When I shared my first blog post about my arrival here in Australia (you can read it here if you haven’t already… https://wordpress.com/post/holyadventures.blog/14) my good friend Becky messaged me saying, ‘And I thought it was “just” (forgive me, please 😊) a love story’, meaning she didn’t know God’s plan had coincided with Craig’s marriage proposal, in a perfect combination, for this Holy Adventure.
Nope, I thought, not just a love story at all. And yet, the more I think about it, the more I realise it really is ‘just’ a love story. One enormous one. One amazing, eternal one, that sprang from the dawn of time and goes beyond all time zones and beyond our wildest imaginings.
I grew up knowing that Jesus was my “best friend” and that God wanted me for a sunbeam (odd, isn’t it!?). I ‘asked Jesus into my heart’, aged 4, and every night thereafter for several years…just in case He had decided He didn’t like it in there and had wandered off somewhere. And I went to church. Every Sunday. I definitely called myself a Christian, and I was a baptised child of God, so I was one.
And then, aged 24, my marriage broke up.
My husband asked me to leave the house and then, because of that, my church asked me to leave that ‘house’ too. I left. Do you know what? I was glad to leave, because nobody had even asked if I was OK, and I really wasn’t. So, I left and I determinedly left my faith behind too. I had always been taught that ‘you can’t take yourself out of God’s hands’ but, if there was a way I could (I mean, God’s omnipresence kind of gets in the way here, annoyingly), then I would.
A couple of years passed and I quite enjoyed being mad at the Church and Christians (especially Christians; they were the WORST!). And Saturday nights were more fun when you didn’t have to get up on a Sunday.
In 2001, my parents were at a Christian Festival on the south coast of the UK, and they had a spare bed in their ‘chalet’. My mum called me up and, with all the ferocity she could muster (she would deny this, but she’s got a ferocious streak that one!), she said ‘get in your car and get down here’. And I did.
What was I thinking?! I thought Christians were the worst; the most judgemental, unkind, moralistic people I had ever met (apart from those I liked, obv – they got in the way of my argument a bit). And there I was, driving for 3-hours, south, to go and spend 4 days with 15,000 of them in an enclosed space. All hands-raised, zip-off trouser and crocs-wearing, Christians*.
That first night I went into a huge marquee and listened to one of the few sermons I still remember (incidentally, one of the others I still remember was preached by my Craig on that first weekend we met…cute, eh? 😍). The preacher was a man named Steve Chalke (this guy – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Chalke) and he talked about the Sermon on the Mount (you can read it here: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+5-7&version=NRSV). What he said was that the people desperate to follow Jesus were the outcasts and the sinners and the tax collectors and the prostitutes and HE WAS PLEASED TO SEE THEM! He was pleased to see them! I totally related to those people; this, so-called, ‘scarlet woman’ who had been kicked out of the church. Could it be that Jesus, the actual God-man, was pleased see me too?
In true Christian-festival-style, the evening ended with an altar call and Steve Chalke invited us to pray a prayer of YES to God. I don’t remember what he said but I remember closing my eyes and beginning a sentence that went ‘if you’re there, God…’ and then God literally interrupted (rude much? 😉) and said, so clearly, ‘It’s good to hear from you Gemma. About time too’.
Yeah, God gives me a hard time sometimes…🤨
God’s response, God’s call, was so loud, so clear, that I opened my eyes and wondered why nobody else in this big tent seemed to hear it. But it was God’s voice for me. The beginning of my new journey of faith and my revived relationship with the Creator of all things. The beginning of a love affair, I guess. A really significant way-marker in the God Loves Gemma love-story.
So, yes, it is just a love story. And yes, I love Craig, so much. And his invitation to come to Australia came first. And my desire to be with him came first. But then God called. My Holy Lover invited me on this Holy adventure and, the truth is, even if Craig wasn’t here, I know that I still would be.
And this isn’t a love story of girl meets boy, girl moves to Australia for the love of him, and they live happily ever after (although, please God, let that be a significant chapter of it!). This is a story of girl meets boy, God calls, girl moves to Australia for love of them both (AND for God’s Church), and they all live (mostly) happily ever after. Amen.
*granted, I’m now ordained, and spend a real lot of time with Christians, AND in church. I swear by the truth that God arranged this to make sure I couldn’t run away again. And I also own a pair of crocs. True story.