I have believed in God since my school days, but life presented too many opportunities to have fun and do my own stuff to be tied down with religion. I have been churchgoer all of my life, but once I was old enough to understand what was being preached, my ‘auto-defence’ systems tried to block it out.
When I was at secondary school, I became more or less two different people. The first person (Matt to my school friends) was probably an ‘average’ teenager – swearing, drinking and smoking dope.
The second person, churchgoer Matt, was polite, did ‘Christian things’ and had Christian friends.
But I was feeling sick, keeping up a pretence. I knew what God thought of my lifestyle and that I should really be giving my life to him. But I didn’t really want to give up all the other stuff either.
This made me pretty miserable because my conscience wouldn’t let me enjoy all those things that were wrong in the sight of God. I started to consider my life a bit more seriously.
I never wanted anything more than to just be happy and enjoy myself. So if I couldn’t do this through drinking and so on, I thought perhaps if I became a Christian I could have a clear conscience and enjoy life again.
This didn’t happen though, and I continued in a rut for about two years – getting more depressed and introverted when I was alone and feeling even more ill at ease when I was at church.
In August 2000 I went on a five-day camping trip to the New Forest with some people from my church. I wasn’t even thinking of becoming a Christian any more. I just blocked all such thoughts out of my mind.
At camp, the man who was giving the morning talks gave us all a booklet. I read that if you want to be saved and be a Christian, you must confess your sins to God and trust Jesus as your personal Saviour. I knew this was something I had never done, and it made me feel bad inside.
Feeling of relief
As I got up on the last full day, I had a strange feeling that all was not normal – that something was happening to me. That night, as I spoke to others during a midnight walk, I was struck with a sense that what they had to say about Christ was real and vital – that they really had something that I was deeply lacking.
Late that night I sat alone after everyone else had gone to bed. I couldn’t go on this way, knowing the truth and blatantly ignoring it. I took a short walk down a hill into the mist and decided there and then that I wasn’t coming back again until I had met with God and my life was set straight.
I leant on a fence and prayed that God would help me be a Christian and put my faith wholly in Christ, because I knew from past failures that it was absolutely hopeless for me to do anything by my own willpower.
A feeling of relief came over me that I had never felt before. I knew then that God had forgiven me for all my obstinacy and sin against him, and that he was willing to accept me and keep me for ever.
As I walked back up the hill I turned around when I was nearly at the top. Looking back I could not see the fence where I had been praying because of the mist. I remember saying out loud: ‘My sin lies down there!’
I was changed from that day. I’m just thankful that God kept and spared me during 16 years of my life until he was ready to draw me to himself.