My Journey to Significance

This is an excerpt of my journey. I recently had the privilege to share this with my ALPHA 4 group of friends who I have come to adore and admire.

“Jesus, I want you to know what is in my heart. I thank you for coming into my life. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sin so that I could be fully accepted by you. Only you can give me the power to change and become the person you created me to be. Thank you for forgiving me and giving me eternal life with God. I give my life to you. Please do with it as you wish. Amen.”

I think often just how blessed you are to have grown up knowing God. Remember week 6 of ALPHA – How does God Guide us? The section on “Circumstantial Signs of God’s Guiding Hand” triggered an avalanche of memories. How true written 2000 years ago John 6:44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day”. I feel really blessed I did not have to wait to that “last day” to receive my call. I now understand Jesus didn’t live on earth just to prove He is God. He came to give us eternal life, to offer us forgiveness and freedom from sin and guilt, to give us a full and meaningful life. It’s because Jesus is God that He can provide forgiveness from sin and enable us to live abundantly.

In 1st and 2nd year at University I was an Ayn Rand fanatic; that you were solely in control of your destiny and I always thought I had my life under control. So it came as a surprise as Proverbs 16:9 reminds: “In your heart you may plan your course, but the Lord determines your steps”.

As a 7-year-old having recently arrived in Rhodesia I had a feeling I was to be a Doctor. In retrospect the course of events to follow was unknowingly not scripted by me.  I grew up never thinking about God and at university I was atheistic. I was an introverted kid spending my junior and high school years pretty much on a squash court practising daily for hours. I excelled at this sport and received the highest sporting honour to be awarded at High School as the youngest recipient at 16. I was on TV, in the press and gave exhibitions. My academics were very mediocre though in the second stream; just scraping though A-levels with 3 science subjects. Certainly NOT of doctor standard.

After A-level I was conscripted like all boys at the time unknowingly facing the first of many cross-roads of my life. The first arose when a group of mates from school decided at conscription “sign up” to join a new officer training programme rather than the usual infantry training. In retrospect God’s circumstantial signs were active. Completely out of character as I was not a natural leader and quite immature, yet paradoxically, I excelled on this extreme programme to emerge with the “sword of honour”.

In retrospect God’s “sense of humour” was demonstrated when the time came to assign us to our positions in the real world with the military, bearing in mind the Rhodesian war was at fever pitch. I was posted to command as a lieutenant to a mortar platoon in the biggest permanent (African) battalion in Rhodesia.  It was unheard of at the time that a territorial force officer would be posted to a permanent force battalion. Ironically out of 40 battle hardened soldiers in this platoon I was the youngest at 18 with my senior non-commissioned officers old enough to be my Father (some of them had fought in the Kenyan African Rifles in Burma and Malaya). Suffice to say I was absolutely terrified at the prospect of leading, living, eating, and ultimately killing with these fine soldiers over the next 9 months. What transpired was unexpected and in retrospect I’m sure guided by God’s Grace. I was good at my new job and was quickly respected by my platoon and company and thus had this crazy new idea of a career as a professional officer with the battalion. On two occasions I walked into ambushes and should have been killed if not for my “batman” & bodyguard on the first occasion.

The second event happened on my 19th birthday 4/11/1976 where we were ambushed and the most ferocious fire-fight ensued over many hours. Interestingly it was my platoon’s mortar fire that saved our entire force. To this day I remember clearly as if yesterday; lying behind a massive tree in the bush with gun fire all around me and 30 of my men injured. Time stopped and I started thinking about my future (although nothing to do with God as I had absolutely no knowledge of His existence). What happened next can only in retrospect be seen as miraculous. A soldier arrived on the right side of the same tree whist I lay on the left side. He had an anti-tank rifle grenade attached to his FN rifle and asked me “Sir should I fire it”. Suggesting he should, he promptly cocked the weapon, ejected the gas propellant cartridge out of the breach and unknowingly loaded a live round into the chamber from his attached ball round magazine. On pulling the trigger his rifle barrel exploded with the live round detonating the anti-tank rifle grenade on the end of his rifle about one meter from my head. A soldier 200m behind us was hit by a piece of tail fin between the eyes. Once the dust settled at the base of our tree I was the same colour as my colleague on the other side who was still as much alive as I was. Remarkably we were both unscathed except deaf from perforated ear drums. Gun fire sounded like popping popcorn and the next 3 hours of fire fight trying to communicate with my injured platoon was quite taxing. I should not really have survived my 19th Birthday. With my hearing injury I was transferred to 2nd in command of Headquarter Company of the Battalion but my “fate” had been sealed. The second cross-road arrived for very comfy as a Captain I was “instructed” to send off my application to university for B Sc (I found out I could not apply for a Medical School in SA from Rhodesia).

