28 01 2008

Monday, for most people, is the start of a new week. For God’s chosen people the seventh day was Saturday and so Sunday was the first day of the week, but for most of us now it’s the start of another ‘working week’.   Life experiences are full of new beginnings. Every New Year we step out of the old year with hopes for something new in the year that is coming.

We come back from holidays and start out afresh into a new bout of work. Teachers come back from holidays and start a new term. We wake up each morning to a new day. I once picked up a new life. I’m not sure I was really looking for it; it was more like it came and got me. I went to a Billy Graham Crusade because I was interested in communication and had heard he was a great communicator. I came away interested but untouched. Another time I went to hear him again, confident in my previous experience that this was safe ground. I went because I was trying to take out a Christian girl and this was the only thing she would come to with me. It was safe ground.

 This time The Life turned round and attacked me. My life was challenged and suddenly I realised I was not comfortable with it. I wrestled with The Life and left the stadium exhausted but triumphant. It is very, very tiring battling the truth. But I came out unchanged but I must have looked like I’d been run over by a tank. As I left her that night she said something about needing to make decisions. I returned to my dingy bed-sit in Acton in West London feeling like I’d been run over by a tank. I sat on my bed and contemplated this experience. Everything the man had said about me was true. I couldn’t stay like this. I’d heard it all but how much I took in I don’t know. This was decision time.

I needed to pray, but how do you? I’d seen pictures of people on their knees praying, so I got down on my knees. I’d seen pictures of people with their hands together praying so I put my hands together. They had had their eyes closed, so I closed my eyes. But now what? Pictures don’t give you the words. If in doubt, keep it brief. “God if you are there and you want my life, here it is, please take it and make me anew. Amen.”  The ‘Amen’ was an echo from the past in school prayers. That was it.

I got off my knees, tumbled into bed and fell asleep.  Next morning I woke up a new person. No, not just feeling new because of a good night’s sleep but something was radically different. I had planned to visit a cousin. I spent the day with him trying to convince him to become a Christian. Where did that all come from? However you might try it explain it psychologically,  I felt a new person.  For the likes of the new crusaders, the atheists, this is a very inadequate story, childishly simple and foolishly naive. You could have argued my socks off – and you’d have been better at it then than me – but you wouldn’t have convinced me. I was what Richard Dawkins calls ‘a faith-head’. I’m not certain what it means but I think he means someone who is impervious to argument. The content came later and I’ll have a go at giving you an answer to any theological question you might have today, but then, I was just convinced.

I love that account in John’s Gospel where Jesus heals a man who has been blind from birth and gives him back his sight. Jesus moves off and the man is left to explain it to his family and the religious people who were after Jesus. Eventually they get really irate with the man and say of Jesus, “We know this man is a sinner.” John doesn’t say it, but I can imagine this man grinning at them as he replies, “Whether he’s a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see.”

Isn’t that fabulous! All I know is that I was blind but now I can see. You can’t argue against that and if it’s never happened to you, I understand that it is frustrating. For me, and millions of others, that was a life transforming experience, and you can’t argue against it. Well you can, but you’ll be wasting your time. Today I can give you lots and lots of supportive things that follow that experience – millions more experiences and lots of knowledge. Those things don’t make me any better or worse than I was back then,  but they add a lot of content, and I think that’s what this site is supposed to be about. So, as the days go on, I’ll hopefully add some content: beliefs built on learning and beliefs built on experiences and if anything I say can help someone, then great!




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