I have had a pretty unusual walk with God. Not I would say in any way normal. As in, come from a Christian family, go to church as a kid, get saved, develop a deeper faith as I got older and get more involved in the church, and so on. I’m sure that I am not the only one whose Christian walk and Christian faith has been completely out of left field. It’s probably why my Christian life has been up, down and nonexistent for many years. As I said in another blog post, I only started to be a regular churchgoer when I was 46 years old, although I have been a Christian of sorts since about 13, when quite literally I started praying to God because I was troubled quite badly for a particular reason, and God made His presence known to me. It was as simple as that, but at the same time, not knowing really what was expected of me, I didn’t give my life to Jesus, I just sort of walked with God and had no desire or real inkling to go to church or really be around other Christians. Most people I tell this to seem to be either mildly curious or confused, or they seem almost shocked. But it is the way it happened. I now realise, when I hear other people’s encounters with God and how He came into their lives, I see similar things. I am reminded of the way God came to Israel in antiquity. How could they have really known who He was when He started originally to make His presence known to them, as individuals like Abraham, Moses, David, Paul and many others, and as the nation of people in general? How could anyone? How could I have known in my ignorance of scripture, church life and the general Judaeo-Christian heritage Britain and the West in general has? I didn’t, quite simply, but God still chose to walk with me even though He knew I wouldn’t start to really engage with Him many years after I knew He existed. You see, for me, if He hadn’t called me, if He hadn’t made Himself known to me irrefutably and plainly, I now would not be a Christian, much less a churchgoer. I’m not even religious, and I don’t have a great deal of time for traditional organised Christianity nor the hierarchy and paraphernalia of much that passes for all that stuff. God could not have picked a less religious person than me, yet He picked me all the same. Over the years, I have given a lot of thought to my particular calling and the way I was called and how my Christian life, for a number of years, panned out. I’m a pragmatic, and in many ways, plain and direct speaking person from Northern England. Generally, up here we are not known for beating around the bush, or putting on airs and graces, and this either means we are respected for being honest, even if not always correct(!), or we are disliked for being too brash and honest. Well, there’s no pleasing some people. But, anyway, the point I am making, to cut a long story mercifully short, well not too short, is that God picks the strangest people and keeps the strangest company. I’m the Hendrix fan who found God. Or, did He find me? I mean God, by the way.
One of the things I have believed, probably ever since I really began reflecting on things, is a need for honesty rather than nice well meaning, but ultimately meaningless platitudes. Long before I was a Christian. I have always been outspoken, always been opinionated and probably always been rebellious to some degree. And here’s an old chestnut as well; I have always felt different, right from an early age, often used to see things differently from other people. But, the strange thing is, this didn’t manifest itself in some sort of aloof personality or anything like that, because when I was a kid I was a bit of a tearaway, liked running with a gang of kids and being a bit cheeky. The other side of me was someone who liked to read voraciously about any number of topics. But, I don’t think I had any great insights nor ever felt I would rule the world or anything like that. But, in some way, from an early age, I have felt different from other people. I’m not sure how to explain it any better than that. I don’t write this to sound cool, or to make myself feel different or anything like that, it is just the truth. Yet, in many senses I was just another kid running around the neighbourhood like many other kids in similar neighbourhoods all over the world. I often reflect on my humble origins, and where I am now. It’s almost as if I am in a different world. Life back then was so simple, there were few worries, no fear about getting on or improving my lot or any of that, just a simple and carefree life. The cheeky and carefree kid grew up into a sombre and thoughtful man, one who on the outside looks professional, and as if he is going places, but on the inside...?
