How it all started
Some of my earliest memories are of church. Mum and Dad were Christians and so I was taken to church from an incredibly young age. Three times on a Sunday because there was a morning service, an evening service, and a Sunday School in the afternoon. Sundays were awfully long and often boring days. I would usually spend the services counting the ceiling tiles or making as many words out of one of the songs we were singing as I could! Sunday School was fun as we were given sweets if we answered a question correctly.
Learning about God in my head
I assumed that everyone else went to church as much as I did, but it finally dawned on me at school that most people did not. Mum and Dad taught me and my older brother, David, that sin was ignoring God, living by our own rules and that sin separated us from God. I knew it all in my head very clearly and could tell anyone who asked me who Jesus was. But apart from that, it didn’t mean very much as a child, to me church was just what our family did and our way of life.
Learning about God in my heart
By the time I was 12, I knew that I wasn’t a Christian, but thought I would leave making that decision until I was older and could understand it all better. The summer after starting secondary school, I was in town with my cousin, Jayne. She was not a Christian either, but sometimes came to church with us. I remember that we were bored and probably looking for trouble. We went into Woolworths and we each stole a packet of sweets. I had the money to pay for them, but it felt exciting to see if we could get away with it. And we did. We sauntered out of the shop laughing at our boldness. Yet I could not bring myself to eat those sweets. I put them on a shelf in my bedroom, but I couldn’t settle as I knew that stealing was wrong. I put them under the bed and decided that out of sight was out of mind! In bed that night I remember thinking that God must be sad and angry with me, but I reassured myself with the thought that it was only a “little sin”. After all I hadn’t murdered anyone had I?
we got away with it
Wrestling with the truth
I remember sleeping badly for the next couple of nights, knowing that those sweets were hidden under the bed. I couldn’t stop thinking about them. That Sunday we went to church as usual. It was more exciting than normal as we had a speaker who was visiting from Scotland and I listened much more carefully than most weeks, because he was someone different. But this week, it all made sense. He told me all the things I already knew from my parents, but it seemed fresh and new somehow. He said that God’s son Jesus, had been sent by God to die on the cross and this wasn’t a mistake, that it was God’s plan that his perfect son should be a sacrifice which would cover all my sins. He also made it clear that God would not let those who rejected Jesus be in heaven with him. It was hard to hear that Jesus, who was perfect, had suffered such a terrible death on the cross for me- but it was equally amazing that he had done it for me!
Arriving at the crossroads
As the speaker finished, all I could think about was that packet of sweets under my bed. For the first time I really understood what sin was. It was anything that did not meet God’s standards. I went home from church knowing that I had to do something, I could not ignore what I had heard. The speaker said that to be right with God, we needed to” repent and believe”. He explained that “repent” means to turn around and to live with Jesus in charge instead of ourselves and “believe” means to trust that Jesus has done everything we need to give us a place in his Kingdom. I went up to my room, pulled the packet of sweets from under the bed and went downstairs to ask Mum for help. I prayed, telling God that I was genuinely sorry for my sin and that I believed that Jesus had done all that was needed to rescue me from my sin. My life has had many ups and downs since becoming a Christian, but I can honestly say that God has always been faithful and good to me, even when I haven’t seen it at the time. He has been with me during the toughest times of my life and I know that he loves me, despite knowing all my shortcomings and weaknesses.
In the winter of 2001, I had to attend a training course for work in Bournemouth. It was still dark as I drove down the M3 with a work colleague, Sam. As we neared Winchester services, without warning the steering started to feel different and the front wheel on my side seemed to be wobbling. We were in the fast lane and as I tried to steady the steering wheel, the car clipped the central reservation and bounced off it, shooting back across the middle lane and slow lane. How the oncoming traffic avoided us I will never know, but I believe that God was in control.
As the car reached the hard shoulder it hit the barrier and broke through it. In the pitch black, the car headed downwards and rolled over and over around half a dozen times before landing on its roof. Time stood still as the car kept rolling over and Sam asked me what was happening! We were left hanging upside down, in sheer terror and Sam’s foot was trapped in the footwell although neither of us seemed to have any injuries.
Panic and fear
We couldn’t reach our mobile phones which were in bags behind us. We were terrified that the car might be near water- a lake or reservoir which it might plunge into. Or that the car might have a leaking petrol tank which could suddenly explode. But both doors were jammed shut in the impact and we were trapped. I could only cry out to God for help. The car lurched slightly, and my bag slid within reach so that I could grab my phone. For the first time in my life I dialed 999. I will never forget the emergency operator, Rebecca as I told her that we were upside down somewhere off the M3 north of Winchester. She simply said, “Well we’ll have to work hard to find you, won’t we”. We begged her to stay on the line and a short while later, she calmly explained that a police car had not been able to locate us.
Desperate feelings yet a solid confidence
I remember feeling desperate by this stage. It was still dark, and no one could see us. I cried out again to God for help. I didn’t even know what to say, but I did know that God knew exactly where we were. Rebecca told us that a police helicopter with a thermal camera had been sent up to find us and after an interminable wait, she told us to hang on, the helicopter had located us and help was coming. Within 15 minutes, we heard the cheery shouts of emergency personnel as they headed towards the car. A firefighter smashed the front side windows and checked we were ok, before setting up the cutting equipment to remove the roof from the car so we could be lifted out. The M3 was closed for a short while as we were stretchered up to the hard shoulder and taken to Bournemouth Hospital for a check-up. The police told us that they never went to accidents like that and found survivors. They could not believe that we were both alive and well. Yet God had been there, every second of that accident, watching over me and Sam.
The God of the universe who cares for us
I will never forget how God saved my life that day. A book in the Bible called Isaiah reminds me just how much God cares for me, not just on that day in 2001, but for all the days of my life. It says “I will be your God throughout your lifetime until your hair is white with age. I made you and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you”. Being a Christian isn’t always easy but because God loves me and wants the best for me, I know that I have everything that I could ever want or need.