I came to a personal knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ on 11 April 1984 at the age of thirteen. I was attending a typical ‘church camp’ in Yorkshire for teenagers and ‘twenty-somethings’.
Quite naively I had thought that sixteen would be a good age to ‘become a Christian’. It was on my list of things to do as I grew up. Like almost every Christian, I had no inkling that I had been graciously and personally chosen to salvation until it happened to me.
There were many of us at the camp, all good friends with a broad mix of upbringing and backgrounds. I was taken completely by surprise, however, when a girl was converted on about the fifth night. She had only been attending church and the young peoples group for a couple of months.
Something quite profound happened to my thinking when this happened. The adults were delighted, in a way that left me hearing their words but not knowing, or being able to participate in, their joy.
It was frankly unsettling, like being ten minutes too late for someone’s wedding. I felt false and guilty and realised that I was missing something.
All I knew was that my life of just going to church and knowing all those stories had to add up to something more. I was quite certain about the truth of God and the Bible, but it now began to affect me for the first time.
I can remember thinking that if Jesus Christ were to return to judge the world that night, I did not have what I needed to stand before God and go to heaven.
A huge sense of urgency overcame me and I prayed with a sincerity and earnestness I had never thought possible. I asked God that I too might be forgiven; that I might really know that Jesus had died for me also.
I also recall praying at about the age of seven or eight after feeling dissatisfied with my parents best attempts to answer my question ‘how do you know you’re a Christian?’ But I had never felt a certainty or peace like this before.
Life as a Christian has been a long series of stumbles and tough scrambles over life’s terrain. I think other Christians will nod their heads in agreement. but God has led me all the way.
I’ve learned to see that all our circumstances and decisions are linked together. There is a plan for each of us, a route our life has to take. My path has led through exams, jobs, relationships, university, teaching, living abroad and marriage.
Some doors close but others always open. It has been both thrilling and reassuring to discover that God has his hand on the handles of those doors. My testimony is that God really does love me like a father; in fact he loves us like a father and mother together.
Signals of blessing
After two years teaching in Darlington I was accepted to teach in a brand new English school in northern Spain. I was amazed (and terrified!) that I had got the job, since I knew next to nothing about Spain.
Yet the adventure was compelling. I felt that being invited, and subsequently passing the interview, were signals of God’s blessing on the venture. Before I knew it, I was there.
The first month was awful. I felt trapped in a situation where I was not even sure how I would get back home – what were the words to book a flight in Spanish?
Yet I can look back and see how God provided all I needed, with friends, companions and a marvellous three years in a country I still miss. More than that, he wanted me to meet my future wife.
She was converted within ten months of our meeting and even now we talk about how the Lord has blessed us in our marriage. I thank God for the doors he’s opened as well as for the ones he’s shut.