I grew up in a staunchly atheist household, and going to church was, in a sense, my teenage rebellion! I turned up at a church with maybe a dozen members all well past retirement, as an unaccompanied 14-year-old going through a difficult time adjusting to becoming a young carer. I was looking for something, but I didn’t know what it was.
That first experience was so alien to me that by the end of the service I’d decided this church thing wasn’t for me. It didn’t make sense, I hadn’t got anything out of it, and I wouldn’t be going back.
That might have been the end of the story, if it weren’t for Patricia.
Patricia was in her eighties, and not a likely evangelist, to put it mildly. I think she found the idea of talking about God quite embarrassing. Nor was she one of those stalwarts of the church who keep things running. I don’t think she was even on any rotas.
But it was Patricia who said: “Hello, dear, you’re new, aren’t you? I’m sorry, I didn’t see you come in, or I would have asked you to sit with me. Would you like to sit with me next week?” Being a well brought-up girl who didn’t like to disappoint old ladies, I said “Yes.”
And then, because I said I’d sit with Patricia next week, I felt obliged to go back to church. So I turned up again the next week, and the next, and the next. Patricia sat beside me, pointing out what page we were on, and telling me when to stand up and sit down.
That’s it. That’s all she did. There was no great proclamation of the faith, no singular moment of “conversion”. But, faithfully and patiently, week by week, Patricia helped me to make enough sense of church for it to become somewhere I could encounter God. And everything else followed from that.
Quietly, unspectacularly, on an ordinary Sunday, this very unassuming woman changed my life (though she’d have been terribly embarrassed if anyone had put it to her like that) by her gentle witness to the steadfastness of God.
Not only Patricia, but that whole little, unspectacular community of older Christians taught me something valuable about who God is. They were gentle and patient with my questions, and a consistently loving presence when much in my life was chaotic. In being so, they showed me that God is like that too – gentle, patient, faithful, steadfast, and full of love.
Who told you? is our ongoing series of stories from Christians about coming to faith and the people who helped them along the way. Share your story with us.