Tonight I thought I would put something rather unusual up, and something I’ve never really written before: my testimony. Many people (if you knew me at random points or in some parts of my life, you were on of those many people) saw parts of my testimony, but I doubt that even my parents have seen most of it- except for the good times, and the bad times.
Ironically, I was not born to a Christian household. When I was born, my parents consisted of a devout Atheist Agnostic, and an ex Roman Catholic who didn’t really care for religion or for the God I believe in today. When I was only 1 year old, we moved to Holland into a small sleepy suburban town called Sassenheim, where I would live 6 years of my life.
In this place is when and where my mum came to faith in Jesus when I was around about 2 years old. I can’t remember much, but I can safely assume that this didn’t go down too well with my Atheist Agnostic dad; whom must have started many arguments on this basis and fact alone. It is also safe to assume that Mum did what all recent converters did: took the children to church.
At the time, I did not remember much- except for one moment (which I only remember because Mum told me about it many a year later when I was 16). Just to set the scene, we were living in a 3 story house with rather sharp and steep circular stairs. If anyone were to fall down these stairs, it was more than likely that they would get hurt severely- especially if that said person was 3 at the time. I remember mum telling me how one day I managed to crawl to the stop of the stairs, and then proceeded to trip up and begin my descent downwards. I managed to hit every stair on the way down; it must have been terrifying for me at the time! Now, when I had finally reached the ground floor, I was completely unharmed- not a single scratch or bruise on me. Mum went ahead to tell me that she actually saw an angel standing beside me; having protected me from harm on the way down. Isn’t that just crazy cool!
Now, after this, years passed and we moved into yet another sleepy suburban town called Sevenoaks when I was 7. Mum had started going to a local church called Bessel’s Green, and my dad had it up to there by that point. I remember one night they were having an argument, and my dad pretty much demanding that Mum would renounce her faith, or he would leave her. What happened next was the interesting part- Mum turned round to dad and said, ‘Richard, can you actually say to me that God doesn’t exist?’ Now, this would have seemed to have been a ludicrous thing to say to an Atheist, but it worked! Dad in that moment could not deny God’s existence and divinity and gave his life to Jesus Christ and believed in him from that day on. Just looking back at this situation, if generally I asked any one of my Atheist or Agnostic friends this question, it would have been so easy for them to answer. The fact that my dad couldn’t, and had to turn to God in this moment, just shows God does the impossible- even allowing Atheists to turn to believe in him! I realize now it is not about what we say and do, but what God says and does through us the Church.
Anyways, fast forward through the years and I was a semi regular church attendee of youth groups and children’s clubs. Genuinely, I didn’t really care for Christianity or the Church much- but there was something about it which just kept bringing me back; almost like an itch I could never scratch on my own. There was something in my minister’s words that always talked to me; there was always something someone would do for me which would connect with something within my core. I also managed to somehow believe that I was Christian, although really I wasn’t- I was just going through the motions after getting used to them over a few years. I had got to the point where I was practicing a religion, but not a faith- something deeper and more substantial than just a set of rules and procedures to live by.
When I was 15, my life changed forever. I went to Soul Survivor, a Christian based week away based near the site of Glastonbury at the Bath and West Showgrounds. People had thrown the words ‘spiritual’ and ‘charismatic’, and even the word ‘freaky’ at me, but I did not understand what they meant and why. At that point in my life, I thought people who got into it at church services were crazy and took this whole religion thing a little bit too seriously. For me, their lives were not the life I intended to live, as it seemed very Very boring; typical as I was actually a teenager at the time!
Now comes the first service of the week, the worship was ok- I could understand that. The talk was fine, I could understand that as well. But, after that, they decided to give God the time of day; and waited for him to come in silence. Now, I was getting uncomfortable at this- when the first woman next to me started to scream, or the guy across the tent started laughing uncontrollably; I really did not know what to do, or even what was going on. I just thought that it was psychosomatic; that they were doing it to get themselves ‘in the mood’ a little bit more. It still seemed distant to me.
Then, as almost like I wasn’t expecting it to ever happen, God surely did show up! I felt something I had never felt before; I felt an indescribable power hit me in such a loving and crying way that I burst into tears. The love that I felt for me from God was so deep and so genuine, that I had to turn back to him and confess that he was my God, and that I could never ever turn away from him ever again. I mean, I had heard the gospel before many a time and didn’t really take much notice of it. In this one single tangible moment of a lifetime, I took notice and I believed. In that moment, I had become what most people like to commonly describe as ‘a Christian’.
Now, let us fast forward a few years of me being over zealous of my faith and not really getting it (sorry Max, it must have been really REALLY annoying!), and let’s talk about a little community project that I would like to call Deeper. Deeper was a group set up by a few of us almost in the form of an emerging church, except for that we had no form or discipline or even any idea what I or we were doing!
