I had been travelling to the church in Belfast for approximately six months before I felt led to start attending the church of the Nazarene just around the corner from where I lived. There was a godly little man at the end of our street who used to stop me on the way home from school with my friends and for some reason single me out to preach at. He would tell me that I needed to be saved but I paid no attention to him.
One particular day he stopped me and shook my hand and told me that he had heard from someone that I had become a Christian. He was delighted when I told him that I had. He then said a very strange thing to me that took a while for me to understand, he said “You know Jim that a rolling stone gathers no moss”. I did not have any idea what he meant; in fact I thought that due to his age his mind had become a little confused.
I had taken up the friendly Pastors invitation to go to the youth club in his church on a Friday night, I did not really know anyone there but I slowly began to making new friends. Many of my old friends did not really believe me when I told them that I had become a Christian, some mocked and others said it would last a few weeks and I would get back to my old ways. Well my old friends got their prediction wrong and if the Lord spares me until the 25th of February this month I will be walking with the Lord for thirty nine years. Praise him.
I cannot remember where I was or what I was doing but suddenly out of the blue one day the Lord reminded me of what the Godly little man at the end of the street said to me concerning a rolling stone gathers no moss. The Lord showed me what it meant. I was going between two places spiritually speaking, Templemore hall in Belfast and the Church of the Nazarene in Lurgan but the Lord wanted me to settle down in one place not two, he wanted me to settle down in one place and if you like put my roots down there.
I was torn between the two for a while, I had made many friends in the Belfast church and they were very kind to me. My uncle who had led me to the Lord was there and he also had been very kind to me. It was him who had taken me with him the very first time I ever testified in public and I will never forget the experience. He would sometimes do a little lay preaching and he invited me along, the plan was that he would interview me and ask me a couple of simple questions about my life, what I was like before I got saved and what I was like now.
I don’t think I mentioned before that I was a young man with very low self esteem, low self worth and in general I had no self confidence. As we travelled to a little orange hall somewhere in the back of beyond I literally felt physically sick. My mind was in turmoil, I felt like jumping out of the car and running away. I was so afraid of messing up and making a fool of myself, I convinced myself that if I got through this I would not put myself through this torment ever again.
We seem to have been driving for ever, another little issue that I had was little or no patience for anything. I kept asking how far, how long now until finally in a pitch black location somewhere in the middle of nowhere a little light appeared. Literally a little light, we approached someone standing at the side of this country road shining a torch and waving us down. At first I thought it was a checkpoint but the man had no uniform on, as it transpired the orange hall we were to speak in had encountered a power failure and everything was in complete darknes
This will sound terrible because I thought that this was God answering my prayers for help. I thought he had put the lights out so that I would not have to testify, as Homer Simpson would say, Daaaa . I had an awful lot to learn about God and how he does things, he is the God of light not darkness. Anyway, we parked the car at the side of the road and went inside. The room was illuminated by a roaring great coal fire; the fire was both the heat and light source for the time being. The men were apologising for the situation, I was praying for the lights to stay off when suddenly they came on, that was a little confusing. I was a nervous wreck and really felt like being sick, I had heard the term “Scared sick” now I knew exactly what that felt like. I had experienced some nerves before when I played in cup finals but nothing like this.
Eventually the meeting started and I got through it without being physically sick, what a feeling of relief when it was over. My fear of failure had not materialised but that did not mean I had overcome this fear. Somewhere in my thinking I had determined that the only sure way never to fail was not to put myself in the position where failure was possible, it’s called avoidance. In other words only engage in something that you feel success will be the only outcome. This is why football was so important to me, when I walked onto a football pitch failure was not an option for me, the only thing in my young life that I had confidence in my ability was when I was standing between two white goal posts.
So with a measure of sadness I ceased attending the church in Belfast and exclusively attended the church of the Nazarene in Lurgan. I began to feel part of a family who really cared for me. Both the Pastor and his wife were very supportive and kind to me, they took me under their wing so to speak and I began my real journey of developing into the person that God wanted me to be. The Lord had a lot of stuff to help me deal with, anger, bitterness, resentment, fear and all the low negative self image that I had gathered up over the years.
I would begin to learn that with God that nothing is impossible. As I learned more about the bible and the characters portrayed in it I began to realize that I was not the only one who had fears, Moses had fears, Gideon had fears but God helped them through them. I truly thank God for a Pastor who insisted that Gods people know the bible; he took time with the young people to help us get to know God’s word. The living room in the church Manse would be filled each week with young people hungry for God’s word.
We fared well on the word and afterwards the good grub that Mrs Spence would serve up. I mentioned earlier that one’s environment has a massive impact on their development and well being; once again I cannot thank the Lord enough for leading me to a spiritual green house where I was well fed, watered and nurtured in the things of God.