A clever and amusing line that, from someone who is clever and amusing. And worthy of some sort of response I guess. Not that he'll read it or care. So here's my testimony, my witness to anyone that stumbles on this blog, probably by accident, and wondered enough to know what the heck happened.
So a couple of years ago God called me out. In all honesty nothing in life really offered any real meaning or joy. I began to see through, what for me, was a meaningless quest for 'stuff' and empty experiences that offered no real lasting joy or satisfaction. Restless really. I am currently clearing out the evidence of that right now. The stash of 'things' I bought with the money I made working long, long hours, hoping to have something to show for it all. It is shaming how much crap I have and it has brought me no pleasure at all really. Incredible!, given that's what I spent so long lusting after. Maybe some of you can identify with that? Maybe not. Some might call it depression, some would say it was some kind of mental or emotional breakdown. It must be 'cause that's what we're all supposed to do isn't it. Consume. Breakdown? In a way maybe it was.
So over a certain period of time, not sure how long really, I heard 'something' whilst working in my unit that made me properly stop and ask myself some serious questions. Not audible - I don't think I'm schizophrenic or mentally ill. Many of you may disagree. Hear me out first.
I was working on my own in a quiet workshop out in the sticks, plenty of time to hear myself think. Not very often we have a chance to do that over a prolonged period these days. Too many distractions.
Maybe I'd been hearing something inside me for a while. I know now that I had. Of course I kinda thought initially 'this is what the mid-life crisis everyone talks about must feel like'. Maybe the answer is to go with the flow. What is the standard cure for this affliction? Is it to cut-loose, have a few affairs, buy a fast bike or ride a fast woman (no, I can't say that anymore can I?) Maybe travel? Hey, maybe dabble in a bit of new age spirituality, the kind that's acceptable and popular right now, find meaning in a mysterious eastern religion or a mix of all of them! Pick which bits I wanted and suited me and leave the rest! Anything but Christianity. I mean, Christians are pompous, self-righteous prigs who never have any real fun aren't they? Always wagging the finger and being judgemental whilst being utterly hypocritical. Knitted doilies and sharp tongues.
Without a doubt, I have led a very, very sinful life. Aside from the usual sexual opportunism, greed, avarice, covetousness etc., etc., I have cast judgements on other people, their choices in life, the way they want to live. Dare I say we all do maybe to some extent, but that does not exonerate me from the truth, that I was a total sinner, and indeed continue to sin. And how do I know that? Because I took a step forward and responded to Him and I looked for Him. I bought a bible.
My religious education really consisted of 1 hour lessons a week in secondary school by an RE teacher who had long ago abandoned any real hope of teaching students that simply didn't give a shit and just had an hour's muck about. I didn't care either I think, truth be told. When you are at school you just want to fit in, go along with everyone else and not stand out unless you become a target. That was my school anyway, maybe yours was different. I understand why people convicted inside regarding faith or orientation would, in the past, hide. It's different now of course. Standing out is encouraged and that is very healthy. I look at kids now and the freedom to express themselves and I'm glad. Ironically, if you are a believing Christian that is no longer the case. Or was it ever? There are parallels here, that is not lost on me. Christians vilified here in the UK though? That was a shock. It was a shock because I was asleep.
I entered the 'faith' (if you want to call it that - Christ is NOT religious, amazing that - who knew?!) at a time when Christianity is deeply unpopular. As people feel more at liberty to do what they like with no inhibitions or restraints (like I used to live, sin - full throttle), any kind of restraint, especially something that would call into question the enjoyable way we want to live is going to make us feel uncomfortable at best and seriously offended and hurt at worst. Enough to turn many, many people away.
I 've been thinking about this very deeply for a couple of days now, for obvious reasons, and I look at it sort of like this. We all know an ex-smoker. To a forty a day-er, a born again non-smoker is the worst. Incredibly judgemental sounding, appears to occupy the moral high-ground and is sometimes seen as a zealous fundamentalist, intent on spoiling everyone else's fun. 'Why don't you just f**k off and let me live my life the way I want to. If I want to smoke myself to death, what business is that of yours?'
