An Incomplete Story
My first encounter with Jesus is probably still my most profound.
I was 4 years old, and I had just given my life to Jesus at a Salvation Army night meeting in Brisbane. It was the early 70s, and my mum and dad thought I was sitting with my cousins. But I’d actually decided to respond to the altar call.
I may have been too young to fully grasp what I had done. But there was no doubt about the fact that Jesus was real to me. In fact, I still remember us heading back to the car after the meeting. I remember being up ahead of mum and dad, and I’m skipping and talking with Jesus. And I still remember my dad asking me who I was talking to, and me telling him that I’m talking to Jesus.
As much as I was a very ordinary kid, and a very ordinary teenager, that night defined my life.
Of course, I grew up knowing that I was a Christian, and for the most part, being aware of Jesus being with me at all times. Even when I did sort of typical teenage stuff, something always compelled me to go so far and no further. And I’d be racked with guilt if I truly felt like I had disappointed Jesus in some way. So much so, that I seemed to go out to the front of the church for prayer and forgiveness almost every Sunday.
As a kid and teenager, I remember trying to witness, and coming so close a few times to leading friends to the Lord. I was a youth group leader, and a leader on SU holiday camps. I was a more than decent drummer who served in the music team at church on Sundays.
But I also played drums in a band, getting paid good money doing pub gigs. I was rebellious at school. I was sometimes awkward, and way too arrogant for my own good. I was an uncomfortable mix of sanguine and melancholy personality types. Which meant that I loved to be the most flamboyant person in the room. But would then get immersed in dark thoughts in the quiet of my bedroom.
Truth is that I struggled during those latter years of my teens, and well into my 20s. I struggled with my identity, sin, mental health issues and self-belief. Still, there was never a doubt that I loved Jesus. I never once had a desire to walk away from Him. And I always knew that I would find myself in some sort of ministry role. Perhaps not as a pastor, but something that was more ministry than anything else.
So I moved from Townsville, withdrew from a teaching degree at Griffith University. And I did it, just so that I could work part-time at the Bible Society. After that, I became a representative for Christian book and music distributors. And it was during a sales trip that God dropped me into Christian media.
I met and married Janine, my amazing wife, while I was at the Bible Society, and we’ve been together now for more than 25 years.
Wedded bliss… definitely not!!!
I found it very hard to live with myself. Now I found myself sharing my life with someone else, and I was absolutely no good at it.
On many occasions, we came close to going our separate ways. Certainly, it would have been entirely understandable for Janine to walk away. But she didn’t. Neither of us did. Because we were both Christians, and both committed to the idea of “till death do us part”.
There’s a paradox here. As much as I struggled to be a husband, as much as I struggled with depression and sin, God did an incredible work of grace. And it was in my role in Christian media. I became the GM of a Christian radio station that barely existed. And God used me to grow it into a vibrant ministry that impacted untold numbers of people.
Over 20 or more years, I developed a decent set of skills in a range of areas. More, though, I became passionate about ministry that is irresistible to the unchurched.
Ohh… I should also say that God has done an incredible work of Grace in other areas of my life.
He continues to strengthen my marriage. I love being the dad of 2 incredible boys (one of whom has special needs). And He’s moving me into an exciting new ministry role, which is somewhat removed from media. Today, my very real desire is to help others find their God-given purpose, and to help them achieve it.
In many ways, this is a sanitized, and obviously incomplete version of my journey so far. I still struggle with my demons… especially depression, feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, and sin. But for me, the greatest work of grace hasn’t happened yet. Because I know that Jesus began a good work in me when I was 4 years of age, and that work is not yet complete.