To describe the experience, a bunch of kids started faking it without realising it. Without knowing, a few of us almost fell into a trance or crazy like state- almost believing that everything depended on us as a group to change the world etc. With a bit of rebuke and genuine teaching, this would have been solved and turned into something positive. But, unfortunately, that never happened. It is safe to say it got very, very, very out of hand very quickly indeed. I was seeing ‘visions’ and telling people what to do because ‘God had told me what to do here in your very lives.’ The problem was, he wasn’t- it was just me living out a daily fantasy for all to see in embarrassment. I had become one of those guys who is ‘all holy and stuff’ who really didn’t have a clue what he was doing!
Let me explain the train wreck a little bit more: I confessed my undying love for someone (sorry Hannah), went on long rants and almost fortune-teller style ‘prophecies’ foretelling our futures and our lives within the next few years (sorry Trevor); and went on to even stop reading the Bible and just rely on what ‘I felt’ as my guide to life- I mean like I was of any use in doing that! (Sorry God, so sorry about that).
Well, it’s safe to say that this little movement of ours didn’t last. In fact, it crashed and burnt in front of our very eyes. It seems to me that God smashed down what he hated; and at that time it included me and my little Deeper parade. It all fell apart and I fell into a rather horrible and serious depression for 2 years. I went through the phase of blaming God for everything that had happened, although it was only me doing it not him, and held that grudge for an incredibly long time. But, fortunately, God disciplines those he loved- and he disciplined me the most (yay!).
For a few years, I went back to doing the motions but not really caring. I had become an empty shell; a former glory of what God wanted me to be. I had become a Sunday Christian- get smashed on the weekend then confess your ‘undying love for him’ every Sunday; then be gone with all that ‘God stuff’ until it is Sunday again. I became your everyman- having a laugh, getting drunk, going to parties and enjoying my life as much as I could with the time I had. I might as well had not been a Christian, although I know now once you give in to God, he surely never ever lets you go- no matter what wrongs you do to him daily!
In Summer 09, things started to change for the better. I got some great Christian friends and mentors, and with a few holidays and many baby steps, I had reconciled with many people and even somehow managed to reconcile with my God! After a nowhere few years, and a year of nothingness and mediocrity, things were looking up before I headed off to University; full of optimism for the years to come.
Oh, how wrong was I! Ironically, with no fault on anyone but myself, the last two years were beyond a doubt the worst years of my life. I thought I had it bad before, I really did my nut in this time!
As soon as I got to uni, I instantly got involved in the party scene and the drinking crowds. I would start upon the journey of routinely and regularly getting wasted with friends, going clubbing, and generally not having a care in the world. This started to bite back at me. Whenever I got wasted, I seemed to begin to get extremely maniacal and aggressive- even threatening to kill myself many a time! I would have blackouts and not remember the night before the morning after- until my good friends filled into me what happened the night before, and I was appalled and horrified! It seemed to be that this depression was still there; haunting me from underneath the surface of my very conscience.
Nothing much changed from this until February 2010. We decided to have a spirits only night, and I went on to my usual routine of having a lot to drink for the sake of it. But, this night was different. On this night, I almost killed myself due to alcohol poisoning. I had about 2 bottles’ worth of spirits within an hour or two without throwing up- usually something which could give any man a date with death.
But, in my opinion, God was gracious and didn’t let me die- and instead I suffered for a week of madness. During this week, I hallucinated death and evil- I even had to resort to sleeping with the light on in my friend’s room! (Thanks Max, and my bad). It was safe to say that my experiences that week were truly terrible; although I believe that I got off a lot lighter than I could have done.
During and after that night and week, I drew closer to God. It seemed the natural thing to do, as he was the only thing in my life which seemed to stay there at a constant; never ever letting me go for any reason at all. He had made a promise to any person, who confessed belief in Jesus being God and trusting in him as your only way to have your sins forgiven, to never let them go- some call this promise ‘Eternal Security’. I thank God for that, for without that I would definitely be lost forever.
Would you think I would have learnt from this situation? Nope. I went back to my usual life soon enough- causing me and the others around me a lot of grief (thankyou for putting up with me Mum and Dad); and involving me not being very happy with the course I was studying, not being satisfied with the friends I had, not even being satisfied with the provisions God had made for me (which looking back seems ridiculous to me now!). On the outside, I was outgoing and party going and alive. Yet on the inside, I might as well have been dead- no deck of cards could have dealt me a hand which would have made me any happier, no friend or relative could ever say anything too comforting to me, nobody could help me.
Except for God. By the time I had turned 20 and was in the peak of my life, I had become the big shot professional musician; who was playing the balancing act with his career in London and his degree 90 miles away. At this moment in time, which still feels like yesterday, I was pulling 80 hours of work a week- I felt a taste of victory, that I would finally just maybe ‘make it’ and I wouldn’t have to worry about money anymore. I became a narc; working 10am to 10pm, 12pm to 3am, and waiting for no man to tell me what to do. I was my own man, with the world at my very feet. Nothing could stop me, and nothing would get close to stopping me.
