Happy Re-Birthday to Me... or Jesus Wrecked my Life
Thirty years ago this very day, I made one of the key decisions of my life.
At the last night of the "Alan Walker Crusade to the 80's" in the Grosvenor Hall, Belfast I made the conscious decision to follow Jesus... I was born again... converted... saved... whatever term you want to use for it... It wasn't particularly dramatic (certainly not on a par with that of St. Paul, as depicted here by Michaelangelo, or with many of those who do the circuit of churches and conferences telling the story of their conversions) and actually it was only one waypoint on the routemap of my journey of faith... The issue of what direction I should go had been bubbling within me for almost a year, and was based upon years of attending church... and it was followed by a number of key decisions and changes of direction... But I have no doubt that it was probably the most significant life-changing decision of my life...
Whilst I was probably not as reluctant a convert as C.S. Lewis claims to have been, I have certainly, at times, been a reluctant, and relatively poor disciple... Either because of the cost of discipleship and my reluctance to pay it, or because of frustration with some of my fellow disciples and my lack of grace in dealing with them... However, I have also been blessed with wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ, who, both before and after that decision on the 1st June 1980, have gently (and not so gently) pointed me in the way I should go.
But it was only recently, in reading Shane Claiborne's autobiographical book "The Irresistible Revolution" that I came across a quotation that properly expresses my feelings about following Jesus from that fateful night in the Grosvenor Hall. Most people speak about their "conversion" and subsequent life of faith in glorious terms... one victory after another... onwards and upwards... And there have been times when I have twisted my story to fit that established pattern... But this is how Shane Claiborne expresses his experience:
'I know there are people out there who say, "my life was such a mess. I was drinking, partying, sleeping around... and then I met Jesus and my whole life came together." God bless those people. But me, I had it together. I used to be cool. And then I met Jesus and he wrecked my life. The more I read the gospel, the more it messed me up, turning everything I believed in, valued and hoped for upside-down. I am still recovering from my conversion.'
Let's get this straight... I was never cool (certainly not as cool as Shane Claiborne, then or now)... and by the time I made a decision to follow Jesus hadn't got around to the "drinking, partying, sleeping around" phase... but I did have my vision for my life "together" and my subsequent reading of scripture and the leading of the Spirit has pulled all of that apart at the seams... And continues to do so... I was not simply converted 30 years ago... I am being converted even now... And God alone knows what the finished product will look like...