Why 24th October?
Because it’s worth shouting about! Even after 15 years my ‘before’ is still raw, but it’s enough to say it involved depression, paranoia and self-hatred – but I want to tell you about 24th October if you’ll let me? I was 16 and had got to the end of myself. I thought there must be a God for me to have seen some of the stuff I’d seen, but it seemed that God didn’t care about me, didn’t see me, wasn’t bothered, and I doubted it was possible to meet God; I thought it must be a figure of speech. But I was desperate and it seemed like there being a meetable God was my only hope, and I prayed something along the lines of ‘God, if you’re real and you can hear me, I don’t care anymore if you save me or not, I just want to meet you’.
And I think Jesus must have gone ‘Finally!!’ and come running, as He met me in the funniest, cheesiest (even by 90s standards!) way possible, at my friends’ church’s youth service, which I had gone to to watch them doing a horribly cheesy dance to a worse song! 😀 I was suddenly aware of Jesus with me, calling my name, speaking directly to me, picking me up off my chair when the leaders asked if anyone wanted to be prayed for (I’d no way have gone up if He hadn’t, I was far too shy!), and flinging His arms round me via my youth-group-to-be and saying over and over ‘You’re safe, you’re safe’.
And I am! Through being befriended by the resurrected Jesus I know that since He’s alive, I have hope beyond this life, whatever that means in practise (which I don’t know) – but even on top of that, just meeting Him I got healed and the painful ‘before’ stuff that had held me back just wasn’t there anymore, even that evening as I went home, and did not come back the next morning as I feared it would, and hasn’t since. Hence I’ve been signing my name with a smiley for the past 15 years – that I have a real smile now is a miracle, and I celebrate it, it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m happy, but it means I’m ok inside.
I got home that night, praying Jesus would come with me, and stay with me, and still be there the next day, and I read some of the Bible I’d heard at the service. Same words I’d read a couple of years before whilst trying to become ‘Christian’ by reading it, but this time Jesus just seemed to walk off the page into the room. Real, personal. And as promised He’s continued to be there, if sometimes harder to reach than at other times.
Where have I been since? I’ve found faith is only ever deepened by asking questions, allowing my ideas and beliefs to be challenged, listening to new ideas – I can only find more of God, not less, by searching, since (S)he’s there. (you’ll get a pretty good idea of my journey from the lyrics of a certain band I follow a bit too much – which is why I follow them!) The straightforward easy stuff no longer looks at all straightforward and easy, and the more I’ve got to ‘know’ God, the less I realise I actually ‘know’, and even *can* know, God, and yet the more I see, and love, and realise I’m loved. Jesus is always challenging me to push the boundaries of love, and that’s taken me into activism in all sorts of ways. But I still have boundaries that need challenging, and there’s still far too much of me that’s a ‘work in progress’! You wouldn’t know I had this story, or that I’d ever met the real, incredibly charismatic and inspiring Jesus that we can read about, from just being around me for example. I’ve a way to go…but then, I’ll never be able to really do Him justice! And still He bears with me 🙂