The next few years saw me playing top class sport & paving my way into an academic world of science again unknowingly with God’s Grace as I made the transition to medicine from 2nd year B Sc grabbing one of 5 places out of 500 applications with 5 firsts and 2+. This was totally out character as a member of OVOVAC (“Our Very Own Very Average Club”). Thus fulfilling that “calling” I had 14 years earlier.

An Angel was brought into my life at the end of my Housemanship year.  Glenda has been my saviour ever since, especially through my extremely difficult registrar training years at GSH.  We have been married happily since (23 years) with two wonderful children (21 and 18 respectively).

At 50+ successful, prosperous, physically fit, for some unknown reason and out-of-the-blue I starting asking questions. My predicament was simple. I had no belief system, no faith, and despite my collection of “so-called” accolades I could not answer “what is the significance of my life?” The eventual “trigger” came when I had the great privilege of caring for my dying 61 yr Brother-in-law in 2008 and spent considerable time at his bedside in his home. Despite my expertise I was not equipped to deal with his death as I was spiritually lost and empty with no certainty to my own existence and no belief in eternal life. I could not answer his dying questions.

After his death I re looked at my life. I felt I had taken for granted the special things around me including my Wife and Children, my job, my health, our friends and the magnificent environment in which we live. I had typically fallen into the secular trappings of worshipping idols like myself, materials, fame and fortune. I had no knowledge of God, had never spent time thinking about God and certainly had no decisive evidence as to whether God existed or not. I was left arguing that if God did exist and one did gain eternal life and infinite happiness through knowing God, then I was in a perilous state, as my life was potentially without ultimate significance value or purpose.

In the same year I was further punished by evil. Having crossed swords with an unscrupulous property developer as well as a fraudulent investor I was exposed to real evil for the first time in my life and suddenly discovered there was no restraint from the depths of evil in man. Anger consumed me, catapulting me and my family into a frenzy of hatred and retribution for which I was certainly not proud. So at 50 I was really looking “down the barrel of a rifle” for if there was no God, then I was doomed. If there was no God essentially I had no immortality and the consequence of this was that life is itself was absurd, meaningless and without ultimate significance. I felt pretty “dead” as one writer aptly put it, “If God is dead, then Man is dead too.”

Our meeting at ALPHA was not by chance for which I deeply thank God. ALPHA stimulated great reflection on the burning questions of my life and I gave great thought as to my purpose in God’s world. Possibly most importantly ALPHA ignited an intense passion to read and understand God’s inspired Word. I found reading and studying the New and Old Testament for the VERY first time an incredible journey. I have become deeply passionate with Jesus Christ in my reading and biblical study. I now understand that adversity is way more important than prosperity as it is under adversity that I have learnt important lessons. I make time to be with God through prayer, reflection, during exercise, and daily readings. I ask myself daily questions that help me focus on the spiritual instead of the material parts of my life:

  • How can I slow down
  • How can I simplify things
  • How can I bring silence and peace into my life
  • How can I speak up (tell truth)
  • How can I shed my mask and armour
  • How can I serve God; my family and community

Inspired by God, the biblical writings are remarkably relevant to my life and the realisation that “absolute truth” does exist and that the answers to ALL my life’s questions are readily available. It seems my journey with God has always been there but I was too stupid and too preoccupied to realise this. I now understand that Jesus intended the Christian life to be an exciting, abundant adventure. He promised, “I have come that [you] may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). When you walk in a close relationship with our Lord, and in the control of God’s Holy Spirit, every day is filled with wonder, meaning, and purpose — your life overflows with desirable qualities: My scepticism about my existence has gone and some of my intellectual struggles have been pacified & I feel I am better qualified to answer some of the deep penetrating question asked of life; death and eternity. I have learnt to treasure my wife, my children and those around me & to treasure their critique in that I have a lot to learn. I am hoping and praying God directs me to where He sees my role in His Kingdom. I ask God for guidance on how I should prepare myself for the rest of my life. I have become more convinced than ever that God finds ways to communicate to those who truly seek God.

I recall a funny story of a traveller who interrupted his busy life to spend a few days in a monastery. “I hope your stay will be a blessed one the Monk said, if you need anything just let us know and we will teach you how to live without it.”

I thank my beloved ALPHA friends for being part of my wonderful journey and in particular, my Wife for her enduring love and support. I ask the Lord daily to keep me “humble and desperate.”

Fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands so that you may enjoy long life.  God Bless you all.

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