‘I decided that God wasn’t real or interested in me …’
Gary’s story | Repentance and the grace of God
“I had a terrible upbringing.
My first mother was an alcoholic. She tried to drown me in a 20,000 gallon drum when I was a baby. She died when she was 33, and I was 10.
My second mother was a work of art. When I was 16, I remember coming home from playing in a band, and there were bags packed by the front door.
I said, “Who’s leaving home?”
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She said, “You are, son. You’re causing issues between us at home. You’re on your way.”
I packed my bags and I left home, going to where the other band members were hanging out. There was only ice cream in the fridge so we ate it for dinner and breakfast, which suited me fine.
A year later, my second mother came to see me, for the first time since I had left. She said she’d been to church and she was a changed woman. She asked me to go with her to church and I went. I was just pleased she’d come to see me. I remember there was someone preaching about a guy who put out a fleece before God. I went home and thought I could do that. I didn’t have any wool (or sheep), so I put a bucket outside and I said to God that if he was real and interested in me, he could make the bucket wet and the ground dry.
In the morning, I raced out to have a look. Absolutely nothing had happened, so I decided that God wasn’t real, or interested in me, and I left it at that.
But when I was 18, I had an encounter with God. I was in the army and a guy took me to a Catholic outreach meeting. There were people praying and chanting, and rocking backwards and forwards. It filled me with curiosity. I realised I was hungry for God. For the next few years, I read my Bible every morning at 6am. I just lapped it up.
But it was hard to be a Christian in the army. I had also married at age 16 because my girlfriend was pregnant. We lasted for 13 years and I was determined to be different from my family. But I’m not like Jesus. There’s a side to me I don’t like. I battle with anger. For a long time I fell away from God and I went my own way. I married again and I got into the business world, in mortgage broking.
I know now that it’s all about the grace of God.
Then there was a night in my late 40’s. It was 3 in the morning and I woke up suddenly. I felt that God was saying to me, “Get up, go downstairs and open up your Bible.”
I did that and I opened up the Bible and read, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”(Romans 6:23)
I had a chill all over me. I went back to bed, and the next night, the exact same thing happened. I woke up at 3am and felt God saying to me, “Go downstairs and open up your Bible.”
I went down again and this time I opened it up at Revelation 3:15, “I know your deeds, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish you were either one or the other!”
At first I thought it was a bit harsh, but the next night I dropped to my knees and I repented before God. Slowly, my ways cleaned up again. I went back to church. I explained to my staff at work what had happened to me – that I’d repented from a sinful life and wanted to follow Jesus. They tolerated me, but they saw a change in me.
I’ve never been perfect. I still battle with the angry side to me. I beat myself up. But I know now that it’s all about the grace of God. In Genesis 3:15, it says that because of human disobedience there was enmity between the man and the woman and the snake. God lost his kids. But it also says there would be a redeemer: God’s own son, Jesus. God was saying, even way back then, that he would get his kids back, through Christ. I’m 68 now and I’m retiring. But I want to see what God’s got for me next. I want to let God use me, in the years I have left…”
Gary’s story is part of Eternity’s Faith Stories series, compiled by Naomi Reed. Click here for more Faith Stories.