I was raised in a Christian family. I remember as a child being taught about God and that he wanted to be active in my life. I have faint memories of experiencing God and seeing him do some cool stuff. I remember going to prayer meetings with my family and singing songs and seeing people putting their hands in the air and all that stuff.
When I was 16 one of the biggest events of my life occurred. We moved… It wasn’t just any move; this was when we moved from Ireland to the UK. This was a very traumatic event for me. I didn’t want to move to England. I had some great friends, I had a girlfriend and life was pretty good. Moving country was the worst thing that could have happened to me…..at least that was what my 16 year old mind thought.
The process of adapting to our new life was not what I would call smooth. On the one hand I was able to re-invent myself at a new school but on the other hand I missed my friends, siblings and old life back home. Despite the new fangled popularity I was quite depressed but over time and through growing up a bit, I got over it all.
The process of integrating in to a completely different schooling system and then moving from Kent to London two years after arriving in the UK was to be the reason I ended up doing two sets of A-Levels. In Kent I started Math’s, Physics and Computer Science. I did like them but I didn’t have any fun with them. I was a typical case of a young lad having absolutely no idea as to what I would end up doing as a career. So I chose those on the basis of some ridiculous childhood notion of wanting to be a mechanical engineer or something like that. When we moved to London it was in the December of my second year of A Levels and I was unable to find a school or college that would let me finish out the a-levels I was doing so I worked for 6 months doing a variety for temping jobs from pipe bending to computer sales. The following September I found myself in Ealing going to an open day at what was Ealing Tertiary College. My Agenda? Find a course to do that would be fun… giggle-some… a laugh. When I left I’d signed up to A levels in Spanish, Media & Photography.
I think it was over the next two years that I would really start to question my faith. At this college there was an overwhelming majority of Asian (as in Indian, Pakistani etc) kids. I made loads of friends and also had a few short lived “teen” romances. Being friends with these guys opened my eyes to the reality that there are many different religions that people believe. I began to question why is it that the Christian Faith is the right one. I began to drift and I soon stopped going to church altogether.
I went on to go to University and the fine establishment of “The University if Central Lancashire” in Preston. Yeah, university was ace but during my first year the whole faith thing went out the window as more important things came in to play like getting drunk or laid or when the next big bike ride was happening.
In my second year I met Tika. We started a relationship that would last 5 years. Her family was of the Hindu Faith. I remember going to the library and reading about Hinduism. This re-sparked the interest in other religious. I read about others, Islam, Buddhism, Sikhism, Shinto, and others. At this stage I was not on some spiritual quest. I just found in fascinating that people followed such different belief systems. I think I had been very naive and ignorant to this idea. And seeing as I was dating a girl of a different religion I thought it my duty to find out more. I eventually got to the stage where I didn’t really want to “buy in to” Christianity any more. It just didn’t really add up and it didn’t seem fair that only one religion was the right way. I officially labeled myself as “Agnostic”. I certainly did believe in God but I didn’t know what or who he was.
Life progressed onwards and I started a career as an assistant editor in White City, West London. This brought me on to work for a Voice-Over agency in Soho. Life was beginning to be really good. I was making money, I worked in the media industry, I had a girlfriend. Yeah – life was going great. When I’d joined the company in Soho they were paying me a very low wage. This was based on promises of training with some of the best engineers and editors in Soho. These promises never came through and so frustration grew. I eventually took the plunge and went freelance. I kept them as a client but took on others like Ministry of Sound and Tesco. I also started doing more technical work in the form of Video Wall engineering and stuff like that. Again life was good for a little while.
Soon my relationship with Tika had reached a point where the next step was geeting closer. She had never told her parents about us for fear of retribution and dishonoring her family by dating a non Hindu, non Indian, non-having-a-great-career-making-loads-of-money-guy. We got too the point where an ultimatum was needed. We decided to take a break for a month with the idea being that if we realized we couldn’t survive without each other then we would tell her parents then probably we would have gotten engaged then married soon after. After the break Tika told me that she couldn’t live without me but she still couldn’t bring herself to tell her parents. We talked the point over and over but she just couldn’t get past it. As a result of this we both agreed that we should probably end the relationship. So quite amicably and with much sadness we called it a day.
This is where life started to go down hill for me.
After this my freelancing contracts started to dry up. It was starting to get really difficult. I was scraping the barrel of my merge finances and even got to the point where I completely screwed up the household accounts in the house-share I was living in. I’d had a few relationships here and there and I realized how needy I had become. The idea that Tika had not been willing to make sacrifices for me made me question if anyone else would. I became this clingy, needy bloke. This, coupled with the finances and no real direction to go in my life, left me starting to get quite depressed.
