The earliest memory I have of hearing the gospel was at primary school scripture class at the age of about 6 or 7. I remember being at my desk, listening intently to what the scripture teacher was saying, and standing up to pray at the end of the lesson, occasionally opening my eyes to see everyone else in the class mucking up instead of praying. I’m not sure whether I was born again in these classes, although I do remember praying earnestly to Jesus to “come into my heart”, and motioning with my hand on my chest like a door opening and closing, since our scripture teacher had spoken something about the “I (Jesus) stand at the door and knock” verse. (Rev 3:20)
I suppose that if a child can have a spiritual understanding and trust in Jesus, then I had it at this point. I remember one day at home in the bathroom at abour the age of 7, I was doing my hair or something, and recalling what I had heard in scripture class, about letting Jesus control you, since He lives in you. So I said a little prayer and asked Jesus to control me, and, like magic, I was the best-behaved, happiest kid for the next half an hour or so. If I could only recapture the same sense of obedience to Jesus I had at this point! The way I felt when I was “controlled” by Jesus as a kid is something indescribable, I really know what is meant by Jesus’ words “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat 18:3)
However, with no family or friends with which to share my new-found faith, and with no idea how to do so, it withered away very quickly. I had virtually no instruction in the things of God from about age 8 to about age 15. This, combined with a bitter custody battle between my parents which stretched from their divorce when I was 5 years old for around 5 years, and trauma at school the details of which I will not go into except to say that I attempted suicide in year 8 because of it, all made these years of my life unpleasant.
In year 10, a friend of mine with whom I travelled on the train to school invited me to his church’s youth group. I accepted, thinking, well, I’m not an athiest, or a buddhist, or a wicca person, I don’t get drunk or sleep around, I did scripture classes when I was a kid, hey, I’m a Christian! I had no idea that being a Christian was about relationship with God, and what He has done, not what we do. Besides, I figured it was a good excuse not to be at home arguing with my mum over something stupid.
So I went along. It was an Anglican church, pretty down-to-earth youth group. The first night, I cringed at the music, it was so sickly-sugar-sweet compared to the Ice Cube and stuff that I was into at the time. But the people were friendly to me, so I came back next week. And the next week… they played church games like running around the chairs and tagging the other guy sort of activities. If I couldn’t win, I cheated and threw a tantrum. But they still loved me and never patronised me.
After about 6 or 8 weeks I started listening for real to the youth minister. Slowly I began to realise that it just might be the case that I wasn’t a Christian. Stuff like, you’re not just a Christian because you claim to be, you have to actually live for God. I was in denial about this for some time – surely I was a Christian! But slowly but surely it became clear, I hadn’t repented, I was a sinner. But was I born again? I thank God that they didn’t have altar calls at this church because I would’ve either taken someone out, or prayed the sinner’s prayer but not sincerely, not knowing the depth of its meaning. So after about 3 months of going to the youth group and a couple of evening services which helped to explain the gospel, one night in my room I prayed some disjointed sinner’s prayer and asked God that I would do well in some exam that I had coming up.
Well praise God, I passed the exam! Seriously though, that was probably the point of no return in my walk with God. Knowing and following Jesus has been the best thing that’s happened to me and has helped me through the hard times. Without Jesus in my life, I would most likely be dead today.