‘And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.’2 Corinthians 3:3
In the early 80s – 1980 or 81 – a salesman visited my house to sell insurance. I had invited him. This wasn’t one of those foot-in-the-door cold calls or anything like that. He was an amiable chap and we got on well.
During our meeting he told me the Good News that is the gospel. He simply dropped it into the conversation quite naturally at a point that seemed perfectly appropriate.
Of course, I’d heard the story before – how Jesus was the son of God and was crucified for my sins, and so on. I’d heard it dozens of times before and it had been as meaningful to me as a fairytale.
This time, however, my interest was aroused. This time things began to make … sense.
He invited me along to the church which he attended, along with his wife and many other couples and families. He said he was sure I’d enjoy it. Well, I did go – the following Sunday. And I did enjoy it. So much so that in the ensuing weeks and months, I learned more of the story of Jesus and what His sacrifice meant for me.
Church meetings were a joy. I made many new friends and enjoyed their fellowship. This was a whole new experience for me. I’d always considered that being a Christian would be a dreary life of self-denial and puritanical misery. It was nothing of the sort. Despite this being a very difficult period of my life, it was a time I continue to look back on fondly.
At that time, while at home listening to gospel music one evening, the lyrics of one particular song ‘spoke’ to me. I’d had uncontrolled epilepsy for much of my life, and things had been rather tough at times. That evening, I felt as though the words I heard in song had been written for me personally. I experienced such a lightness of heart that I’ll never be able to describe.
You know when you have one of those optical illusion pictures – an image hidden within a picture. You stare and stare until your eyes water – and eventually the image springs out at you. That’s how this was. There were no beams of light streaming down from heaven – no voice resonating through parting clouds. It just seemed … right.
It felt like a vital puzzle piece that had rattled around inside me all my life had finally ‘clicked’ into place.
Several weeks later, on a chilly January evening with snow on the ground outside, I was baptised – fully immersed – in a draughty, ancient North Lincolnshire chapel.
Becoming a Christian didn’t place me on a road paved with gold, edged by sweet smelling roses. Far from it. The path I’d chosen was narrow and rocky. Eventually, I did hit a rock. I fell, and stumbled away from the church that had become my home, and those people who had been my family.
I was like a fragment of coal that had fallen from the fire onto the hearth. Other coals in the grate continued to glow, but my flame had died. God was with me but I was ignoring him.
My name had been written on His hand since before time, and He loved me as a Father should, yet I ignored Him for forty years.
In that time, the world changed irreversibly. In 2001 we had nine-eleven and war followed war; terrorist attacks, one after another, after another. Increasingly, populations became divided, communities ever-fearful, lives shattered and families broken.
I realised that the world I called ‘home’ wasn’t the place I thought it was.
By 2014 the uncontrolled epilepsy I’d suffered since 1966 had deteriorated to the point where I could no longer do my job. Daily seizures had long been making things intolerable, then they became impossible. I lost my job and could work no more.
Eventually, weighed down by burdens I could no longer carry alone, and in a world I no longer recognised, I realised that I needed reassurance, guidance and protection … God’s protection and covering. I needed hope. I needed answers. I needed to return to my Heavenly Father.
By this point it was the summer of 2019. I rejoined the church, rekindled the flame of my faith – and the rest, as they say, is history. For I know I’m watching history being made on a scale I’ve never witnessed in my lifetime.
Despite the madness of our unfolding world, I now possess a sense of safety – an anchor to steady me amidst a raging storm of chaos and uncertainty. I have an assurance that only comes from knowing and having a relationship with God.
Skeptical readers who have had the stamina to read this far may ask why my God ever allowed me to suffer from epilepsy; why he allowed me to endure almost daily seizures that caused me so much pain and end my career, leading me eventually to where I am now. My answer to that is I don’t know – yet. What I do know is God is in control – and he has my back.
I know there has been a sound reason for all those things that have led me to this point in my life. This absolute and unshakable certainty gives me confidence, as well as a hope for the future.
To use a military analogy, I consider myself to be a foot soldier in the army of God.
Just as a front-line soldier may not be privy to the plans of his general, all I know is what small duty I must perform toward achieving an inevitable victory. I don’t need to see the plan, only my part in it.
What’s more, if you are reading this, it is perhaps because you were meant to.
If that is the case, you too are now part of the overall plan.