St James has always been the church that my family came to. When I was a young child I remember being taken to church, (sometimes kicking and screaming,) every Sunday. To be honest I can’t remember ever being convinced that there was a God. It all seemed a little far fetched and when I looked up into the sky there were never any signs of a heaven. I didn’t enjoy church as I was never a very sociable child and being forced into situations where I had to work/play with other children was like torture.
As I grew older I found different ways of avoiding church. There was of course the ‘I feel ill’ line, although this was not effective all the time. Parents can only be fooled so many times with this one and mine less than most I think. There was also the ‘pretend to be asleep’ tack. However this proved a little boring as church didn’t start till 10 and I was often awake from 8 – that’s two hours of fake sleep. In the end I just said I didn’t want to go anymore and that was that! There was just the occasional Easter/Christmas service that I was obligated to go to.
Fast forward 10 or so years and I was in my 2nd year of teaching. The job gave me a lot of satisfactions although there were some hardships. I had a supportive, loving family. I had been in a relationship for 5 years and had a very satisfying relationship with my partner’s daughter. There were no major problems in my life. There was however a large gap somewhere inside of me. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was and why it was there? I became very down in the dumps and began to wonder a lot about what the whole point of life was.
It all came to a bit of a head on bonfire night 2008. I had gone to Twin Lakes with my partner and his daughter and I just felt like I was in a black hole with no escape. The tears kept coming for no reason and despite my partner’s best efforts there was no lifting my spirits. The turning point was quite an amazing one and I’m not sure I can put into words just what happened that evening. We were all gathered around the bonfire which was stacked high with wood. Around the bottom of the pile were wooden, painted cut outs of monsters and aliens. The bonfire was lit and an awful amount of birds that had been sheltering amongst the wood immediately took flight. The monsters began to burn and the flames leapt high. About 10 minutes into the fire when it looked like it was in full flame and I was in tears one single white dove flew out of the fire and hovered (for lack of a better word) above us for a short while before flying of into the night. The cynic in me said it was just a bird that had been stuck in the pile of logs and hadn’t managed to escape at the same time as the others. My partner however leant over and said ‘see, it’s a sign for you.’
Obviously I wasn’t instantly converted but it was enough to encourage me to return to church. Gradually the darkness has lifted as I have slowly allowed God to enter my life. There are still dark patches but church is an enormous support and it helps me to focus and reflect on life and God.