Well, the thing is, it all fell apart. I got stopped, and I got stopped in style. My 4 hours a night sleeping pattern; with 3 months of extreme and intensive work juggling too many commitments, mixed with a bad diet and a lack of exercise created a genuinely killer formula. The stress was building up, I was deteriorating fast and nothing seemed to help me or comfort me (sound familiar)?
In March 2011, I had a psychotic breakdown. My world fell apart around me within one heartbeat; and all my hopes and dreams shattered right in front of eyes! By this point, I had a failing single released, I had made a lecturer walk out a seminar, I had failed many fruitless exams and had complained about almost everything that there was to complain about. I couldn’t take it anymore, and I blew out at the top.
Those days were scary for me, as my whole life I had built for myself was burnt away as if it were nothing; a mere foreshadow of what was meant for me. I was a wreck, a madman, a loser. I went to the doctor after not being able to feel any positive emotion for 2 days, and they pretty much talked to my mum as if I were crazy- if I ever showed any of these ‘signs’ again, go to them immediately.
And to tell the truth, even after that they did creep up to the surface. Like an old friend you never wanted to talk again; or an old haunt you could never let go of. I had hit rock bottom, and it would have to take a miracle to bring me back to any point of respect and gratitude- deep down in my soul I had known that, and that God was with me through it all. The highs, the extreme lows and everything in between. God is our provider yes, God is our saviour yes, but he is also our comforter. And for that I am extremely grateful.
I remember the next few months after that, after my career was going nowhere and I had crashed and burnt out of University, I was fed up with the very life I lived. I started dreaming up of another life and going for it. But this lifestyle gave me no hope, no servitude or solace. All it did was make me feel worse; a nowhere guy going nowhere fast, someone who was worthless and not of any use to the world. I had internally became the thing I detested- a recluse, the former version of my past self, a man who could not speak anymore because his inner soul stuttered; just as Moses did after 40 years in the desert.
I still remember sitting on the sofa listening to Coldplay’s Lost! live from Glastonbury; finding it hard to hold back the tears rolling down my very face. The world may not have known I was an incredibly broken man, but I sure did; and my closest and dearest friends and family probably would have figured a guess as well- wondering what had happened to the Andy they had previously loved and enjoyed precious time and company with.
I am incredibly grateful for the best of friends and mentors who hung out with me during that time, as although I was worse before, I was much worse back then! Back to the story at hand, I was helping out at a community outreach program with some churched (and unchurched) youth on the Isle of Wight in July 2011, and something amazing and endearing to this very day had happened to me. Up to this point, good Christian friends and the family within the church had helped and built me back up again into a man I could and should have been, and I was slowly getting better and walking nearer to my living and loving God. I remember on a Sunday at the Isle of Wight, we had joined in with a Worship vigil on the green in the town we had been in; which had a great communal feel to it, and had been of great solitude and help to me. Now, when I and the others had gone into the hall nearby for refreshment and light snacks (as every Christian does after a service), I felt this incredibly strong conviction to go to Momentum. Now Momentum is basically the student version of Soul Survivor; where I had given my life to Christ many a time ago.
This was the first time in a while I had felt something like this, and it was clear as day. I had to go. I just had to. Even if it meant walking the 200 miles there, I had to go to it. It was almost one of those moments where if you ignored it, you were lost forever (if that were at all possible!), and if you obeyed the call you were found forever. It was almost as it was when God came to Moses in the desert, metaphorically and physically, and telling him directly and bluntly to ‘go’. And although Moses had his excuses and reservations about it, he just could not resist the call of God and decided to follow him- out of the desert of his life, and into the amazing spectacle of a life that God had called him into before time even began. It must have been a wondrous moment; the man had been broken with doubt and fear and couldn’t even speak properly anymore following his God into a life of servitude and apostleship that we still recall today (remember, he was the guy who ended up parting the Red Sea?).
So off I went to Momentum about a month later, not knowing why I was going and where I would end up; but always knowing in my heart that I had to do it and that it was without a doubt the right thing to do at that moment in time. Well, when I got there, God changed my life forever. For he did not do it through some mystical display of brilliance, although God is good at that, or through some crazy ‘charismatic’ story; which ended up with me laying on the floor shaking with fear and joy within my heart. No. All that had happened is my viewpoints and perceptions changed; and I saw the world and my life as it is- my life was only broken because I had relied upon myself to do the work instead of God, and the world is full of many people (including the very Christians and Jews which are his people) who have had the same problem within their own lives. The problems were all summarised into this one sublime and incredible statement: I never let go, so I never let God have a go.