Recently, after talking to a good Christian mate of mine, I decided to give away all my Hendrix stuff. Everything, which was CDs, bought videos, books about him, guitar tablature books which are song books and loads of free stuff I’d downloaded from YouTube. I got rid of it all, and all I have now is one film about him which was from the TV which I don’t know what to do with. I did this on the spur of the moment, but also after giving it some thought over a few weeks. You see, I’d made an idol out of him, plain and simple. Rather than pray to my Maker when I was feeling out of sorts, I’d rather put on a Hendrix song or some of his blues or just stick a video or CD on. Sounds silly? Sounds, sort of, bizarre or mediaeval even? Well, no. Idolatry isn’t just sticking a little wooden or clay or stone god in the side of the wall and praying to it or making offerings to it for some favour or to placate its vengeance or whatever, it is putting anything, or anyone, before the Lord God. Money can be an idol, or a belief in capitalism or communism, or your talents, or selfish ambition, or a politician or televangelist, or anything or anyone which has no power to save you. Curiously, I didn’t feel better or worse for getting rid of it all, but I know I did the right thing. There will be people reading this who will agree with me, and there will be people who might chance upon this blogpost and think this is a bit strange. Seen from the natural it is. Seen from the spiritual, it isn’t. Nor am I equating listening to rock music or any secular music as somehow wrong, because the vast majority of music is secular, and indeed the vast majority of things in the world are secular, or at least are not particularly Christian in intent or design. No, I am merely saying that for me, it had become a problem and was blocking healing and a more intimate relationship with the Lord. After all, Christianity is relationship, not religion. I may add, that for about five years, the Lord has put it on me to abstain from alcohol for about 2/3s of every year, and at the moment when I do drink it is very moderately. Also, I have been fasting partially in the week for about 4 months as I write because I have been praying for healing from depression and physical illness and to know God’s will for my life and to ask Him some serious questions about the ambitions I have, too. These type of things have to be taken extremely seriously, and so I am fasting partially for it. Best to pray before you undertake a fast. For some it may be a complete fast lasting a few days, for others it may be a longer but partial fast. The other bonus is, is that I have lost over a stone in weight! (That’s over 14 pounds) Because I am obeying God, healing is coming both physically and mentally. It’s been said before that Christianity and Christian living goes beyond being ‘good’, being ‘moral’, trying to be a holy Joe, or holy Joanna for that matter, being some sort of judgemental person or becoming like a Christian stereotype of some kind. On the contrary, through the growing friendship I have with Jesus, He allows me to be me, not fit someone else’s idea of who I should be, or how I should talk, or even what I should do in and for the church. There is true freedom in Jesus, and it means that though I am a Christian and part of a Christian fellowship in a very good church filled with very decent Christians, God has a specific plan for my life and sees me as what I am, a one off and completely unique. Like everyone else! But, although Jesus wants us all to have His attributes of mercy, compassion, forgiveness, long suffering, emotional balance and to be moderate in our behaviour and many other genuinely good and wholesome things, in other ways He does not want us to be like each other or clones of each other, looking, talking, acting and dressing the same. Christians come in all shapes, sizes, looks, skin colours and social backgrounds, and rather than lose our identity in God, we actually find our identity in Him. This truth might dawn quicker on some, and more slowly on others, the glorious truth that God loves each Christian as much as any other and loves us for who we are, never loving our sin, but loving the completely unique creation we each in fact are. The world may praise the great and the good, the famous, rich, powerful and influential and so on, but do you know what(?), God upholds all of us who put our faith in Him, all over the world, regardless of how obscure we are and how little real influence we might have, and most Christians have little real influence in the world, and most of us are in the broadest sense just ordinary people. God brings meaning into my ordinariness and my ordinary life, shows me the extraordinary in my ordinary life, the ordinary in the most extraordinary scripture and beliefs we begin to believe and understand on a deeper level as mere truth, and that in my life and humble walk with God, He brings the extraordinary and ordinary together in ways marvellous and divine. We live in the ordinary, but we seek the divine. When I look off into a beautiful sunset over mountains and hills in North Wales somewhere, and am someplace silent and removed from the hustle and bustle in a town below, I am taken to something like the divine but below ordinary life goes on, in the pubs and chippies and restaurants and streets below. In the same way we see far off to the divine and eternal but we are amidst or never far from the ordinary, the humdrum and the commonplace. Jesus did not despise the ordinary, the humdrum and the commonplace, and He picked ordinary fishermen, and not the professionally religious, as His disciples. He turned His back on the religious elites and religious authorities and powerful people of His day, to walk with the ordinary, the lost, the shunned, the marginalised and those who had a genuine thirst and hunger for something new, something real and something lasting, something that would bring great hope and transformation in a world inevitably depressing, deeply unfair and divided in so many ways. He came to reconcile all to Him, and to each other. If He can walk with a onetime Hendrix fan, who grew up almost on the margins of society, He can walk with anyone.