I’m very fortunate to have Christian parents but, although I’ve been going to church all my life, I didn’t become a Christian myself until a few years ago. I think I’ve always really enjoyed church although I couldn’t wait to leave Sunday school and, despite my mum’s best efforts, I managed to avoid the weekly youth meetings and summer camp-type things. But when I joined secondary school, I started going to the youth group at the church where a few of my friends had been brought up and it’s probably through that that I started to feel more unsettled and was encouraged to make up my own mind about Christianity. I needed to come to my own decisions about the things I’d just taken for granted as truth.
I think on the whole I see eye to eye with my parents, and so I suppose it’s natural that I assumed the things that they had taught me from the word go were true. They obviously believed those things they’d told me about God and Jesus and I suppose I really wanted to be in the same boat as them. For a long time I enjoyed reading the Bible just occasionally and could see that it said things about myself and other people that seemed to ring true. Just as a daft little example from school, I remember coming home from a trip when I was about 15 and being really angry because the majority of the group I’d gone with, who were a few years older, had spent the train journey mocking other people and being disruptive and rude to everyone around them. And yet they were so popular and normal and happy, surrounded by friends who really respected them, and the teachers just turned a blind eye. It made me really cross and so my dad told me to read Psalm 73. I was actually really comforted by the fact that the first half of the chapter said exactly what I felt about those people, and like it says in verse 21, I was definitely bitter and angry, but I couldn’t really apply the last few verses to myself; I hadn’t made God my refuge and I definitely didn’t feel like there was nothing on earth that I desired more than God. Reading that, and generally my mood around that time, made me feel quite confused. I didn’t want to be identified with the people in the first half of the psalm who just belittled God, but I couldn’t call myself a Christian either.
Feeling quite frustrated because I had no sense of conviction either way was really just typical of how I felt throughout secondary school. I had started going to the Christian Union meetings at school but this left me feeling like a fraud for an hour every week-agreeing with everything that was said but still knowing that I couldn’t honestly say that I understood why Jesus had to die for me. My feelings of doubt and confusion were a big hurdle, and that didn’t really resolve until my sixth form when I started to be more clear about why my life was different to a Christian’s.
I heard a sermon around the same time about what makes someone a Chistian and the speaker talked about how pointless it is presenting what he called your ‘Christian birth certificate’ as proof that you’re saved. Instead, it’s about deciding to stand on the promises of God every day, irrespective of how you feel. It struck me that the Bible is so straightforward about that. The way it talks about there being only two life alternatives, and the consequences of following or not following Jesus is never open to debate or presented in a way that makes it open to questioning. I realised that I shouldn’t wait for my doubts to go away before making a commitment, so I asked God to help me trust in those promises and to live in the light of them; to base my convictions on what the Bible says and not on what I feel. Another occasion that sticks in my mind is a service when we sang ‘Take my life and let it be consecrated Lord to thee’. Before we sang it the minister read out the whole hymn, which is basically a very long list and seemed quite tedious. But it was really clear in showing me that it needs to be every single bit of me that I give to God and put under his control-that obedience means inviting Jesus to take control of the whole of my life.
And I suppose since then has been a daily continuation of that - asking God to help me give more and more of myself to him and learning to let go of my own expectations and the way I’d like things to pan out and trust that he will provide what’s best for me in everything.