if you know me at all, you'll probably know that i'm not exactly my own biggest fan. over the past week or so i've had reason to think a little bit about this, think about who i am and where i've come from and where i'm going with my life. hardly the first time i've engaged in this kind of serious navel-gazing and i'm sure it won't be the last but each time i do, i find that i'm bringing a slightly different perspective. this is not a bad thing.
i firmly believe that when i became a Christian, the circumstances were such that God had allowed me to paint myself into a corner that i couldn't get myself out of. i'm fine with that - God in his sovereignty made room for me in my brokenness to pursue a lifepath to its particular conclusion. i often joke that if i weren't a Christian i might be an international assassin or some such. i have some pretty firm ideas about what i think is acceptable and what isn't. if i weren't a Christian, i think i'd be tempted to believe that that would be reason enough to start cleaning up the world... and i know i'm not the only person who thinks that.
the truth is, though, that if i weren't a Christian, i wouldn't be here. period. the day i became a Christian, i faked a headache and got out of school so i could stay at home. i spent a bunch of time in the morning going over a heap of stuff i'd been writing in the previous months, destroying some things and collating others. i ran a bath.
that i let the bath grow cold and had to top it up with hot water several times simply underlined to me what a failure, what a waste of space - and water, it proved - and essentially what an oxygen-thief i was. i was bitterly unhappy with who i was and where i was and where i wanted to go but could see no way of getting to. it was such a long-arse time ago that looking back at it now, details are becoming sketchy and are being filled in by the story i've been telling myself about it all these years.
i remember feeling powerless. i remember hoping that maybe it was what it felt like to be dead because i honestly felt like i had hit rock bottom. i felt unloved by my family and rejected by my friends, like an alien in the community in which i lived and couldn't imagine feeling any different anywhere else. i didn't want to be dead - i most earnestly wished never to have been born in the first place.
thing is, i had been born. i knew that there must have been a reason for that and i didn't think it was so i could be pishing my last in a bathtub. God had worked his way into my life in a variety of ways over the years: scripture classes in primary school, sunday school (after which my sister and i would have a weekly ice-cream), friday night youth group (that new friends at my new high school used to go to and turned out to be at where i used to go to sunday school) and through some relatives in my extended family who were varying flavours of Christian. feeling like i had exhausted all other avenues, i could only conclude that God had a reason for me to be born.
now if there had been a hand suddenly appear and write on the fibro of the bathroom wall, "you are loved", i probably wouldn't be writing this now because an experience like that would have surely burned into my mind, my heart, my soul, the truth of it. sitting where i am now, i know that that's probably not true either - people have an unerringly erroneous ability to ignore God in the face of overwhelming evidence and after almost twenty-one years as a Christian i can firmly say that i am no different.
to my bitter shame i can admit that i have wilfully ignored God, probably more since i became a Christian than before. more, since i knew God more intimately after i became a Christian than i did before. it's hard to deliberately ignore a person you don't know. there are plenty of people in the world that i don't have to put any effort at all into not thinking about because i have no memory or experience of knowing them.
that's not the case with God. i know God. he knows me, intimately. he watched me being cooked, he saw me born by c-section as a breach (or is it breech?) baby, he saw me grow up. he knew the struggles i had before i became a Christian and he knows the struggles i continue to have despite being - or maybe because i am - a Christian.
i'm hopeless with money. i'm a spendthrift who feels guilty about it but never seems to change his ways. i swear way more in my head than i do with my mouth, although that wasn't always the case. i'm thoughtless, inconsiderate and cold sometimes. i struggle with sex, less than i used to but more than i would ever wish on another person. i eat too much and i don't exercise enough. i don't read my Bible enough and i've never been good at praying one-on-one with God. there are a whole raft of thing - from fashion to facial hair, vacation destinations to political preferences - that i have no opinion on and mildly resent feeling expected to. i'm quite content to not drive, aside from feeling that that choice (among several) mark me as somehow unaustralian and irresponsible.
despite all this, i believe that i am a better man now than i have ever been. every day i sense that God has changed me into someone who more and more resembles Jesus Christ. (and i'm not talking about my beard.) every day i feel more confident that when the time comes for all of my deeds and misdeeds to be read out from the book of my life before the judgement seat of God, they will be forgiven and passed over by a Father who is only waiting for the procedure to be over before he hugs me to himself and dries the last tears that will ever fall from my eyes and welcomes me home.
every day i understand better than ever that my relationship with God is founded on nothing that i have done but on everything that he has done for me through Jesus; that he strengthens me from within through the Holy Spirit; that he teaches me and talks with me through the Bible and prayer and the created world around me and through the brothers and sisters he has surrounded me with in the church.
i am here. this is now. and i have an opportunity in front of me that i haven't had for a long time, that requires selflessness and vulnerability and patience. i want to take hold with both hands and not let go, not because it's been a long time and not for any other reason, really, not really.
i want to because i believe that God has his hand in this too. that for all that it feels awkward or strange or new, it feels good and right and worth everything i believe it should be. how often i've prayed to God that he would show me a clear path for where he wants me to go - now it seems he has, i'm praying that i'll honour him in how i walk it - how we walk it together.