This guy has no idea what’s about to happen to him. He doesn’t have any sense of how completely his life is about to change. He is me, on holiday in Portugal in July 2000, half my life ago.

Nothing dramatic happened that week, nor immediately afterwards, but a gnawing sense of absence and purposelessness had been at work in me for several months. Soon after I returned home I shared with one of my Christian friends what I was feeling and asked for help.

I’d been attending and serving passionate churches since I was 16 but my commitment to Jesus was half-hearted at best, an act of last resort rather than first importance. My interests were music and girls, and alcohol naturally accompanied my pursuit of these. I have always hated the word lukewarm, resenting any suggestion of nominative determinism, but I can’t think of a better word to describe my faith. My 20-year-old self would have arrogantly and thoughtlessly dismissed this assessment. But that gnawing continued.
“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” (Augustine, Confessions)
The friend I spoke to gave me his usual patient encouragement, and a daily Bible reading guide. I began to spend more time with him and my other Christian friends, with motives as mixed as ever. I saw a contented joy in them which I knew I did not have. Then I began to realise I could have it.
“You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 29:13-14)
A love for God was growing in me, the thrill of discovery. Then there was a night of anxiety and anger during which I received comfort from Christian counsel, the like of which I knew could not be found elsewhere. Then the next morning God spoke to me through the first thing I read in the Bible reading guide for that day:
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28, NIV)
All I can tell you is that I knew God was in the room with me as I read those words. I knew His love, His leading, and I knew that I had to give Him my whole life.

Some things changed immediately. I haven’t been drunk in the 20 years since, nor have I sworn. Both were constant habits that simply disappeared. Other sins were more tenacious, and new ones snuck in. I would still hurt others and fool myself by violating God’s ways. But that was the turning point. I loved (and love) God for being so kind and gracious to me, I only wanted (and want) to know and serve Him. So sudden and substantial was this change that I couldn’t adequately explain it to my non-Christian friends, and I regret my inability to do more than simply show how different I was.

So began a new life. Twenty years have passed and God has been faithful. He was before, of course, I just didn’t know it.