As I write, I’m one day away from an unusual anniversary. On 29 August 2003, while in Paris, I suffered a heart attack. I don’t wish to over-dramatise it, I went into hospital on Thursday, had two stents inserted in an artery on Friday, was released on Saturday morning, and walked miles down the Champs Élysées the same evening. I’ve not had a problem since, but it’s still true that the experience was life changing. There was the rebuilding of confidence, having to get used to taking medication every day for the rest of my life, and adjusting to the fact that some activities are now beyond me.
Life often changes in ways we don’t expect or imagine. I always planned to work in a bank and the idea of teaching was never in my mind. I lasted two months in a bank, hating every second of it, and 37 years as a teacher. I had no ambitions as a teacher but I retired as a headteacher. I had no great plans to move away from home, I was a home bird. I’m a North Walian from a town called Buckley, not too far from Chester, but I’ve lived more years down South than I did in the North. I’ve had some wonderful blessings and some awful tragedies. That’s life, it’s what it does to us. I’m sure you can recall similar experiences in your own life, perhaps an event that was most definitely a life changer.
I was just about to write that I had a life changing experience when I was 18, but then I realised it’s not true, but bear with me for a while. When I was still in school, what we called the Upper Sixth, but is now Year 13, I started a relationship. 47 years later that relationship is still going strong, and has been the driving force behind everything I’ve ever done. You’re assuming, I think, that I’m talking about meeting a girl who became my wife. You’re close, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I met my wife 45 years ago and have now been married for 40 years.
47 years ago I met someone other than my wife. I met Jesus Christ. I’d known of him but didn’t have any kind of relationship with him. That all changed gradually, when I began to consider what I was hearing in school about him, and through my own reading of the Bible. Ultimately I came to see that Jesus is the Son of God, he died for me, and he wanted me to follow him and to enjoy his daily company. I was very happy to do that. I kept reading, I began praying, and before long God redirected my steps and took my life in a different direction. He took me from North to South Wales, from banking to teaching, from a life heading nowhere to a very fruitful life.
Why did I say earlier that I was wrong in thinking of my 18 year old new relationship as a life changing experience? Simply, because God doesn’t do things by halves. He didn’t change my life, he gave me a new one! When I trusted Jesus and decided to follow him I was born again. I was given a brand new life. Many people are searching for answers. What is the point of life? Why am I here? Surely there must be more to life than this? For me the search ended with Jesus. Having him as my Saviour is ultimately satisfying and fulfilling. I know that my life’s purpose is to follow him and I love being able to do so.
Another man came to Jesus searching for answers. His name was Nicodemus, and he was a Pharisee, one of the leading religious figures of his day. I’m sure he had many questions he wanted to ask, but Jesus stopped him before he even started and said to him, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” (1) He didn’t understand at first that he needed a new life, but when Jesus died by crucifixion, two men came to take down his body. One was a Pharisee called Joseph of Arimathea, and it was in his tomb that Jesus was buried. The other man who came with Joseph, and helped prepare the body of Jesus for burial, was Nicodemus. He’d got it! He’d realised that he needed a new life and he found it through Jesus.
A new life can be yours too, through Jesus, and only through him.
- John 3:3