As a young boy in a large family of six, I had known a good upbringing in a caring and close-knit family. My parents had been devoted to us and gave us much moral direction. I was brought up to attend the local Anglican church, where I became a server or altar boy. I went regularly and was duly ‘confirmed’ in my early teens. I thought I was a Christian and had always been taught that I was.
At the age of sixteen I stopped going to church except on special occasions. I began to feel it was all a bit of a sham, although I still believed I was a Christian. At home I was hard working and outwardly good but, looking back, I was very self-centred and used people to my own ends. In my late teens I began to drink alcohol which I lacked ability to control. By the time I left home to study, alcohol had become an escape from the cares which burdened me. While studying dentistry, university life brought so-called freedom in searching for experience, pleasures and a purpose in life.
What is life about?
At the beginning of my second term, my father died at the age of fifty-two, and the bottom dropped out of my life. Only then did I appreciate how much my strong and devoted father had influenced and stabilised my life (for which I will be ever grateful). This was the beginning of a long search to find what life was all about.
Initially, I hid from reality in drink and busyness. Through contact with individuals from the Christian Union, I came to doubt my ‘Christianity’, but back at home my local vicar insisted I was truly a Christian. I tried to fill the void in my life through friendships and relationships. I read widely on ‘spiritual’ matters, including New Age, Spiritualism, Hinduism, etc., and also psychology and philosophy. I came to the conclusion that the answer lay in none of these but that ‘love’ was the answer. Later, as the Lord drew me to himself, I came to realise that it was not the emotion of human love which was the answer, but divine love, expressed through the life and death of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Who was Jesus Christ?
In a short space it is impossible to include all the ways in which God moved in my heart and drew me to himself, nor all the darkness revealed within my own life, but looking back it is like seeing the stepping stones which help you across a dangerous river. Some of the most important events I relate here.
Three years after qualifying I went on holiday to ‘find myself’, cycling around the highlands and islands of Scotland. On a train between Glasgow and Oban I met a young Canadian man, cycle-touring like myself, and in a cold railway carriage we talked for three hours. He related to me his Christian experience and recommended a book by C. S. Lewis – Mere Christianity. I found the book later and read it. One message marked itself indelibly on my mind. Jesus Christ could not just be a good man or moral teacher. From the words he spoke, he must either be a lunatic or a demon; or else he was in fact who he said he was, the Son of God.
I had never met anyone like Jesus
A short time later my brother-in-law advised me to get a New Testament and read it for myself. I bought one but I did not read it. I then went to work in Liverpool. During my time there, working in one of the hospitals, I came to know a Hindu doctor who seemed to know all about her religion and the meaning of the festivals, etc. God used this, and one particular weekend it was as if God spoke to me, ‘You say you are a Christian, but you do not know the first thing about Christianity’.
I started reading my New Testament immediately – and I can only put it like this: ‘I had never met anyone like Jesus before; so true, so wonderful’, and I knew from that time that Jesus was no ordinary good man, but was indeed the Son of God.
Every night that week I went to my room to read more of him, and from that reading I came to know three things: firstly, Jesus was calling me to a life of commitment to him; secondly, I needed a good teacher of the Word of God; and thirdly, I needed to fellowship with God’s people.
Even so, with this new knowledge, and although I started to witness and speak of Christ, I dared not commit my life into his hands. I knew my life would be drastically changed. It was some six months later I accepted an invitation to attend a small Independent Baptist Church in Fazakerley, Liverpool. I went along and the Word preached was the same as I had read: the same truth, the same Jesus. I went to the home of the pastor, Bill Pemberton, and told him of my life, the things on my heart, and asked him what I must do now. He showed me the way, that I must seek forgiveness for my sin, and that this Jesus could be my Saviour if I sought him, even at the age of twenty-nine, and in the year 1990. So that night I knelt in prayer with the pastor and his wife and asked the Lord to forgive me, and I gave my life to him.
In the following months I came to understand more and more my sinfulness, but at the same time his wonderful love, in seeking and saving me, and drawing me to himself. Now I seek to ‘show forth the praises of him who called me out of darkness into his marvellous light’.