Knowing God personally
I became a Christian when 13-14 years old, but the journey began a long time before. We regularly attended church and prayed together as a family. There were a couple of kindly older sisters who lived on our street, who would sometimes take me to church.
I was often arguing with siblings, classmates or teachers but I was also reflective. For example, after an argument, I found myself thinking about conflict and hate. I reasoned that total destruction was its logical outcome and realised something in us needs to change.
Our church was without a vicar and we visited another church for a time. There was a weekly CofE newsletter which had a humorous cartoon about a character called Len and his conversations with God. Reading this, I became intrigued by the idea of God as a friend.
Eventually a new vicar plus 50 people joined our church from a different congregation. Some of these people would raise their hands in worship; and God was explained in personal terms like ‘abba’ (Aramaic for ‘daddy’). This stirred up questions in me about knowing God on a one-to-one basis.
This was a period too when I would start to cry as soon as worship started, but didn’t understand why. I didn’t fully understand or remember sermons. My mother had always encouraged Bible reading, but there were parts of the Bible I couldn’t get my head around.
Eventually, I asked God to help me. Then I began to understand the Bible and the preaching more. In fact, there were times when the talks given covered what I had only just read. In addition, a lady in the congregation met with me to read, discuss the Bible and pray together.
At secondary school, talking about faith and belief came up quite naturally. My friends and I discussed the question, ‘Aren’t all faiths the same?’
I remember thinking that I didn’t want to win arguments, but to speak the truth. At the same time, I reasoned: ‘If religion is about being good, then do we need God, since being good is human nature? Doesn’t religion cause wars and separate people?’
That led me to question what was unique about ‘my’ faith and this, in turn, pointed me to Jesus Christ.
There was a boy at my school known as ‘The Christian’. Some people poked fun at him, but he was essentially likeable, genuine and good. Sometimes though, he seemed a bit ‘weird’. For example, he would randomly make profound statements about God, but I still listened to him.
One day he pulled me aside and began an intense conversation. After some questioning, he told me that I wasn’t a Christian. I felt a rush of indignation. But then at night, I found myself crying and asking the real God to show himself to me.
I used to visit an older sister at university. Apart from generally hanging out with fun, older girls, we discussed faith. She encouraged and challenged me about life, the Bible and faith.
As time went on, I noticed a change in me that I had failed to bring about. It was, I realised, the Holy Spirit at work in me.
Things I would have responded to badly in the past no longer bothered me and family relationships improved. There was also a moment when I was reading a typical teenage book and was suddenly impacted by an overwhelming sense of God’s love and joy.
I began to talk to God more and see my prayers answered. God was with me and I wanted to express my gratitude by serving him. Life has its challenges, but my story with Christ continues, by his grace.