The Return of a Prodigal
I’m one of the older members of Lighthouse Community Church, and where to start with my testimony? God has been so good to me over the years.
I first became a Christian many years ago when I was a student, but my decision was not whole-hearted and I soon ran into difficulties. After much struggling, for many years I thought that I had ‘blown it’ and could never be a proper Christian (whatever I thought that was).
And then I had a very special experience of God’s love and acceptance. It was as though God said, ‘Enough!’ and stepped in to show me that I didn’t have to do anything to earn His love, He loves me just as I am – and He loves you too, no matter who you are or what you’ve done.
I believe that God led me to this church (Hardley Pentecostal Church as it was then) 26 years ago and I have found here a loving family of people who have supported me through the ups and downs of life since. The teaching which I have received here has helped me to make sense of my experiences with God – and as for the worship! I just love being able to let myself go and express my love for God during the praise and worship here at Lighthouse.
Here is a brief outline of my walk with God so far:-
During my early teens, I’d become an atheist. Studying science, everything seemed cut and dried - and no room for God. Then in the sixth form, the first thing we learnt was ‘deviations from the gas laws’, no real gas obeys the gas laws. So I did a rethink of my philosophy and decided that maybe there was room for God after all, so I became an agnostic.
Then I went to university and met some Christians. They didn’t answer all my questions, but they did convince me that Jesus probably did rise from the dead. The evidence is pretty overwhelming. Also, there was some bond between the Christians that I found attractive. I knew I wasn’t ‘one of them’ and yet I didn’t feel excluded.
I went to some ‘My God is Real’ talks given by David Watson, and halfway through the week I realised that it wasn’t enough to believe that the resurrection happened, I had to do something. So I decided to ‘nail my colours to the mast’ and follow Jesus.
After 6 month’s ‘honey-moon’, the thorns started growing (as in Jesus’ parable of the sower). I had a series of unhelpful relationships interspersed with periodic returns to churchgoing.
By my mid 20s I sort of ‘threw in the towel’. I had a daughter, without being married, left her father and then married someone who was not a Christian. In between I had phases of turning back to God, going to church and reading the Bible. My daughter lived with my parents whilst I did a teaching course. I’d been teaching for five terms, and was then advised to give it a rest as I couldn’t control the classes! Plans to make a home for the two of us were further away than ever.
For many years I thought that I had ‘blown it’, that I had let the side down and was not a proper Christian.
I didn’t go to church regularly, didn’t read my bible or pray properly. I didn’t like to think too much about the state of my ‘soul’ – I just thought that I’d blown it and there was no way out, or back to God. I got very depressed, and at times suicidal.
In my mid 30s, God stepped in a big way.
Eventually, God seemed to say, ‘Enough!’ I got pregnant again (even though my husband and I had decided that we had completed our family and I had had a sterilisation operation). My husband was really angry and I prayed, ‘Help! If he doesn’t want this baby, I can’t cope.’
A few days after the birth, I had a wonderful experience of knowing God’s love and acceptance. I just knew that this was God. God very lovingly showed me that it was His love that I needed, not from humans – they would never satisfy me.
Then I wanted to get back to fellowship with other Christians, and God seemed to say, ‘you look after your baby and family and I will find you a church’. I was led to what was then Hardley Pentecostal Church. The minute I walked through the door, I felt at home. Everyone was friendly and seemed interested in me. It was the same sense of love that I had experienced with the Christians at university. The rest, as they say, is history. I’ve not looked back since.
My life took off again after what I call the dark years: years of suicidal depressions, one muddle after another. I became a local councillor and a part-time community education worker. I developed my writing; producing a weekly newsletter for the church, and writing letters and articles for the local press.
Things were jogging along quite nicely and then:
My husband had some sort of mental breakdown, lost his job and it seemed that we might lose the house. It ended up in my going back to university to do a nursing course and then working as a mental health nurse - a job that I really enjoyed.
This experience taught me to trust God. I had no where else to turn, and at one stage I thought that I was ‘losing the plot’ as well. I was supported by the leadership at that time – but there was not much that they could do practically. There is a scripture that sums up the situation: ‘I cried out, “I’m slipping!” and your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me. When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.’ [Psalm 94:18,19. New Living Translation]
Also, this experience reinforced the importance of Bible meditation for my mental health. Two verses that I said to myself over and over during that time were Philippians 4:6,7 ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’ [New International Version]. This encouraged me that I would not lose my mind in the situation.
In my journal there are many verses that God gave me at that time that helped me to keep close to Him and to trust Him that we would get through.
I have recently retired and have entered another season of life. I’ve spent the last few months catching up on reading and developing a blog. I’m sharing some of what I’ve learned at MMM… Meditation, Mental health, Mindful crochet ( www.delemares.wordpress.com ) – that’s biblical meditation, but wordpress wouldn’t let me have a title that long. I’m very excited learning how to use the internet for good, and meeting all sorts of amazing, encouraging, generous and brave people. [By the way, other people in church may not agree with all views expressed on my blog. That’s ok. We agree on the basics.]
After the turning point moment, I often asked myself, ‘Why then? I hadn’t been to church regularly for years, and hadn’t read my bible or prayed properly. Why should God bother with me?
Answer: Because that’s just the way He is. He is love, He is merciful. He never gives up on us. He will always give us another chance. And He’s never more than a prayer away.
Best of all, I know that nothing can separate me from God’s love.
My God is real, and He loves me - and He loves you.