This is an exert from my book Psalm 23 Unwrapped
which will be out on Amazon December 2020
The year was 1965 when the school bell rang. Usually, I never bothered to stop and chat with friends, but rather, I ran home as fast as my little legs could carry me. Nonstop I went as fast as I could, from Grange Primary School up the street to my home at Henley Beach Adelaide, South Australia. The distance was just over a mile, and I had to get there quickly, or I would miss out. My goal was to park my butt in front of the black and white telly just in time to enjoy another adventure of superman. I couldn’t miss my daily dose of the Adventures of Superman, he intrigued me and made me think that there was more mystery to life than I understood. As the introduction began, I would chime in, Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Noooooo it’s SUPERMAN!!! – I loved it. George Reeves, an American actor, played the handsome superman. He was born on January 5, 1914, and died on June 16, 1959, the series continued long after he died and he became my hero.
I did not have a role model, and God was not in the equation at the time, and I thought superman was the embodiment of all that was right, good and just. As a ten-year-old, growing up in the 60s, I thought his outfit was quite fetching! Superman was more of a reality to me than God.
I was convinced that if God did exist, he must be like an old man in the clouds ready to throw down thunderbolts as soon as I did something wrong. God was someone who didn’t think much of us mortals at all and seemed to take pleasure in punishing us. When I was at primary school when it thundered, the kids used to say- Oh, don’t worry, that’s only God upstairs moving his furniture around. I found that to be a frightening concept. So, for me, if there was a God, he was not a very approachable character, a thing to be feared. My idea of God was that he was a thing, not a real person. Just like a cartoon character, not real at all. I was told by other kids that parents used the idea of God to put the heebie-jeebies in the kids to control them – maybe it worked- I don’t know. I considered that perhaps he was something that you really wouldn’t want to come face to face within a dark alleyway on a rainy night. Putting all these ideas together, I decided it’s best to stay away from God for one’s safety and to avoid him at all costs! By what I was told about God, it was clear that he was a pretty mean fella indeed, and there’s no way that I wanted to shake hands with him any time soon.
Over the years, here and there, I meet a few Christians. I was in high school for only six months, and I meet two Christian sisters. They attended a Methodist church and tried to persuade me to go with them. I refused as I didn’t see the reason for it. However, one of them told me that Jesus loved me and invited me to ask Jesus into my heart – whatever that meant I didn’t know. I certainly didn’t like that idea anyway. Well, it was stuck in my mind of a big bad God, an old bloke with a beard and there was no way that even with the kindest invitation that I was going to let that God get into my heart and life.
My teenage years proved to be difficult, often feeling restless. I was dyslexic but was not aware of it at the time. This brought a deep sense that I did not belong somehow. I often felt like a fifth wheel, on the outside of life looking in, and so I began the search for life’s purpose and meaning. I asked questions of those who knew more about life than I did. I would often ask- what happens before we are born, and what happens after we die? Those questions were never answered, leaving me disappointed and empty. However, I still searched for them diligently, which usually led me in all the wrong directions and in the wrong places, bringing me more despair and misery, and also to my family. I reasoned that if a question can be thought of and asked, indeed it can be answered, so I kept looking. Then one day, I got fed up with life and all the unanswered questions.
A few months before my 21st Birthday, in 1976, after a short time of planning, I took off with my friend Robyn to travel around Australia. I met Robyn at an Adult education class on clay sculpturing, it was an exciting time. We decided together to take time out and just leave all we knew to travel around Australia. It was the popular thing to do at the time, and thousands of young people from all around the world would arrive at Australia’s shores to begin their adventure to backpack around Australia. We thought we were lucky, because we were Australian, and we had a car, but little money, however, we could work our way around our sunburnt country. But we did not realise just how sunburnt Australia really was in 1976.
We imagined that we were in one of super man’s grand adventures, we felt invincible. Our plan was to travel about 500 miles which would land us in the next state. We would then find temporary work to earn enough money to move onto the next destination on our itinerary. This sounded great and doable, however, what we did not know that there was a severe drought across Australia and whole towns were shutting down. Bush fires raged everywhere, taking with its flora and fauna, houses, business and livelihoods disappeared.
To our parent’s dismay, we packed up our worldly goods, into an old station wagon and off we went. However, the jobs we hoped to find did not exist anymore while people struggled to cope with the drought. This pushed us further northward, and it wasn’t long before our car broke down, and we ran out of money. Unable to find work, we ended up destitute. The story of how we progressed for the next few weeks is stuff for another book because it doesn’t really fit into the remit of this book. Anyway, we became homeless and had to abandon our car at a garage because we could not pay for its repair. Through a series of different circumstances, eventually and a genuinely kind couple took us into their home. Their names were Xenoia and Paul. She was Russian, and he was Australian. I was so touched by their love and warmth they offered to us both. Here we were, two total strangers, from the other side of Australia, taking us in as their own. Although Paul was a pastor of a church (I didn’t understand what a Pastor was) this couple had absolutely nothing to gain by helping us. They had made it clear that they expected nothing back, except to just to accept their kind hospitality, which we did. Over a meal, they shared with us the love of Jesus Christ, and this was when all my negative thoughts and preconceptions about God began to whirl around my head uncontrollably. I thought, ‘NO WAY HO-SAY, here we go, just like I was told, they are trying to brainwash me, I need to get out now!’ My heart hardened toward these people, my words became harsh, and I didn’t want to stay anymore. I voiced my objections, (actually, I swore at them) and they very calmly, asked me to stay for a short while to pray.
