I have been a Christian for twenty-five years. Technically, I have been a Christian for twenty-five years.
I'm not sure that I was much use to you for many of those years, but by the same token I know that you can work through us when we look least likely to be any use to you, so I won't rule it out.
The fire was lit in 1987 and I burned brightly for a year or two straight after I encountered you for the first time, and then my light sort of dimmed to a faint glow for a long, long time. You kindled it afresh in the years after I lost my Dad and my babies came along, but then about two years ago you fanned it into flame.
I am different.
Something happened. I woke up? I changed gear? I grew up? I don't know, but about two years ago, perhaps even three, or somewhere in between, things changed. It's the hardest thing to describe; perhaps its one of those hindsight things that you love so much where things shift subtly and incrementally and then one day I look over my shoulder and my eyes widen when I see how far I've come.
It feels like a long way. It might well be a long way, but I think it's nothing in comparison with how far there is to go. It's like a day's hike up against landing on the moon. But I have changed. The way I live has changed, the way I think, the way I behave (yes, I know, as I said, there's a long way to go).
The other night it was Pentecost and at church we invited the Holy Spirit to come afresh to our church. Some people saw pictures, some felt your presence, some people were overtaken by emotion. People were healed. People had messages to share with us all.
Me? I didn't feel anything. No shaking, no trembling, no warmth, no rush of laughter or sense of - well, anything. What I did feel was a distinct lack of disappointment. There was a time when I was desperate for a tangible sign of your presence. I would have felt upset and anxious that somehow I was missing out. Was there something wrong with me? Was I doing something wrong? Unconfessed sin? Something 'blocking' me from receiving the Spirit? It would have been nice to have had an experience of you, Father, but these days, since the colouring-in of my life, I know that just because I don't see the flame or feel the rushing of the wind of your Spirit doesn't mean that you're not there.
Or was it? Ha! There's a thought.
It's hard, living a full-colour life. Not easy. It brings into play loads of stuff that I hadn't considered before. If I am walking more closely with you, stepping out in faith more, then I seem to attract other, less welcome attention. Things come along that threaten to derail me. Sometimes I fall for it and it does all go wrong, and sometimes I sidestep it, with your help. Sometimes it's downright difficult. I find myself wondering when things will get back to 'normal', but then at the edges of my mind comes this creeping suspicion that this is normal. It's a new sort of normal.
Better than normal. Harder than normal. More worthwhile than normal.
I could get the old normal back again; I could choose it, back off and get comfy on the sofa again instead of putting one foot in front of the other over and over again, but why would I? I feel as if I'm living.
Time is rushing past so quickly. It's nearly the middle of another year, one that only feels as if it only started last week. It isn't five minutes since I was grumpily packing away the Christmas decorations for another year and waiting for the first shoots to appear where the snowdrops are and here I am planning for Elizabeth's birthday on the day before the longest day and wondering when someone will tell me how many shopping days there are until Christmas. Okay, maybe not that. Not yet. Got bonfire night first...
'...I came to give life - life in all its fullness.'John 10:10
The last two years have been more meaningful than so many of the others. I'm only sorry that I didn't share so much more with you as fully as you'd have liked. My wedding day, the birth of my children. I know that you were there for those events, but I wish you'd have been centre stage. I regret that.
Looking forward, though. What is to come? What have you in store for me? It's exciting, exhausting, challenging, wonderful. Rollercoaster indeed. A learning curve of monumental proportions. It's fun.
I started 2011 with an overwhelming sense of anticipation. I knew, somehow that the year was going to be different. I didn't know how, but as it unfolded it became clear that it was going to be eventful. Good things, bad things. A new experience of you. An understanding of your faithfulness, your humour, your compassion, your creativity. The vast wonder of you. A clearer concept of myself. A work in progress.
Loved. Right now, as I am, imperfect, overweight, short-tempered, confused. Special. Unique. Loved by the true and living God.
I blurted this idea out to someone the other day, the idea that a couple of years ago my life changed into colour, and she knew what I meant. It's not just me! My friend nodded and smiled in recognition of my description; she had the same experience. She could date it. She laughed in agreement when I said that it wasn't a fluffy sort of change; things got harder, not easier. Things weren't 'normal' any more.
It's a Big Thing.
I'm reflecting on it as yesterday was the twenty-fifth anniversary of the day I gave you my life, Father God. Our silver anniversary; me and you. Twenty-five years since I first heard your voice in my heart and twenty-five years since your Spirit first moved me to tears of awe and gratitude for what you've done for me.
And then two years ago, you fitted me with a warp-drive and I've learned more in the last two than in the previous twenty-three.
Thankyou, Lord. Thankyou for the ride, and for holding my hand when the curves and inclines and steep drops get scary. Thankyou for the scenery and for the wind in my hair. For the music and the company and the colours and the promise of more to come.
I feel as if I'm really living.