‘I came under a sudden, tremendous conviction of sin’
Ed’s story | A God who forgives
“I was raised in the US, in a family that was mostly secular, with a veneer of Catholicism. My father ran his own business and was focussed on success. We were financially affluent but spiritually devoid.
When I was 18, I was doing a gap year before I started university. Every weekend, I’d meet up with a friend of mine and we would go out drinking and partying. I was living in darkness. I believed in God but had no idea who he was and I was not on a journey seeking him or his salvation.
Then, on a Saturday in 1981, my friend invited me to go with him and his sister because they were going to sing at his father’s church. His father was the pastor, but neither he nor his sister were believers. Since we were still planning to go out drinking afterwards, I agreed to come.
They sang one song and instead of us leaving, they sat down. I was a bit confused and then my friend’s father got up to preach. He was speaking from Isaiah, but I didn’t even know that Isaiah was a book in the Bible. Despite not understanding much of what he was saying, as he preached I came under a sudden, tremendous conviction of sin. It was like a lightning bolt of realisation that I was under God’s judgement – a thought I had never had before. At the end of the service, I went forward. I told my friend’s father that I didn’t understand much, but I knew my only hope was in Jesus and I wanted to accept him.
Despite not knowing how to pray, I poured out my heart to God that night and was changed. Then I asked my friend’s father, “What do I do now?” He gave me a Bible and he said, ‘Read it every day, pray every day and come to church whenever the doors are open.’
I did exactly as he said. I started reading the Gospel of Matthew and I kept going till Revelation. I prayed every day and I attended church services four times a week.
Immediately, those close to me saw a big change in my life. They started asking me questions about what was happening and I shared what I knew of Jesus, bumbling my way along.
Then, something else changed. Throughout my childhood, I’d had a terrible relationship with my father. He was an alcoholic and his behaviour was erratic, mostly quiet, sometimes happy, and sometimes angry and violent. We were constant enemies.
As I read through the Bible, I began to realise that salvation wasn’t just about me being reconciled with God. It was also about me being reconciled with people. In Matthew 18 Jesus told his disciples a parable about a servant who had been forgiven much, yet didn’t show mercy to his fellow servant.
At the time, I knew I had been forgiven much by God. I was overwhelmed by it! It was so much more than the wrongs done to me by my father. Also, within a month, I found out something about my father that I hadn’t known before, which explained his pain and emptiness. I suddenly felt deep compassion for him that I had never felt before. So I called my father and I asked if we could meet for lunch.
As we ate he asked, ‘What do you want? Are you in trouble?’
I replied, ‘I don’t need anything. I just want to say that I love you. I know we’ve had a contentious relationship growing up, but I forgive you. I love you.’
He cried. It was the only time I ever saw him shed a tear. Our relationship never became miraculously close after that, but it greatly improved.
This experience showed me early on in my walk with God, that the Holy Spirit can produce great change in us and empower us to do what we previously felt impossible. It was so formative to see God at work in my life, and by his grace it has continued for 41 years now – God restoring me to himself and to others. Thanks be to God!”
“I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” (Matthew 18:32b)
Ed’s story is part of Eternity’s Faith Stories series, compiled by Naomi Reed. Click here for more Faith Stories.