For me, religion was not Christianity – it was football. During the long summer months, from eight in the morning until eight at night, it was football, building dens and going fishing. Religion was the last thing on my mind.
At school, the Religious Education teacher was always mocked. They taught evolution in one class then a Bible story in the next. It was just not compatible. We are all monkeys, I thought, so who is this strange God they talk about?
When I left school I became a bricklayer – it came easier than English or Maths. I settled into this trade.
When work started so did drinking. Jesus Christ was now mentioned in every sentence – as a swear word. I became ‘one of the men’. Before I had been shy and reserved but not now! I could talk because I had drink in me. But with drink came self-centredness. This was a brave new world and I would conquer it alone.
That lost feeling
Fed up in Scotland, London beckoned with its streets of gold. Have you seen Pinocchio? I was right there with those boys – going to pleasure island, drinking, smoking, fighting and cheating. What fun! But just like those kids I became the donkey that would do anything for a quick thrill.
Returning home to Scotland I went on pubbing and clubbing, but sadness was written all over my face. I remember on many nights walking home looking up to the stars and saying, ‘Is this it; is there nothing else for me?’
These days were a mixture of pleasure and sadness. A song I remember playing on a juke-box was, I still haven’t found what I am looking for, by U2. My sadness just seemed to grow heavier, because the more you become addicted to something the more you lie and cheat to keep that addiction going.
Everywhere I went was the same – that lost feeling. Nothing ever filled the emptiness within.
A broken man
Back in Scotland, and approaching my thirtieth birthday I had nothing – no money, no house, no relationship; only drink. It was going to be a hard winter. Then a man started talking to me at work as no one had ever done before. This was strange because in the building trade no one talks like that.
After many months he invited me to go to church. Being an open type, I accepted. The people there were certainly different from what I expected – they were somehow real.
Then out of the blue he phoned. There was a Kairos meeting on that night. ‘What’s that?’ I asked. ‘It’s for people like you, addicts and hurting people’, he replied. That was a bit strong, but true.
That night God put his hand upon my life. The man preached about repentance. He spoke about being forgiven, having the slate wiped clean, your sins being remembered no more. And all because Christ had died and risen again.
But what about my lying and cheating – sins so many that I could not count? Forgiveness seemed impossible. This stuck like a knife into my heart as I thought about this Jesus whom I had cursed all my life. I was a broken man.
But when God lifts you up, and deals with you in his gracious and merciful way, you become soft like clay. From that night Jesus was never again a curse word but the name of a Saviour in whom I now delight.
With kind permission of Free Church Witness