For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.John 3:16
My relationship with God throughout my life (until my rebirth in 2014 and my baptism in 2017) has been tumultuous to say the least. I’ve attended various churches in that time from Baptist to Gospel to United and more, but none of them felt real to me. I remember in the mid-70s over summer break from school having a man, we’ll assume he was a pastor, who would bring his camper trailer to our community and teach us Bible stories. At the end of the summer he expected us to give our lives to Jesus, which I did because it seemed cool! But it never really meant anything and my life didn’t change at all.
There was also a Gospel church that I went to for a few weeks when I was about 12 or 13 years old. We had Sunday School services and then the kids would go outside for a smoke, or a fight, or whatever they wanted to do. Rough language was said by all, as long as the parents remained inside. I found it very difficult to continue and again it just didn’t seem real.
I grew older and met my wife and we had our first child and moved to a small community in eastern Manitoba. There was a United church right next door to where we lived and so it was almost expected that we attend. Church wasn’t every week and so we’d attend when church was on, but again it didn’t feel right.
Eventually our family, we now had three boys, moved north to an isolated First Nation community where I’d found a new job. I was managing a convenience store & gas station. It was a really busy place and open from 7:00am to midnight seven days a week. There was a number of churches in the community, but as we never really felt at home there, we didn’t attend. The one time I did go to church was when one of my employees was killed in a snowmobile accident. The preacher seemed to be pointing right at me as he gave his “fire and brimstone“ sermon on the wrongs of the world. He really scared me, so much so that I didn’t ever go back.
Jump ahead a few years and we moved to the small community that I now live in. Again we attended a United Church and I tried to keep an open mind. We decided that we wanted our children to be baptized, along with myself since I’d not been baptized as a baby. We chose Mother’s Day as our baptism day and had a bit of a family get together. The pastor dropped some ice cold water onto our heads and baptism was done. A few weeks later the pastor moved on to a new church and we got a “big city” pastor who didn’t quite understand rural life. He turned a lot of people off the church and eventually the church closed its doors.
It’s now May 2014 and I’m sitting in my jail cell writing a letter to my wife. Some how in the middle of my letter, I told her I was surrendering my life to Christ. I hadn’t even thought of anything like this yet, and here I was telling her! My tears dropped to the page as I cried as I realized what I’d just done. I was many miles away from her and nowhere near a church, but some how it finally just seemed “right.”
My months in jail dragged on, but eventually November arrived and I was released back into the real world. And I got my chance to prove to the world, and myself that I was different, in a good way. I started to attend church each Saturday and it felt good. My relationship with God became more powerful and strong. And in July 2017 I was baptized by immersion into a river and when I arose from the water I knew that God was with me and that God loved me.
He was by my side my whole life. He kept trying to get my attention, but it didn’t work, but He is patient and knew the time would come when I would see things His way. I now try to walk in His footsteps on a daily basis. Do I always succeed? Absolutely not, but He is always there to help me back up again.
Spending seven months in jail was difficult, but spending seven months in hospital was much harder. Although I had a connection to my nurses and aides in the hospital, I just really didn’t belong there. But God was there then too, to pick me back up and help me back to my feet, both figuratively and literally.
So no matter what you are going through, God is there for you too. He didn’t send His only Son to live with us and die for us if He didn’t love us. He knows we’re not perfect, no one is, and knows we’ll fall. But just remember it’s not how many times you fall that counts, it’s how many times you get back up.