I have a single enduring memory of Church from when I was a kid: sitting in the pew attempting to count the seemingly vast number of bricks in the wall behind the speaker (not that I now have any idea how many there were!). And, although I was brought up by my parents to attend Church, and was taught about Jesus, I think this memory more or less sums up my whole attitude to God and Christianity – I found it boring, and could see no need for a God in my life.
When I was six we moved to the town I now call home: Reading. While I did not understand it at the time, one of the big reasons for doing this was so that we could be near to my grandmother, who was terminally ill with cancer. Over time I came to know her and love her, and about four years later, when she passed away, I was devastated. My relatively uneventful and secure worldview was shattered, and I grew angry at the God I had been taught about: How could He possibly take away someone I loved so much? And yet still be the loving and caring person I had been told he was?
At the same time as this my thoughts headed in a different direction; this had been the first serious encounter with death that my young self had had, and while I certainly didn’t get everything, one of the major thoughts in my mind was the fact of my own death, and its terrifyingly apparent closeness. At this point in time I didn’t doubt that God existed (although that did come later, and it is still something I wrestle with now) and knowing that my Grandmother had been a committed Christian I moved to the conclusion that she was now with God in heaven. This thought echoed in my mind over a month or so, as it slowly dawned on me that I was so imperfect, and so broken that I needed the salvation that is offered to us in Christ Jesus.
But I couldn’t come to a God I didn’t like or trust, and so I simply didn’t. Looking back over my life, the next six months were definitely the worst that I have lived. On the one hand I was weighed down by guilt and need, and knew that the only place I could go was to Jesus, but on the other I couldn’t even think about approaching this God, let alone entrusting Him with my life and my soul. I distinctly remember being out cycling and having to argue myself out of swerving in front of a car.
And then. In the midst of my lostness and confusion and pain, a peace, a comfort, a sense of calm came upon me. Totally unexpected and unasked for, it covered my wounds and scars, not with answers to all my questions, but simply unconditional love. God Himself comforted and sheltered me. No longer could I hold onto my dislike or anger when faced with the absolute reality that was God. I came before Him with all my brokenness and all my need, and He lifted me up - in Jesus I found the meaning and reason to live, filling the gaping hole that existed in my life.