A good friendship developed and I was introduced to his church. It was an exciting time, a church plant on a new estate, it had vision and leadership and passion. The people were some of the most happy and inspirational people I had ever met and I wanted to be part of it - belong. So I was confirmed, became a member of the family and a surrogate child to many of the great people who went to the church. However, despite having loved the Jesus of a pictue bible I had as a child, I really thought of him as just that, a hero from a fairy story, a knight in shining armour. So I thought we all knew really that it couldn't be true, but it was nice to believe in.
So you can imagine when times became hard I found solace elsewhere, buried myself in drugs and sex. Going away to university enabled me to hide even better, especially from myself. The church still cared, were worried but stood by me without judgement when I let them close enough.
It was at university I had my first encounter with a beautiful girl called Ruth. She was beautiful and I mean Gwenyth Paltrow beautiful and I became friends with her and her boyfriend on a Student coomunity Action Project. We socialised and then spent nights as threesomes, not really doing much. But when abandoned in the bed with Ruth as boyfriend sought the greater comfort of the sofa. The dynamics changed. We had a brief affair, she loved her boyfriend but still sought me out. The it was over. Labelled a sexual experiment. A rite of passage - nothing more.
At the end of my second year of university - I was flunkingout, having a break down - years of coping with my father's mental illness, continual suicide attempts, my own sexual and substance misadventure had taken their toll. I was at the end of hope and failing all my courses due to fact I now found it practically impossible to leave the house or talk to anyone.
One night after another suicidal cry for help from my father - I had had enough. I remembered one key thing from my time in the church - "Ask and you shall be answered, knock and the door shall be opened, seek and you shall find". And so I started shouting- if not screaming at God - If you are real you've got to show yourself or I'm jumping off Clifton suspension Bridge.
In the middle of this tiraid, the whole room filled with light and I could feel a force, that can only be described as a whole stadium of Manchester United Football supporters cheering for me. It was love - the most powerful thing I have ever experienced.
It was the middle of the night - I had on orange tartan pyjamas, scary bed hair - but I pulled on my trainers and ran to the local church through the civilized Clifton streets. Inside the porch I found a bible and read and talked to God??!!
I knew I needed more than experience though and returned on sunday to listen to, of all things, a sermon on reasons for belief. Through support and Alpha - I began to know you could believe through your head and your heart - you didn't need to turn off reason to believe. In fact you could embrace your minds questions and delve deeper.