Like some of you, I had a fairly ‘normal’ upbringing – a happy childhood feeling loved and cared for. I grew up in South East England and until going to secondary school was unbelievably blessed to know no tragedy or discomfort in life.
When life is going smoothly and you have all you need, it’s difficult to see yourself as anything less than ‘good’ in God’s eyes, or that you need saving from something.
Something’s not right
However, come those difficult adolescent years at high school I was hurt and torn in the ways many teenage girls are – not fitting in with the ‘cool’ gang, unrequited love from those you admire so much, battling the spitefulness of a sixth form common room and not knowing which direction to take. I knew somehow, even then, that life was not intended to be like this. I couldn’t have told you why but just felt people were not intended to hurt and treat each other this way. I continued in my academic studies and went straight from A-levels into a Marine Biology degree at Bangor University, North Wales. Again I had a turbulent time not knowing where I should be heading. I was desperately homesick, in fairly unsociable halls of residence and for months I found it hard to click with anyone. In between my studies I did what most freshers do – drank far too much and continued to look for affection from people who weren’t really interested in me.
On the last day of my first year, I found myself on the dance floor at the end of term ball. I love to dance and feeling fairly sober and abandoned by my girlfriends, I danced the night away with the one remaining person still standing – a handsome chap with a rugged look and head of red dreadlocks! We had a great night, and then this stranger told me he was graduating and probably never returning.
God comes first
Come September of my second year, I was feeling more at home. Then I bumped into this dreadlocked stranger again! He had missed the mountains and came back to find work. It turned out he lived about six doors away (with God there is no such thing as a coincidence!). We enjoyed each other’s company and ended up falling for each other. One day we took a trip to Llandudno, for what I thought would be a romantic day out together but in fact it ended with me crying heartily into my chips on the prom! This man turned to me, tearful himself, saying that this friendship could go no further because he was a Christian and there was Someone important in his life who would have to be part of any future relationship we had. I was astonished. My friends thought I should leave this nutter and get on with my life. Up until now the only Christians I had known were ‘very nice’ elderly ladies running the Girl Guide Sunday School. Now I had a rugged, dreadlocked climber and surfer telling me that, because of Jesus Christ, he was in a relationship with God whom he wanted to put first. This challenged every stereotypical view of Christianity I had ever had.
I saw the truth
Despite the advice of my friends, I could not forget this guy. My curiosity was aroused and I began to ask questions about his faith. I asked for things to read and invited myself along to his church, Ebenezer Evangelical Church, Bangor. It was here that I began to appreciate the meaning of sin. For me it had always been a dirty word applied to murderers, thieves and paedophiles, but never to myself. However, as I read the Bible and heard it preached, Jesus opened my heart and eyes. All the answers I have ever sought about the meaning of my existence were answered. However the word ‘sin’ is portrayed in our culture, in the Bible it is simply not living your life with God in charge. Then I began to accept the invitation from Jesus that: ‘I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me’ (John 14:6). And so it was revealed to me that not only was I full of sin because I had always tried to follow my own desires doing things my way, but I needed rescuing from it to get ‘right’ with God. The following verse may be familiar to you, but suddenly its true meaning became applicable and personal to me. Jesus died on the cross, not for anything he had done wrong, but to bridge the gap between my sinful heart and an everlasting relationship with God: ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.’ (John 3:16-17).
I am forgiven
Back on those steps in Llandudno, I had felt hurt, jealous and shunned. But in the last 15 years, as I’ve grown in my own relationship with God, and sought to live my life with him at the helm, I have come to appreciate that he truly has my joy and interests at heart. Better still, none of this was my doing. I did not win God’s favour by being nice and doing the ‘right’ things! Try as hard as we might, we will always fail if we try to earn God’s favour in our own strength. And don’t be fooled, I am still a sinner and I continue to think selfishly, proudly and spitefully, but am assured and comforted that in God’s eyes, I am forgiven, because when he looks at me he doesn’t see my sinful heart but his spotless son, Jesus Christ. ‘For by Grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast’ (Eph. 2:8-9).
In his care
What happened to the scruffy dreadlocked guy? Well, we recently celebrated our thirteenth wedding anniversary and we praise God for his grace in keeping us together and united in love. We have been via Devon, Bolivia and Sheffield, and now live in Conwy, North Wales, near to where it started all those years ago! We have been blessed with two amazing children, Noah & Eryn, and love to enjoy God’s creation together. We are also incredibly thankful to be part of a gracious, loving, faithful church family at Queens Road in Llandudno, a stone’s throw away from where I sat crying into my chips 15 years previously! Our Father God in heaven has given us so many gifts to enjoy, best of all a Saviour in Jesus, through whom we can rest in the peace and hope of knowing we are forever in his care. ‘For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Rom. 8:38-39).