Fair enough, I get that. I'm not hard of heart. I hope I'm the complete opposite, but that's not for me to say is it?
As I've gone on these past couple of years, I started reading the Word of God. Myself, not hearing what someone else had to say about it, not watching the ten commandments on the tv and saying 'got it', not half remembering what I half heard at RE at school or just relying on whatever meagre resources I had in my head that I'd picked up over forty years or so watching the last five minutes of 'Songs of Praise' before something more interesting came on tele. That's what I did, not saying you were or are as ignorant as I was.
For me, initially it's hard work. Being British, I find it easier than some to read the King James Version (or New King James Version). That's not a judgement there btw. What's sometimes termed 'old English' is very poetic and with words I've noticed are difficult to transfer into modern parlance - which is why there are more modern translations out there. I stuck with the NKJV and plough through and take my time to digest it. To me, it's the word of God. Verbatim. To others it's entirely open to interpretation. And that's where the danger lies isn't it. How easy it is to put on a more comfortable slant to suit ourselves, just a tweak here and there so it's more comfortable and easier to swallow. Easier to just carry on the way we are going and perhaps just try and be better people. For some that's enough and who am I to say that's wrong?
Me, I read on. And as I read it I am learning. And it is shocking to read. What you might call sensational, maybe even mind-blowing. Definitely not boring. And very confrontational. Confrontational to others who don't believe or want to believe, yes, but personally incredibly confrontational to me. Challenging my beliefs and past way of life to the max.
So much so that it is frightening to friends who have known me for a long time, parents who have watched me grow up (now I think realising this is not just another fad), loved ones who worry about my mental stability and physical welfare. Although I don't see a huge change in me (I'm still the same bumbling idiot in many ways I always have been), everyone else seems to see something different. That is encouraging to me because it means I am changing, not just pretending.
And all of this, all of it, was spoken about 2000 years ago. What would happen when you try to drop the heavy baggage of your old life and follow Him. It's not called a narrow path for nothing, that is being shown to me crystal clearly. And it is not pleasant. I've been asking people in church about this (yep, I felt it was time to seek some fellowship). 'Where is the joy? Why am I not all 'happy-clappy' and speaking in tongues'. Hallelujah!
The truth on this for me is - I am a work in progress. I stumble and fall daily, It's a narrow way!!! I'm gonna fall. But you should know this guys. I do not walk alone and never will. I get picked back up again, dusted down and put back on the path. I'm looked after and corrected with such gentleness and care you wouldn't believe it. That's how I know truly know He is there for me, with me. I have evidence in my life daily of His presence. He has made Himself known to me - even to someone like me.
I can't force anyone to turn to Christ, no one can. I can try, in my usual haphazard way to tell people about what I am learning, the truth of what I'm seeing, like millions of others also can or choose to see. But that's it. I'll get no brownie points or medal for it, no rewards, just resentment and shit from people who just don't want to hear it. We're commanded to just kick the dust off our feet and move on (some will have a problem even with the word 'commandment').
So please. Don't threaten me with school-ground bullying techniques on how you can cause me trouble. The world over will cause Christians trouble to the point of death. It's already happening in some places and maybe even here too one day soon. You're not offending me or troubling me. I have faith. I just pass the matter on, on to a higher authority, and I get on with it.
I hope there's maybe one solitary soul out there that might see there is no hate here. No judgement from me. How can I judge? That would make me a hypocrite. And I don't want to be like that.
But. If it came to a choice? I pray I'll always choose Jesus Christ no matter what the threat and who (or what) it comes from. Feel free to comment and fire away. I'm not hiding.
To those of you who hear something inside or want to? Listen to Him. He is there waiting for you, especially you. You are His favourite! You won't be forced or threatened with a physical death if you don't. You may even have more fun in life, I don't know. That's your choice. If you choose to take on the truth of Jesus Christ, you'll be totally amazed at how much better life gets - and how much stronger you become through Him.
I may not have arrived but I've left.
Hey, God bless you all chaps. I love all of you, even you.x