Some people think being a Christian is short hand for being a nice person… but there are lots of really nice people, that aren’t Christians!
I’m not a Christian but because I’m English, I wasn’t born one! I’m not a Christian because I think I’m a good person, to be honest I quite often disappoint myself!
In fact my dad’s a Vicar!
That still didn’t make me a Christian.
In fact now I’M A VICAR! (Still feels weird writing that!) Yet that still doesn’t make me a Christian!
Being a Christian is a choice I made… In fact it’s a choice I make every day!
First time I thought seriously about faith was when I was littler, maybe four or five… My dad was training to be a Vicar in London and we were at a very dull Church in Cockfosters (-When I tell school kids I say North London as they giggle too much at the word Cockfosters)!
Now we were sitting fairly near the front of Church, and I was looking up at this Vicar… now when you’re a kid everyone looks huge! He was also standing in one of those pulpits, and I was looking up at him, and could see straight up his nose… I was thinking, man, it looks like epping forest up there!
…he was also one of these people who spit when they talk, now sitting on the front row was really a bad place to be! I was thinking, wish I’d brought an umbrella –or a pair of welly’s!
He was talking about God, about judgement, about how we had all sinned, how we’d offended a Holy God… God was judge of all, King above all Kings, rar rar rar…
Anyway, my little knees were knocking together in the pew… I was pretty scared.
God sounded like some horrible headmaster that I was scared off.
You know when your little and you pull the covers over your head? Okay, so maybe that was just me?!
Anyway, I thought God was pretty scary… but as I said earlier my mum and dad are both Christians, they told me that Christians aren’t people who are scared of God but rather people who are friends of God.
In fact the whole story of the Bible is of a God who loves us and wants us to be in relationship with him… That’s the main message of Jesus, who lived, died and rose again so that I could have a relationship with God, so that you could have a relationship with God!
They want on to say that I could be friends with God, but needed to say sorry for the wrong things in my life, ask Jesus into my life, and live for him…
So I said a little sweet prayer, dear Lord Jesus, I’m sorry for the times I’ve been naughty, I want to be your friend, help me to live how you’d like me to, please come into my life, Amen.
Did okay, for bit, well, ish… anyway it really went down hill when I moved to Eastbourne, all went down hill when I fell for an older woman, I was 10 ½ and she was nearly eleven. Her name was Sam. –Samantha-. Her dad was churchwarden where my dad was the Vicar.
You know when you’re a kid you go out with someone, but you don’t actually go anywhere!
Anyway, I moved to Eastbourne, and realised that the kind of life I wanted to live the kind of life God wanted me to live were two very different lives!
For a while I had a foot in both camps, don’t know maybe that’s where you are?
Half in… I guess I thought of God as a heavenly insurance policy, I said “the prayer” so I’d be okay if I got hit by a bus, but in terms of making a difference my every day life not really! I could talk the talk, all the gear but no idea, outwardly I looked alright but my heart wasn’t in it!
I’d pray if I thought I’d get a detention, I might read my bible if I found it on one of the rare occasions I tidyed up my room!
Anyway, when I was 19, I was coming out of the off licence and I met my friend Sam, she had gone proper off the rails… I used to think, I know I’m a bit bad but I’m not as bad as her!
Anyway, she was having a fag outside londis, now this offy overlooked my dad’s Church. Sam asked me if I still went along to Church.
I replied that I’d rather find out about God when I was 40 or 50 and settled down to be boring! (How agest was I!)
But you know what that was the last time I ever spoke to Sam as she died a couple of weeks later… totally unexpectedly.
Now, I was used to people dying. I worked in a Nursing home, but Sam was my age, she was my friend, she did many of the things that I did…
It made me ask all those big questions again, what about life and death?
Or more personally…
What about my life?
What about my death?
I wrestled with these questions for about six months, and on Easter day, I ended up in Church with a mate from work –I hadn’t meant to go, I sort of stumbled into it!-
Anyway this crazy vicar guy was talking about the prodigal son. A story Jesus told about a son who leaves home with a load of money from his dad and ends up skint working in a pigsty (luke 15).
Yet it felt as this story was my story.
I’d gone away from God.
I realised that was where I was. In the pig sty, in the poo!
I had a choice, stay where I was, or get up and no longer play at being a Christian, but do it properly.
I made the choice… I said to God, “You know how much I’ve messed it up, you know I’ve not been a good Christian… I really want to follow you and live your way for the rest of my life…”
You know what? As I prayed that prayer I felt such an awesome sense of God’s love, that he loved me, that God welcomed me back.
Which is exactly what happened in the prodigal son story… the father (whose meant to be representing God) saw his son (meant to be us) whilst he was a long way off –a familiar spec in the distance- and rushed to meet him threw his arms around him, kissed him and threw him a party!
That was a long time ago now! (I’m now 32!).
I’m not saying lifes been cushy since (as it hasn’t) but it is the best choice I have ever made!