Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Home At Last
Over the past few weeks I have described my journey towards Christianity. I haven't included everything, particularly those events which were recounted to me by third parties. Members of my extended family have had many spiritual encounters ranging from "sensing" a presence in a room to actual physical contact. I don't want to scare anyone, but it is vital that we understand that the spiritual realm is a real place. The Bible makes it very clear that we "wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high [places]." Ephesians 6:12.
Having come to this belief that what we see with our physical eyes is not all that there is, I wanted to understand this realm that lies beyond our senses. If such a place exists then what can we know about it? Does it pose a danger to us? If so, how can we protect ourselves? It seemed to me that we must be at the mercy of this invisible world. We go about our daily lives, surrounded by a dimension that we cannot perceive, presumably inhabited by beings that can observe see us without us being able to see them.
I remember reading a book in which the concept of two-dimensional world was described. The author suggested that we imagine a flat piece of paper inhabited by flat beings. Being only two-dimensional, these creatures could not see up or down, but only directly ahead. The author then asked what would happen if we pierced the paper with a pen. We would see the pen and the paper. The two-dimensional beings, however, would only see the circle where the pen made contact with the paper. If we then tilted the pen to the side, the flat creatures would witness the hole "mysteriously" changing shape.
This description is simplistic because the lower dimensions only really exist as aspects of the higher dimensions (something with no height simply does not exist in this world), but it suggests that, just like the poor flat creatures that can only see the circle changing shape as we tilt pen, so too can we only see a small part of a world that is merely an aspect of a higher dimension. Perhaps this higher dimension is the spiritual realm. Perhaps when we see a miracle, we are merely seeing the circle changing shape. "For now we see through a glass, darkly;" 1 Corinthians 13:12.
The more I became aware these things, the harder I searched. I have mentioned in an earlier post that I did not come from a Christian home. My maternal grandmother gave me a Bible for my Christening, and I remember reading a picture book called "Heroes of the Bible", but there was no guidance beyond that. I never met my father and my mother was agnostic, as was my older brother. When I was twelve, I used to pass this small church on the way home from school. I stopped off one day and sat in one of the pews. The place was deserted and I remember calling out to God. We were alone in His house, so I probably figured that was my best chance of getting His attentiuon. I think I was expecting a thunderous voice, and I was a little disappointed that I received no reply, but I believe that that simple cry reached all the way up to Heaven. I may not have heard a voice, but I believe that it was at this moment that my path was set. From that moment on, my life was firmly in His hands.
It took me a few years to find my way back into a church, but I got there in the end. I was always very indecisive, especially during my youth. I was (and to some extent, still am) the kind of person who needs a firm nudge to get him to pick which direction to choose when presented with a fork in the road. So it was with my wife. We knew we loved each other and wanted to be together, but neither of us wanted to make that decision. I was too young. My wife had just left a painful relationship and was wary of getting hurt again. I had to move abroad for us to realize that we couldn't bear being a part. We decided to get married. She would join me in England and we would get married. I approached the pastor of a local church. He said he would marry us on one condition: I had to attend his services.
So, for the second time in my life, I entered a church for a reason another than the usual birth/marriage/death. Sure, I was going because I wanted to get married, but I could have tried a dozen other churches where my attendance wasn't required. The next Sunday, true to my word, I joined a service. It was an old building and I think I was expecting the usual dull rituals I had seen via the birth/marriage/death route. What happened surprised me. The people seemed happy to be there. And they seemed thrilled that I had joined them. The songs were gentle but filled with joy. The preacher was sober but earnest. The next week I actually looked forward to going. The preacher spoke to me about God. I am quite sceptical by nature and asked him some tough questions. He answered them admirably and honestly, plus it helped put my mind at ease that he had a science degree. Here was a scientist talking to me about the supernatural.
Jump forward six months. My wife flew over from South Africa and we were married in a small ceremony. She attended the church with me and we struggled to adjust to life as a married couple. I still, however, had not committed myself to God. I spoke with the pastor and told him of my doubts. He told me that, at some point, I would just have to make the decision. Just as I had put me doubts and fears behind me and take the plunge into marriage, so too would I have to take the plunge with God. There was nothing more he could do for me. It was between me and the Almighty. I just had to trust.
That year the church travelled across to the east coast to take part in the Spring Harvest Festival, which is an annual gathering of Christian from all over England. I remember walking into the first service, into a huge hall packed with Christians, and thinking: "I'm home". It wasn't anything logical. It was as if my own spirit recognized the Spirit present in that auditorium. We sat close to the front and Glad performed the Easter Song. I remember thinking: "I need God. I want God." The preacher gave a stirring sermon and the hall was filled with people singing praises. At the end, he asked if there was anyone who wanted to meet God. I shot to my feet like someone had just plugged my chair into the mains. I looked around and saw that only one or two other people had joined me. The preacher nodded and then left. I was gutted. I wanted him to take me to meet God. I looked at my wife. She shrugged. Unperturbed, I headed towards the stage and walked down the side to where a group of musicians were standing around. I walked straight up to the guitarist and told him I wanted to be saved. I'll never forget the look of surprise on his face. How often do Christians have that happen to them?
The guitarist led me in the prayer of salvation, and that, I thought, was that. I'm home. I've found God. We live happily ever after. The end. That was what I thought, but I was so wrong. Finding God is not where it finishes. Sometimes I think God doesn't give any hint as to what it's like to follow Him because He knows we'd probably choose to wait a little bit longer. I thought finding God was the end of the adventure. As it turns out, it's just the beginning.