Memories can feel like a series of hazy vignettes—snippets of people, places, conversations and feelings. In my case, it’s a two-up-two-down in the north of England and playing with the other kids in the street. A gap year in Ireland, goat herding and searching for meaning. University in Glasgow and trying to find my spiritual feet in anything that felt right. A share-house in London seeking happiness in people, drink, and parties. Moving to Sydney and living the life of Reilly.
I had the life that the world approved of. It was everything the world advertises is there for the taking. Free. Uncaring. Fun. Opportunistic. Hedonistic. Enviable.
I look back and God seemed to be nowhere in my life. Humanly speaking, there was no reason or opportunity for me to meet Jesus. I thought religion was for simpletons. Spirituality was whatever you wanted, whenever you felt like it.
But I look back and see that God was actually everywhere in my life. He was there in Ireland when I looked at the scenery and thought it was so beautiful there had to be a God. He was there at university when, as an atheist, I almost picked theology as a first-year subject. He was there in Sydney when a series of people and conversations gently pointed out that church was not what I thought it was. He was there when I randomly read a book on a history of the early church. He was there when I climbed so high up the corporate ladder at work, that I couldn’t breathe and knew something needed to change. He was there when I moved out to western Sydney and, having learned from my matronly Methodist great-aunt in the Shetlands that church is a place of community, I wanted to go to my local church to meet people. He was there that day when I heard for the first time what Jesus’ life actually meant.
That’s when the light came on. That’s when I realised that the whole time I was living the high life, I had actually been stumbling about in the dark.
I now see that life the way God saw it. Thoughtless. Self-serving. Arrogant. Foolish. Pointless. Dead.
I see God’s handiwork in the strange, random and apparently unnecessary events in my life. They were like steppingstones. God was leading me in my stubborn pride at a pace that made me think it was eventually my decision to investigate Jesus. His patience is astonishing. Especially when I see how tenderly he drew me to him even while I was glorying in a dead life in all my vain conceit.
I burn with shame for those years. I was Madame Folly. Reckless, loud and foolish. But then I realise that the journey happened in God’s own time. God allowed me to have those experiences. He didn’t approve of them, but ultimately he used them for good (Gen 50:2; Rom 8:28). They are experiences that I can use to relate to people in their own journey with God. God is the potter. I am a jar of clay. And God does not make mistakes. So, while the life I lived did not please God, he still used it to serve his purposes. Jars of clay are cracked and chipped and scuffed and worn, but nonetheless we carry God’s gospel treasure.
God is also an artist. The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands (Psalm 19:1). We cannot fail to see the intricacy of his glory in the world around us. And I am part of his creation; I bear his image. And I am made perfect in his Son. This can be hard to truly acknowledge. It feels arrogant. It grates against the shame I feel from my old ways.
Even though I know that Jesus has paid for all my sin, and I am no longer under condemnation, regret at my old life still echoes. I recall those hazy memories with sharp prickles of shame that burn just enough to drive me back, in humility, to Jesus’ feet. I ought not perpetually carry my shame though. If I live in the shame, I deny what Jesus has done and I am not glorifying God. But as a human, this is something that I continue to wrangle with.
So, this is the story of my coming to faith, and the story continues every day as I keep on wrangling. There was the journey to meet Jesus at the cross, and now the journey continues as God pulls and presses and shapes and moulds me. CS Lewis once wrote that “relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing had yet been done”. And yet this is a journey that I love. While I tread the tension between two worlds, I treasure that God continues to lead me.
brought me here. And one day he will bring me to eternity. My friends from my
old world have largely dismissed me as crazy. I accept myself now as redeemed.
 CS Lewis, Letters to Malcom, Chiefly on Prayer, 1964.