Though the story I wish to share occurred in 2011, I guess the inspiration began in January of 2009, when a work colleague began handing out flyers advertising the Alpha course at Holy Trinity Brompton church in London.
For about ten years prior to that moment, I guess you could say that I had drifted away from God. I no longer attended church, I never prayed, and I never read the Bible. For the latter five years of that time, I had become so distant from God that I adamantly described myself as an atheist and even maintained a level of hostility towards those who did have a faith.
But, at the start of 2009, I was beginning to realize that my life had turned very sour after I had turned my face from God. And, even more so, that I was hurting others too.
So, after my work colleague had invited nearly everyone else in my office except me (I think she had avoided asking me as I generally made my opinion of religion well known), I came to her to ask her all about this Alpha course she was promoting. And, truth be told, I’m fairly sure that Marisca nearly fell over backward when I agreed to come (she knew enough about the way I lived and about my opinions of the church). Nevertheless, despite all of this, she took me along, and she introduced me back to God.
Marisca didn’t know this, but I believed that if I completed this course, while God might not accept me back, he might at least remove what I saw as the ‘curse’ on my life. Then at least, I would no longer hurt those around me.
Despite my initial expectations, what I actually experienced on that Alpha course was nothing short of a series of miracles. It was almost as if, on seeing me return through those doors, that God started throwing a party in heaven. He provided peace; he provided restoration, and he provided blessing upon blessing throughout that ten-week course.
All I can say is that attending that Alpha course changed my life and because of that, when I found myself hosting my own Alpha group two years later, it was important to me to do it right. If there was someone in my group who was just like me in 2009, then I didn’t want to let them down.
And so it was in 2011 when hosting an Alpha group for the very first time, that God revealed his wisdom, his compassion and his love, and, in the context of the maze he truly revealed his timeless nature.
Within every term on the Alpha course, there is a weekend away. This an optional part of the course but it’s also a time when guests frequently experience God on a more personal level. The weekend is scheduled twice, usually at week seven and week nine and group leaders are asked to keep their diaries open for both so that guests have the freedom to choose which is best for them to attend.
As I pointed out earlier, the Alpha course matters to me. It changed my life, and if I was able to be a part of it changing someone else’s, then I was certainly going to do my best.
So, I dutifully kept both of those weekends free until one day, two very good friends announced to me that they were getting married to each other and to save the date, one of which was the first Alpha weekend!
These same two friends, Kay and Robin, were also part of my first ever Alpha group which made me want to attend their wedding all the more!
So, of course, my hope was that my group would all prefer the date of the second weekend.
However, when it came time to ask if any of our guests wished to attend the Alpha weekend, as you might have guessed, the unanimous decision was yes, and they could all make weekend one.
Now, normally each Alpha group has two hosts and two helpers, which would have meant that I could simply have deferred to the other host. However, in this case, the other host had been forced to cancel before the term started, so it was all down to me.
And so, this was my dilemma. Attend the Alpha weekend as I had given my word to do so, hopefully be a part of changing the lives of the members who would come along, or attend the wedding of two of the kindest and sweetest people that God has ever brought into my life.
Now, before I continue with the story, you may be thinking that I was over-thinking this. While it’s important to help out with church events when you have made commitments, a wedding is a special occasion, and anyone would understand if I said I couldn’t follow through.
However, at the time, I didn’t see matters as clearly as that. The Alpha course had changed my life, and I didn’t want to let anyone down who was potentially in the position that I was back in 2009.
So I prayed about it, and I asked God for guidance.
The following day Robin asked me if I was able to attend his wedding. I said that my whole group had asked to attend the Alpha weekend with me so I probably wouldn’t be able to go. You see, I had assumed that my duty was to do God’s work, and that was that.
I was sad about this, but Kay and Robin knew my background, and they understood.
What happened the day after was the strongest experience I have ever had of God using his expert timing to get a message across.
On my way home from work, I was waiting on the platform in the tube station at London Victoria, when a friend (Linda) got off the train right in front of me. If you are not familiar with London Victoria station, then I must explain that this is an extremely crowded station and it is a rare occasion to run into friends there. She was also friends with Kay and Robin and immediately asked if I was going to their wedding. I explained about the Alpha weekend and why I couldn’t go (Linda was one of the leaders in my original Alpha group, so she understood my background) and she proceeded to do her best to convince me that I should ask for help from someone else in the church. That their wedding was important and that I should try to go.
After Linda had left the platform, I walked further down and boarded the train. In that carriage, I saw an old friend I hadn’t seen in some time, and she very quickly turned the conversation to a lovely wedding she had just attended.
With these two wedding based co-incidences in mind, I suddenly thought that maybe God wanted me to attend this wedding. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe following God wasn’t all about duty?
So after I got off the train, I rang one of the helpers in my group to see if she would be happy to step up as a group leader.
I had this whole speech prepared about why I needed her to do this and was she ok with it etc. etc., but before I even started saying the words, she jumped in by saying how she loved the group but wished she could be more involved. Could she lead some of the discussions? She would really appreciate it if she could!
At this stage, I had experienced three unexpected coincidences, so I decided that God wanted me to attend the wedding, and so, the following morning, walking to work, guess who I bumped into but Robin. Now in all fairness, he does work close by, but this was the first and only time we have ever crossed paths by chance.
I told him all about these three occurrences the day before and how I felt that God wanted me at their wedding. How I was sorry I had initially declined but that I would now love to come.
Well, it turned out that Kay had been ill all that week and that she had also started to feel down about their upcoming wedding day. He said she had even been saying things like, do you think anyone’s excited about our wedding, are we making too much of a fuss over it?
So it was that when Robin told her how the Holy Spirit had intervened with me to tell me I should come, she was overjoyed. She knew that God was excited about their wedding, and he was even prepared to pull a few strings to demonstrate this.
And as for me, I had originally thought that as a Christian, that I had a duty to fulfill no matter what, but then God said, in no uncertain terms, don’t be silly, go to your friends’ wedding, share in their celebration!
For me, this experience demonstrates that God knows where I’m going to be at any one time. He saw that Robin and Kay needed a blessing that week, and he used his amazing view of the maze to make four consecutive events happen within twenty-four hours. Events that confirmed his will to me and also confirmed his joy in their upcoming wedding.
Only a timeless God could have done this. Only the author of the timeless maze.
And by the way, the wedding was amazing!
Jared – New Zealand