by Caryl Moll
Some of you may have read my previous post “I first encountered Jesus” where I share the story about how God became real to me before I even knew He had. (click HERE if you wish to read it)
The reality is that I had a very isolated childhood on our family farm. Being the ‘laat-lammetjie’ (late child) of the family, I was very much left to my own devices while my parents worked hard to support our family. I was aware of God’s presence during those times as I explored the vast bush and landscape.
Even as a small toddler, I had an imaginary friend, ‘Tanya’, who today I believe must have been one of God’s angels. Tanya’s presence made me feel ‘whole’ and I can still remember sharing an imaginary cup of tea with her on the front lawn. The farm was my Eden. Nothing else mattered. It was an era of my life where I felt pure, innocent joy when I ran through the fields with my hands outstretched.
So you can imagine how it felt when, at the tender age of 12 years old, I was sent off to boarding school. This was to become my new life. It was like being placed in a foreign land with unfamiliar social norms and structures. The only personal space I had was my own bed where I slept (there were 10 kids in a dorm) and even that was subject to ‘inspection’ by the prefects. Punitive measures were taken if our living spaces weren’t up to their standards – and then we were prohibited from going home at weekends. We were only allowed out to go to church on a Sunday (a 4 km walk there and back), to the shops on a Friday, and on weekend leave (once a month – if you behaved!) To say that I was unhappy with my lot in life was an understatement.
In response, I applied myself to achievement – academically and extramurally. It was the only way for me to experience some kind of acknowledgement that I mattered in this world. Achievement became my substitute for love – a distorted thinking, I know. But the more I achieved, the more my parents celebrated and the more my friends seemed to accept me. Love distorted!
Deep down, I felt an overwhelming unhappiness. I was lonely and miserable and pined for the occasional weekends where I could go back to the farm. Even then, though, my farm friends (the worker’s kids) had grown up and moved on. It was a time of emotional isolation…but ironically the brink of a new beginning. It took two years before God became ‘real’ to me.
I remember one Sunday night lying on my bed after spending the weekend in the hostel. Some of my friends had gone on a church camp. (I couldn’t afford it). They arrived back at the hostel in a bus and you could hear the noise before they entered the school’s premises – sounds of utter jubilation. I subsequently discovered that most of the participants had “committed their lives to Christ” during that weekend. Their transformations stared me in the face – they exuded strange-looking happiness and spoke joyously about their ‘personal relationship’ with Christ.
“What’s happened?” I asked one friend that evening.
As the night wore on, she told me how she had met Christ. She had a glow about her as she spoke. During the week, the jubilance settled and I watched this particular friend take up her bible each night. She looked so content. Peaceful!
“How do I get what you’ve got?” I asked her one evening before ‘lights-out’.
This was the pivotal moment as she led me through the process of commitment. On my knees, our God suddenly became very real to me. I experienced an overwhelming feeling of compassion; the removal of emotional isolation; a true encounter with the risen Lord. I knew, as I prayed for forgiveness, that I was being transformed from the inside, out.
I remember phoning my mother the next day (from the ‘tickey box’ – yes, no cell phones in those days) and telling her…
“Mom, I’ve accepted Christ into my life,” I whispered into the phone as other kids looked on curiously.
“But I thought you’d always had…?” she said simply.
In that moment, God replaced my parents. He was now the person that I took most of my troubles to and where I pleaded with Him to help me. Pure grace!
The first opportunity I got, I walked to town (another 2km) where I used my meagre pocket money and bought myself the cheapest bible I could find. It was a soft cover “Living Bible”. I had no clue what I was looking for…the fact that it said ‘Bible’ was good enough. In retrospect, I believe it was the best thing for me at the time. The grammar was easy to follow and the messages clear. It still graces my bookshelf as a testimony of that time.
Since those early days – 45 years ago – God has always stood in the gap for me. As I’ve grown in my faith, His presence has become bigger. He has now filled most of the gaps in my life. In fact, the ‘gaps’ that now exist are the small, self-created ones where I have stupidly tried to take over the reins again. God is bigger than anything I could ever have imagined. Composite love!
Have you crossed the line of faith yet, dear reader? What are you waiting for? Our Lord is compassionate, slow to anger and waiting for you to open that door. Just open your heart and do it!
God bless you.
With love, in Christ