Paul's story

SEVENTY TIMES SEVEN

(Paul`s story)

My childhood was not an easy one, I was born in 1943 in a market town called Morpeth, Northumberland. My father was called away for service in the army. As with most families at the time, there were many hardships. My mother, who had rejected her strict Brethren upbringing years before, couldn`t take it, and turned to drink. She had been very young when she married, and the realities of married life, and being the mother of three young children, proved to be too much. Both my Father and Mother became involved with other people. It was apparently the normal scene for strange men to visit our house. One time when I was an infant, a neighbour took me to her home because I was not receiving the care I needed from my Mother. It was not long afterwards that my two sisters were taken away as well, and we were separated from then on.

As the years went by, I grew very bitter towards my Mother. I could not understand how someone could leave her children the way she had done, particularly a baby. With this chip on my shoulder you can imagine the kind of person I became. Like many small people I was aggressive by nature, willing to do almost anything to step on anyone, to get to wherever I was trying to go. Because of my bitterness I was not a nice person to know.

In my youth I was a choirboy in the Anglican Church, but only because I was paid! During my playtime at school I would collect hawthorn berries to sell. I delivered meat, papers, milk, paraffin etc, and worked in a darkroom for a while. At school I had quite a little business selling aniseed balls and individual Polo mints at a high profit. I made quite a lot of money and thought I was rich. I was smoking quite heavily at ten years of age and soon realised that there was money to be made selling individual cigarettes at 2½ pence each. Money was fast becoming my god and was convinced that people were judged by what they were worth. It was important to me to be seen with rich people.

Going to the city of Newcastle, I worked my way through a hairdressing apprenticeship. As a result of mostly telling lies, I got into the best salons and by the age of 22 I was a manager and my income was the highest I could get in the North of England.

By this time I had met and married Jeanne. You can imagine what kind of problems I brought into my marriage. It was the first time in my life that I had known any kind of physical affection and that I knew someone really cared for me. When we had been married for four years, our daughter, Clare, was born. Though I loved my wife very much, I found I was jealous over the time and love our little baby was receiving.

My wife had quite a traumatic caesarian delivery and resulted in severe depression following the birth. I was so bound up in my own feelings of rejection that I was totally oblivious to how she felt. Instead of trying to sort through our difficulty, I turned to drink. It was something I felt I could lean on. I began to mix with the `big time guys` who had everything going for them, in the worldly sense. They could attract the girls with a snap of the finger and money spoke louder than words.

My drinking increased and I started going out at 10.30pm spending most of the night on the booze. I visited places where there were `lock-Ins` and it was possible to stay there all night if you wanted to. I tried to lose myself in alcohol, drinking till 4am then going to work the same morning. This took its toll on my wife who, by this time, was down to 6½ stone in weight. Finally she did something that brought me to my senses. She left me!

As my wallet grew thinner, my wonderful drinking partners disappeared, looking for someone else willing to foot the bill! There I was, stuck in the house on my own, and so lonely. Eventually, I stopped drinking, but I found I didn`t want to wake up in the morning. I felt, somehow, that I had to show my wife and daughter how much I loved them and that they were far more important to me than these other people, who had stolen my attention. The vows I made at our wedding meant a lot to me. Jeanne was smoking heavily and not eating properly. She was seeing a psychiatrist and was taking tranquillisers and anti-depressants. Though not too much improved, she was better than she had been. Finally we decided to make a fresh start together and moved from Morpeth to Whitley Bay where we bought a flat.

In 1975 I was invited by a man who lived near the place where I worked, to go to a series of meetings called `Come alive in 75`. I went to a Baptist Church, where these people shared testimony. They spoke boldly of how God changed their lives. There was also a singing group and it was the most `heavenly sound` I had ever heard. I remember thinking"If only my mates could see me sitting here on a Saturday night, they would wonder what was going on." At the end of the meeting they asked those who wanted to invite Jesus into their lives to come to the front. Something was pulling me, but I did not understand it, and certainly wasn`t going to do what he said, which was, "Stand up and come forward."

After this series of meetings had finished, there were others. In 1976 there was an American opera singer who performed a concert. One song in particular spoke to me. It was, "Because he lives I can face tomorrow, because he lives all fear is gone...." I knew I needed what the others had but did not know what to do about it. I felt as though everyone was watching me but nevertheless I knew I just had to go forward. That evening I committed my life to Jesus Christ. It was the most beautiful experience of my life. I felt at peace, was filled with the love of Jesus-it was as if I was on fire on the inside. I wanted to jump up and down and tell the whole world.

Following the meeting, I hurried home to tell Jeanne, "You`ll never guess what`s happened to me. It`s great! I want to tell you about this guy Jesus. He`s fantastic!" Jeanne was watching T.V. When I came Bounding in so excitedly. She thought, "Oh, something new! In six weeks it will be finished." You see, I was the sort of person who was always wildly enthusiastic about new things for about....six weeks. If it happened to be fishing, I would have all the best equipment. After a short period I`d lose interest and not mention it again. However, this was different. I got a Bible, which I still read. It is the living Word of God and contains an answer to every problem. My first real prayer was that my family would be united in Jesus Christ.

Some time later, while I was in a church service, God spoke to me clearly. "You must be reconciled to your mother. I want you to love your mother." I found this hard, in the light of what she had done, but in the end I relented and agreed.

It was November, and I knew that my mother would be at a particular farm for Christmas. As we were leaving the house one day, I said to my wife, "I`ve got to go and see my mother." Knowing how I felt about my mother, Jeanne nearly fell down the steps. When I actually saw my mother, all I felt was pity. Suddenly, I could understand all her actions. I understood her problem with drinking because I too had been there.

I forgave my mother that day, just as Jesus had forgiven me. I learned a lesson that I will never forget - that we can all forgive. The Bible teaches that we ought to forgive others, not just one time but SEVENTY TIMES SEVEN  times.

I give God all the glory for what He has done!


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