One of my childhood memories is of scrubbing bird droppings from the garden path with lots of soapy water and splashing. I was doing it for God. Would he be pleased with me? I asked my mother. She supposed so and looked a bit surprised. We weren’t a Churchy family. But I’d asked if I could go to Sunday School and my mum, returning to Church then herself, had taken me.
At the local Church of Scotland, children attended the first part of Church with the adults and were then shepherded out to Sunday School while the adults did Church ‘proper.’ I loved being in the Church. It was beautiful, illuminated by sunlight streaming through stained glass and smelling of dust and furniture polish. On Sundays, I drank in the atmosphere and thought about God until I and the other children went to Sunday School.
I did not like Sunday School. It took place in a draughty hall and we had to sit in little groups on the floor. Then our teacher would tell us a story and we’d do a craft related to the story before going back outside and being met by our parents. The crafts were enjoyable enough, but what did all this have to do with the God of the Church next door? There didn’t seem, to my 6 year old brain, to be any connection. I was given an Enid Blyton book ‘for merit’ at the end of term and never went back.
Over the next 11 years, I had a few more encounters with God. I somehow won a Bible in an essay-writing competition and set out to read it from Genesis to Revelation. I got as far as Leviticus, I think, before getting bogged down and giving up. I once took it upon myself to go to Church on a Sunday morning, complete with wild hair and ripped denims. The sermon was intellectually way beyond me and I didn’t go back. I looked at Christians and wondered why I wasn’t like them.
At 17, I was a very sick and angry individual. Undiagnosed Bipolar Disorder will do that to a person. I believed that God existed but what had he ever done for me? And, if he had done anything for me, well, I never asked him to! That’s what I told my friend Karen when she asked me to go to her Church with her. Against steep resistance she persisted and, full of attitude, I agreed to visit a nearby Baptist Church.
I, who was far too tough to cry, bubbled like a baby throughout the service without knowing why. I don’t remember anything beyond music and tears I couldn’t stop. My heavy eyeliner was dripping from my chin, there was snot all over my hands and face and my carefully tangled hair was bedraggled by the end of the evening when Karen asked if I’d like a chat with one of the prayer team. I had no fight left. I was totally broken. So I agreed.
Two women approached me with a box of tissues and some literature. As they mopped me up, they told me about Jesus and God’s plan of salvation. This was all news to me. But, yeah, OK. I was willing to go with it. Would I like to accept Jesus’ invitation? Well, the alternative seemed literally hellish … so I did. They said a prayer, gave me the literature and went home rejoicing over a saved sinner.
I went home perplexed. I was, apparently, ‘a Christian’ now. And everything would be OK. But I had a long and winding road ahead of me.