There seemed to be scepticism about God everywhere and when I went to university I decided that my beliefs where largely inherited and decided to drop church, prayers and Bible reading.
God has been a major part of my life since childhood.Sometimes he has seemed very real and significant, but for many years I thought he was an unnecessary prop to life.
I now look back on my life from retirement age. As a child, my parents were involved in the Methodist church; Mum as organist, Dad leading a Boys' Brigade Company and looking after the church building. Being in the
has left its mark the hymn we sang before going home, 'Saviour again, to thy dear name we raise', I often play on a keyboard before retiring to bed.
In my teens religion took on a different flavour when Mum became organist at the nearby Baptist Church. Here the emphasis was much more on sins, salvation, being born again, making a commitment to follow Christ.
Just before my 14th birthday, Mum took me to a Billy Graham Rally relayed from London at which I responded to the call to get up out of your seat. This was a serious and real decision but left me feeling an odd sort of person at school. At the age when teenage boys were getting quite interested in smoking, drinking and girls, the first twowere off limits for me, and the third would go no further than kissing. There seemed to be scepticism about God everywhere and when I went to university I decided that my beliefs where largely inherited and decided to drop church, prayers and Bible reading.
I do remember one prayer I made though, prior to getting engaged - not so much asking as telling him this was what I needed to do and so please make it work - which it did for some years.
In my mid 30s my first wife left me. At the same time I started to seek God earnestly. I had begun to sense an inner emptiness, that something was missing from my inner life, from my soul. I had for some years been reading books on belief. I was encouraged by
The Christian Agnostic
by Leslie Weatherhead, which allowed me to see it might be possible to believe in Jesus again, without too much of the supernatural trappings.
The urge to return to the faith of my youth seemed to surge upon me. Yes, I did still believe in Jesus as Son of God, dying for the sins of the world. It seemed that though I had forgotten God for some 17 years he had not forgotten me. I began to read my Good News Bible avidly, rejoined the church and attended the Mens Group.
A year on from returning to church, I attended a meeting of the Full Gospel Businessmen, at which a missionary Isabel Chapman told of her solo trip to the Philippines and of some amazing healings. I remember a pervading atmosphere of love at the meeting. A few days later, sat at my desk at home, I started to speak strange non-English words my own Pentecost.
29 years on I look back and give thanks to God for a second chance; a second wife, children and grandchildren. I love God's faithfulness, I love his goodness, I love his new deal no longer under law, but justified by faith in his Son.
What difference does my faith make? I no longer feel a need to strive to prove myself (most of the time) being assured of a Fathers love, assured of a status as a member of his family and with a purpose in life to seek His and His kingdom.
About the author
Roger Longlives in Emersons Green, is married to Jackie and is currently a churchwarden at St James Mangotsfield.