When I was three or four years old my grandmother told me about God. She also showed me pictures of Jesus, explaining that he was the ‘Light of the World’ and that if I tried to be good he would always be there to help me. Fairly normal stuff, perhaps, but my grandmother was a strong woman who had led a colourful life, and looking back now, remembering what she said to me – how she said it – I realise she was making a special effort to make me understand something she considered vitally important. My grandmother died shortly before my fifth birthday, but she had planted something, and when I was taken to my first church service – harvest thanksgiving, with wonderful, thunderous hymns and a packed congregation – I felt this must be something like heaven come down to earth. Then on Christmas Eve when I was about eight my mother handed me her own Bible, open at Luke 2. For the first time I read the real Christmas story, and over the next few years I started dipping into the Bible, eventually leading my mother to suggest that if I really was that interested I should start at the beginning and read the whole thing through. I did this – not for the last time – and think it’s something to be recommended, though of course it is vital to persevere. Obviously there is nothing quite like a book that tells the story of God’s relationship with His creation, but the Bible is a complicated, sometimes irrelevant record put together by fallible human beings, and as you work your way through the Old Testament it is easy be put off. Only, I think, when you get to the end do you really recognise the message shining through every single book.
As I moved into my teens, like many people I started to have serious doubts. It couldn’t be true, how could this invisible, untouchable God really exist? And then something happened, a family crisis. I started to pray . . . please let it be all right. And suddenly I felt this benevolent, protective presence. I was fortunate, my prayers were answered and on that occasion things were ‘all right’, but even if it had worked out differently I don’t think I would have lost the feeling that there really was something – someone – out there. It’s a feeling I have had many times since.
For me, too, the Biblical Creation makes real sense. For one thing the world’s development as described in Genesis actually fits with the outcome of research (not something that seems to have been noticed much). And with the world already full of life, why should the human spirit not have been planted into a physical body?
The important thing, though, is that people stop and listen. Until they start to realise there really is something wonderful ‘out there’.