By Rowan Wyatt —
I didn’t have, what I would call, the best of Baptisms. I was excited, and had heard testimony from people seeing Jesus when they rose up from the waters, feeling peace and being enveloped in bright light. I caught a chill from the freezing baptismal pool and an ear infection from the water.
That stayed with me for years and I regularly doubted the validity of my baptism. Yes, I had been there and as a twenty-five-year-old male I was pushed under the water by the vicar and David the church warden. I had family there, my wife, and I heard the tremendous round of applause when I rose from the arctic depths of the pool. But, it seemed to me at the time, God himself was not there, Jesus was not there, and the Holy Spirit was obviously alighting on someone else.
I felt abandoned, I felt invalid, unwanted and ignored. I smiled so everyone thought it was all great, but I felt God had decided not to turn up. I didn’t think this was a good start to my faith journey.
Years later I am a more mature forty-eight-year-old and am able to see that God was indeed there on that day, it was I who expected the light show and hero’s welcome instead of a hug from the father. I got that hug of course but didn’t realise it for years.
I have found myself in a similar situation recently. My faith has been rocked to the point of falling off a cliff. Ill health for myself and my wife, financial worries, family worries etc. all contrived to put my mind elsewhere, and here is the point of writing this, away from God.
I felt when I was younger that God had abandoned me and recently I have been back at that immature moment of feeling once again cast adrift without the guidance, love and assurity of the light of Jesus in my life. I found myself in a dark pit of despair and railed at God for having put me there and not giving me a shoulder boost to get out.
I have spent the past few months wondering what I could have done so wrong. Had I not prayed enough? Was my anger putting a wall up between God and me? I couldn’t hear him speak anymore, the Bible wasn’t giving me comfort, even my main spiritual medium, music, was failing to inspire me. I felt lost and alone. I needed to get back to something and strip my faith down to the bare bones to get some answers and try to renew my faith.
The title of this article is ‘Getting off to a Good Start – Renewing Faith in God’. I never got off to a good start for the same reason I am having a tiff with him now and teetering on a cliff edge. Renewing faith is important to anyone who is struggling, either as a new Christian or a dyed in the wool old warrior like me. Renewing faith is about renewing oneself first, point the finger at the face in the mirror before turning to point it at God, doing it the other way around makes the journey very long.
The secret to this, ironically, lies in what I was doing to make me feel lost or at odds with God. I said I couldn’t hear him speak anymore, and many have said this as well, especially when they are hurting and sorrowful. But the truth is the reason we can’t hear him is because we are not listening, we have shut God’s word out, we can’t hear the reply for shouting the question.
Here is an example of this. I recently sat in church, alone, praying and desperately wanting God to speak to me, any word would do. I heard audibly the words “Christ’s mercy on you”, “Christ’s mercy on you”, Christ’s mercy on you”. How wonderful, but I dismissed it as my mind just telling me what I wanted to hear and, so I continued to ask God where he was and why wouldn’t he speak. Now that’s nuts!!
The point is if you are seeking renewal of your faith you don’t have to do anything. God doesn’t require you to don a hair shirt and walk to Coventry bare foot or fast for forty days, seek penance or wail in moonlight, not of course saying that pilgrimage and penance don’t have their place. The answers are already there! Stop, look and listen as the old British road safety slogan used to say.
Stop the raging and wandering. Stand where you are as is said in Ephesians 6:12, stand firm, breath in and wait for Him. Surrender to his love, relax in his embrace and most of all, be patient.
Look at the world around you and see that God is there. Look at the words in the Bible and feel them scribe themselves on your heart and soul, breath them in. Look and see God in the birds and the trees.
Listen to what God is saying, actually listen and discern, for often God uses others to relay his words to you. Know his words for they are never harsh, they do not judge and are surely never flippant. Use your discernment when you are given advice from people who come up to you in church, life or in what you read, for this ‘advice’ is not always good.
Renew your faith as this new year begins and feel God breathe on you afresh. He has put a ladder in my hole, it was always there, a big note was attached saying “This is for you, your way out. Just climb up”. It’s that easy, but we are, sadly often blind and deaf and dumb to the ways of God and his love for us.
I am hoping I can renew my faith this year, I am opening my heart to him in surrender and he will accept it, because he loves me. Surrender to him in faith and humility for he also loves you.