One of my favourite songs is one that I feel really tells my life story, and it makes me cry – good tears, tears of gratitude and of overwhelming joy because wow, God did this for me!
He was so amazingly patient with me – not just in the 27 years I’d lived without even acknowledging his existence, but in the 12 years when I claimed to be a Christian and was letting him down big time.
Aged 27, I walked into a church not expecting anything at all and, to my great surprise, met God there. I didn’t know it was possible! I wasn’t sure God even existed but even if he did I hadn’t heard that it’s possible to meet him personally. And I wasn’t looking. I went to that church because my girlfriend wanted to go to church – she regarded herself as a Christian (long story) and when we came to England she looked for a church of the denomination she belonged to, found one, was going to go and then got cold feet. It would be full of strangers, it was scary… So I said I’d go with her to keep her company.
That’s all I thought I was doing.
Being Jewish, I didn’t have any reason to expect to find God in a church of all places.
Being an almost-atheist agnostic, I didn’t have any expectation I’d find God anywhere at all.
But something happened. And my life changed.
It’s not that I was instantly changed there and then. Far from it. And this is what makes me so grateful for God’s patience! There was stuff in my life that I was holding onto and not even beginning to be anywhere near ready to contemplate the notion that there might be anything wrong with it. And there was stuff that I knew was wrong but I still didn’t completely let go of it.
Some of it changed over time. The lying, for instance, I got more and more uncomfortable with and eventually stopped doing. The sexual immorality I finally repented of almost a decade after I’d first made the commitment to following Jesus. The swearing – I don’t remember at what point I accepted that that wasn’t ok with God, and the departmental swear box at work was suddenly depleted of a regular source of coins… There were all kinds of changes happening over time, as every once in a while God would get through to me about something in particular.
Would I have been so patient with someone being so slow on the uptake? God is amazing. He loved me enough to reach out to me when I was living a sinful life and to keep showing me his love even while I still held onto a whole load of sinful behaviour and attitudes – an unconditional love, not a love that says “clean up your act first and then we’ll talk”.
Eventually, after twelve years of this in-between existence, he brought me to the point of realising what Jesus was all about, repenting and turning to him for salvation – so much more than what I’d given him credit for to start with, so much more than a good teacher who came to show us how to live, but the Son of God who took on flesh and died as the atoning sacrifice for the sins of humankind!
And so at last, on 1 July 2002, after 12 years of trying to live the Christian life in my own strength and failing – unsurprisingly, because you can’t do it in your own strength, you need God’s help! – after all those years I was at last reborn of the Holy Spirit and washed clean.
I was 40 when I started my new life. Whatever age you are, if you’re reading this and haven’t put your faith in Jesus yet, it’s not too late. As long as you’re alive, the offer of salvation through Jesus is available to you. He died to give you life.