005 I was on vacation in Italy with my wife. We had met up with our good friends, Geoff and Judy Farnell. We were sailing on Lake Garda on a pleasure boat, enjoying the scenery and the wonderful view. Geoff is a long-standing friend, has a strong faith and is the pastor at a church at Ainsdale.
As I took in the scenery, I struck up a conversation about how ‘all this couldn’t just have happened’. I had often thought about the origin of life – it’s one of the things that gets more acute as you get older.
We talked about the mysteries of life and Geoff shared his thoughts about the creation with me. That was it. We got off the boat and returned to our respective resorts, the holiday ended and we went home, back to Ormskirk.
Back to my life on the road; driving and staying in hotels; moving from one client to the next; returning home each Friday and back on the road again on Sunday. That’s been my life for almost as long as I can remember.
I’d been home for a couple of weeks and then found myself in yet another hotel just outside London. I had gone through the same ritual that I went through every time: checked in, rang home, unpacked and was about to head for the bar and restaurant. As I left the room, I bumped into an open drawer and stooped to close it. There in the drawer was a Gideon Bible.
For some reason I stopped and took the book. For some strange reason I began to read it – I don’t know why but I just did. It must have been thirty minutes later that I decided to ring my good friend Geoff – I was sure he would know where to point a beginner in the Bible. As I replaced the receiver I went to the Gospel of John, as Geoff had suggested, and began to read.
I don’t know how long I sat there but I got to chapter 8, the story of the adulterous woman. This is what I read: ‘When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her”. Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
‘At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no-one condemned you?” “No-one sir”, she said. “Then neither do I condemn you”, Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin”.’
Immediately after reading these verses I was overwhelmed with a feeling of forgiveness and joy. It is just not possible to put it into words. I felt as though all my sins had just been forgiven, as if Jesus had touched my heart. It was simply indescribable. I was weeping uncontrollably and didn’t know why. I felt ecstatically happy but didn’t understand why.
I rang Geoff to tell him what had happened. We had a brief conversation and then I rang off to continue reading my new book – the Gideon Bible. I remember saying to Geoff that I wasn’t sure what had happened or indeed why, but one thing I do remember saying very clearly was that he could ‘sign me up’ and I would be at church next Sunday.
I have found my God, or, more to the point, he came to me. I was and still am a sinner. I can think of millions of others more deserving than I – but Jesus came to me to save me.
He made me and now he has saved me. So many things have happened since to make me absolutely sure that Jesus is my Saviour. He talks to me; he helps and guides me; and sometimes he admonishes me. But I know that he is constantly there for me and will always be there.
I’m sure Jesus would have come to me sooner or later – but it happened one night, in a hotel room because I read the Bible, put there by the Gideons.
This testimony was first published in the Gideon news