The first thing I can remember of church and a Christian background is when I was colouring a picture near my best friend Jeremy, and we were turned away from the pastor, with our eyes intent on the drawing on the paper on the blue seats in front of us. That's what church, and Christianity meant to me at that point. I was about 4.
A couple years later, I was quite good at this church deal ... I could memorize verses, do my homework, bring my bible when I showed up for class each week because doing so would earn me points, and the points meant prizes. I also knew where to find the drinks and snacks in the room near to my classroom after my parents had finished listening to the sermon and I had finished doing other stuff. Don't get me wrong, the church was not a bad place to be; I remember one evening service when a man fell over during the service, and no one really helped him, which I thought was odd. At the tender age of six I did not realize that this was the work of the Holy Spirit in someone's life.
My family and I moved to the United States, and I was still playing along at Church, earning points where possible, and being the polite little British kid I was expected to be. Besides, that's what church was about for me, nothing more. The one and a half years we spent there were vague, and I can just about remember seeing the place where people got baptized, but I was only 8 at the time, and did not understand baptism. When we moved to Belgium in 1991, I figured that Church was going to be a pushover ... you earned point, ate food, and were nice, polite and kind to everyone you met.
Luckily for me, the time in Belgium was when God really got a hold of me because He started to show me that life is not points, prizes and food. When I was in 7th grade, I went to a bible study that a teacher ran at the school, which had only three attendees for as long as I was there: Nick (my brother) another guy and I. It was only once a week, but sometimes it felt like a drag to go to it because my friends did not understand that God was getting a hold of my life, and that He wanted to change me. I sometimes forgot, but Nick knew if I was not there, and made sure I knew that I was not there. Sometimes I went although it meant going through pouring rain to the next building while others were asking why I would do such an insane thing (but it was only a 100 yard dash I had to do).
Well, God's persistence in keeping me in that bible study paid off when one day we were watching a video and the guy asked us to pray along with him. To me it seemed like the most natural thing in the world to do, and though, to this day, I'm not sure what he prayed, I certainly know that's the day I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Saviour.
Did my life change around like a snap? Was I suddenly super good Stephen Gazard the angel around the house?. Nope, but my attitudes changed, and I was willing to help mum cook around the house, and I learnt more patience. As I look back at these times, I know that they were times when God was slowly shaping me to become what I am today, a young man of God. However, God never stops moulding us into a likeness of him, and He changes me each and every day, although I sometimes don't know how he does it. Christians are all a work in progress, and I encourage you to get yourself right with God right now because the peace and release that He gives you is immense, and only He can fill the void in your life.