I can still remember the conversation on the swings where we met in our school lunch hours: the tentative and nervous, 'Do you believe in God?' and the relief to discover the other did. I didn't give enough room to God in my life at 21, though. I rarely consulted him, and although when I look back at all the essays I wrote at uni, it makes me laugh to see how obviously he was there and in my head-space, I was unaware of his constant presence. I studied literature at university and some of the essays I chose to write were: 'Analyse the use made of biblical quotation and allusion by Anna Trapnel' and 'In her poem ‘The Gift’, the anonymous writer of Eliza’s Babes, 1652, addresses God with the words: It is my bliss, I here serve thee/ ‘Tis my great joy: thou lovest me. Is the experience of ‘bliss’ central to the way women writers of the period portray their relationship with God?' and when writing on Milton, I concluded with: 'the critic discovers that God is at the beginning and the end, on the inside and on the outside.' I also enjoyed studying Gissing and how 'the letter killeth but the Spirit giveth life'.
But I also enjoyed Restoration Theatre for its bawdiness and the C19 novel for its strong female protagonists: its Tess's and Jane Eyres etc!
I wanted to teach. At 22 I became a secondary school teacher and at 25 I got married. I remember feeling closer to God in my middle twenties and after the evening do to celebrate that my husband and I were married, where perhaps most couples would have been snogging in the back of the limo off to the honeymoon-suite, I remember praying out loud and with tears of gratitude to a magnanimous God who had just given me the happiest day of my life...before kissing my husband, who had to wait.
At 28, we had our first daughter and God burst into my life afresh. I was over-awed by the miracle of procreation and I was on a cloud for about a year, with my whole life bound up with this little person. We broke with the ad hoc worship when back with our parents and became members of our own local church and were not stopped by feeding and sleeping routines. I remember one time, we'd missed morning service but would go in the evening. We entered the small chapel, with only the elderly in attendance and our baby daughter needed feeding. So through hymns and sermon, I draped my chest with the only thing that I could find: a tea-towel with a picture of Jesus on the cross on it, from the sinks at the back, and merrily continued to feed and praise, assured that even if the rest of the tiny congregation felt a bit bemused by it all, God wouldn't mind.
I resigned from my job to care full time for my daughter and I began to recognise, that early thoughts I’d had during teaching practice, to train for ministry, were not a reaction to stress, as I had first thought, but were perhaps more significant. After the birth of my second daughter in 2004, I acquiesced nervously to taking over a Christian group for the under 5s called Nick’s Chicks, I wasn’t expecting that my own spiritual needs would be met through these simplified Bible stories! I needed the milk, if you like, before progressing to the more solid food. I'd always found the Bible challenging but the Holy Spirit was guiding my understanding of it. Teaching the story of Mary and Martha from a children’s Bible had a huge impact on me. and I started to analyse this story for what it meant by looking particularly at the work of Tom Wright. I began to understand what Jesus could come to mean for my life. I began to enjoy hosting Nick's Chicks more and more and the years started to fly by, with this often the highlight of my week.
In 2006, I was full of angst, though, when a friend of mine's wife died of Cancer, I did a lot of soul-searching and felt very angry but I experienced a spiritual awakening from hearing Revelation, chapter 21, being preached at her funeral. I became very hungry for the Bible - I wanted to learn more about this God who has such plans for us after we die and whilst we live. I attended Alpha and my understanding of God grew and I realised my life would begin to take a new direction.I began a weekly Bible study programme through church-run courses and house groups and then I accompanied my husband on an Alpha course in 2008 and we were able to deepen our understanding of the Holy Spirit together; that element of the trinity so absent from my childhood. The physical manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s power was something of which I'd had little previous understanding and is still something I find hard to articulate; it certainly can't be rationalised. I still battled with what this might be all about and sometimes felt quite cross that things weren't clearer. I remember driving to a church meeting and blasting out a song in the car, by Bros, of all people, (you know the bottle-top adorned booted and braced -up, bleached blonde pop-stars of the eighties) called 'I owe you nothing - nothing at all' - I'm not quite sure to whom I was singing this song but I was doing so very loudly. When I then entered the chapel room and before we prayed, a song was played: 'Here I am to worship, Here I am to bow down, Here I am to say that you're my God' and I gulped back tears. This was my first experience of modern worship music and it was such a glorious way by which I could tune in to God's presence, always around me but so often ignored. I felt that God was clearly saying to me, this is what I want you to sing: sing to me, to me, I'm listening. That moment changed my life. I love modern worship music, as you've probably guessed from this blog and I still have no clue what the future holds, only that I'm very excited to be embarking on this adventure of service and services, youth groups and toddler groups and theological college with all of its planning and reflecting, praying and singing, sharing and agonising, trying to make sense of this messy life and Christ's messy church: a body that is flabby in places, lean in others, with its head and heart sometimes in harmony and more often than not - not! I love it and I love that I found God or rather that He found me for I've come to realise that He would have found me wherever I was and whatever I was doing!
Thanks for reading X