Around this time I was asked to do a 3 week stint as a Video Wall Engineer on the well know show “The Price is Right” This involved living in a hotel down the road from Granada studios for three weeks. The video Wall was a very specialized piece of kit so I was new to the crew. I had become a little shy again also so I spent a lot of evenings going out to the cinema. There are a few cinemas in Manchester and I went to the different ones depending on what was on but in each one they were showing the advert for the alpha course:[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXXmMYx4LCY[/youtube]
As editing was my main skill I was really impressed with it. I was more impressed with the fact that a Christian organization had obviously put a lot of money into the campaign. I knew what the Alpha Course was because of my Parents. It blew me away at how good the ad was.
The day after I came back to London my dad gave me call to see how Manchester had been. We caught up on all the news and then out of no-where he told me that he and my mom were helping out on an Alpha Course being run in Acton and asked if I would be interested. I found it hilarious and told him all about how I’d seen the ads in the cinema but that I didn’t think it was something I’d be interested in. He was cool and didn’t try to persuade me in any way. After the phone call I was interested to find out for myself what it was all exactly about and how it worked. I guess I had started to also think about what I believed in and why. I checked out the alpha site and then didn’t really think much of it for another couple of weeks. I dipped in and out of it in my thoughts but that was about it.
A couple of weeks later my Dad called me again to remind me about the course was starting the following evening. He wasn’t pushy, more just wanting to know if I was interested. At this stage I was not sure – I think I was more interested in a free night out with food and an opportunity to see my folks. I told him I didn’t know if id go or not with a “If I’m there I’m there, if I’m not, I’m not”. I really didn’t know if I was gonna go or not.
So the next morning I was out walking Fergus, my flat mate’s dog. Hindsight has helped me piece this altogether. I was thinking about whether I’d go to the course or not. As I was doing so I was listening to some music. I was listening to an old Gospel track (despite not being a Christian I still loved some of that stuff) and it was getting to its peak, the big crescendo if you like. At the same time I was walking in to a clearing in the wooded area I was walking through and the sun was just breaking through the clouds in the sky.
– while all this was happening I was thinking about whether or not to go to the course. I kind of felt it was pointless. I idly said to myself “If there really is a God out there who wants to actively play a part in my life he’d send me some sort of sign.”
At that precise moment, a pigeon pooped on my head. It really was a perfect moment. I burst out laughing. It was rather comedic timing after all. I couldn’t ignore this. While still rather skeptical I thought it deserved a chance so I went along.
It was an interesting experience. It was good to have my folks there. The people running the course were all very lovely people. (I married one of them) I ember worrying that these Christians would try shoving things down my throat and try manipulating me in to believing what they wanted me to believe. I was on my guard constantly. As I got to know them all a little better I found that none of this happened. They really were a lovely bunch of people. They told me their ideas and were happy to listen to my own opinions and gripes especially when I was pointing out the flaws I saw in the Christian faith. They tool it all on the chin.
I was to find out for myself – and let me stress this – I did find out for myself, this stuff was not spoon fed to me – I found out that most of what I believed when it came to the flaws was untrue. There was an aspect of where I had built up in my head what/who I thought God was. I also had an idea of what/who I thought God ought to be. I found that the latter was actually more accurate. Because of this I realized that all my issues on the Christian faith were founded in a lot of issues I had built up around myself.
I thought God was this wise old fart sitting on a cloud looking down and laughing his arse off at us and using us for his amusement. I began to think about the claims of Christianity and what they meant. I realized that if those claims were actually true then it was an actually incredible. It was ….. Awe inspiring.
After the Alpha Course ended I wanted to find out more. Ruth (who led the course and is now my wife) invited me along to their service at OakTree with the promise of introducing me to hot women and a pint after the service. When I went to the service I was amazed. This was a church service like nothing I had experienced. I actually thought it was quite cool. The music was rocking, the service was far from dull and the sermon…the sermon was fascinating. I felt like Mark (the minister) was speaking directly to me with what he was saying. It would take me a while to realize that God was using him to speak to me. At first I put it all down to co-incidences but I soon realized that there were just too many for it to be a fluke. Things started to make sense. When I started to look at the world through Jesus’ eyes it became an amazing place of opportunity, hope, love, happiness and just out-right awesomeness.
Since then I have learnt so much. With Jesus I am sooooo much stronger. Ultimately I can achieve anything, I fear nothing, and I am saved… it seems so simple but I have no more worries that He can’t handle. I don’t have to rely on my own abilities because I rely on Him. I used to say that Christians had faith as a crutch to get them through life. YES it’s true. Before I met Jesus my life was hard and I didn’t know happiness. Now I have Him in my life – life is BRILLIANT!