My faith story isn’t a typical testimony. It’s not the dramatic conversion of a life gone way off the tracks; of my doing drugs, or doing time.
My faith story starts in a library.
Let me explain.
I was given two great gifts in life; a loving family and a library card. At age five, that card was my first step of responsibility (after all I had to look after and return the books – with Mum’s help). It was also my first step of discovery, into the world of imagination and knowledge.
And the books piled up, with every trip to the library. Picture books, comic books, mystery books, tales of adventure and factual books, especially history. I loved those the most. Because history books were filled with heroes, great and ordinary men and women who did extraordinary things. I wanted to be like them.
I was given books too, as something to be treasured. And there was one book at home that captured me in a way that no other had. It was this:
The Children’s Bible.
Wow, did that book captivate me. What was it that stirred something in me that was soul deep?
The pictures pulled me into the action of the story and the words were powerful, spoken by a God who talked to humans and told them of things they needed to know.
In this big book, there were also lots of stories about a man named, Jesus. He was the most amazing man who ever lived. He helped, healed and held people close to him. He made many friends and followers but made some enemies too for always telling the truth.
I lived inside these stories every evening, after dinner, while my parents watched the evening news.
And then came Sundays. Sunday meant Church and Sunday school (as it was called in those days). I found out at weekday school that not many kids went to Sunday school, and that going there was strange. At Sunday school we did different things like talk to the God who wrote the big book I loved to read, and we sang songs for him as well.
And it was at that time that a little seed was planted.
That was the time of innocent faith.
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:4.
Those years glow in my heart and warm my memory, though they could never stay unchanged. An awareness slowly dawned and the change did come. The boy had to be left behind, waved goodbye. But it was hard sometimes to see him go.
“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” 1 Corinthians 13:11.
It was time to find my place to step outside. Time to be tested and vulnerable.
Time to step out of the boat.
‘“Come”, he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus’ Matthew 14:29.
And the stories from the big book I loved to read were sounding different to how they’d always been. They were calling me forward, inviting me out, in my time of uncertainty and change. Who was I to become and where should I go?
And then one night, in an old wooden chapel, the God of the Book made himself present to me.
It was entirely unexpected. It was the biggest surprise and the strangest joy I had ever known. But it was Him.
And from that night the words in his book sang and spoke directly to me.
I found the purpose and answer to everything.
That was the time of certainty.
“I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the Light of life.” John 8:12.
Inside my heart, something else awakened curiosity. The world was inviting me to explore and discover and I knew I had to follow that call. So I traveled far from the place of my birth and met many people, saw many places and heard many things. I heard other stories from other books I’d never seen or heard before. Other sacred stories that also had the hearts of men and women.
And then the questions came and they didn’t stop. They wouldn’t go away. Faith was too precious, to amazing; to incredible to go left unchallenged. If I’m to live a different way, then it has to be proven to be the right way.
That was the time of doubt.
“Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” John 20:25.
And that was a troubling time, a testing time while I turned the questions over and over in my mind as you would a smooth pebble between your fingers.
But I never gave up on finding answers. Why? Because the big book I loved to read was finding the words I couldn’t find.
“Why, my soul are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.” Psalm 42:11.
And then doubt was followed by loss and sadness walks with grief. Losing a loved one is to feel the sting of death and feel the futility of life.
“What do people gain from all their labours at which they toil under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever.” Ecclesiastes 1:4.
When walking in the shadow of the valley of death, you must find your still waters. Because it’s when in the shadows, that you discover the place of restoration and renewal.
The dark night of the soul is where our rebirth happens.
It’s the belly of Jonah’s whale. It’s a sacred womb. It’s the time of broken blessing.
It’s a place where hope is found and clung to. It’s a new beginning.
It’s the time of renewal.
He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.” Psalm 23:1-2.
From each time of my life, the words of the big book I love to read become even more sacred and profound. In each time I was met and restored by the word of God in scripture.
So, if you ask me how I found God, the answer may surprise you. For I really didn’t find him.
He found me –
In His words.
They gave me life.
Not Only Sundays – Bible Wisdom for Every day.
© Not Only Sundays, August 2017.
Scripture quoted from the NIV translation.
Images sourced on www.pixabay.com image under a creative commons licence CC.