Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Chocolate, Cider, Science and God - My faith journey Part One

A recent post by a friend musing on why he's an atheist has prompted me to write about why I'm a Christian (thanks for the idea, Tel!).

I've mentioned my faith numerous times on this blog but never really given any background, so I figured it's about time I wrote something about how I got to where I am now. Here goes...

For me, my experience of coming to faith in the early 90s will always remind me of chocolate, cider and science.

Ever since I was a kid, I'd kind of assumed there was a God. It never occurred to me that there wasn't a God and that we were all alone in the universe trying to survive on a big spinning ball of rock. I didn't really think beyond the idea of a God, however – I just assumed He or It was 'out there' somewhere.

It wasn't until I went to university that I started questioning things and tried to explore the meaning of life. My housemate, who was a few years older than me, was on a similar journey trying to work out his spiritual journey and it was through numerous late-night conversations that the subject of faith and God and religion regularly became the topic of debate. Often, this would revolve around consuming (sometimes copious) amounts of cider and chocolate.

The science bit came along when I attended a series of seminars about God and science. I can't really remember the details of those talks but it challenged my assumptions that science had 'disproved' God and that they were two opposing forces battling it out against each other (and that, in today's enlightened age, science had ultimately won). On the contrary, it seemed the original reason for scientific discipline was to explore God's creation and find out how He did things, to simply discover the divine at work all around is. I came to see evidence of God in all aspects of nature, from galaxies billions of light years away to the unseen microscopic building blocks that make up our frail bodies.

As time went on, I eventually joined my housemate in going to church. I must admit, it was pretty weird at first. It was one of these 'free' churches which was nothing like my previous experience of the Christian faith (ie dull and lifeless Anglican services). We met every Sunday at 10am in a school hall. Most of the churchgoers were abnormally happy, positive and friendly. They sang happy clappy songs and did weird stuff like praying and falling over ('in the spirit' apparently). I soon got used to it, though and enjoyed spending my Sundays there (not least because we often got invited round to someone's house for Sunday lunch afterwards!).

I also started joining the Christian Union at University, which had events and meetings throughout the week. Obviously catering for students, it was very different to the church I went to as most of the attendees were my age. This was a great community of people and I got on well with the guys there, enjoying being part of something new and exciting.

And then women problems reared their ugly head.

Not long after becoming a Christian, I fell for a girl who also went to CU. It was as if everything was falling into place. I was doing well in my studies, I'd found God and then I'd met this amazing girl who seemed to like me. She played hard to get, but eventually agreed to start dating. I had a new girlfriend and life was peachy!

Sadly it lasted all of two weeks. She spent an entire evening ignoring me during a CU social and when challenged later, said it was probably best to end things.

Needless to say, I was absolutely devastated.

Suddenly I'd gone from elation to depression. I felt betrayed somehow by my new-found faith and the whole experience left a painful mark that took years to heal (it sounds a bit extreme but I was very sensitive back then). Not that I blame the individual lady concerned. We were both young and naive with our own individual hang-ups – me, I fell deeply in love with someone too quickly, combined with the fact that my experience of relationships was hugely flawed and inadequate. I wince when I think back at some of the things I said and did.

Not that I suddenly lost my faith and renounced everything. It took a while, however, for me to 'tip my toe' back in the water properly. I did blame God for my relationship shortcomings, but deep down I knew He wasn't going to go away and that a little 'women trouble' wasn't a particularly good reason to suddenly pursue some other belief system (or drop it completely).

So, licking my wounds I carried on with this Christian malarky. I went to 'Noel Richards' concerts (he looked a bit like Francis Rossi), joined in the 'March for Jesus' parade (including waving, er, rainbow banners proclaiming 'Jesus loves you!') and wrote a few Christian drama sketches for the CU (only God could forgive the drivel I came up with). I also fell in love (again!) with someone else and completely screwed the whole thing up having not learnt a single thing from my previous relationship disaster.

All in all, my tentative first steps in being a 'Christian' were pretty tragic, but like a drugged-up puppy with nothing better for distraction I kept going to church and doing the Christian 'thing'. It was only when I left Uni that I got stuck into doing my faith properly. For a while, it went great.

And then it went pear-shaped. Again.

To be continued....

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