The gospel was something I was privileged enough to have grown up around, though it held little significance. The people in the church we were in looked and sounded little different from the heathens I went to school with and so I put the difference in my parents down to the fact that our family is decidedly peculiar anyway.
I was, overall, a good kid and felt no need for God because of it.
We had a week of evangelism a few weeks ago and one dinner time the conversation moved in the direction of our testimonies. It’s one of my favourite questions to ask people, how they became a Christian, but later that evening, I realised that there were a couple of things I always seem to leave out. The neglect is not deliberate. They are details that, though they held significance to me, I frequently overlook in the re-telling.
I’ve shared my testimony before but now I’d like to tell you the parts that really stuck with me: the man who led me to Christ, and what he said.
The Man Who Led Me to Christ
His name was Kenny. Kenny was of that age where he was too old to be young anymore yet despite his grey hair, had too much vitality to be old. Sometimes he would stumble over his words but it wasn’t quite a stammer.
These weren’t what stuck in my mind though. The thing about him was that he walked around on crutches because Kenny had a club foot.
Being the curious-minded child that I was, this caused no alarm or unease, in only made me think how nice it would be when he arrived in heaven and was able to walk.
Later, I looked back and appreciated better how his disability in itself had been a sermon to me. It had lent the weight of truth to what he told us.
His mobility struggles were a wordless lesson that God uses whomever he pleases to do whatever he pleases — regardless of what the world thinks. To the world, Kenny may have been an embarrassment and a nuisance but God used him as Evangelist (see Pilgrim’s Progress) in my life. Like Evangelist, he warned me to flee from the wrath to come and to enter in by the Narrow Gate and be saved.
I would look back in years to come and be encouraged and humbled in turns by how God had used a man so pitiful in the world’s eyes to bring about the greatest good that ever happened in my life. My suspicion is that he will be surprised, come judgement day, to discover how many will testify the same.
When I think of him now, there is a verse that springs to mind:
How Beautiful upon the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who proclaims peace,
Who brings glad tidings of good things,
Who proclaims salvation,
Who says to Zion,
‘Your God reigns!’
Though he found himself battling the brokenness that comes from the fall, Kenny had the most beautiful feet my soul had seen.
What He Told Me
Having grown up under the gospel since birth, it’s not unfair to wonder what on earth he could have said that I hadn’t heard before.
Nothing, quite honestly, that my parents had not already said. But some very significant things that I don’t remember ever hearing from anyone other than my parents. Besides, who knows how or when the Spirit decides to move?
There were a group of us.
Heather came the first evening but was lured away by dodge-ball the second, never to return. That left Jo-jo (my new friend), the boy whose name and face I can’t remember, and myself. And, of course, Kenny and his carer Janet.
Kenny did not fail to preach the whole gospel. I’d never realised the seriousness of my sin before (partly because I was dead in it and partly because hell was a topic studiously avoided in my Sunday School). My awareness of it grew and bothered me more and more. He made it clear that it was more than just being naughty now and then, it’s outright rebellion against God. Its wages are death.
And so the cross began to mean something and God’s love seemed so much bigger — deeper and richer than the let’s-hug-it-out-and-forget-it-ever-happened of Sunday School. God used Kenny’s words to wake me to the greatness of who God is and the terrifying reality of who I am in relation to him. Yet there was hope, there is salvation to be found in Christ.
I had never met Kenny before but he went on to say something that addressed one of my deepest confusions about the Christianity I saw.
‘It will change you. Your friends will think you’re weird and they’ll slag you off.’
He did not tell me what church seemed to say by their actions. He told us becoming a Christian wouldn’t be an auto-fix for all our problems. We wouldn’t be popular, we wouldn’t have everything we wanted, we wouldn’t be walking around grinning all the time. But we would be right with God and that’s what matters. We would belong to him and he would keep us to the very end, even though it would be a hard road to get there. If we wanted an easy life now, we wouldn’t find it here, but if we wanted eternal life, if we wanted to be made right with God, we could only find it here.
Perhaps not the most welcoming offer but something in what he said touched my soul in a way that school assemblies, Girls’ Brigade talks, and Sunday School presentations never had. That something was truth.
This man had sweetened the offer with the promises of a big daddy in the sky who just wants the best for us. Neither had he glossed over our condition by telling us our sin wasn’t that bad and that everything would be better if we just asked Jesus into our hearts.
Anyone could see that Kenny knew something of suffering in this world and yet he could tell us with absolute certainty that God is good and he is always faithful. The gospel, in all its fullness coming from a man who struggled to walk, rang true in the very depths of my aching soul. I needed to be made right with God. And no matter what anyone else was doing, I needed to be made new. I needed to obey him.
But he didn’t ask us to profess faith there and then, he told us to read our Bibles, to pray, to read the booklets he’d given us, to talk to a parent or pastor or Christian friend about it, to count the cost and to come to Christ before it was too late. This was a message that made sense of what I knew of the Bible and of the little of the world I had seen.
I was saved that week, not because of Kenny but because God had decided that he was going to save me. Yet God used that particular individual to tell me the truth and to awaken me to the reality of sin and judgement, to the hope of salvation.
I will always be thankful for Kenny’s warnings to count the cost — though I had no idea what that would come to mean. His words were used to wake me from death to life, his warnings would urge me to endure through future trials, and his crutches would ever remind me how God uses the foolish things of this world.
They would remind me how beautiful are the feet that bring good news, proclaiming peace and leading to salvation.