'I was sick of Christians, so I went off to the wine festival'

Rod’s story | It’s about Jesus, not me!

“I grew up in Kiama, overlooking the beach. In some ways, it was easy to believe in God, surrounded by that majesty. My biological father abandoned the family when I was 2, and I was the youngest of 4, so things were often tense in our 2-bedroom home.

But mum would take us to watch the ocean. We’d sit there at nights under the stars, surrounded by the majesty, and it was easy to think, ‘There is a God, and it isn’t me.’

It was harder to work out how Jesus fitted in. Without Jesus, our lives were classic good works – trying to be acceptable to God through good works. Then at age 16, I did confirmation classes at church, and I read Romans. I realised that I didn’t even meet my own standards, let alone God’s standards. It was about Jesus, not me! It was a wonderful thing to work out!

After school, I went off to Canberra to study and I got involved in the Christian group at uni. I joined the leadership team, organising studies and events.

I had a crisis of faith.

In the leadup to Easter 1983, we organised a series of talks about the divinity and humanity of Christ. But the speaker ended up saying that Jesus wasn’t really God because he was human, and he wasn’t really human because he was God.

I thought to myself, ‘That’s not right.’ I asked the speaker questions, but I was ridiculed. In his talks, the person undermined both the divinity and humanity of Christ. I just dropped my bundle. I had a crisis of faith. I decided I was sick of Christians, and I packed my bag and went off to Griffith for the wine festival.

I camped in the showground, and I went from winery to winery, sampling their red wine, getting drunk. Then on Easter Sunday, I woke up and heard church bells ringing from my tent. It was so ingrained in me, I thought I should get up and go to church. When I got to the Anglican church, the service was just ending, but nearby there was a Baptist church just beginning.

The minister opened the service by saying, “This morning we celebrate Easter. Jesus lived and died and rose again. And whether you like it or not, that changes everything!”

I sat there and realised again it wasn’t about me. The Gospel has an objective reality to it, and it doesn’t depend on whether I believe it or not. It’s true and it changes lives.

I got back in the car and returned to Canberra. I told myself I’d been an idiot. It’s about Jesus, not me!

At the end of that year, I started to do student ministry on a university campus in Sydney. That’s where I met Karen. We became friends and we married four years later. But somewhere during that time we told each other how we’d both come to faith in Jesus.

Apparently, on Easter Sunday, 3rd April, 1983, she was sitting in a Pizza restaurant in Tamworth listening to her friends talk about Jesus. As they talked, she suddenly realised that Jesus fixes the mess. She was in a mess! She went home and prayed, accepting Jesus. I told her that on Easter Sunday, 3rd April, 1983, I was sitting in a Baptist church in Griffith, being reminded that the Gospel is an objective reality.

It’s about Jesus, not me! I’m still learning that, decades later.

God was doing his thing in our lives on the same day. I often say to people that God put us together to keep each other on track. And in the years since, we’ve been in shared ministry with students and churches, in Sydney, Spain, Belgium, Melbourne. It hasn’t always gone well. There have been really hard times and we’ve had to leave overseas postings. We’ve had significant relational difficulties. I don’t want to gloss over that.

But looking back, I think the biggest lesson in my life has been that I am playing to an audience of One. It’s about Jesus, not me! I’m still learning that, decades later. A key verse is from Philippians 3:20 “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ…”

Rod’s story is part of Eternity’s Faith Stories series, compiled by Naomi Reed. Click here for more Faith Stories.

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