Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sometimes It's The Little Things

I became a Christian at the age of twenty after many years of fervent searching. I was not born into a religious family. In fact my only encounter with religion was through my maternal grandmother who gave me a KJV Bible and a Christian picture book when I was five years old. Both meant nothing to me at the time. The Bible was white with gold decorative trim and gilt-edged pages, and crammed with indecipherable words in crisp Roman font. The picture book was full of bearded, earnest-looking men set against stark, dusty backgrounds, and sheep. If anything, they looked scary. Is it any wonder then that my first impression of religion was not a particularly enthusiastic one.

Over the next fifteen years I had many encounters with all sorts of religious folk. Through some early spiritual experiences I was convinced that, as Shakespeare once said, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy", and so I determined to discover as much about heaven and earth as I could. During my travels I came into contact with numerous religions, from Jehovah's Witnesses to the New Age, from the Occult to Buddhism.

I even dabbled in Scientology. Before you snicker, please understand that there is a certain appeal that has to be experienced to be understood. I get the atraction of Scientology and Dianetics, and why it is people spend a small fortune in trying to achieve the coveted "clear" moniker. For me, however, it was not enough just to get over my painful past. I needed more.

Later I attended a Silva Mind Control course, still wondering if the truth lay within my own mind. Even here, in a course designed to boost your concentration and help you take control of your own thoughts, there is a strong spiritual aspect tucked neatly away under the surface.

Not long after that I settled on Buddhism, to the point of identifying it as my religion when asked. It seemed such a tranquil religion and suited my personality perfectly. Except that the peace I experienced soon began to feel empty. Through meditation I learned to empty my mind and feel nothing, except that I could not believe that Horatio's heaven and Earth was filled with. . .nothing. I knew there was something more.

During the latter part of my search, I came into contact with a particular breed of religious person that I could not understand. Most religious people seemed to be in transit. It was as if that, even though they thought they had found the answer, there was something missing that they could not quite put a finger on. I felt that way myself, as if I somehow knew the answer but had yet to find it. There were certain people, however, who seemed to know that they had found the truth, and you could see it in their eyes.

When I think back on these people, I get the impression that God put them in my life to steer my towards Him. There weren't many, but I will never forget them. They weren't televangelists or preachers standing before huge crowds, but individuals who took the time to step out of their comfort zones and make contact with a complete stranger. Sometimes the contact was one-to-one. Other times it was less direct. There is one in particular that I wish I could find and thank. We never spoke but I saw him almost every day on my way to work. I would see him striding down the sidewalk, singing in a deep baritone voice. At the time I did not understand what he was singing about, but I do now. He was singing praises to God. I remember, just before leaving to go overseas, seeing that same man sitting on a park bench, his head bowed and a sad look on his face. He had the appearance of someone who had been humiliated or even beaten, even though he bore no physical wounds. The biggest change, however, was his singing. Normally his voice was loud and clear. Now, sitting on the bench, slumped forward with his face turned towards the ground, the words were barely audible. He was still singing, but only just.

I wish now that I could go back and find that man, and tell him that his singing affected me and made me wonder what could bring a man such joy that he had to express it everywhere he went. I wish I could tell him that he should sing no matter what the world says to him or does to him. He should sing even though people mock and scorn and laugh because, even if he does not realise it, his words reached everyone who heard them--especially me. I sometimes wonder what happened to that man. I hope and pray that, wherever he is, he is still singing because, sometimes, it is the little things than nudge us in the right direction.


  1. I'd like to think that someone with a spirit like that would not stay for long, so I'm sure he returned to singing with gusto.
    It's always really interesting to hear testimonies from Christians who have dabbled in other philosophies in former lives, so thank, Paul.

  2. Dear Paul, your post today really touched me, thank you. With your permission I would like to forward this to my Alpha group. I led the session on evangelism on Monday and we were talking about little nudges towards God. I think this is a brilliant illustration. Would it be OK to send it to them?


  3. Hi Paula. Yes, I'm sure he bounced back. It just makes me sad to remember him looking so broken. Thanks for letting me share some of my journey. I remember walking into a big Christian meeting and something clicked inside me, and I thought "I'm home". They did an altar call but only a few of us put our hands up, so they didn't call us up. I had to go and find someone to lead me through the prayer of salvation. It was a member of the worship band. He looked so surprised that someone had actually approached him. I think I was the easiest convert he ever won :-).

    Hi Fiona. Yes, please use it. I hope it is of some use for your Alpha group.

  4. I appreciate those little things too. As Christians we need to be mindful of the little things we do and not worry about what others may think. I am always reminded of the quote. "Your life is the only Bible some people will ever read." What page is my life turned to today?
    Cindy Huff

  5. I'm glad you went out and searched for the truth, Paul. We never know how our actions will impact others, which is why it's important we go out into the world being God's shining light, just as the joyful man in your story has done. Inspirational post, thank you.

  6. Paul, great to read your story and how God nudged you towards Him.Thanks for sharing it.Love the different ways God calls each of us to Himself so we reach the truth in the end.

  7. Hi Cindy. I love that quote. Unfortunately, it's so easy to forget how important our actions are. Too often the Bible of my life is firmly shut when it should be open.

    Hi Laura. I hope African Hearts is doing well. You reminded me of something somebody once said to me on the last day of my job. I was buying a sandwich at the local grocers and mentioned to the lady behind the counter that it was my last day. We usually chatted most days but I had never actually witnessed to her. She said "I always wondered why you were so friendly. Someone told me. Now I know" and winked as she handed me the sandwich. I always felt like a bit of a failed Christian for not witnessing enough, but it turned out I was doing plenty of witnessing by how I treated other people. So often what we do can speak much louder than what we say.

    Hi Dale. Yes, isn't He wonderful? At the time I felt so lost but, looking back, I can see how He had everything under control.

  8. Thanks, Paul, for your moving post. You write with gentleness, humility and real insight. And even if you can't find that man who sang praises, one day you may well meet in heaven. God bless.

  9. Thank you Jo-Anne. I hope to meet him again one day. I don't tink I'll recognize his face, but I will certainly know his voice! Thanks for your kind words.