Then it got scary

Then it got scary

Why would this voice call my name, but not then talk to me?

There was someone I was very frightened of, and on occasions they hurt me. We had a complicated relationship, and sometime’s the least little thing I did would make them angry. I believe the saying was wrong place, wrong time. I had a knack of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I knew the person didn’t mean to hurt me, and once they did they would apologise; it’s just I was so bad. I needed to learn to be good. That even when I was right and they were wrong, I would never win. That what they said to me. I very much loved that person, and I knew they loved me. I didn’t tell anyone at first because I didn’t think they’d understand. I was frightened they’d either stop me seeing this person (I really did love them) or they wouldn’t believe me and I’d be in trouble for telling lies, and maybe they’d even tell the person that I’d told (gulp), or maybe they’d just tell me I deserved it. I felt like I deserved it.

One day when I was 11, I hid in my room and called my parents, telling them what had happened, that I was frightened and I wanted them to come home. But they didn’t come.

Then it got really scary. In my anger, I slammed my bedroom door and it split. They would go ballistic, any moment now they would come upstairs and hurt me, and this time they wouldn’t stop. I was desperately afraid. I searched around my room for a hiding place, but I couldn’t find anywhere where the person would not find me and drag me out from. I threw myself under the covers and cried out to the voice. “Please God, I’m afraid. They are going to kill me, they won’t mean to, but this time they won’t be able to stop. Please God, can you protect me? And if you won’t protect me, may I please come live with you?”

I listened for the their heavy footsteps on the stairs, closed my eyes and hugged my teddy bear tight, fearing that it may be the last time I did. But the foot steps didn’t come, they never did.

Not long after that, they tried to hurt me and out of an instinct I’d never had before, I raised my arm above my head to shield myself. The person broke their finger and never harmed me again. I didn’t attribute any of that to the voice at the time. It was years before I even considered that my prayer may have been answered.

 

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Whispers in the dark

whispers in the dark

When I was little, I was convinced there was something in my room, watching me. I had the normal childhood musings that maybe the world really did revolve around me. Maybe everyone I met was simply a figment of my imagination and they ceased to exist when they weren’t with me. Maybe I was being watched by a super secret organisation that wanted to see if I was special enough to be recruited for a super secret mission. One day, someone would see that I was special and enlist me to do something spectacular, like become a ninja warrior. Maybe this world didn’t really exist, but the world inside my dreams did; what if my dreams were right and all things were possible, but we limited our abilities by our ideas of what we could and couldn’t do?

I did not whole heartedly believe any of these imaginings, but they were fun to think about, and I did on occasion jump off of benches flapping my arms to see if I could fly because I could in my dreams. What I did believe though, was that someone was watching me. They were in my room.

I’d lie tucked up in bed, very much alone, when someone would say my name. I would climb out of bed and trudge downstairs in my PJ’s, and ask my parents why they’d called me. Bewildered, they sent me back to bed. It didn’t happen all the time; months would go by and I’d begin to believe I’d imagined it, and then the voice would speak again.

One day in Sunday School, I heard the story of Samuel, a little boy in the Bible, who had heard someone repeatedly calling his name; he went to see his master, who sent him back to bed. This happened several times and then the master realised that God was calling Samuel and told Samuel that the next time the voice spoke, he should reply “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” Excited, I decided that the next time I heard this voice I would repeat these words.

I didn’t tell anyone, even as a child I knew hearing voices was not a good sign. I didn’t want to worry my parents, besides I doubted they’d believe me anyway. The next time I heard the voice, I sat up and tried to say the words, but I got them all muddled. I couldn’t remember precisely what Samuel had said.

There are only so many Bible stories that Sunday School teachers dare tell children, and so eventually the story of Samuel resurfaced. This time, I made sure I memorised the words; I had to get them exactly right.

Upon hearing my name, I sat up in my bed and spoke to the voice; I got the words spot on, but still the voice did not talk to me. I was confused by this. Why call my name but not give me a message? What could possibly be the purpose?

 

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The way home

 

The Next Adventure

Writing those songs really helped me. It opened the way for conversation between me and God. I still wasn’t totally sure if I believed in him; and I wasn’t free from the pressure of ‘saving my mum.’ Then one day something really weird happened. My mum and I were having lunch together (are you seeing a pattern?) and she brings up God, and how she’s beginning to wonder if He exists. I thought about telling her that I wondered that too, but decided to keep quiet. She continued to tell me that she had noticed all these little coincidences going on in our lives that made this journey a whole lot easier. For example, we had by complete accident run into one of my mum’s school friends (a lovely lady my mum hadn’t seen since she was my age!).

I wish I could list the other examples my mum gave, but I just cannot remember them. But I can remember my own. I had left the city which I loved, because I felt like God was calling me home. A man had left his job at a local charity that meant there was a job open for me when I came home, which enabled me to put into practise what I had learnt working in the city. My flatmate had moved out in January, meaning that I had had to move home in March, giving me my last few months with my mum. My boss at the charity was Donna’s husband, and when we found out that my mum was terminal, he let me go on compassionate leave to care for her and enjoy those last few months together. It seemed as though God had been working on the details of my life to make sure I was home, with my mum. And then it occurred to me: if God could work all the details of my life for me to have these final days with her, did he really need me to introduce my Mum to Him? God is God, and I am not. He does not need my help.

My Mum shared ideas about God with me, and encouraged me in my faith. Hearing my mum speak about God, knowing that she had began to notice him during my month of atheism, when I was definitely not trying to make her a Christian, helped to me to believe that if there was a God, he was not dependent on me. In fact, the timing seemed to suggest that He wanted me to know that.

However I was still not totally convinced he existed; questioning whether he was real had allowed so many hurts to surface, times where I felt God had let me down, or that Christians had been fake. I still could not read my Bible without coming across a passage that put into question God’s goodness.

Could it be that my Mum would find God and I would lose him?

Can I be honest with you?

Can I be honest with you

Lola was fantastic. I told her over the phone one evening, and she was empathetic. Apparently she had really struggled with her faith too, several years before slap bang in the middle of a dissertation on Christian Theology. She understood the difficulty in wrestling with God, whilst being tied to a Christian qualification and fulfilling various roles within the church. How do you teach a Sunday School class about the love of God when your angry with him? How do write a study for house group when every time you open your Bible you find another reason to dislike God? Lola encouraged me to hang on and sent me a book called Stumbling Blocks by Gavin and Anne Calver.

The book is really good. It’s about people who have decided to turn their backs on God and leave church. The book is not written to condemn them, rather to look at the reasons why they left and challenge these reasons. What encouraged me the most was that I felt that if I met the authors they would not see my questioning as a threat; rather they would accept where I am in my relationship with God and seek to walk with me into answers. They would understand my fear and hurt, and would care for me, rather than judge me.

Doubting God made me feel incredibly lonely, and I was very grateful for Lola’s understanding and willingness to talk through my doubts with me. Lola’s reaction encouraged me to share my doubts with more of my friends; and the more I shared, the less lonely I felt. Okay, looking back, I did bring some of that on myself. I mean, if I had been honest with those closest to me from the start, instead of trying to figure it all out on my own, I might not have felt so isolated.

I was honest, and to my relief so were they. They listened to my angry rants, and told me they were sorry. They were honest in their confusion, humble in how little they knew about their God.

I told Donna about my doubts, and a couple of days later, she came to church exhausted. I asked if she was okay, and she smiled, and told me she had stayed up late researching my questions, and had some theories she wanted to share with me. That helped. The information, and the arguments she had found were good, but what caught me was that she had stayed up because she knew the questions were upsetting me. That encouraged me that there may be a God.