'I've had troubles and stuffed up - but I want to stay on the path'
Rod’s story | Having the guts to admit you are wrong
“I grew up in a manicured, anxious family, in suburbia. My dad worked in the bank. We weren’t allowed to own bikes or go to parties. Church-going was part of it. Every week, we’d put on a tie and sit in the same pew. It was drudgery.”
“By my late teens, I was thinking that there has to be more to life than this. I was hungry for something beyond the dullness. I got a scholarship and went off to university to do an Arts degree. A bunch of my friends went to Christian meetings, and they asked me to come. It was September 1971. I went along and listened to a visiting evangelist. The auditorium was full so we sat on the steps.
“I didn’t take notes, but one of the girls in our group took notes. Afterwards, I asked her for the notes. I took them home and copied them out by hand, that night. It was basically a summary of the lecture – Jesus has to be either a liar, a lunatic, or he’s the Lord. And you can’t sit on the fence. You have to make a choice. Psalm 16:11 was included in there too. ‘You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.’
I was writing out the notes, and something went ‘boom’ in me. I knew it was the answer. I’d found it! It felt like I was floating on a cloud. I knelt down and prayed, asking Jesus to be my Lord. It was awesome. I’d never understood it before, but I did that night. I repented, I believed in Jesus. It was transformative!
“I remember thinking that I had to tell my twin brother straight away. He’d been at the lecture too, so I went and told him that I’d made a commitment to Christ. Three days later, he did the same thing.
“The next week, I joined a Christian group who were active at the university. I did some evangelising on campus and I led a couple of people to Christ. I started speaking at Christian conferences. I was excited! But I also had a lot of other traits. I was obnoxious and pushy and arrogant. I was unformed and very black and white. It took me a long time to unlearn that.
“By the 1980s I was in church ministry in Mount Druitt. We were there for more than 20 years and it was hard and messy. Good things happened, but I was burnt out by 1998. I was an exhausted human. I ended up resigning from church ministry and doing my doctorate.
“At the same time, my reading of Scripture changed. A few Australian theologians were exploring the whole shape of the Bible – [William] Dumbrell, [Graeme] Goldsworthy. It was revolutionary stuff. Everybody else had been doing systematic theology. But I started to think biblical theology was crucial. Perhaps everything I’d been preaching till then wasn’t right. I’d been missing God’s unfolding story … and not inviting people into it. I was quite shaken. Did I have the guts to admit it and change?
“That’s been the journey since then. I’ve changed radically. I’m committed to the full sweep of Scripture. I’m more accepting than condemning. I tend to be ‘grey’, more than black and white. I walk a lot and listen to music. Our marriage has improved. I’ve probably read the Bible (all the way through) about 40 times now. I don’t find it drudgery. These days, I listen to it on Audible. It takes about 45 minutes a day and you can get through the whole Bible in three months.
“I think it helps to have a goal. It’s the power of habit – your brain changes, and the habit becomes routine and delightful, so I tell my wife, ‘If I ever get dementia, just plug me into the audio Bible and I’ll be fine!’
“And Psalm 16:11 is still a key scripture for me. God is beckoning us into a relationship with the living Christ. I’m 69 … and I want stay on the path of life till the end. I’ve had plenty of troubles and I’ve stuffed up, but I want to stay on the path.”