Brian's Story - Continued...
I started to have an affair with a colleague’s wife, Heather, and she left her husband and married me. That would have been in 1985. We lived together for a very short time, maybe six months, and then we married and moved to Canada.
Do Not Call Me Dad
Before I left England my eldest daughter Julie started seeing a black man and I just flipped out. I was incredibly racist, I hated black people and I said, ‘If you’re going to do this, this is it. You will make a choice right now – him or me – because I will not be your father if you’re going to marry a black man.’
She started to cry and there was a lot of yelling and swearing from me and she just sat there crying. It was a terrible thing to do. I said ‘From this point forward do not contact me, do not call me “dad.” I don’t want no more to do with you”.
Then my youngest daughter took the side of my eldest daughter (obviously, because that was right) so I didn’t have any
contact with them for about ten years. Julie eventually married the man, whose name was Paul.
Once we settled in Canada, I continued drinking on Friday and Saturday nights. On Fridays, it was the boys – a bunch of loud, drunken, obnoxious guys like me – and on Saturdays it was another crowd. I liked girls – and I couldn’t control myself. If it came across my path I was going to participate. I was running my life. I hated the church. I had no interest in it because it was so boring and it was so controlling and it wanted to take over your life and say ‘You can’t do that any more.’ I thought, ‘There’s no way I’m going to get involved in anything like that.’
My mother died before I came out to Canada, probably about 1983. I never felt that close to her to be honest. We never had that mother-son bond thing going on. She had a heart attack.
My dad was about 58 when he died. That was the first time I can remember crying as a man. That was traumatic. He was a very moral man actually and he had a son with no morals whatsoever. I was part of this post modern movement that said ‘You know what? I am the author of my own destiny. I can control pretty much my life.’ And my father was not of that background. I’m sure he was disappointed by me. He never said that, because he was too good a man to say that. I deeply, deeply regret when he died that I never ever told him I loved him, never. It’s not a word we used in our family.
I eventually made up with my daughter Julie. It was at a family reunion and I walked over to her and said, ‘How are you doing?’ and she said ‘Good’ and she started to cry and I put my arms round her and said ‘I’m sorry, I’ve never stopped loving you’ and it was true.
Meanwhile, Heather and I were two damaged people in a marriage. We’d go out and party all night. We did all kinds of really ridiculous things, drink all day and through into the night until we virtually just fell down. We lasted 17 years.
The Witness Of Christians In The Workplace
I have worked for the same company for 22 years and they’re a great company to work for. There is a Christian group in this company and I used to love ragging on these guys. There was one in particular that I hated with a passion. I hated the sight of him, I hated his presence. He would walk into the tool room where I was working looking for something and I would just rail on him and just curse at him, call him names, give him such a hard time. He never retaliated.
I could never understand that and it used to make me more angry at him. His name was John Riosa and he was a born again Christian. Then there was an Irish guy called Dominic who was a Catholic born again Christian and I didn’t like him either. Well he’s Irish, I’m English and I would call him ‘Bomb chucker’ and say, ‘How can you blow up women and kids and call yourself a man of God?’ He’d walk away and I hated that. The thing I hated most about Christians was that they wouldn’t fight back.
I thought they were just a bunch of hypocrites that got together on Sunday morning to praise the Lord and then go out and do what they like all Sunday afternoon. I was angry about everything – politics, football, religion, people. I was very bitter, very angry. There was a lot of resentment, even though I’d got everything I possibly could have had. I had all the material things.
On my 50th birthday I went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and when I was coming home I thought, ‘I’ve got a wife, I’ve got a house, I’ve got cars, I’ve got a truck, I’ve got a good job, I’ve got all the things that the North American lifestyle is supposed to give you to bring you peace and happiness and yet I don’t have that peace and happiness... There’s still this piece of me missing, like I’m not fulfilled. What’s the problem?’
Finally I went to work one day and I was talking with Dominic (the Irish Christian) and later he said ‘Are you okay?’ and I said 'Yes, I’m okay, why?’ and he said to me ‘You talked to me for 15 minutes and you didn’t swear once’
I said ‘Really?’ and he said ‘No. What’s going on?’
I said ‘You know what? I don’t know. Good talking to you’ and I walked away.
He said to me, ‘You know, maybe you should come to church’. I replied, ‘Out of the question, no. I’m not ready for this.’
And he said, ‘Well come to church on Saturday night. It’s a nice gentle evening, there’s no pressure to do anything. Just
come and have a look.’ He kept at me for a couple of weeks so eventually I went to church.
Invited To An Alpha Course
When I got there, I found it was a gentle church and some people were obviously emotionally moved and there were tears and I was thinking, ‘This is nuts’. But I went along the following week... and the next. Then Heather started to come with me. Every Saturday night I said ‘You know, I’m done, I’m not going back’ and then about Wednesday I’d think ‘Well, I’ll just give it one more try’. But I didn’t participate. I just sat at the back of the church. Then they started to run their very first Alpha course.
At church one night Dominic came up to me and said, ‘There’s this course, this Alpha course and it’s for new Christians and people who don’t know Christianity all that well. You should go. You have all of these questions, you have all of these difficulties with the faith, why don’t you go on the course?’
