For the first 17 years of my life I wasn’t a Christian, although I would have probably called myself one.
It was something that I never really gave much thought to, yet I would go to church with my family and I enjoyed the idea of a man up in the sky looking after me. Believing in the existence of God wasn’t really a question, but that was it – for me, ‘God’ was just a result of growing up in a Christian household.
As I grew older and went to boarding school, chapel became a weekly event to dread. Though belting a few hymns out was enjoyable, the long prayers and dull sermons became my image of God and Christianity – boring.
Don’t get me wrong I still believed there was a God; but anything to do with him was a chore, and the infrequent prayers became even sparser. That man up in the sky, was now someone watching my every move and making me feel guilty although I didn’t really know why.
School was a mixed bag. I excelled on the sports fields and academically, but there was always something missing. I had never really fitted in with the ‘lads’ despite desperately wanting to. I thought if I could just be a bit more like them, then everything would be okay.
Whether that was with drink or girls, my desires were all geared up to being just that bit ‘cooler’ and any thought of God had practically gone out the window. For the first four years at school I was always striving to be someone I wasn’t and it impacted every part of my character. I didn’t really know what I was about, what I wanted and to be honest didn’t really like who I was.
I remember after a particularly difficult day, lying in my bed with an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness. It was at this moment I cried out to God, a cry of anger: “how is this fair…where are you in my life, where are you?” The God that was supposed to be ‘looking after me’ had not. The man in the sky had, in my eyes, overlooked me and it was me on my own.
This was my story up until I was 17.
That summer everything changed. My family decided to go to a Christian festival week, something that we had done before when we were much younger. I was sceptical to say the least.
I arrived late to the week and planned to leave to play cricket during it. However, it was this week that was the catalyst of complete turnaround of my life. For the first time in my life I met Christians my age. They weren’t weird or boring like I thought they might be but in fact were the most joyful, fun and free people I had ever met.
Through these friendships, I learnt for the first time that I could have a relationship with Jesus and not just be under the eye of a ‘man in the sky’. I learned that God knew me and cared for me. I learned that he had never left me and never would. That week I felt like I had come home.
Since then it has been an unbelievable journey. My last year at school was incredible and I wouldn’t have changed a thing. I have been a Christian in the full sense for nearly 3 years now. I by no means have everything figured out and don’t pretend to, but what I’ve found is that my faith has been the most exciting and fulfilling part of my life. Each day it brings me joy and life. It brings me freedom like nothing else does. It makes the best parts of life even better and helps me through tougher times as well.
Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, I can have this relationship with God. This means I can talk to him, know him, tangibly feel his presence and hear from him. It means that nothing I can do will separate him from me, he will never leave me. Finding Jesus and the love he has for me is without doubt the best part of my life and it changed my story forever.