I sat next to an old friend in church this morning. She’s been coming along to our church for about 5 years now and was baptised some time ago. I had known her daughter for years, but met Jean on an Alpha course held at a local football club – you see soccer does have it’s uses.
For those of you not familiar with them Alpha courses are designed for those who are either new to the faith or just interested in learning more. I had been a Christian for many years and had gone along to accompany my daughters, both Christians, but who thought this was a good series of events to invite their friends to. During a lull in proceedings everyone sitting near me shared a little about themselves. We had all come from different churches or none. Some spoke of being Christians for many years, others of a newer faith. Jean, a lady of about 60 was the one who surprised us. She told us that she had a criminal record and it was the best thing that ever happened to her.
Not a statement you’d expect from this mother and grandmother, who up until recently had been a pillar of society. It seems she was made redundant from her job and was so upset by this that she became such a nuisance to her former employers that they prosecuted her for causing malicious damage. Jean got 6 months probation. That was the good bit because her probation officer became a good friend and eventually the one who led her to her Saviour. Today Jean takes a very active role in the church. She attends house groups, is part of the leadership and also heads up the catering committee.
The sermon this morning was about the mountaintop and valley experiences of Elijah. As we chatted after the service I said it reminded me of a time when after a sermon about the transfiguration – another mountaintop experience, a friend, who some would say wasn’t the brightest of people, had had the insight to say ‘But they had to come down from the mountain and into the valley before anyone was healed.’ That’s just how I feel’ said Jean. Being down in the depths was the best experience of my life, because that’s where I met Jesus.’
Jean tells me that despite all the usual problems in life she had spent a happy go lucky existence. She didn’t know God and she didn’t feel the need to know Him. But when the hard times came there He was waiting for her. We all have rough patches – sometimes our own fault, othertimes not, but it is good to know that God is there for us however dark and gloomy the valley.