‘WHAT, pray, this is unheard of, totally, unacceptable! ‘
Then the whole scenario took a turn for the worse when my friend Robyn wanted to become a Christian by asking Christ into her life, and wanted to stay and pray. I was appalled. I attempted to talk her out of it, as any sane person would. I pointed out that she will be trapped forever by this big old man with a grey beard in the sky, who is really just a figment of her imagination. Not to mention forever having every time it thundered to listen to him move around his furniture and should have to dodge his lightning strikes every time, she did something wrong!
And of course, to my dismay, she did not listen. I was horrified seeing my dear friend kneel on the floor with the pastor and his wife as they prayed. What was kneeling down have to do with anything anyway? As they prayed, I sat as far away as I could. I positioned myself at the far side of the room, just sitting and watching cynically. Then I became bored, as one does because it felt like the prayers go on forever and ever. This was all very strange to me, I didn’t understand what prayers all were about, never really experiencing the need of them before. I waited patiently but then got more bored, so I began looking around the room. I thought about these lovely, kind folks, and how rude and unkind I had been to them. My thoughts also went to Robyn, who was still grieving for her baby and was desperate for help and support. It was only a year prior that she had given her baby boy up for adoption, she named him John-Mark. She didn’t want to adopt him out, but this was the 1970s in Australia where a lifestyle of single unmarried motherhood was not socially acceptable. She was shunned by her friends and family, and she had no regular income. Robyn had little choice, but to bend to her parents’ wishes, to give John-Mark up. It devastated her. She must have been feeling very alone, and I felt such a wave of compassion for her. I looked up to the ceiling, and I thought, well, when in Rome do what the Romans do, and thought I’d better go along with it, just a little bit, out of respect for everyone. The strange thing is that I did not know that the saying of when in Rome do what the Romans do, came straight from the pages of the Bible. Because the others were still kneeling, I decided to conform and knelt; however, I refused to close my eyes to pray. By this time, I was feeling quite sad for Robyn and how to hurt she must feel, so I just decided to chat with God on her behalf. My eyes wide open, cast toward the ceiling, I said out loud, God, if you are really there, I ask you to help Robyn because she really needs it! The last word barely left my mouth when the whole room disappeared, and a huge white light shone before me brighter than the sun. Its brightness seemed to penetrate my soul, but it didn’t hurt my eyes, it was drawing me in, while I gazed with amazement straight into it.
It is challenging to find the right word to describe it, but that light was pure as could be, a shimmering transparent gold liquid light. There is nothing on earth like it and seemed to be a three-dimensional feeling that I could fall right into it. The vision excluded the whole room and the other people in it. It was just me and that light. Its brilliant warmth permeated my very being and coming from it, is what I could only describe as the feeling of intense love. I felt entirely accepted and loved. I was a bit perplexed because if this is God, why isn’t there an old man with a beard throwing lightning at me? It was only a few weeks prior that I was taking drugs and doing all sorts of other things that one shouldn’t be doing. But instead, I was encompassed by this beautiful, indescribable light. I could actually feel it as well, it felt like liquid love, acceptance, and hope. And the best of all it felt like I had come home.
Then to my surprise, a voice spoke that said, follow me. I reacted quite quickly and responded out loud. Later on, the people in the room told me that they heard me say, show me the road, and I will follow. Because really, that’s what I was looking for. I was looking for a purpose. I was not looking for any road, but the way to life. I was looking for the right path to lead me to discover my purpose on this planet. Throughout my life, I asked some of the most challenging questions, like; what I’m supposed to be, what was I born for? When I heard the words, follow me, I knew I had found the way to live. And then out of that light emerged a road of the same liquid love of the brilliant white-gold light, pure and holy. The road came out of the light and surrounded me as I knelt. It covered my whole being, and with that, I felt as if somebody was standing behind me, hugging me. In reality, there was no person there, but I certainly could physically feel that hug. I was held with great love and care, it seemed like I was cradled for an eternity, but it was just for a nanosecond. It was at that moment that I knew that it was the love of God cradling me. I understood my own sinfulness, my pride, and selfishness. I saw my own shortcomings. In a split second, I understood everything that I had done to others and to myself. I broke down and cried and just wept in repentance. This holy amazing God bothered to reach out to me talking to me, hugging me, loving me, – a person such as I. It was humbling, I came face to face with pure love and beauty.
Closing my eyes, I broke down and cried, and the vision vanished away. The room returned, and I felt people around me, asking me what had happened. I struggled to find the words to tell them. That was in 1976, and I think it was about April, not sure of the date, it was a long time ago, and I have been following God on that road ever since.
Thank you for reading and I hope this testimony has inspired you to seek God with all your heart for yourself – may you be blessed as you do.
Paula Rose Parish💕