I grew up in a divided household. My mother was an atheist and my father a Christian. My father took my sister and I to church some Sundays, and I used to sing in a church choir, but church was always something that I considered boring and irrelevant; I had no real sense of how the gospel message related to me. My parents chose not to baptise me as a child.
As a teenager and then into my early twenties I spent a great deal of time exploring the religions of the world. I was particularly interested in Eastern philosophy (Hinduism and Buddhism) and although I was studying Commercial Music at university, my deeper interest was really spirituality. I was an atheist and became obsessed with the idea of ‘self-realisation’ or ‘enlightenment’ – it seemed to me that it was through this kind of spiritual path that peace could be found.
I was so wrong. Throughout my years spent searching for enlightenment I was deeply depressed and confused. I had been brought face to face with death as I saw my mother pass away after a long and gruelling battle with cancer. I was trying so hard to make sense of the mysteries of life but spent most of my days in a state of mental turmoil.
The atmosphere in which I grew up, with my parents constantly fighting with each other, left a deep impression on me. It wasn’t until I started to attend psychotherapy in my twenties that I began to deal with the emotional distress I had experienced growing up. Psychotherapy was a tremendous blessing to me, making me more self-aware and mature and providing a space of deep compassion in which I could talk openly about everything for the first time in my life. Lots of healing took place in those sessions.
After graduating from university I took up a job in the music industry. I was heavily involved in music, playing guitar in a rock band and promoting and managing musicians both through work and in my spare time. I had a good job, and a very active social life, but I didn’t have spiritual peace. I used to spend lunch breaks and evenings meditating as I was still trying to find that elusive enlightenment that would give my spirit rest.
Despite many productive sessions with my psychotherapist, my mental health problems intensified. I began to experience delusions and panic attacks alongside a deep depression that made daily life a struggle. Many of my personal relationships began to break down and I became more and more confused, behaving irrationally and worrying others who didn’t really understand what was going on.
Eventually, after years of turbulent mental health, things got so out of hand that I had a serious episode of psychosis and ended up in psychiatric hospital for the first time. The psychotic episode that I experienced was confusing, but also very spiritual. I remember sleeping rough for several days outside a mosque and then finally making my way to a church up the road from the mosque. I believe that during this time God was teaching me about different religious paths and about my place in the grand scheme of things.
All of my four spells in psychiatric hospital have been very spiritual. It is during these times that I have begun to understand more about God by studying the Bible and being immersed in prayer. Some might argue that my belief in God is a delusion and a part of the mental illness that I have experienced. But I assure you, this is not the case. God is real, and when we humble ourselves before Him and repent of our sins, He really does listen and respond.
After my second admission to psychiatric hospital I continued to read the Bible and attend church and I returned to university to study Philosophy and Religion. During a spell of good health I wrote a book about my spiritual experiences and my philosophy. I went to several churches but eventually settled in to attending an evangelical church in central London. It was at this church, in 2010, that I raised my hands during the alter call and gave my life to Jesus.
But it wasn’t all plain sailing after that. I continued to wrestle with mental illness and as I continued to explore the Christian faith in depth I discovered aspects of Christian thinking that didn’t sit well with me. I spent several years in a kind of limbo; committed to God but questioning certain aspects of the gospel that seemed to make no sense. I wrote a second book criticising important aspects of Christianity that seemed illogical to me.
In the end I had to make a difficult decision. Do I commit to Christ despite my problems with Christian theology, or do I abandon the faith and carry on with my life regardless? This was a struggle that weighed heavily on my mind, and I prayed about it constantly. I desperately wanted God to reveal to me my purpose and His will.
And then in 2015 I was sitting in bed praying one night and the Holy Spirit clearly spoke to me saying “You’re going to get baptised” and “You’re going to take Holy Communion”. I was shocked and overjoyed by the certainty in this message, and I stayed awake all night thanking God and feeling a renewed sense of peace. As the scripture says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).
I got baptised on September 6th 2015 and it was a truly special occasion and probably the best day of my life. I am now a committed Christian, attending church every week, reading the Bible every day, and serving on an outreach team to help others to hear and understand the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is over three years since my last hospital admission and I am so grateful that God has blessed me with this period of stability.
The theme of this blog is ‘Perfect Chaos’. My spiritual journey has been chaotic, but I am quite sure that God’s guiding hand has been over every event in my life. I have sinned against others and against God, but I know that because of the precious suffering that Jesus endured on the cross I can live under the blessing and favour of Almighty God. I have the hope of forgiveness and of eternal life – is there anything more precious?
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