A Story of Grace

Hi, I’m Clive and this is my story. Born into a non-churchgoing family in 1942 in Woodhouse, Leeds I had a happy childhood, loved and cared for by parents who had very little materially to give their family of 5 children, but gave us the very best they could. Not least they set us an example of how we should try to live, despite their own imperfections.

In search of help

As time went on I became aware that I could not keep this moral code, based as it was on the ten commandments. In my search for help and an answer to life’s questions at the age of 17 I wrote to the local vicar as a result of the influence of my best friend (and future brother-in-law).

The vicar was delighted, and had me baptized and confirmed in next to no time. I must point out that my father refused to have any of us baptised after the death of our brother Barry at 11 months old.

For the next 3 years I attended church and joined the church youth club. I was trying to live out the Christian life as I saw it, but in my early twenties I left home to take up a career in youth hostelling, ceased going to church , and by my mid twenties had become agnostic, not knowing if there was even a God, let alone the God of Israel.

By the time I was 29 I was running a 54 bed hostel on the North York Moors. I met and married a Christian girl, much to the unhappiness of her father. I refused to have a church wedding, feeling unable to do so because of my unbelief. I was given a Bible by my in-laws as a wedding present and began having daily readings with my wife. I soon tired of this, saying that if I read a book I read it from the beginning, not bits here and there. She suggested I read through the gospels of Luke and John. I was reading it to get it off my back, so that I could say to her “it’s fine for you, but I think it’s a load of rubbish!”

However by the time I had read through both gospels, I realised that I had a decision to make, not about the Bible but about this man called Jesus. He was either a trickster, a fool or completely mad, or he was what he said he was.

A trickster, a fool or completely mad

We used to go the small chapel in Westerdale village where we lived, and on this particular Sunday, January 7th 1972, it was communion after the service. I asked my wife if she wanted to stay for communion and she said “It’s up to you”.

I knew it was decision time, having not taken communion for 12 years. I went to the communion rail and I prayed “Lord, I’m not sure about you, but here I am.” Nothing happened!

Over the next few days I was full of questions, evolution being a big problem to me. I remember saying to my wife “You’re not scientific enough to answer these questions, I need to go elsewhere.” On the 11th of January we went to look after a friend’s children so they could visit a sick relative. When we arrived I noticed a book bought for their 7 year old son. It was all about evolution.

As I flicked through the pages it precipitated a conversation with my friend, a fellow agnostic. Halfway through this conversation I heard myself arguing in favour of Jesus. On the way home I said to my wife “That’s it, I believe!” At that moment the Holy Spirit came into me and I knew I was going to live forever because a man called Jesus had died for me on a cross 2000 years before I was even born.

Rescued every time

Since that day things went very well for a time, but eventually began to go badly wrong, and I allowed heartbreak to turn me away from the Lord, and I fell into sin. My marriage ended in divorce and I wondered if I could ever come back to God.

I have to tell you that through repentance he has brought me back, not once, but time and time again. I am mindful of Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter 7.

“So often I do not do the good I want to do, but the bad I should not do. What hope is there for me? Thank God for Jesus, who rescues me every time”.

Romans 7

I am now remarried with a wonderful wife and 3 fantastic children, and 3 lovely grandchildren. So what new thing can I bring to you, what word of revelation after 40 years as a Christian can I astound you with? The answer is none, and I am reminded of the words of the old man recalling the time of revival in the Outer Hebrides many years ago – “Isn’t grace wonderful?”

Written by Clive Hughes
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