“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” – Proverbs 4:23
Have you ever fallen out with someone close? Maybe a family member or a best friend? It sticks with you all of the time. No matter what you are doing, an angry monologue is playing in the back of your mind. You lie awake at night, desperately trying to let it go, just you can let it go. But it doesn’t.
It doesn’t matter who you are, or how hard you try. Broken relationships affect us in the deepest way. Looking back, I can see this clearly. But growing up, things were much more cloudy. Let’s just say I did not get on with my mum. Everyday, it seemed, she was angry and it was all my fault. I guess you could say she was emotionally unstable – and I bore the brunt of it. Looking back, I want to stare the young boy straight in the eyes, just like Robin Williams did in Good Will Hunting, and say, “It’s not your fault”. I don’t know why she picked on me and not my older brother. I don’t even know what triggered her fits of rage. But I was just a child and I didn’t understand.
So at aged 13, I left home. I went to boarding school and spent much of my vacations away from home. Home was not a safe place and I really didn’t want to be there. But leaving really didn’t solve anything. As time went by, I grew as angry and as bitter as my mother. This broken relationship was bringing me down. I struggled to find acceptance or to believe that I was good or loveable. I know that years of bitterness have caused me to forget any fun times I had at home, but now I can only remember the lonliness, the bitterness and the pain.
After I left school, my life started to unravel. I was drinking a lot. I guess it dulled reality and helped me forget my troubles. And it didn’t help that I spent my gap year at a naval college, where drinks were subsidised and often free. But in the nick of time, before I became truly addicted to alchohol and threw my life away on drinks, partying and meaningless relationships, I was thrown a lifeline.
A friend invited me to church and for some reason I agreed. I don’t remember much about the service except that the preacher was unusually enthusiastic about what he was talking about. After the service, my friend asked if I would mind hanging around a little longer as he wished to attend a prayer meeting. I didn’t really have a choice as he was my ride home! So I sat at the edge of the room waiting and watching this group pray for one another. Two hours later, the meeting still had not finished and I was still sitting there.
I began to reflect on my life, my pain, my regrets. It was a complete mess. But when I looked up, I suddenly became aware that God was in the room. Something about seeing God’s love on the faces of the Christians praying, I knew He was right there and I was frightened. I knew God wanted to remove the mess in my life, but I feared that if he did, there would be nothing left; that nothing within me would be worth saving. I was so scared I physically shook with fear.
My friend saw me shaking and came over to see what was wrong. He told me a little about God and how Jesus died so that I might be forgiven. I asked Jesus to come into my life and as I did this, I saw all of my priorities in a stack before me. Then God picked up the stack and turned them completely upside down. All of the things that had absorbed me, suddenly were at the bottom of the pile – of least importance. For the first time in my life I left loved. For the first time I was at peace.
Well the next day I was brimming with excitement about what God had done the day before. I felt joyful – you could just see it on my face. I was working in a workshop with heavy machinary and my instructor sent me home as he thought I was drunk! My friends were sceptical. But one thing they couldn’t deny: Something happened that Sunday, that permanently changed my life.
Some time later, I felt God saying that he wanted me to try to reconcile things with my parents. I found that God had also been working in their lives. They had attended an Alpha course – and I could see how their relationship with God was affecting them. I am very pleased to say that God has now restored my relationship with my parents. I have a good relationship with them and I visit home often (with my wife and three girls). Like any family, things aren’t perfect. We have good days and bad days. Healthy relationships take work. But we do have a relationship. I love my mum, and I know she loves me.
Keep the main thing, the main thing
Looking back I can see how my broken relationship with my parents, drug me down. But I have come to see that my relationship with God is just the same. When my relationship with God is out of sync, my life becomes messy and old feelings of rejection creep up. Like all relationships, maintaining my relationship with God takes work. Like talking to him through prayer and reading the bible and living in obedience in the decisions I make.
There is no relationship more important than our relationship with God. Only by reconciling our relationship with God, can we ever truly live.
“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” – John 7:37-38
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