Sunday, February 20, 2005

My Testimony

I thought it would be a good opportunity this afternoon, to give anyone reading this an insight into why I became a Christian. Are you sitting comfortably....?

Then I'll begin.

When I was a kid, I was raised by parents who worshipped in an Anglican church. I was in the choir and when I was very young, I'd keep asking my Dad if we could sneak out of the vestry during the sermon, as i needed the loo. However, I very rarely needed it, I actually just wanted to go and look at the big stained glass window of the crucifixion... from the other side. However, by the time I was ready to go to school, Mum and Dad didn't feel the CofE school had a decent standard of religious education. So off I was sent to a Roman Catholic school. This was really good because it meant I had to deal with two different doctrines at an early age... and it meant I questioned my faith early on.

The priest who officiated the occasional school service was a staunch believer in the ideology that "All protestants will burn in hell!!!" I sometimes wonder what he made of me? I always used to go and talk to the boys who'd been serving, and used to talk openly about God with him, and them.

Secondary school was a little different. Again, it was roman catholic, but the priest was totally different. I'd quite often go to confession, but seeing as I wasn't catholic I couldn't confess, so I just had the odd theological chat. By the end of school, the two best R.E. students were me (the Anglican, and another guy was an atheist. There's got to be some irony there.

Now, I'd say at that time, I was religious in the christian sense... but I wouldn't say my faith had become alive yet. In fact, so keen was I to protect my beliefs, I purposely made myself the school clown. I forced people to stay at arms length, because I wanted them to like me, but not love me. I really wish I hadn't done that, because it helped to cut the real me off from other people for a LONG time.

At this time, I was going to a local youth fellowship, and the free and more emotional worship was beginning to have an effect on me, but as yet I couldn't understand what changes that was bringing about within me. I think the first major step was in 1989 during the Billy Graham mission to the UK. I think that was the first time i had a real full understanding that Christianity was not man's attempt to find God, but God's mission to redeem man. Before then I'd probably have been convinced that my works on their own counted for something. I was a bit of a pharisee at school. I talked some of the things that bothered me, over with a counsellor... but most of it I spoke to God about alone (one good thing that came out of my isolationism, is that I tended to communicate with God a lot). The important thing though was that after that I started to listen to Him as well.

In 1991, upon leaving school I became quite depressed, for one reason or another (you don't really need to be burdened with that). It was during that year that after being pelted with eggs and repeatedly told to "Shut Up!", that I had a bit of a breakdown. It was then that i finally realised that the Christian walk is not one to be undertaken in your own strength. There were a few special moments that day, but my outlook for the future had changed somewhat, and the most important thing was that it started to make me more open... to start letting people into my heart... that is something that has gathered momentum in recent years.

Since then, I've made some foolish mistakes, foolish pride and shame made them last longer than they should have. However, I believe that whatever I'd done with my life, I would have ended up at the same point by about July 2003. I really feel, that the first part of my life has been a kind of "playtime" and now the real stuff begins. In some ways I don't think the Nick Payne of any year till about 2000 would recognise the Nick Payne of today. I'm a different creature. I wonder how many of my friends would make the same distinction about the changes in me?

I've changed churches a couple of times, and my role in the church and indeed the Church, has started to become much more involved. There is no feeling on earth like speaking and knowing your God is with you, or seeing something new revealed to you by God in a powerful way. I really believe we are living in exciting times... we are on the cusp of something big and wonderful. My strongest desire, is that the people around me don't miss out on God's promises.

That brings us up to the present day I think. I'll have to do something more light hearted now, because that was a mega heavy entry!

Blessings to you all!


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