The ways that people come to religion and to Jesus Christ are infinite. Some like the brilliant Christian writer C S Lewis (‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ including ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’) came “kicking, struggling, resentful and darting my eyes in every direction for a chance to escape”, and had his Epiphany at, of all places, Whipsnade Zoo (“I was driven to Whipsnade one sunny morning. When we set out, I did not believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God, and when we reached the Zoo I did”).
Others feel the warm embrace of God much sooner in their lives. The most beautiful story I heard was how the late (and very great) Sister and Carmelite Nun Wendy Beckett -who came to huge public notice and acclaim late in life as the most improbably of art critics in TV history through her 1990’s BBC series- met God.
For her, it happened on a Sunday morning, when she was only 3 or 4, she was sitting under her family’s breakfast table as they were eating sausages. She recalled that she could smell the sausages, she could feel the carpet and hear the local marching band and then something happened:
“And I became conscious of God. It was an overwhelming experience of greatness, of goodness and of protection. I remember feeling with wonder that the world- so bewildering to a little child-made sense and that it was God’s world, and that I was a blessed child within it. If you ask how I knew, I cannot tell you. I saw nothing and heard nothing. But from then on, God was always with me, the centre of all I did, giving it significance.”
I think also of actor and Anglican David Suchet (most famous as TV’s Hercule Poirot) who became a Christian whilst in a hotel bathtub in Washington. He had been thinking of his late grandfather:
“I always felt that he was with me as my spiritual guide. I felt him sitting on my shoulder. Then I thought to myself, ‘why do I believe that and not believe in life after death?’. That got me thinking about the most famous person who they say had a life after death, Jesus”.
It led him to read St Paul’s epistles and this is what he found:
“I chose it because I knew that somebody called Paul actually existed. I knew that he wrote letters, and that they are there for everyone to see. By the end of the letter, certainly by the end of the book, I was reading about a way of being and a way of life that I had been looking for all those years.”
I think what these examples show us is that in order to know Jesus you do not have to become very learned, or go to theological college, or have to take part in some special form of meditative practice or ritual, or even to be in a particularly holy place.
God can come to you wherever you are and whatever you are doing. It can be in the most unlikely of settings -you could be cleaning your teeth, walking around the town, or taking your children to school. But when it happens it is significant and needs your attention.
It can take time for you to believe, or as in the case of Sister Wendy above it can be instant, and it changes your life (and that of others) for ever. It is a precious thing. I pray it happens to you.