I grew up with a Roman Catholic ‘label’. That meant we did church on Sundays. It was a big proper church with incense and candles. As soon as it was over we left as fast as possible. The God who lived there seemed to be some kind of distant moralist. I went through all the motions of being baptised, first Holy Communion, and even being confirmed as well. But motions were all they were; devoid of any real relationship with God.
I didn’t really think about God very much before I came to university to study music. I thought that being a Christian was all about morals and being ‘good’ and I wasn’t really interested. But the God of the Bible is a God who comes looking for us.
My first few weeks of university were a blur of lots of people and drunken nights out. Most people seemed to be trying to be someone they weren’t.
During Freshers week I met some people on campus running a rather unorthodox prize draw. If you won, you got a moral dilemma: an iPod for yourself or two goats for the developing world. I didn’t win. But I did get a phone call asking if I still wanted a free magazine. Why not?
So I met them. Got my magazine. They weren’t the iPod society or the goat society; they were Christian. So I told them I was also a Christian, partly because I wasn’t sure and partly because it seemed convenient.
I joined their society and hung around with these people regularly. I started reading the Bible and talking about Jesus. I kept hearing about this thing called ‘a personal relationship with God’. I didn’t know what to make of that.
It was reading the Bible for myself that was the most powerful thing. I read it and knew it was true. If you’ve read the Gospels you’ll know what I mean; you can’t make stuff like that up. After a couple of months I realised I believed Jesus was God and I wanted him to be part of my life.
You don’t have to be alive very long to realise that people are messy. People make mistakes and mess up. We have desires and lusts and fears. We want things that harm us and others. We want good things as well, and sometimes we build our lives around them until they destroy. The Bible calls this kind of thing sin, and it was in the way of my relationship with God. Jesus dealt with our sin on the cross so that we could know God. I told God I was sorry for living without him, and asked Jesus to be part of my life.
I was baptised as a baby. I’m glad about that. But following Jesus is a decision we have to make for ourselves. The difference following Jesus makes in my life is big. I am forgiven totally when I mess up. Sometimes I am struck by an immense, indescribable, un-manufacturable kind of joy that comes from my relationship with God. Sometimes life gets dark and hard, but I always have hope. Now I have a deep sense of purpose; my life is charged with meaning and significance because I have a relationship with Jesus, the God of the universe, who made me and knows me intimately.