Raised on the sunny Isle of Jamiaca, my parents were no strangers to church. Pentecostal, Methodist, Baptist…as a child my mum was sent to them all, every Sunday! Her grandma (her carer), figured if one church got it wrong, at least she got a good chance by having attended them all. My father said little about his church experience, except his questions as a teenager went unanswered in the way he wanted, so once he reached adulthood he left church behind.
I was in Year 10 and it was a sunny afternoon in the middle of my Secondary School cloakroom that I finally confessed to my friend that I couldn’t cope. The fighting, the break up, the tension, the heartache that was going on in my home had me feeling heavy, lost and carrying a weight of anxiety that had made my mind it’s home. Nana’s answer was not one I anticipated, ‘I don’t know what to say to you… all my answers are God answers!’ Although I believed in God, I thought the whole ‘Jesus dying on a Cross to save me from my sins’ was a bit extreme. However, I was desperate for hope so urged her to go on. Right there in the middle of our school cloakroom my friend Nana sang me a song. “What a friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bare, What a privilege to carry, Everything to God in prayer.” As she sang instantly all the heaviness I had been feeling lifted, my mind became clear and hope filled my heart where darkness had been able to have free reign. I had what I can only describe as a spiritual experience. ‘If one song can do this’ I thought to myself, ‘then there has to be more to this God stuff!’
Although my mum had not made her own commitment as a Christian, there was no question as to whether me and my brothers were going to go! Faithfully every Sunday we were sent whilst she stayed home. It was through this church that invested in me as a child (which also hosted a midweek kids group, youth group and annual summer camp) that I first committed my life at the tender age of 8 to Christ. Due to the cares of life and not living in an environment where my faith was nurtured, I drifted away but the seed had been planted and I had a foundation of Bible truth that would later serve me well.
My spiritual experience with Nana in our school cloakroom had opened my heart to the Truth that there was ‘something more’. A big outreach – Mission To London was being conducted that very year and my friends and I attended one of their events at Westminster Central Hall. To be honest, I know there was singing and speaking at the event but I remember very little else about the evening except the direct question at the end – ‘Do you know Jesus as your personal Lord and Saviour?’ Talk about not mincing your words! My heart started racing! I knew I wanted to know more about this God who declared He loved me enough to pay for every sin I had ever done and would ever do wrong and who promised me eternal life, yet I also knew it sounded crazy! I entered a battle between my head and my heart and turned to Nana for help. She wisely reminded me ‘This is your soul Casey, there’s nothing more important than that.’ Trust Nana to get to the point (she’s still like that!) I agreed, laid down my fears, took the courageous step down the aisle to the front of the auditorium and asked Jesus to come and live in my heart.
After the event I knew my decision meant my life was going in a different direction than the one it was heading in before. As my friends chatted I looked up at the at the starry night sky and inwardly declared to God ‘It’s me and You now’. That night offered another challenge – to be courageous. Those Christians at Westminster told me I better go home and tell someone about the decision I had made. I was terrified, do what?! I was only 15! Another battle – tell or hide? My mum was up when I got home and I chose to tell.
Little did I know that night was just the beginning of a lot of battles I would face – battles of Identity, battles of purpose, battles of anxiety, roots of rejection…the list goes on. Christian or not there are many battles we all face. I have had to learn to fight for my physical, spiritual and emotional freedom and in turn fight for others. This year (2021) has not been without its challenges. Like many others due to the worldwide pandemic I have faced loss of income, loss of direction and at times felt overwhelmed by despair but God has a way of bringing beauty out of brokenness. This blog is a part of Him bringing beauty out of mine.
Nana sang wise advice all those years ago ‘…carry everything to God in prayer.’ I hope and pray you also take your worries there.
Thank you Nana 🙂