Becoming A Christ Follower
It wasn’t always ‘that way’; what I mean is that for thirty-five years there would have been no possible way that I could have described myself as a Christian—or indeed as a believer or follower of any: God or gods whatsoever. I was raised in an average, post-war, family struggling with the aftermath of the effects of the destructive nature of ‘man’s inhumanity to man’. We were ‘areligious’ though, through the kind invitation of churchgoing neighbors, myself and my siblings, did occasionally attend Sunday School (you might need to Google this)—mostly to give some respite to my mother. Unfortunately my misbehavior meant that I was often excluded from the lessons.
In 1945 we were a growing family with a limited income, mostly, as a result of the cost of a re-building program, which was the result of a German rocket making a direct hit on our house in Southampton. Thankfully, no one was at home at the time—although my father arrived (what had been) home not long after the ‘hit’.
When I was fourteen my sister, Kathleen, died; she was nineteen. Kathleen had been ill since around the age of three. Of course, this didn’t help with faith in God, god or gods one little bit. It’s no surprise then that, after my encounter with the person of Jesus, I have spent a number of years engaged in the academic study of Theodicy i.e. providing a reason for the existence of evil (natural of otherwise) and the existence of an allegedly benevolent (omnipotent) GOD.
In 1959. When (I suspect providentially), I happened to attend the same function as my now (2019) wife of over 56 years. She was, five months short of, sixteen and I was approaching the end of my teens. Jackie was a Baptist, and I was, at that time, somewhat agnostically antagonistic. Two years plus later we married, though I would not have been her parents first, second or even third choice, in September 1963. Fast-forward to 1972. We had, for some incomprehensible reason, moved house—to an area that, considering the location of my workplace, made no sense whatsoever. Here we were: a family of five, a nice (please excuse the somewhat overused adjective) house and a reasonably sustainable income—if that makes sense. Within a few days of our moving house, the (Southampton) City Missioner (yes I’d never heard of one either). His name was Oscar. I’d never met anyone called Oscar—neither had I ever met a missionary. Oscar, as you would have expected, engaged Jackie in conversation; by this time she had got used to being married to an extremely-left-wing unbeliever (it often goes with the territory—though not of necessity, of course).
For a while now Jackie had been considering how she might ‘go back to church’—an option made very difficult by a husband who vehemently denied the benefits of attending such ‘institutions’—preferring other more attractive establishments—such as water skiing or drinking at the Hamble Social Club or the, more local, distillery. Needless to say, Jackie and our daughters started to regularly attend the church Oscar had recommended. It was just up the road a bit.
Fast forward to the Autumn/Winter of 1975:
By this time, my wife had become a committed member of the church that met in Lordswood (a suburb of Southampton) and had made lasting friendships. Being attracted to the notion of ‘commune’ (as in communism) I had no idea what community, in reality, ‘tasted like’—though I had ‘smelt’ the idea. As it turned out the life of the congregation/assembly/community at Lordswood was a rather pleasant surprise –a taste of what a caring community might look and feel like. But it wasn’t just this ‘community-life’, it was ‘The Life’ that glued it all together.
After a game of squash (a game at which I considered myself rather proficient) with one of the members of the Lordswood Church Community (a family friend of my wife’s and a future minister),I was challenged with, both the embarrassment of being on the wrong side of a virtual whitewash, and then being faced with the metaphysical question of ‘Where might ‘I’ be in a millennium?’ My answer, in short, was ‘The same as you—Nowhere! Because, as I made clear, ‘When you are dead, that is the end of the #matter.’ He answered with another question: ‘How do you know that?’ This was the ‘start of the beginning’ of my Christian life.There followed a seismic shift in my life. A ‘Damascus Road’ experience, even