Over a year ago if I was asked if I was a Christian I would have confidently said yes – I was christened and I believed there was a God, and that would be the end of the conversation. But for those who really know me, they would know a man who was angry, bad-tempered, selfish, indulgent, greedy and jealous, just to name a few. I had never prayed or even opened the Bible – but then my attitude was that I didn’t need to – and so my “Christianity” was based on a few bits of the Bible I’d heard over the years. I would even throw insults at people who were established in their faith, especially those close to me, and yet the strength of their faith would play an important part in my journey to real faith.
Things began to change for me when my wife, Sarah, attended an Alpha Course at the church, although at the time I wasn’t too bothered as it didn’t have anything to do with me, and I wasn’t even sure what it was about. That didn’t stop me from trying to make life difficult for Sarah though; even though she always made every effort to make me happy and even though Sarah was sincerely trying to find answers to the big questions in life, I was intent on throwing a few spanners in the works to try and trip her up. I have sincerely apologised since (and Sarah has forgiven I’m pleased to say).
Every Thursday evening during the Sarah’s Alpha Course I would get home from 60 minutes of football training and probably 60 minutes “rehydrating” in the pub, to find Sarah, her sister Charlotte and her boyfriend Andrew, banging on about this Alpha Course. They would talk until the early hours of the morning and to top it off they would persist in telling me how funny the Minister’s jokes were – I was not convinced. After 10 weeks of attending the Alpha Course, which basically teaches what the Christian faith is all about, she placed her faith in Jesus and committed herself to following him. I was invited to the last Alpha Course session which was a ‘celebration dinner’ at the church. At first I wasn't sure but one whiff of some pineapple on a stick and I’m there!
I believe that this was the day that my true journey began. The Minister, Mark Clay, came over to have a chat, and he asked if I had noticed a change in Sarah since she had been on Alpha – and immediately I thought, “oh no! Sarah’s dyed her hair I’ve not noticed.” But, actually, thinking about it, I realised that Sarah had changed a lot, she had a different outlook on life, and whereas before I could annoy her quite easily that just wasn’t the case anymore. That evening I signed up to attend to the next Alpha Course in 2013. Now don’t get me wrong, even though my view of Christians had softened somewhat, I still judged them and still questioned them as to why they needed to seek God.
As the first week of the Alpha Course came around I was excited but nervous – I wasn’t ready to be preached at, to be taught what to believe, and I felt like I
was at war. I was determined to be Mr Awkward and Mr Controversial. How wrong I was. Despite being armed with lots of awkward and difficult questions, I never got to ask them because Mark
answered every one in his talk. Even in the small group discussion, when I did ask some questions the group leaders were able to humbly, honestly, and graciously answer them. This was the pattern
for the rest of course – 10 weeks of laughs, tears, and questions.
Towards the end of the course there is an away day on the theme of the Holy Spirit. At this point in my journey I was genuinely changing, but I still had some big questions about the bigger things in life such as suffering. As Mark was speaking about the Holy Spirit he asked us whether we wanted God in our lives – I thought I had but I wanted to be sure, so I said ‘yes!’ I was prayed for by two of the course leaders and during the prayer one of them prayed something over me that could only have come from God since they couldn’t know what it meant to me. I then experienced such a wonderful and amazing feeling, like nothing else I had felt before, and that once again, could only be God. I don’t mind saying that for the next 10 minutes I hid away and cried like a baby. Since then I’ve felt that same feeling on a couple of occasions when God has really worked powerfully in my life and answered my prayers.
I am now a Christian (I must be, my favourite book has changed from Lenny McLean’s – ‘The Guv’nor’ to the Bible!), and even though I still struggle with all those things I’ve listed at the top, my life is continually transforming into what it should be. I will never be perfect in this life, but now I have the perfect foundation (Luke 6:48) and the perfect relationship with God to make life better. I have been shown a lot of love, and I can openly say that I love my Father God and the people at Whetstone Baptist Church.