I’m about to embark on my new life as a Christian, which is an amazing but rather scary prospect as I know I have so much to learn. Thank goodness for everlasting grace! I had never imagined myself making this decision, but now it seems like the most natural step to take. My road to this point began 3 years' ago. Looking back, I see I was offered other opportunities to let God into my life, but I wasn’t listening.
I was grieving following bereavement and lost and changing relationships. My life was broken and I had felt disconnected for years. I had lost trust in all but a handful of people, including myself. I felt fearful and suffocated and wondered what my purpose was in the world. I’ve always sought to find a balance in all things, but I lost the ability to do that for myself, although I tried various self-help books and development training to improve myself! The Christians amongst you will be smiling now! I’ve got rid of the books. The best mindfulness training is reading and understanding the Bible.
How did this transformation begin? I realised that I needed help to find some meaning in my life, to regain some perspective and to deal with the perpetual suffering that weighed so heavily on my shoulders. It began with a Christian friend’s wedding in Birmingham in March 2012, which set off a train of events starting with a visit to Eden in October 2012. I love learning and while I hadn’t been able to concentrate on anything for a while, I was immediately absorbed and inspired by Julian’s sermon - I hadn’t experienced a sermon based solely on the Bible before.
I signed up immediately for the next Explore course – well 4 of them actually - to learn more. I looked forward to the meetings and studied beforehand to get the most out of them (although you don’t have to). It was a great introduction to what Christianity is about. It was also at this time that my older brother, who had become a Christian later in life, died from cancer before I could discuss his decision to become a Christian with him. Why didn’t I do it before he became ill? Another opportunity missed.
I was compelled to read more after Explore and in January 2014 started to read avidly with 2 wonderful friends from Eden who offered to study with me. We’ve read 4 books together so far, the first of which was ‘Cross Examined’. With their support and encouragement, and answers to some good questioning from me, apparently, they helped me to grasp why Christ had to die such a terrible death on the cross – how it was pre-ordained and controlled by God, not Pontius Pilate, and how it changed how we interact with God. Jesus' sacrifice meant that I could be forgiven and set free to live life to the full NOW. I just couldn’t get it before.
This was a huge step which changed the landscape for my continued search for knowledge and understanding. The I AM sayings of Christ in John’s Gospel came next and I was struck by the different imagery, especially ‘I am the Good Shepherd’ who knows his sheep by name and who cares for every one of them - as in the parable of the Prodigal son. That struck a chord.
Three months later I came to listen to Dave Burke during the Passion for Life weekend at Eden. He spoke intelligently, sensitively and in a very matter of fact way about trusting in God and taking the next step – I was definitely a step by step person, as he told me he had been when I spoke to him afterwards. His argument was compelling and it stayed with me. He also gave me a prayer which I said each night as I was having problems trying to pray.
On a trip north to see my Mum who was experiencing changes in her life which would affect us all, I listened intently to Pilgrim’s Progress which had been leant to me. I was upset and fearful. By the time I got to the end I knew I wanted a relationship with Jesus. I prayed for Mum and me. We had a lovely weekend. I was given a pocket-sized copy of John’s Gospel at Eden, and I took it away with me (with a copy of the White Queen) to recuperate in Northumberland for a few days. I was unwell for most of the time but I started reading John and couldn’t put it down. I felt warm inside and knew I wasn’t on my own.
I now realised that I needed to put my trust in God by putting Him at the centre of my life. I envisaged a circle with a G in the middle and put an ‘S’ to the side. It was dynamic – it lifted the weight off my shoulders that had been growing for so long and I found peace. It put my life into perspective so that I can continue to grow and deal with the challenges that lie ahead.