Chapter 1 – Early Teens

Learning faith in darkness.
From a tender age of thirteen, I was acutely aware of a difference that set me apart from my peers. It wasn’t just the countless trips to the pediatrician or the diagnosis my mother fervently sought—it was a profound sense of being special, distinct in a way that was both challenging and enlightening. The revelation of having Asperger’s, nestled within the autism spectrum, marked the onset of a lifelong learning curve, a journey fraught with challenges yet rich in potential for growth.

The prescription of Ritalin, a decision aimed at managing my ADHD, introduced an unforeseen battle. The medication, akin to speed in its makeup, ensnared me in a web of emotional numbness, severing the connections that bound me to the world of feelings and empathy. This emotional isolation was a stark contrast to the vibrant emotional life I yearned for, leaving me adrift in a sea of disconnection.

High school brought with it a stark realization of my social inadequacies. My inability to navigate the complex web of teenage social dynamics led to numerous emotional breakdowns, each deepening the chasm of my isolation. It was a period marked by introspection and a growing awareness of the barriers my condition erected between me and the world around me.

Enter Robert, the youth worker whose message of hope and love under the banner of Jesus Christ offered a stark contrast to my lived experience. The allure of fairy bread and chocolate milk at his meetings might have been the initial draw, but it was the substance of his message that began to sow seeds of curiosity in my heart—a curiosity about faith, hope, and a love unlike any I had known.

As I delved into New Age practices, seeking solace in crystals and energy healing, a subtle yet undeniable shift began to unfold within me. This new path, illuminated by Robert’s unwavering acceptance and the genuine interest he showed in my life, sparked the first glimmers of a dawn yet unseen. It was as though a light had been kindled in the depths of my soul, guiding me towards a truth I had yet to fully comprehend.

Robert’s role in my journey cannot be overstated. His acceptance of my quirks and challenges laid the foundation for a transformative realization: that I was worthy of love and belonging, just as I was. This acceptance heralded the dawn of my faith, a gradual awakening to the light of Jesus’s love—a light that promised renewal and transformation.

In the months that followed, my relationship with Robert deepened, driven by a thirst for understanding. How could this light transform the darkness of my emotions? How was such freedom possible? These questions became the compass guiding my exploration of faith, leading me ever closer to the heart of Jesus’s message.

As I drew closer to Robert, seeking understanding and craving the light that seemed to emanate from his very being, a myriad of questions flooded my mind. How could such lightness exist amidst the heavy, dark emotions that had become my constant companions? The concept of this light being freely available to me was both bewildering and incredibly enticing. Why did I feel this inexplicable pull towards something I had barely scratched the surface of understanding?

Robert’s patience was a testament to the love he preached. With every question I hurled his way, he responded not with answers that could be easily digested but with invitations to explore, to seek, and to knock on the door that would lead to true understanding. He introduced me to the stories of Jesus—not just as historical accounts, but as living, breathing testimonies of love, redemption, and hope.

It was during these conversations that I began to see the world around me in a different light. The trees seemed to whisper stories of creation, the wind carried melodies of freedom, and the very earth beneath my feet spoke of a foundation stronger than any I had ever known. This was the handiwork of a Creator who delighted in His creation, who sought a relationship with us beyond anything I had ever experienced.

One evening, under a sky painted with the vibrant hues of sunset, Robert and I sat on the bench outside the school. It was here, amidst the tranquillity of nature, that I found myself pouring out my heart to him. I spoke of my struggles, my fears, and the deep sense of unworthiness that had plagued me for so long. With every word that left my lips, I felt a weight lifting, a burden easing.

Robert listened, truly listened, and when I had finished, he simply said, “Jesus understands. More than that, He loves you exactly as you are. He’s not waiting for you to be perfect or to have it all figured out. He’s waiting for you to invite Him into your heart, to let Him into the mess and the pain.”

That night, under the vast expanse of the starlit sky, I made a decision that would forever alter the course of my life. With Robert’s guidance, I uttered a simple yet profound prayer, inviting Jesus into my heart, and surrendering the keys of my life to Him. It wasn’t a magical moment filled with dramatic signs or wonders, but in the quiet of that evening, I felt a peace I had never known—a peace that surpassed all understanding.

In the days and weeks that followed, the transformation was gradual but undeniable. The heavy darkness that had once seemed impenetrable began to lift, replaced by a light that radiated from within. My emotional turmoil didn’t disappear overnight, but I found a new strength to face it, a new perspective that brought hope amid despair.

Robert continued to mentor me, guiding me through the teachings of Jesus, helping me understand the depth of His love and the freedom that comes with truly knowing Him. As I grew in my faith, I realized that the light I had seen in Robert was not his own but a reflection of the Light of the World—Jesus Christ Himself.

As the days turned into months, my relationship with Robert and my newfound faith continued to deepen. Each conversation, each gathering, brought me closer to an understanding that had eluded me for so long. The light within me, once a faint glimmer, now shone with a steadiness that began to guide my steps. It was a light of hope, of faith, a beacon calling me to embrace a love so profound, so unconditional, it defied every logic I had known.

In this period of seeking and learning, I encountered moments of profound revelation. The stories of Jesus, His compassion, His unfailing love, and His ultimate sacrifice spoke to the core of my being. I realized that the light I felt was His presence, a manifestation of His love that sought to fill the voids within me. This realization brought about a profound sense of peace, a tranquility that I had never experienced. The darkness that had once enveloped my spirit began to recede, overshadowed by the overwhelming sense of being loved, being valued not for what I could do or understand but simply for who I was.

The questions that had once tormented me began to find their answers in the quiet moments of prayer and reflection. “How can this light be free?” I wondered. The answer lay in the grace of Jesus, a gift unearned and freely given. “Why do I feel this light?” It was because I was seen, known, and loved by a God who had been calling out to me through the darkness, waiting patiently for me to turn towards His radiance.

It was in these early days of my faith journey that I started to grasp the essence of what it meant to be a follower of Christ. It wasn’t about adhering to a set of rules or performing religious rituals; it was about entering into a relationship with Jesus, allowing Him to work within me, transforming my heart and renewing my mind. The joy and love I experienced were not just emotions; they were the very presence of Jesus in my life, a testament to His promise to be with us, to guide us, and to bring us into the fullness of His love.

As the initial chapters of my faith journey were being written in the depths of my heart, a new chapter was about to unfold—a chapter that would challenge me, shape me, and ultimately draw me even closer to understanding the boundless love of Jesus.

In those six months, as I gravitated towards the light Robert introduced me to, I began to question everything I knew. It was as if scales were falling from my eyes, allowing me to see the world, my struggles, and myself in a new light. I learned about Jesus, not just as a historical figure, but as a living presence capable of transforming the darkest of nights into the brightest of dawns. This newfound knowledge was both exhilarating and daunting.

The more I understood, the more I realized how much I needed this light in my life. It wasn’t just about finding a way out of the darkness; it was about embracing a truth that spoke to the core of my being. Robert’s teachings, coupled with the genuine warmth and acceptance I felt in his presence, made me ponder deeply about my own existence and the purpose of my struggles.

It was during this period of profound introspection and spiritual awakening that I began to experience a series of small yet significant miracles. Instances where I felt an inexplicable peace in moments of turmoil, or when I found solace in prayer during times of loneliness, started to become more frequent. These experiences, though subtle, were undeniably powerful, reinforcing my budding faith and the belief that perhaps, I was on the path to something truly transformative.