I wish to record my everlasting thanks to our dear and gracious Lord God for drawing me to himself and saving me, nearly 50 years ago, when I was a young mother, with four children.
I didn’t even know what the words ‘born again’, and ‘being saved’ meant, as I had never heard them until a Christian lady knocked on my door one day and mentioned them.
How was it that I didn’t know their spiritual meaning? Well, for the first 21 years of my life, I had been brought up a strict Roman Catholic, convent-educated and knowledgeable in my religion.
Religion of fear
But then I met my husband, who was a rather nominal Anglican, but didn’t want to have to promise to bring up his children in what he described as a religion of fear; and certainly didn’t want a very large family!
He asked me if I would consider attending an Anglican church, and bought me an Anglican Prayer Book for me to see what Anglicans believe. Well, as I studied it, I felt I could agree with most of it, apart from its denial of the infallibility of the pope, and although my conscience wasn’t quite at ease about that, I always felt I would send for an RC priest if in danger of dying.
So we started attending our local parish church, but sadly, for the next ten years, I never once heard the gospel there, and I believed that it was my good works, and absolution at the end, that would admit me to heaven.
Yes, indeed, my birth religion did strike fear into the heart of a child. When I was five years old, I made my first communion and was instructed that I had to fast from the night before.
I remember being full of anxiety in case I swallowed a drop of water in cleaning my teeth, when I thought I would be in mortal sin until I could get to confession.
I was always frightened of dying in the night if I had missed Sunday mass, which was hardly ever, except on one occasion when, about seven years old, I had to trudge through deep snow by myself and eventually turned back, unable to go further.
The next day, I was severely reprimanded by my teacher, and told I should have done better. I couldn’t wait to get to confession and have the priest’s forgiveness the following week, and was terrified that I might not get there in time. But I had a very poor understanding of sin, and of forgiveness by God rather than the priest, and I knew nothing of heart religion.
Love of Jesus
Then, one day, my two older children came home from their junior school at Lakeside, in Cardiff, and asked if they could go to Sunday school, where Heath Evangelical Church had just started one on Sunday afternoons for the local children.
I refused at first, on the grounds that their ministers were not ordained by bishops, and didn’t wear robes. But eventually I had to give in, as they were being told about all the good things the children did, and the fun they had on outings, etc.
And so, the next Sunday, I took them and met the Sunday school teachers. I was immediately drawn to them all and hoped my children would grow up like them, but felt it was too late for me to learn the Bible, having been allowed to read only about the life of Christ. (When I was about eight, and ill in hospital, I had asked the priest who came to see me and hear my confession that I would love to have a Bible, only to be very coolly treated after that and told I had my mass book and didn’t need anything else.)
My children loved Sunday school, and started singing choruses at home, including ‘Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so’, and bringing home pictures with verses to colour.
Then one day, I was out for a walk with my neighbour, who said she didn’t believe in God. I looked at the sun and sky, for it was a beautiful summer’s day, and saw the flowers and trees about us, and thought, ‘How can she not believe in God who made all these things?’
And then I said to myself, ‘I believe in God, but my life is no different from hers’. That was the point where God opened my eyes to see that he is the creator of all things, and that I owed him my life and my love.
I believe that was when God awakened me, but it was some while later when one of my boys’ Sunday school teachers called on me and told me the meaning of those vital words, ‘You must be born again’. And soon afterwards I asked the Lord to save me, and he graciously did.
All praise be to his name, because, as his Word says in Titus 3:5, it is ‘not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit’.