I was brought up with absolutely no religion in my life. In fact I can count on one hand the number of times I had even been within a church building as a young person. Then I unexpectedly had a third child and my life began to take a different route. After attending a church service for his christening, I was drawn to return, for reasons hazy to me. I even started going almost every week. It got to the stage where I knew when to sit, when to kneel and could recite prayers without reading completely from the book. I actually began to like the ceremony, the liturgy and the rituals, but still wondered if it was real. I still was not perceiving a living God and no-one showed me how I might find him. So I asked him direct – I was calling the shots, “If you exist then you will have to make yourself real to me.” He appeared not to hear my voice, so I stopped asking and my life returned to a non-church existence.
Meanwhile my eldest son made friends with the Baptist minister’s son and I made friends with his wife. She dutifully invited me to join her to see how the Baptists ‘do it’. I went and was quite shocked to see how the Baptists did it. The minister was wearing trainers. Where was the reverence, the esteem and the awe? The congregation was clapping! I made a hasty retreat. She again dutifully invited me to drink coffee while hearing a ‘remarkable story’ about how a man called Jim Wilson turned his life around. I remember him saying that even the dog knew he had become a Christian. Time passed and again I was invited to a baptism. I could not refuse – it was, after all, my son’s best friend and his brother.
There was almost a party atmosphere. The videos and cameras were everywhere. Everyone was happy – they were chatting, smiling and laughing. I recognised they were doing something which was intangible to me. The church was crammed full – I had to sit near the front. The service began. There were five baptisms taking place – three more than I thought. Each person chose their own song. I never heard such words: There is a Redeemer; Shine, Jesus, Shine. Each person told their own story – the great puzzle was beginning to unfold.
My emotions were rising, soaring beyond anything I had ever experienced. Still more testimonies were told, and by the end of the service I thought my heart would break through my body and the handkerchief could hold no more. My whole body shook. I felt faint. The service ended and I was unable to move. I was approached by the minister, Andy Fitz-Gibbon, his wife Jane and a lady I knew through the children. They asked me how I was, what I thought of the service. I was unable to speak. They seemed to be delighted. I continued to shake – they told me that God had touched my life. He wanted me to know that he loved me. I almost fell off the chair, but someone caught me and kept telling me how much God loved me. My body was full of embarrassment. They acted as if this was the most natural thing in the world to happen.
Eventually I went home. I was so shaken, I could hardly draw on the cigarette. The whiskey shook in my hand. “You have overdosed on emotion – you’ll be OK in a few hours,” my husband kindly informed me. But I wasn’t. I felt ill. It lasted for days.
September 9th 1990 was a beautiful day – soft summer sunshine. I took a walk round the garden. I was still not feeling 100%. I lay down on the lawn and ran my fingers through the grass. It was soft and fresh, feeling like only English grass can feel. The garden was alive with colour and beauty. I thought for some reason of an old proverb: Man feels closer to God in the garden than anywhere else on earth. I realised again that God was grabbing my attention. I knew at that point that I could resist him no longer. I just knew that he was real and that I wanted him in my life. As I felt that grass under my hands I spoke out loud to him. I told him what I thought, what I hoped and what I felt. Strangely I felt better. I couldn’t wait to tell Jane, the minister’s wife.
So began the process of discipleship classes. I was unsure what discipleship meant, but I knew I wanted to be part of it. Some of it made sense, some of it didn’t. Towards the end of the class I professed the ‘sinner’s prayer’ in the minister’s office. Again I felt so charged with this awareness of what I can only describe as electricity and pins and needles. I felt faint. I said to Andy, “Can
you feel it?” but he said that it was for me. He was just there doing what the Lord wanted him to do. But I knew he was elated too.
So it has continued. God continued to shout, he spoke audibly, he awakened all sorts of desires to know him more. Whenever times seemed hard and he appeared distant, I only had to ask, to make the first move and once again he would reveal himself in some wonderful way. From the first scripture passage he shouted at me in Isaiah 43 and told me that I was called by name and was his. He steadfastly taught me Matthew 7 – seek and you will find. Life is not perfect. My walk with the Lord has been extremely difficult at times. But the prickly rose bears the sweetest fragrance.