In January 2018, I’d reached a point in my life where I felt hopelessly lost. I was living in a city that didn’t feel like home but had no idea where home was. My work seemed meaningless. The only thing I had left in common with my friends was alcohol. I had developed a deeps sense that I took a wrong turn a long time ago and there was no way back.
Jim and I agreed that it would be fine for me to take a back seat on our business and have a go at just painting. I had no idea where to begin or what on paint but a sequence of events lead me to becoming a born again Christian by the end of that year.
How I got myself so lost and my journey back to Christ started much earlier, around the time my mum died of cancer in 2005, I was 31. It knocked me for six and left me disturbed by the concept of death. I had never been an atheist but I had nothing solid to grasp hold of. My search for answers began here. Without the wisdom and warning from biblical texts, I explored New Age, Law of Attraction, various divination practices like tarot and whatever new fad that came along. It all added a sense of adventure but fulfilment and peace were always far from me.
I’m not sure when my night terrors began but they reached problem levels around my mid-thirties. Sleep paralysis, darkness and malevolent spirits plagued my dreams. At the time, I put it down to my avoidance of dealing with my mum’s death. I tried meditation but an increasing empty hollow feeling grew in me.
I met Jim when I was 35 and amazingly he married me two years later despite waking him up most nights with my nightmares. We were living in Tunbridge Wells, when my sense of ‘not belonging’ became a thing. Convinced a change of location would solve that, we moved to Edinburgh but within weeks I was combing the internet for houses in Devon. I felt even worse. Over the next 5 years or so, we house-hunted in towns, cities and villages the length and breadth of the UK. Everywhere felt wrong. I wondered if there was even a home for me in this world.
Compounding my sense of not belonging, I became increasingly aware that there was something wrong with the world and its trajectory. I felt like as though I was heading in one direction and everyone around me was heading the opposite way. I couldn’t put my finger on it so I embarked on a truth seeking mission. I delved down every online rabbit hole I could find. This journey uncovered unimaginable corruption and evil. Additionally, Jim and I stumbled upon definitive evidence that the mainstream media could not be counted on for truth. All of this led to a decision to get rid of our TV, which would prove pivotal to breaking down my own conditioning so that the light of truth could begin to shine through. Many of my own long held views began collapsing, giving way to a yearning for society to return to more traditional Christian values.
In November 2014 my little brother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He was distraught in the hospice so we had him transferred to our home two days before Christmas and he died three weeks later. His final night on earth was horrifying and left the pair of us in tatters.
During the next few years my own person decent sped up. Jim and I didn’t want to be a home in the evenings and failing to find somewhere new to live, the pub became our second home. Our darkest days were during this time. We got stuck in a loop that we couldn’t escape from. I began to find myself standing outside churches on my way to Waitrose. I wondered if any truth or solace could be found there. I can trace back my turning point to around this time. It began with a simple thought: “If the world is darker and more evil than I’d ever imagined, what if the opposite is also true? What if there is a light and a love that I’ve never known?” Amazingly signposts began to spring up almost immediately and all of them pointed towards Jesus!
I’d heard that an old school friend had experienced a spiritual awakening and was a Christian. Filled with curiosity, I went to his church. Afterwards, a group of us went to a cafe and heard more of his story. It was an amazing story but I still wasn’t convinced that religion was right for me. Despite this, one night, I lay in bed and prayed a very short prayer. “Okay, Jesus. If you’re the way, can I have a sign?”
I didn’t have to wait long. The very next morning I was getting by breath back on a park bench after a morning run when a girl passing by handed me a leaflet. It read: “Come to our church and dispel the myths around Christianity.”
Shortly after a new Christian friend invited Jim and I to his church. It was Armistice Day 2018. After the service, we were greeted by a cheerful minister and warmly welcomed. I left the church that day with something that I’d been devoid of for a long time. Hope. It was a tiny glimmer but I clung to it tightly! “Maybe we can just do this for a while and see what happens,” I said to Jim.
I finally picked up a Bible that had been in our bookcase all along, and began reading the New Testament. I’d reached the famous “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew and the oddest thing began to happen. I could feel myself splitting into two people. One half of me resisted and didn’t want to believe what I was reading. The other half was tired of fighting and ready to give up. I slammed it shut. “Not sure about this!” I told myself.
However, I couldn’t get it out of my head so revisited the same bible verses and the same thing happened but this time, my inner rebel lost the tug of war match and at that moment, I surrendered. The door to my heart swung open and the truth of those words marched in like soldiers and I broke all the way to the bottom.
My life flashed before me and I could see that the construction of my entire moral code existed only to justify my chosen chaotic lifestyle but when held up to God’s perfect morality, it was basically in the gutter. I could also see that my spiritual seeking was not leading me towards God, but away from Him. That was why I was so empty and lost. I closed my eyes as a wave of remorse crashed over my head and I wept. Instinctively, I knew exactly what needed to happen next. I waited till Jim went out to the shops and I got down on my knees and called out to God, confessed all I could remember and asking for forgiveness. “Well, that was weird.” I thought, as I rose to my feet and dried my eyes. “I wonder if He heard me.“
The following day I read more of the Bible and researched all things Christian related online. By evening I felt restless, like I wasn’t alone. I said a little prayer asking for The Holy Spirit and climbed into bed. Straight away a stream of warm energy poured into my body. It felt like electricity, powerful but soothing and beautiful. That light and love I’d never known, this was it! I didn’t move a muscle and just cried. “This is God.” I thought. “Finally, I’m home.”
The following morning, my eyes pinged open and I shot out of bed with a sense of urgency. I gathered up my tarot cards and other fortune-telling apparatus, marched outside and chucked them in the dumpster. Consequently I had a short spiritual battle but once it was over, everything changed. The atmosphere around me lost its oppressive blandness and colours seemed more vibrant. My spirit felt light and was overwhelmed with a feeling that everything was going to be alright. Since that day, I regularly cry tears of joy.
In John 8:36 it says “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” I never thought in a million years, that I would come to know that freedom.
Some more things that Jesus has freed me from include:
Night terrors. I now look forward to going to sleep and dreaming.
My self-destructive alcohol habits. I struggled to finish even one beer for a while, now I don’t even bother.
My family losses had left me living in fear of death and disease. That has completely gone and replaced with a deep sense of peace.
My accumulated phobias have miraculously left me.
Now, over three years on, and after a serious amount of cramming, the bible has helped me to understand why the world is losing the plot but also that God is in control. If worldly issues do stress me out, I just have to put my hands together, read the Word or even listen to Christian music and I come back into the presence of God and all is well again.
So what became of the painting project? Well it turned out that Jesus had a plan. After I was born again, my struggle to muster up ideas was over. Armed with God’s Word and a brand new heart, ideas spilled out onto canvas and painting after painting appeared. I use them to share God’s Word and my testimony on social media. Completely unexpectedly, Jesus has blessed me with a purpose and I couldn’t be more grateful to be His faithful servant and a child of God.