At first I said no but then I realized it was an opportunity for me to step forward and to say ‘You people are deluded, you are
walking in complete darkness, you don’t know this is complete rubbish. You are being completely manipulated and I’m going to tell you that right.’
I went to the first one on a Monday night, without Heather. There were maybe 30 people and the food was actually not bad, I was quite surprised. We had dinner and then we watched a DVD of Nicky Gumbel. I was fascinated by the video. I found Nicky kind of amusing, because he was a fellow Brit. At the group time, I said, ‘I certainly don’t believe in God and I have no idea why I’m here’ but I went back the next week.
Then Nicky started to talk about the 60,000 documents that they have and the Dead Sea scrolls and the validity of who Jesus was. He talked about Josephus and Pliny the younger and I thought ‘Right, I’m going to scribble these things down and I’m going back home and check on the internet.’ I did that and thought ‘Oh’. Then on about the fourth week they began referring to Bible passages. They said, ‘Turn to John’ or whatever.
I had nothing to say because I was late finding the passage so I wasn’t very participative. The following week Ray, one of
the co-leaders, called me to one side and said, you’ve always given us your opinion but last week all of a sudden you stopped doing that. Why?’ I explained about not finding the passage at which he said, ‘Ah, you sit by me and I won’t start until you have the place.’ I thought ‘He’s kidding.’ Nobody had even been that nice to me. I was not used to being treated that way.
My First Prayer
I thought ‘Wow, that is so cool.’ Then came the Holy Spirit weekend and we went away on this retreat, which was great. But nothing particularly happened to me until the drive home. Then, as I was driving along I said to God, ‘OK, God, if you are there (and I think you are) I’m going to ask you to come into my life. I want to see what you’ve got, so do what you like. Carry on.’
That was as close as I’d ever come to praying but, boy, did he ever come into my life and show me what everything was. He came into my life so much. All of a sudden, it’s like I had this sensitivity that wasn’t there before. Things smelled differently. Everything tasted better. I thought there’s something going on here, so I went to Dominic and said, ‘I’ve said this prayer thing, and things are changing and what am I supposed to do?’
He said, ‘Well you can pray and ask the Father to help you’ and I said ‘Okay right.’ I had no idea what that meant. At the end of the Alpha course I thought ‘I don’t want to lose this amazing camaraderie that we’ve built within the group’ so I did the follow-up course on Philippians.
Then I asked if I could take Alpha again and they said ‘No, but we can have you in as a helper if you like.’
So for the next course I was a facilitator. I would pass the tissues to those that wept and make sure that the food was in the right place and all of that. I sat in on a group and occasionally I’d throw in a comment or two.
A Big Shock And A New Understanding Of Joy
In the meantime I’d been practicing this prayer thing. But then came a big shock. Six weeks after I prayed that first prayer, I found out that Heather was having an affair with a colleague at work. That came as really quite a blow. I got roaring drunk and got on my knees in tears and said ‘You are supposed to be this God. I’m trying to come to you and this is what I get to show for it. This is it.’ I was very angry.
Heather and I tried to make some kind of sense of it all and struggle through but eventually I said to her, ‘I’m done with this.
This is just not working.’ So she said ‘Well I’m going back to England.’
We divorced and she went back to England and I stayed on in the house that we bought together. I blame myself, I really do. If you nurture your marriage, if you love and take care of her she is not going to look at anyone else, so I don’t blame her for what she did. It’s my fault, I’ve taken responsibility.
Some time later, I prayed, ‘You know what Lord? I need to have a lady in my life so please bring her along...’
Not long after that I invited Donna out to tea and she said yes. A year later, in 1993, we were married. She is amazing. She’s got a heart as big as Texas, she is a wonderful, gentle, sweet, beautiful Christian lady. I’m still in touch with my daughters and they have noticed a difference in me... I never told them I loved them before Christ but now I tell them over the phone all the time.
I talk to Julie’s husband Paul now, and he’s a great guy. I get along great with him. We go out and have a pint, – stuff like that. I wouldn’t have done that before Christ.
When I look at my life the way it was, and I look at what Christ did for me on that cross, I am baffled to understand that he would think someone like me was worth it and it just brings me to tears. I never could understand why women wept
at weddings. I know now why: it’s all about joy.
I now attend church regularly... You’d have to beat me to keep me out of it! I’m there every Saturday night and then Donna and I go on Sunday morning.
I read my Bible and pray on a daily basis, all day. I have found that not only is he the God that created the universe, He’s God of the little tiny things too and so you can ask for stuff that is amazing.
If someone had asked me about Jesus 15 years ago, I would have said, ‘He was a con man and started his own religion for
whatever reason and the rest of you are totally delusional because you’ve fallen into this trap of self-delusion by believing in this non-existent God.’
Now I think He’s sitting here with us right at this moment listening to every word. I don’t know where I’d be without Him. I dread every second of not being around Him. To have Him in your life changes everything. It changes your perspective, it
changes your feelings.
He took away all of the garbage from my life, forgave me for all of the things that I’ve done, and allowed me to live. I don’t have words to say how grateful I am.