I was born into a family of four, with two brothers and one sister. My mother was a Christian and my father an atheist. We were taken to church by my mother and her parents, who were both strong believers. Through my teenage years, I continued to attend church.
When I went to university however, I faced many temptations and found myself unable to resist. I pushed aside my conscience and told myself that everything would be alright in the end.
Rugby was one of my passions and I signed a professional contract with Glasgow. It became a burning ambition to play for Scotland, an ambition that was fulfilled at all age levels. But I kept getting injuries and people would comment on my bad luck.
One guy joked that my body was rotten. Every time something bad happened to me I would immediately suspect it was a punishment for my immoral lifestyle. But I would say an insincere prayer and forget about it a couple of days later.
However, my conscience kept bothering me and I finally got sick of feeling guilty. I decided to start ignoring it.
They thought I was dying
I had everything it seemed – lots of free time, money, women, popularity, good physique. I was now in the full Scotland squad, and had a veterinary degree, a house, friends … everything I thought would make me happy.
But I was restless and dissatisfied – deep down I was not happy. I had become the type of person I had despised when I was about 17.
But I just ignored it – until Autumn 2005. I was about to go out to play against Munster and I said the Lord’s Prayer. This had become a tradition with me before each match – a safety net, as it were, just in case something really bad happened, so that I would still go to heaven.
I recognised the hypocrisy of thinking that all would be well if I said a ten-second prayer while during the rest of the week I would go back to my sins. Then the thought about injuries being related to my immoral lifestyle popped into my head again.
Deep down I was miserable and running away from my conscience. At the door of the dressing room I thought to myself, ‘If one more bad thing happens to me I’m going to turn back to God’.
Twenty minutes later I woke up in an ambulance. I had just suffered one of the worst head knocks witnessed on a rugby field. I had been knocked unconscious in a seemingly innocuous tackle but then went into a convulsive seizure and became violent and aggressive.
Newspapers described me as ‘bellowing like a bull’. Friends and teammates later said they thought I was dying. But I came through – God spared me.
When I got to the hospital, I realised what had happened. I was terrified – I now believed in God and knew he was angry. But I kept it to myself and started praying for forgiveness. I decided to change my life.
Reborn? What’s that?
But this proved harder than I had thought. I was a conceited, materialistic, gambling, womanising, dishonest sinner. Every time I tried to escape from my immoral lifestyle, it pulled me in deeper.
I became miserable and things in my life began to fall apart – I was plagued with injuries which made me play poorly, and I developed an STD. I started going to church – hoping it would make me feel so guilty I would eventually become a good person! But it made me feel worse – I knew what was right and what was wrong but I couldn’t stop myself from doing wrong.
I went to different churches, looking for a place where they sang the hymns I liked – I felt I should try to please God by singing his praises. I started reading the Bible and although I had my doubts I kept telling myself to believe it was the Word of God.
I got to the bit where Jesus said, ‘Unless one is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God’. I was scared. Reborn? What’s that? I didn’t have a clue what being reborn was – and that meant I wasn’t going to heaven! I found a book owned by my late grandparents and began to read it slowly. It was How to be born again by Billy Graham.
How can it change my life?
I heard about a Baptist church in Govan, Glasgow, through my Mum and went along. I always felt guilty going into churches – knowing I was about to shake hands with the guy at the door with the same hand I used for many different sins.
But I remembered the words of Jesus: ‘I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance’. It strengthened me. The place reminded me of the church where I was taken as a boy. I liked the hymns and the people were friendly. I remember they didn’t just ask about my job and where I lived etc.; they asked if I was a Christian. I said something like I was trying to get back into it.
What stuck with me most, however, was the sermon. The guy talked about the gospel – the good news that Jesus is the Son of God who came into this world to die for our sins.
I thought, ‘Yeah; OK. I’ve heard that since I was a wee boy. I think it’s true but how is it going to change my life?’
Then the guy said, ‘You have to believe it with all your heart and ask Jesus into your heart to be the Lord of your life’. I thought, ‘Oh. I’ve never done that’.
I realised what it would mean. I sat there and remembered the description of Rugby union international Inga Tuigamala, which I had read in Jason Robinson’s autobiography. I remembered how he was described as being always happy.
I wanted that but I also wanted all the pleasures of this world that I had access to. But I knew that, deep down, they did not make me happy. I could see that the road I was going down was leading to misery and ultimately hell. I could see that the other way was ultimately far better.
I wanted evidence
I was scared of giving my soul to someone else. But I believed that Jesus was who he said he was and that he was good – so he would look after me. I also recognised that if I was going to ask Christ into my heart, there would be no room for my sinful desires – I couldn’t hide them away secretly somewhere in my mind.
I realised the only way forward was to sacrifice my whole being to Christ and give him my life. When I got home, and over the next few weeks, I asked Jesus into my heart and prayed and prayed and prayed for him to make me born again.
I wanted evidence of Jesus in my life. I had to stop giving in to temptations and sinning the old sins – sins that gave momentary pleasure followed by longer and longer periods of depression. I needed to repent.
I wanted to follow Jesus and kept reading his words: ‘If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it’.
I saw that following Jesus was truly the only way to life. I finally understood what he meant when he said, ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me’.
After a few weeks, I realised that my life had changed and it was Jesus who had done it. I had tried for ages to change my own life and resist temptation, but I had always failed. But now, suddenly, everything had changed. It was like being a prisoner who had been set free. That’s something only Jesus Christ could have brought about.
I understood that he had truly died on the cross for my sins – he had taken them all upon himself, leaving me completely clean. I was no longer scared of dying and I was filled with a joy that nothing since has come close to rivalling.
Jesus saved me. Jesus made me born again. Jesus is my Saviour. And he can be your Saviour too if you will believe. Joseph was told, ‘You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins’ (Matthew 1:21).
Praise almighty God for his love, grace and mercy – bestowed upon us through the gift of his only Son.