Let me explain myself- imagine becoming a Jesus Christ believing and fearing Christian as God getting into the passenger seat of the car of our own lives. He lives with us and communes with us eternally; guiding us where to go and telling us what we must (and should do). You can almost imagine The Holy Spirit facepalming at every wrong manoeuver, every mistake and every wrong turn we were never meant to make; at a cost in our lives, of the lives of the people who live around us, and of the wider world. Although God was with us, we were against him; so he was not for us. As this truth resonates within you, at Momentum 2011 my life changed forever yet again. No, not because I had ‘recommitted my life to Christ’ or some other similar religious jargon as that, just because I finally let God drive the car of my life! I finally decided to let go of the steering wheel, hopped in the back, and let God give me the drive of a lifetime!
What did that mean for me? It basically meant from that moment on, I became free in Christ to be a slave to God. Now, that may sound crazy, but without this gift of love and life from God within our very lives at the driving seat, we are going nowhere at all. In the point of my lowest, my point of no return, from the point where I hit rock bottom, I genuinely found life- and life eternal at that! Why is it so many Christians are so powerless to help themselves and others who encounter them in the world? Is it because God sucks at what he does (if such a thing could even be logically true)? No, it is because we are useless and broken peoples; who never give God the time of day. We worry too much about our families, our lives, our careers, our jobs, our money, our own idols so you may say. We say ‘it is terrible that people used to worship other Gods except for The Lord our God,’ but we do the same very thing every day! We have become the Pharisees; who had God at their very fingertips, but never reached out to touch him! We are the hypocrites of our time; the people the world laugh at day in and day out. And why shouldn’t they? They are usually right with their mocking, for we worship something other than the God we proclaim and confess to believe in!
And how does that make us as Christians powerless? Well, if we don’t rely in God and God alone for everything we do, how could we do anything right? Surely, as sinners, we can’t get anything right without God’s hand in it somehow? We are a broken people; like the Israelites of old with tradition but lacking in substance. We have become worshippers of Baal; and we don’t even know it!
So, how do we repent and turn our eyes back to God again? It’s as simple as this- we give our lives to him. Nothing else will do, and no other action will resound with the same effect ever. We have to live our very lives as if it all depends on him, and we can’t do anything ourselves. Surely my testimony testifies to this point- no matter how hard we try to live right and within his ways, and the ways we dream and make up in our heads, we are surely just useless and fallible and disgusting human beings! Be grateful that somehow, just somehow, God loves us through and through- and wants to commune with us for now and forever.
It’s safe to say that although nothing outwardly crazy happened to me at Momentum, my life changed forever over that very week, and it still is now. So, what have I been up to ever since? Well, I somehow stumbled into Soul 61, which ironically is at Soul Survivor Watford (almost like I was always meant to go there); God told me to set up a prayer group and I did, I have prayed and been with many people who just needed a shoulder to lean on or a question to have answered. I have also somehow read about 70% of the Bible without blinking eye, as if it were a natural and easy thing to do, and have started to listen to Worship music almost exclusively (which, if you knew me even 2/3 months ago, is shocking indeed!).
But I don’t want to brag, because it is all God’s doing; I’m just the broken man somewhere in the middle, representing the everyman of today with a pen without a piece of paper, with a song without the record deal, with a hand without the pot. And I don’t take whatever life God is leading me into lightly (I don’t even know what it is right now, taking it one baby step at a time), I have headed the warning of the Gospels within my very life- and it goes a little like this: To whom much is given, much is expected. To whom much more is given, much more is expected.
Although God is love, it’s almost my duty now not to live the life he has set out for me for him, but to never ever turn from him ever again (if that is at all possible for all time); considering that the consequences and punishment for me may be dire if I do so. I have learnt not to depend on myself, but the God who gives me my daily bread; everything I need for every single occasion and for every day. For God is good, and I am not. For God is gracious, and I am not. For God is pure, and I am not.
Well, all I have to say is this- if you feel God pulling you, hold on for dear life and don’t you dare ever let go. For God is everything us Christians do, and for without him we are truly and utterly useless! God is good, we are not. Make sure you have your priorities right today.
PS- Although this post is incredibly long, I have noticed I have missed so much of my life out. If you want to find out more situations and more details involving the life that I have lived, feel free to openly ask me anything about it, and I shall be more than happy to respond!
God bless and be in everything that you do 🙂
- In return and reply to ‘Lord, Lord; Why have you Forsaken me!’- Part 1, Then who are Christians then? (onwardswearychristian.wordpress.com)
- The Power of a Prophetic Testimony (jansimson.wordpress.com)
- “I Used to be an Atheist, Just Like You” (crossexaminedblog.com)
- Has Atheism Been Sold to America? By R. Leigh Coleman (trinityspeaks.wordpress.com)